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COVID-19 FAQs Latest vaccine info

A message from our chief medical officer

As we navigate changes to our everyday lives as a result of COVID-19, know that your health remains our priority. Our commitment to high-quality care has never been more important, and our doctors and therapists are here to address your care needs and provide guidance from wherever you may be. Despite the disruption, stress and anxiety you may be experiencing, know that we are here for you if you need us.

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Lewis Levy, MD

Chief Medical Officer

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The latest COVID-19 testing information

Current testing locations across the United States:
Testing locations
CVS MinuteClinic COVID-19 testing locations (available in specific states, with appointment, and with no out-of-pocket cost):
Visit CVS MinuteClinic
Order LabCorp COVID-19 at-home testing kits (kits are sent directly to you with no upfront costs):
Visit LabCorp

Your provider will determine if you should be tested or not based on your symptoms, exposure to someone who has been confirmed with COVID-19, or if you have recently traveled to affected regions or live in regions where it’s prevalent. While testing capacity is expanding, local diagnostic testing availability varies by community. Many labs and testing sites continue to prioritize patients with the greatest risk of COVID‐19 complications or the greatest risk of spreading to others.

Our doctor-recommended tips to stay well in public

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Continue social distancing
People are still spreading COVID-19. Keep practicing social distancing (6 feet or more).
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Wear a well-fitting mask when going out
Many people who carry the virus are asymptomatic, which is why it's best to wear a mask in public.
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Wash your hands
Washing hands about 10x per day for 20 seconds has shown to be very effective.
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Get vaccinated
Protect yourself and others with an annual flu shot and get the COVID-19 vaccine when it is available to you.
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Build your immunity
Eat more fruits and veggies. Drink at least 8 cups of water per day. Exercise regularly.
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Seek care if you think you have COVID-19
Using virtual care will allow you to seek care early on from the comfort of your home.
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We're here to support you

If you think you have coronavirus:

  1. Contact us. We will advise you on what to do next. See our frequently asked questions below for how we handle COVID-19 evaluations.
  2. Call ahead before going in person to any doctor’s office.
  3. Don’t go to your local emergency room for COVID-19 testing. The ER is only for those who need the most critical care.
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Helpful tips for using our service

  • If you have questions about COVID-19, review the frequently asked questions below.
  • For the fastest support, we encourage you to download the mobile app or use our website to request a doctor visit.
  • Before your first visit, you will need to set up your account and provide a brief medical history. This will accelerate your request and help our doctors prep for your call. You can set up your account through the app or web.

FAQs

COVID-19 vaccine information

Yes. As of February 26, 2021, three different COVID-19 vaccines are available in the U.S. Currently, the supplies are limited. However, certain groups are already eligible to get the vaccines. Supplies should increase in the weeks and months to come. Two of the vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) require two doses; the other (Janssen/Johnson & Johnson) is a one-dose vaccine.

COVID-19 vaccines were tested in large clinical trials. This was to make sure they meet safety standards. Tens of thousands of people were involved in these trials—both in the U.S. and worldwide. No serious safety concerns were noted. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are tracking the vaccines as even more people get them. Millions of people have now received the vaccine in the U.S. You can learn more about the systems that are in place to make sure the COVID-19 vaccines are as safe as possible.

The vaccines offer protection against new variants that are spreading, according to current data. For instance, people who contract the delta variant are far less likely to get seriously ill or die if they have been vaccinated. Getting vaccinated now can also prevent new, potentially more dangerous variants from emerging later on.  

Being vaccinated makes you far less likely to get COVID. If you are vaccinated and do get COVID, you are much less likely than an unvaccinated person to get very sick or need to go to the hospital.  

A partnership between several organizations sped up the process of creating the vaccines. The FDA then issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for each of these vaccines.

Vaccines help our bodies learn to fight a disease. Two of the COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna) are mRNA vaccines. These types of vaccines use strands of genetic material called mRNA. The mRNA material includes instructions that teach our cells how to fend off the virus if it enters our bodies. The third vaccine (Janssen/Johnson & Johnson) takes a different approach, using a non-replicating, viral carrier called an adenovirus to transport the instructions to your cells to prime and ramp up your immune system.

No. The approved vaccines do not alter your cell’s genes or DNA.

No. The vaccines used in the U.S. do not use the virus that causes COVID-19.

Several companies have worked on developing COVID-19 vaccines. Currently, the FDA has authorized three of these vaccines for emergency use. Clinical trials found all three prevented severe COVID-19 virus-related illness. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was 95% effective at preventing COVID-19 illness. The Moderna vaccine was 94.1% effective. The Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine was 72% effective.

While there is much discussion around the effectiveness of each vaccine, these numbers are hard to compare because the clinical trials were conducted under different conditions. For example, the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) clinical trial included many global areas where there are more variants of the virus.

