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Be safe. Be ready. Be informed.

A safe and effective vaccine for COVID-19 provides our best hope to save the lives of countless community members and bring the pandemic to an end. Metro Health – University of Michigan Health trusts the science, trusts the regulatory process and trusts that a vaccine is the best way to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our community.

Ending the pandemic

The vaccines will achieve their purpose – ending the pandemic – if we achieve widespread immunization.

Whether you are eager to receive the vaccine as soon as possible, or are waiting to learn more or even have doubts, Metro Health wants to provide answers to your questions.

Vaccine Distribution & Scheduling

Metro Health will follow state and federal guidelines for distribution of the vaccine. 

Shipments of the Pfizer vaccine are underway. Metro Health is prepared to receive, safely store and begin distribution of the vaccine. The first doses will be administered to frontline health care workers to protect them as they care for patients. As vaccines become available, first to high-risk groups and then to increasingly larger populations, Metro Health stands ready to do its part to ensure everyone in our community is protected.

Access to the vaccine will reflect fair and equitable distribution to the entire population.

Stay Informed!

As vaccines become widely available in coming months, we will keep you informed with regular updates and resources. Enter your email address for updates to learn about the science, the safety and information about how and when you can receive the vaccine.

Questions & Answers

When can I get the vaccine?

You can view the current phase of distribution and scheduling details at Metro Health here. For a full list of the phases and who is included, visit Vaccinate West Michigan.

How is it administered?

The COVID-19 vaccine is delivered with an injection in the arm. Similar to a flu shot, the process takes just a few minutes. The difference is that immunization requires two doses about three weeks apart. A second dose is essential for full, long-term protection against COVID-19, and you will receive instruction about how to schedule your follow-up dose. A two-dose regimen is common for many vaccines. 

What are the side effects?

In the large-scale trials involving tens of thousands of volunteers, the most commonly reported side effects, which typically lasted several days, were pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, and fever.  These symptoms were mild and temporary. They are indications that the vaccine is working. Doctors and researchers were impressed by data on side effects, which also were reported in volunteers who received a placebo – a good indication that reactions to the vaccine are mild.

Who should get the vaccine? 

The Pfizer vaccine has been found safe and effective, providing 95% protection against COVID-19, for the vast majority of Americans. The vaccine has shown similar results regardless of age, race, gender and weight. The vaccine has received Emergency Use Authorization for individuals 16 and older.

COVID-19 vaccine trials for children are just beginning. Pfizer expanded its vaccine testing to children ages 12 and older in late October; however, Moderna has not yet set a date when it will begin testing its product in children. It remains unclear when a vaccine will be approved for children under 16 but the goal is to have one ready before the 2021 school year.

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should discuss their options with their healthcare provider before getting the vaccine as they were not included in any of the early clinical trials. You should not get the vaccine if you had a severe allergic reaction after a previous dose, or have a severe allergic reaction to any ingredient of the vaccine. 

How much will it cost?

There is no cost to Metro Health patients to receive a vaccination. Vaccines have been funded with federal tax dollars to speed their delivery and remove every barrier to widespread vaccination. 

Where will the vaccine be administered?

The initial Pfizer vaccine must be kept at sub-zero temperatures, which means they will likely not be available in physician offices, like a flu shot or other routine vaccines. We plan to administer the vaccine at Metro Health Hospital, where we can properly store the vaccine. 

Can I get the vaccine if I’ve had COVID-19 or think I may have had COVID-19 in the past?

Yes, you can choose to receive the vaccine if you’ve had COVID-19 previously. There is not enough information currently available to say if or for how long after infection someone is protected from getting COVID-19 again; this is called natural immunity. Early evidence suggests natural immunity from COVID-19 may not last very long, but more studies are needed to better understand this. Talk with your doctor if you have questions about receiving the vaccine.

Will masks still be required if you receive the vaccine?

If you get a vaccine, you should still protect yourself by wearing a mask and social distancing. Although large-scale clinical trials show the Pfizer vaccine, for example, is 95% effective, these studies have not yet determined if the vaccine prevents the spread of the virus to other people. 

