COVID Vaccine & Treatment Information
Although significant progress continues in the development and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, we all need to practice COVID safety measures for the foreseeable future.
It's important to understand that recommendations for which groups receive the vaccine first come from federal and state governments.
The first phase of vaccine distribution focused on health care personnel working in patient service areas with the highest risk of exposure.
We are working closely with Public Health to vaccinate local emergency responders, like police and fire.
Vaccinations for our primary care patients age 65 and older will begin in late January 2021. We will reach out directly to eligible patients via phone, direct mail and/or through MyUnityPoint with scheduling instructions.
If you believe you are eligible based off your place of employment or occupation, we encourage you to closely monitor communication from your local public health department or employer. We will continue to partner with the local public health department on the best strategies to vaccinate and broadly communicate to these groups of individuals.
We anticipate the COVID-19 vaccine will be widely available to patients/general public later in 2021.
If you are not established with a primary care provider, Public Health Madison Dane County will connect with you with a healthcare provider for a vaccine when you are eligible.
We want to be able to get this vaccine to our patients as quickly and safely as possible. As production of vaccines increase to the point of being widely available, we will be sure to communicate widely and frequently with our patients and our community.
Rather than calling your healthcare provider, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Wisconsin Department of Health Services websites below for answers to frequently asked questions about the vaccine. This helps reserve healthcare systems' staffed phone lines for those calling with active symptoms and acute care needs.
Until a vaccine is distributed to the general public (and even for some time after), we MUST remain vigilant. Please wear your mask, limit indoor gatherings, practice social distancing, washing your hands for at least 20 seconds and stay home when you're sick.
See our COVID-19 Vaccine Fact Sheet for more information.
Vaccine Availability, Cost & Distribution
Supplies will increase over time, and the vaccine should be able to the general public later in 2021. As soon as we have more information to proceed, we will partner with public health to contact people who are eligible for the vaccine regarding next steps. A COVID-19 vaccine may not be available for young children until more studies are completed.
How is the vaccine being distributed right now?
The vaccine is being distributed according to federal, state and public health guidelines, health care workers with the highest risk of exposure were identified as the first tier to receive the vaccine. We started vaccinating UnityPoint Health team members in December 2020 and continue to make progress based on available number of vaccine doses.
The next tier includes additional essential workers, like police and firefighters, and higher risk patients, including those over age 65. Distribution will depend on the number of available vaccine doses and progress will vary by county due to a variety of factors. If you identify as a member of one of these groups, please know we're working quickly to determine eligibility, timelines and processes. We appreciate your patience and will reach out to you when you are eligible.
We expect COVID-19 vaccines to be widely available to the general public later in 2021. Eligibility, timelines and processes will depend on the number of available vaccine doses.
How will I be notified when I can receive the vaccine?
As soon as we have more information to proceed, we will partner with public health to contact people who are eligible for the vaccine regarding next steps. Established Meriter patients will be contacted directly when they become eligible.
About the Vaccine
Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?
Yes. In order to receive Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA, the vaccine must be proven safe and effective. The science is rooted in years of research, and every step of the vaccine process went through the same safety assessments as all other vaccines. We want our communities to know our clinical leaders and experts at UnityPoint Health have also thoroughly reviewed all the data surrounding the clinical trials of these vaccines.
How does the COVID-19 vaccine work?
What are the ingredients in the COVID vaccine?
The COVID-19 vaccine is an mRNA vaccine. Unlike traditional vaccines, mRNA vaccines do not take a virus or germ, weaken it and inject in the body to illicit an antibody response. The vaccine will not put COVID in your body or alter your DNA in any way. Instead, the COVID vaccine teaches your body to make a protein. Your cells then make this protein, illicit an antibody response and protect you from getting COVID.
Ingredients for the Pfizer COVID Vaccine may be found on the EUA Fact Sheet.
Ingredients for the Moderna COVID Vaccine may be found on the EUA Fact Sheet.
Where can I find more information and/or data on the safety and efficacy of the COVID vaccine?
Data for Pfizer and Moderna is publicly available through the FDA website, found on the Pfizer EUA Fact Sheet. Moderna EUA Fact Sheet.
What is the risk of potential side effects?
For more information on vaccine safety, speed of development and potential side effects of vaccination, we recommend reading the Pfizer EUA Fact Sheet and Moderna EUA Fact Sheet.
Will people need to mask after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine?
After receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, it's still important to follow all the guidelines we've come to know during the pandemic: wear a mask, social distance, wash your hands and stay home when you're sick. We don't know how long the immunity from the vaccine is going to last, and it's going to be a while before a large percentage of our communities get this vaccine.
When should I get my second dose?