Regardless, all three vaccines are excellent at preventing the most critical issues—severe illness that leads to hospitalizations and death. For that reason, the expert guidance is “when you are eligible to get the vaccine, get the first vaccine available to you.”

It’s normal to have some side effects after a vaccine. They can be a sign that your body is building protection against the virus. If you get the type of vaccine that requires two shots, you may be more likely to have side effects after the second dose. Common side effects include pain and swelling near the injection site. You may also have fever, chills, tiredness or headache. If redness or tenderness increases after 24 hours or side effects don’t go away after a few days, call your doctor or make an appointment with one of our providers.

Yes, if you are getting one of the vaccines that is delivered in two doses (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna). In those vaccines, the first shot starts building protection. The second strengthens the body’s immune response. The Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine, however, delivers all of its protection in one dose.

Adults with conditions like diabetes and heart failure are at increased risk for severe illness from the virus that causes COVID-19. The CDC says that people with underlying health conditions should be among the first to get COVID-19 vaccines. The clinical trials included many different types of people, including those with medical conditions. Learn more at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/recommendations/underlying-conditions.html

Yes. Reinfection with COVID-19 is possible. We don’t yet know how long someone is immune after they have had COVID-19. If you were treated for COVID-19, talk to your provider before getting the vaccine, as some treatments require waiting 90 days. If you currently have COVID-19, you should not get the vaccine until you can stop isolating.

When out in public, you should continue to wear a mask and follow safety recommendations for social distancing. The CDC recently issued some recommendations for fully vaccinated people to remove their masks and stop physical distancing in certain situations. Depending on how many people get vaccinated and how the virus spreads, this advice may change. It is still important to use all the tools available to slow the spread of the virus. Learn more at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/fully-vaccinated-guidance.html

Local health departments are deciding how the vaccines are distributed. You can look up your state or territory to find out if you’re eligible yet (look for the box marked “How Do I Get a Vaccine”). The CDC recommends that healthcare workers and long-term care facility residents get the vaccine first. The next priorities are essential frontline workers and people aged 75 and older. Adults age 65 and older, younger adults with underlying medical conditions and other essential workers would become eligible next. Depending on your age, occupation or health history, you may be eligible now.

Contact your local medical provider to find out where vaccines are available in your area. When the vaccines are more widely available, you will also be able to find this information on VaccineFinder, a website that helps people find vaccine providers.

The vaccine is available at no cost to Americans. Your provider may charge an administration fee. Contact your provider for more information.

For non-emergency questions, the following links from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) contain helpful information:

COVID-19 facts

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness caused by a coronavirus. People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported—from mild symptoms to severe illness.

The virus spreads from person to person through coughing, sneezing, talking. It can also be spread through infected surfaces or objects, although the main mode of transmission is by person-to-person through respiratory droplets. The closer you are to others and the longer you’re interacting, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread.

Many people infected with the virus may never develop symptoms. This means that the virus can easily be spread to others inadvertently, which is why it is so important to follow the guidelines put in place when outdoors or in places of business.

You may be at greater risk if you have recently lived or traveled in an area where there are higher rates of new cases or if you have come in contact with someone who has the virus.

Children of all ages can get COVID-19. Most children, particularly younger children (those younger than 10 years old) often have very mild or no symptoms; about half do not have fever or cough. With that said, a small percentage of children, teens and young adults (estimated to be less than 5% of COVID-19 cases) can have severe symptoms and require supportive care delivered in a hospital setting.

While COVID-19 is mild in children, a new rare syndrome is being seen in children called multi-system inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C). This syndrome is likely related to COVID-19 and is seen several weeks after the COVID-19 infection (or weeks after an outbreak in a geographic area). Although the condition is rare, MIS-C can cause children to become very ill with dangerous inflammation in the body and can lead to problems with the heart or other organs. Most children can recover with treatment, but it may require a hospital stay.

Parents should watch for persistent fever (greater than three days), nausea/vomiting/abdominal pain, conjunctivitis, a rash that can appear blotchy on the torso or arms/legs as well as redness around the mouth (strawberry-colored tongue/red, swollen and cracked lips) and lethargy.

Parents should not be afraid to take their child to their family physician or pediatrician or seek in-person care if they are worried their child is sick. Healthcare settings have re-opened to safely provide care and prevent the spread of COVID-19. Most importantly, make sure your children are keeping up on their well-child visits and vaccinations. The diseases prevented with vaccines are much more severe in children than COVID-19, so we want to make sure to protect children from those diseases as well.

Getting care and guidance from the comfort of your own home can put your mind at ease and help you avoid longer wait times in doctors’ offices and the ER, which can carry many germs. Our providers can evaluate your risk level and advise you on next steps.

While there is no treatment for COVID-19, people who are mildly ill may be able to isolate and care for themselves at home.