Until we have a better idea of that and achieve widespread vaccination, you should still practice social distancing, wear a face mask, and wash your hands often and well. 

Will taking the vaccine give me COVID-19?

No. None of the vaccines in advanced clinical trials can give you COVID-19. 

Will I need to get a COVID-19 vaccine every year?

At this time, we do not know. Studies on the long-term effectiveness of the vaccine will continue and more information will be released as it becomes available.

Will scientists continue tracking the effectiveness of the vaccine?

Federal oversight does not end once the vaccines are approved. Local healthcare workers will be among the first to get the vaccine and they will be using an after-vaccine health checker to provide additional data to a national database. Anyone who gets the vaccine may also use the vaccine reporting system – VAERS – to report undocumented side effects. This system is already used with other vaccines and immediately alerts health authorities to any possible issues.

How Vaccines Work

Vaccines trigger our immune systems to make antibodies against bacteria or viruses. Antibodies are proteins that fight germs like viruses and bacteria by latching onto and disabling them. The goal is teach your body’s defenses how to create antibodies to fight off any future exposure to the real bacteria or virus. 

The Pfizer vaccine is called a “messenger RNA” vaccines. It does not contain pieces or proteins from the virus. Instead, it contains instructions for your cells, called “messenger RNA.” This messenger RNA tells your cells to make a harmless piece of the COVID-19 spike protein themselves. Once your cells make the spike protein, your immune system will make the antibodies that fight COVID-19 and protect you from getting sick from this virus. 

“The pandemic has presented all of us with a historic challenge. Science is providing COVID-19 vaccines as our best hope to defeat the pandemic.” – Peter Hahn, MD, MBA, President & CEO 


The vaccine trials have included diverse participants, volunteers from every walk of life. 

  • The nearly 44,000 volunteers in the global Pfizer trial included 42 percent from non-white backgrounds. 
  • Independent scientists, doctors and federal regulators found the vaccine developed by Pfizer to be 95% effective at preventing COVID-19 — nearly double what we expect from the annual flu vaccine. 

COVID vaccine trials need diverse test subjects, so a doctor rolled up his sleeve

Dr. Rakesh Pai understands the lifesaving power of vaccines as a physician, but also from a family perspective. When the opportunity came to volunteer to test one of the new COVID-19 vaccines, he did not hesitate. Read more

Safety/Efficacy of the Pfizer Vaccine 

The first vaccine to protect Americans from COVID-19 was found to be safe and effective regardless of race, weight and age. 
Vaccine development follows a rigorous process that begins with preclinical testing with animals to determine if the vaccine triggers an immune response. 

  • Phase 1 safety trials begin with small numbers of human volunteers to test safety and efficacy. 
  • Phase 2 expands the trials into larger groups, hundreds of people divided demographically, to see if their response varies and to further test safety and efficacy. 
  • Federal regulators from the National Institutes of Health and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority designed large-scale studies to test the vaccines for safety and efficacy. The Food & Drug Administration developed guidelines that the vaccines will have to meet for Emergency Use Authorization. 
  • Phase 3 trials involve tens of thousands of volunteers, half of whom receive placebos. This is to test for side-effects, as well as efficacy. Neither the researchers nor the volunteers know who receives the vaccine and who receives a placebo. 
  • The United States is one of the few nations where regulators review the raw data collected during trials, rather than accepting the findings from vaccine manufacturers. This requires poring over all of documentation and re-analyzing the data from the trials.

Read the FDA’s letter of authorization for the Pfizer vaccine

Why We Need to be Immunized

Based on historic outbreaks of communicable diseases, scientists calculate that 70% of the population — more than 200 million people — will need to be immunized to end the COVID-19 pandemic. Metro Health is committed to helping West Michigan achieve that goal. 

Population-wide immunity (also called ‘herd immunity’) means that enough people in a community are immune to a disease that the disease can’t spread easily among them. That helps protect people who are not immune—for example, those who can’t be vaccinated for some reason—from getting sick. 

For More Information

Visit Vaccinate West Michigan, a collaborative effort by the Kent County Health Department and all west Michigan healthcare organizations.