Both vaccines available under the FDA EUA (emergency use authorization) are 2 dose vaccines with the second dose for the Pfizer vaccine at 21 days and Moderna vaccine at 28 days. These are the intervals utilized in the vaccine studies, so it is optimal to remain consistent. The CDC has stated that if the second vaccine is given late, the series does not need to be restarted. The second dose should be the same brand as the initial dose as there is not data to support interchanging brands.
Should I Get the Vaccine?
Is the vaccine mandatory for UnityPoint Health team members?
The COVID-19 vaccine is not mandatory for UnityPoint Health team members at this time. Each team member will be provided educational materials so they can be equipped to make an informed decision on whether or not they choose to receive the vaccine.
Should pregnant or nursing individuals receive the vaccine?
Pregnant and nursing individuals are eligible to receive the vaccine. They were excluded from the clinical trials in the development of this vaccine, so no information has been collected regarding its safety during pregnancy. However, our Women's Service Line supports the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in the position the vaccine should be offered to pregnant and lactating individuals. You can learn more about the American Academy of Pediatrics considerations and recommendations regarding receiving the vaccine while pregnant or nursing.
It is important to know that being pregnant puts a woman at increased risk of more severe COVID-19 with an increase in ICU admission and ventilator use when compared to non-pregnant women in the same age group. The bottom line – it's a personal decision, so we recommend pregnant individuals contact their provider to discuss their individual situation. Also, the COVID-19 vaccine does not impact fertility.
View our helpful decision-making guide
Should I get the vaccine if I've had COVID-19?
Yes. Although people who've had COVID-19 have built up antibodies to fight future infection, we don't know how long that immunity lasts. We recommend that people who've had COVID-19 wait 90 days from their infection to receive the vaccine. One of the reasons for this is simply the supply of the vaccine. We want everyone in our communities to be able to get the vaccine.
Should I get the COVID-19 vaccine if I have allergies?
If you have severe anaphylaxis or an allergy to one of the components of this vaccine, please talk to your health care provider before getting this vaccine. For most people, even those with seasonal allergies or minor food allergies, it is safe and we highly recommend getting the vaccine.
Monoclonal Antibody Treatment (bamlanivamimab)
UW Health and UnityPoint Health–Meriter have received a limited supply of bamlanivimab, an investigational therapy for the treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19 in adult and pediatric patients.
The medication was recently granted Emergency Use Authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Bamlanivimab is currently authorized by the FDA for patients who meet the following criteria:
Have positive results of direct SARS-CoV-2 viral testing.
Are 12 years of age and older and weigh at least 88 pounds.
At high risk for progressing to severe COVID-19 and/or hospitalization. This includes those who are 65 years of age or older, or who have certain chronic medical conditions.
The treatment is available to all members of the community who meet criteria and all eligible patients will have an equal chance of receiving the drug. UW Health will administer doses on behalf of both Meriter and UW Health.
Bamlanivimab is not authorized for patients who are hospitalized due to COVID-19 or require oxygen therapy due to COVID-19.
To ensure equitable distribution of the limited supply of this medication, UW Health and Meriter will use a nationally recognized allocation framework designed to provide fair access to scarce COVID-19 medication. This allocation framework is grounded in two public health ethical obligations: the duty to steward scarce resources to promote the public's health, and the duty to lessen the impact of social inequities on COVID-19 outcomes in vulnerable communities. The framework was created by ethicists, legal scholars, public health and disaster medicine experts and diversity and inclusion experts.
To learn more about this treatment, or to inquire about eligibility, people should call the UW Health bamlanivimab screening hotline at (608) 720-3319. The hotline is staffed Monday-Friday from 8:30am to 5pm.
While the safety and effectiveness of this investigational therapy continues to be evaluated, bamlanivimab was shown in clinical trials to reduce COVID-19-related hospitalization or emergency room visits in patients at high risk for disease progression within 28 days after treatment when compared to placebo.
Convalescent Blood Plasma
UnityPoint Health – Meriter partners with the American Red Cross to deliver convalescent plasma to current COVID-19 patients. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted emergency use authorization of convalescent plasma from people who have fully recovered from COVID-19. Current hospitalized patients with serious or life-threatening COVID-19 infections or those deemed at high risk are eligible to receive the plasma.
Recovered COVID-19 donors have antibodies in their plasma that neutralize the virus. Donated plasma from healthy donors who have recovered from COVID-19 is a promising treatment for patients with COVID-19 infections. At this time, convalescent plasma is in high demand, so we highly encourage healthy, COVID-19 recovered individuals to consider donating via the American Red Cross.
Some patients admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 may be treated with Remdesivir. We identify eligible patients and treat them with Remdesivir on a first come-first go basis. As with all care, our physicians evaluate each patient's case, create treatment plans specific to each person, and prescribe medications that are clinically appropriate for each individual.
Making a Difference - One Vaccine at a Time
History in the making as the COVID-19 vaccine arrived at UnityPoint Health campuses for our front-line team members. When it's your turn, we hope you'll roll up your sleeve, too.