For cases where in‐person care is needed, we will navigate patients to appropriate resources and encourage patients to “let them know before you go” so that the in-person care facility can direct them appropriately and minimize potential exposure for others.

We are partnering with the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), state and local health officials, and our health system partners to provide our communities with the support, information and care they need.

All hospitals, surgical centers, and doctor’s offices have re-opened with the appropriate safety protocols in place. You should ask about the new protocols when scheduling your next appointment. Depending on the surgery that was canceled, there may be alternatives that can be considered. If you have Expert Medical Services through your health benefit, you can get guidance and confirmation on your diagnosis, need for surgery or help deciding on a treatment option while you wait for rescheduled appointments.

Services may vary based on health plan or employer. Please set up your account or log in to see which services are available to you.

We are all facing new challenges and routines, which can cause feelings of fear, anxiety, stress and loneliness. If you are feeling overwhelmed or down and would like to talk to someone, our therapists and psychiatrists are available by phone or video visits seven days a week.

Services may vary based on health plan or employer. Please set up your account or log in to see which services are available to you.

What to do if you suspect you have COVID-19

If you have a fever or feel feverish, have cold-like symptoms or flu-like symptoms, or feel run-down, you should contact us. If you are experiencing shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, then you should call your local doctor’s office to request an in-person visit. Shortness of breath—having trouble breathing—is a more severe symptom that requires an in-person evaluation.

The fastest way to receive care is to request a visit on the mobile app or online. If you’re a new member, set up your account and complete a brief health history.

Also called serology tests, these tests check your blood for antibodies, which show if you had a previous infection of the virus. Even if you were never diagnosed or experienced symptoms of COVID‐19, this test can help determine if you may have been previously infected with the virus.

Given that a large percentage of infected individuals only develop mild symptoms or no symptoms at all, antibody testing can help public health experts and epidemiologists to better understand how many people have already had the disease and what percentage of people infected with COVID‐19 become severely ill.

There is no scientific evidence to confirm whether antibodies mean you have immunity and are protected from re‐infection. Regardless of antibody test results, you should continue to take precautions to protect yourself and others.

Your provider will determine if you should be tested or not based on your symptoms and contact history (e.g., known exposure to a person diagnosed with COVID-19, recent travel or living in an area with an active outbreak, or a healthcare worker who may have increased risk of exposure) to assess COVID-19 risk.

While testing capacity is expanding, local diagnostic testing availability varies by community. Many labs and testing sites continue to prioritize patients with the greatest risk of COVID‐19 complications or the greatest risk of spreading to others.

Current testing locations across the United States:
Testing locations

CVS MinuteClinic COVID-19 testing locations (available in specific states, with appointment, and with no out-of-pocket cost):
Visit CVS MinuteClinic

Order LabCorp COVID-19 at-home testing kits (kits are sent directly to you with no upfront costs):
Visit LabCorp

People who are mildly ill with COVID-19 are able to isolate at home during their illness. You should restrict activities outside your home, except for getting medical care. Wear a mask in your home to prevent others in your household from getting COVID-19. Wash hands often. Keep hydrated. Do not go to work, school or public areas. Avoid using public transportation, ride-sharing or taxis. Call your primary care provider or the ER if your illness worsens, especially if you are feeling short-of-breath.

Here are some helpful links from the CDC for guidance:

  1. For symptoms, go here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html
  2. For prevention, go here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/prevention.html
  3. If you think you have COVID-19, go here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/steps-when-sick.html
  4. To learn more about caring for yourself at home, go here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/caring-for-yourself-at-home.html

As much as possible, you should stay in a specific room and away from the infected people in your home. People in the household should wear masks when coming near your family member who has COVID-19. Wash hands often. If you’ve been in contact with someone who has the virus, you could experience symptoms within two to 14 days. Notify your healthcare provider right away if you develop COVID-19 symptoms.

If you are someone who is more vulnerable to COVID-19 and is older than 50 years old or has a chronic condition, such as diabetes or heart, lung or kidney disease, or who is immunocompromised, then you should be extra-cautious about social distancing and being around people in general.

Here are some helpful links from the CDC for guidance:

  1. For symptoms, go here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html
  2. For prevention, go here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/prevention.html
  3. If you think you have COVID-19, go here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/steps-when-sick.html
  4. To learn more about caring for yourself at home, go here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/caring-for-yourself-at-home.html

Protecting myself and my loved ones

Our recommendation is that you stay at home until newly infected cases are on a decline for 14 days. Ideally, your local community has a positive test rate of less than 5%; that is, of all the people tested in your community, less than 5% are positive for COVID-19, which indicates low community spread of the COVID-19 virus. The reason for declining cases and/or low positivity rates is that public health systems can start to quickly identify new cases and do contact tracing to prevent further spread. The challenge is that one area may have a decline, while a neighboring area may not have met the criteria for declining cases. And, if one area opens up while the neighboring area does not, you still have issues with people traveling between areas and being a source of COVID-19 spread.

