MUSC Health Information on the COVID-19 Vaccine

Those in eligible groups can schedule a COVID-19 vaccine now.

MUSC Health has begun receiving COVID-19 vaccines. This is an exciting and hopeful step in combating the pandemic. We are working closely with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), as well as, other state and federal agencies to begin offering this vaccine as soon as possible.

The first phase of vaccines began being administered to health care workers as of December 2020. Since then, MUSC Health has followed guidance and regulations from governing bodies and experts to expand this offering. Please read the below for more details and visit this page frequently for the latest information regarding the COVID-19 vaccine.

MUSC employees should also frequently visit the internal, employees-only page for important updates. MUSC Net ID is required to log in.

Consejos para programar una cita para la vacuna contra el COVID (en Espanol)

Frequently Asked Questions About the COVID-19 Vaccine

Who is currently eligible to receive the vaccine?

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) has designated individuals within Phase 1A as eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. Learn more from SCDHEC about the populations included in this phase. At MUSC, we are following guidelines from SC DHEC and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). As supplies are available, MUSC will expand the vaccine availability.

At MUSC, vaccines are currently available for all individuals over the age of 16.

If you are eligible and not employed by MUSC, please complete our scheduling form. If you are assisting someone who does not have access to the internet or the ability to complete the form, please have them call 843-876-7227. The hotline is staffed every day from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and is intended only for those who cannot access online scheduling, having difficulties with online scheduling or to help non-MyChart users cancel appointments. The easiest and preferred way to schedule an appointment is still muschealth.org/vaccine and those using the hotline should anticipate a wait. 

How do MUSC faculty, staff and students access vaccines?

The COVID-19 vaccine is not required, but is highly recommended for members of the MUSC family. MUSC faculty, staff and students interested in scheduling an appointment may do so on this internal website that requires an MUSC NetID login to access.

How can individuals who are not MUSC faculty, staff and/or students access vaccines?

Please complete our scheduling form. After completing the form, you will be able to indicate your preferred vaccination location. Upon confirmation, you will receive an email from MUSC Health.

Is MUSC participating in any vaccine trials?

MUSC is participating in the Novavax and Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine trials. Learn more about this trial and how to participate.

Who will be able to get the vaccine?

As of March 31, all individuals over the age of 16 are able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

How do vaccines work?

Vaccines decrease the risk of a person getting a disease by working with the body’s natural defenses (immune system) to build protection. A vaccine is a safe way for your body to develop an immune response to a dangerous germ without making you sick and is a preventative measure that helps protect us from getting sick.

When you get vaccinated, the following occurs:

  • Your body recognizes the invading germ (virus or bacteria)
  • Proteins (antibodies) are produced which are naturally made by the immune system to fight disease
  • The antibodies are trained to remember the disease and how to fight it, so if you are exposed to the germ again your immune system can quickly destroy it before you become sick.

Is the vaccine safe?

The COVID-19 vaccine has been carefully developed and studied by top scientists, researchers and health care providers. It has moved through the testing and trial processes with much oversight. Prior to approval and distribution, all data is studied by the CDC, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) and more. These agencies are committed evidence-based studies and research and unbiased analysis.

What side-effects may I experience?

For both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, the side effects have been mild to moderate.

After the first injection, the most common side effect was an injection site reaction such as a sore arm or redness. Side effects have been most common after the second dose and included fatigue, muscle aches, headaches, pain, fever and redness/pain at the injection site.

Is the vaccine mandatory?

During phase 1, the vaccine will be optional but highly recommended.

How long will I be protected following vaccination for COVID-19?

The duration of protection from the vaccine is not yet known and continues to be studied. This is one of the reasons it is important to continue to wear your masks, practice physical distancing, use good hand hygiene and avoid large crowds even after you get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Can I get COVID-19 from the vaccine?

None of the vaccines use the live coronavirus which causes COVID-19, so the vaccine cannot cause the disease. The goal of the vaccine is to teach our immune system how to recognize and “fight” the virus which causes COVID-19. Sometimes the process of getting vaccinated can cause mild fevers, muscle aches, soreness and headaches as your body’s immune system begins producing the protective antibodies to help defend you in case you are exposed to the virus.

It takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity after it receives a vaccination. Thus, a person could get sick with COVID-19 before or after they receive the vaccination and this means they have not had enough time to develop an appropriate antibody response.

Do I need the vaccine if I’ve already had COVID-19?

The CDC’s Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends that the COVID-19 vaccine should be offered to those with a history of COVID-19. There is not enough information known about long-term natural immunity in people who have been infected with COVID-19. The protection a person develops after having an infection varies depending on the disease and most likely varies from each individual. Data from clinical trials indicate that the vaccine is safe and efficacious in those who have had prior infection.

If I currently have a Coronavirus infection, should I get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Vaccination with the COVID-19 vaccine should be deferred until recovery from acute illness has occurred and criteria have been met to discontinue isolation.

Do I still need to wear a mask, practice physical distancing, and avoid crowds once I have the COVID-19 vaccine?

Even after receiving both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, you will still need to wear and mask, practice physical distancing, avoid crowds and use good hand hygiene.

Although the vaccines demonstrate over 90% efficacy in clinical trials, we are still learning about their protection in real-life conditions. Due to this, it will be important for everyone to continue to use all of the public health tools we have in order to help control this pandemic. We still need to understand the protection the vaccines provide and if they help prevent onward transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19.

What if I'm pregnant or lactating?

Although the COVID-19 vaccine was not tested in women who are pregnant or lactating, the vaccine is not a live vaccine, so it should not be withheld for these groups or women who are trying to conceive. The safety and efficacy of the vaccine is thought to be similar for these populations and the general population.

COVID infections during pregnancy are often more severe, so women at an increased risk of COVID should especially consider receiving the vaccine. Our high risk obstetrics department at MUSC confirms that we should offer this to our patients. Whether or not you choose to get the vaccine at this time will be a personal decision, and we will support you either way.

Here is more information that you might find helpful:

How has the process for developing and approving these vaccines moved so quickly?

The process for developing, assessing safety and efficacy and manufacturing a vaccine typically takes years. The research and development on mRNA vaccines has been going on for 30 years and prior to the Coronavirus pandemic, there were other trials looking at mRNA vaccines for other infectious diseases. It is important to remember that it was the years of research, innovation and investment into the science behind this vaccine platform that allowed the scientific community to rapidly develop a COVID-19 vaccine and complete the clinical trials during the pandemic.

Some of the reasons for the rapidity of the clinical trials include the public health emergency and the shortened timeline due to various innovations. Despite these differences from the usual vaccine clinical trials, it is important to remember that they did not affect or compromise the safety or scientific integrity of the clinical trials. Some of the changes made included the following:

  • Some clinical trials combined phase 1 and 2 to assess the safety and immune responses at the same time.
  • Due to the high numbers of COVID-19 cases, comparisons between the vaccine and placebo groups can be made quicker than during non-pandemic times.
  • Significant investment has been made in manufacturing large amounts of the vaccines prior to the results of phase 3 trials being finalized.

How much will the vaccine cost? Will my insurance cover it?

The federal government will cover the cost of the vaccine. However, health care providers may charge an office visit fee or a fee to administer the vaccine. Health insurance will most likely cover these fees. SC DHEC will work with other state agencies to determine how to offer the vaccine at no-cost for people without insurance.

Helpful links