As you evaluate going out in public again, our advice is to be conservative. Go slow with decisions about re-entering into daycare, school and other basic public areas. It will take about two to four weeks or more to see how COVID-19 spreads after an area makes a change. To assess your own situation, you can ask yourself these questions:

  • Does my child have any underlying conditions that make them more at risk than other children?
  • Do I have people in my home (or myself as a parent) who have underlying conditions that put them at higher risk?
  • What plan has the organization published/shared with parents to put in place the non-pharmaceutical interventions that will reduce the spread of COVID-19?
  • How has my community been responding? Do I see lots of testing for COVID-19?
  • Could I or my child or a family member easily get a COVID-19 test if needed?
  • Do I feel confident that the organization would handle an outbreak quickly, effectively and appropriately (with prompt case-tracing notification)?
  • Am I prepared to go back to “stay at home” should the COVID-19 cases rise in my area again?

Masks are one of the single best protective measures that we can all take for COVID-19—to keep ourselves and those we love safe. Wearing a mask that is properly fitted and extends over your nose and under you chin with no gaps protects you and others from becoming infected or spreading the COVID-19 virus. A good reason to wear a mask when you’re in public settings, especially indoors, is because you could be someone who has the virus but doesn’t have symptoms, which means you could inadvertently spread it to others. We now know that a large proportion of COVID-19 transmissions are from people who had no symptoms when they infected others.

Social distancing is intentionally increasing the physical space between people to avoid spreading illness. Social distancing works because COVID-19 is mainly spread from person to person through respiratory droplets. Being six feet or more apart protects you and others from being exposed to respiratory droplets. Washing your hands frequently and disinfecting high-touch surfaces also greatly reduces the risk of spread. This is why events are being canceled, people are being asked to work from home or avoid public/crowded areas, and why face masks are now recommended.

When new, contagious outbreaks like COVID-19 occur, practices like social distancing have become one of the simplest and most effective measures communities can take to avoid exposure as well as spreading the virus.

COVID-19's incubation period could last up to 14 days, which means you could be carrying the virus to others and not be aware of symptoms until later.

The more we practice social distancing (i.e., working from home, remaining six feet apart from people in any public setting and avoiding heavily public areas or events), the more likely we are to avoid the spread and shorten the period of time we must be out of our normal routine.

Another significant reason social distancing should be exercised is for those who have weakened or compromised immunities. People with diabetes, cancer, respiratory issues and other specific diseases or disorders can't afford to get COVID-19.

All of these tips and recommendations combined can help you stay safe:

  • Continue social distancing
  • Wear a well-fitting face mask when going out in public, especially in enclosed spaces
  • Wash your hands
  • Get the flu shot
  • Build your immunity through diet, hydration and exercise
  • Don’t be around others if not feeling well
  • Seek medical attention if you think you have COVID-19
  • Get the COVID-19 vaccination when it is available to you

Stay at home as much as possible, and refrain from socializing or social events. It’s important that you avoid risking exposure and spreading the virus, especially if you have family members at home who are more vulnerable. By practicing social distancing and following hand-washing, cough etiquette, and disinfecting high-touch surfaces, you will likely avoid the virus.

Be mindful of your community's positivity rate. As communities go above a 5% positivity rate (5% of all people who are getting testing for COVID-19 in your area are positive for COVID-19), your community is starting to see outbreaks. You should consider less-risky activities when your community spread is rising. See a handy chart of activities by risk level here.

Also, seek out testing for COVID-19, especially if you feel you may have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19. Testing will allow your community’s disease detectives to quickly find the main sources of COVID-19 transmission and help those individuals stay at home. Working with public health case tracers will help stop the spread of COVID-19 sooner, so we can all get back to some sort of new normal.

Note: Your local public health disease detectives and case tracers are there to help get your community back to a low rate of COVID-19, so we can all get back to school and work and other safe activities during this COVID-19 outbreak. Public health disease detectives won’t judge or blame; they just want to help the community stop the spread of COVID-19. Help public health in your community by working with your public health disease detectives to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Cleaning and sanitizing your household are important to help prevent the spread of illness and disease.

  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets and sinks.
  • If surfaces are dirty, clean them. Use detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.
  • Then, use a household disinfectant. Most common Environmental Protection Agency-registered household disinfectants will work.
ALERT: Household cleaners and disinfectants can cause health problems when not used properly. Follow the instructions on the product label to ensure safe and effective use. Do not ingest disinfectants or use disinfectants on your skin.

Teladoc works with many Medicare Advantage and Medicaid managed care plans but is not a provider for Medicare fee for service or Medicaid fee for service. Contact your health insurance provider to learn more about your benefits and to see if you have access to Teladoc.