COVID-19 Vaccine Information
Please read the following information carefully before proceeding.
Our aim is to inform you as much as possible as we prepare to begin administering COVID-19 vaccines.
There are few easy and short answers to the questions you may have, as this is one of the largest and most complex public health operations ever undertaken.
Getting a COVID-19 vaccine will not be as simple and straightforward as a flu shot, which is why the process is so complicated and this document so long.
The first half of this document addresses several of the most common questions, as well as an outline of how to set up an appointment to receive a vaccine.
The second half is a FAQ section that goes into greater depth on a number of related topics.
Current NYS vaccination phase: 1B
This page last updated: 01/16/2021
This page will be updated regularly as conditions change.
Follow our Facebook page for more updates and news.
If you have any remaining questions not answered by this document, please address them to RRRxLogistics@Gmail.com.
We ask that you avoid calling the pharmacy directly with vaccine-related questions, if at all possible.
Please do not call to ask if we have vaccines on hand *right now* – no vaccine can be ordered for you until you have scheduled an appointment.
We can not estimate when your vaccine will arrive or when your appointment will be.
The NYS DOH notified us Friday evening at 5:30 PM of a rule change for out-of-state patients. More information below.
Who is eligible to receive a vaccine?
The New York State Department of Health has developed a strategy for phased distribution of the vaccines, as follows:
- Phase 1: Healthcare workers, Long-term care facility workers, and most at-risk long-term care patients.
- Phase 2: First responders, teachers, public health workers, essential frontline workers that regularly interact with the public, and other lower-risk long-term care patients.
- Phase 3: Individuals over 65 and individuals under 65 with high-risk comorbidities and health conditions.
- Phase 4: All other essential workers.
- Phase 5: Healthy adults and children.
Each phase will be divided into smaller populations to target specific subgroups.
The NYS COVID-19 Vaccine website contains additional information about the distribution plans, eligibility, and an app that will notify you of local providers when you become eligible.
The NYS Department of Health has also released an Eligibility Check website if you are unsure if you meet current eligibility criteria.
If you are not eligible, the DOH will notify you when you become so.
If you are eligible, a link will be provided to search for local providers. DO NOT call us to schedule an appointment – everything is set up through this website.
Riverside Remedies is located in New York, but I live in Pennsylvania. Can I still get the vaccine?
It is with a heavy heart and much frustration that I write this: at 5:30 PM on Friday, January 15th, the NYS Department of Health has restricted New York providers from administering the vaccine to individuals who do not reside in New York.
Callicoon, like many small towns on the border, recognizes no such division. We are all locals and members of one community, whether from this side of the river or that.
To our Pennsylvanian friends: you are an integral part of our patient base. This Pharmacy would not be here today without you, and we deeply appreciate all the love and support you’ve given us these last six years. Please understand that this decision is beyond our control. If you are feeling feisty, call the DOH and file a complaint. Perhaps we can lobby for an exception for border communities.
Remain hopeful and patient. We will continue to hold your reservation and contact you when the rules change again (as they do, often daily). If you are otherwise eligible in Phase 1B, be on the lookout for last-minute on call appointments, in case we have extra doses about to expire.
Are the vaccines safe?
Yes. Our participation in administering these vaccines is voluntary, and we will not provide any immunization (or medication, for that matter) that we feel is dangerous or lacks the scientific data sufficient to demonstrate its safety. Both vaccines are safe and effective.
That said, every medicine carries a risk of possible side effects. It is important to weigh the benefits a therapy might provide against what might go wrong, and how likely the chances are for each outcome. It is also important to evaluate whether the chance of contracting COVID-19, or spreading it to someone you love, is in the same category of risk as having a sore arm or a headache for a day.
After all, the inconveniences we have experienced during this pandemic – wearing masks, social distancing, disruption of our daily routines – is not to protect us as individuals. It is to protect everyone else around us, and by each doing their part, the entire community benefits. These vaccines represent just another extension of that philosophy: if we can each tolerate a bit more discomfort and inconvenience, the most vulnerable among will be are protected.
Refer to our FAQ at the end of this page for more information on this topic.
How are the vaccines administered?
Both vaccines require a two-dose sequence to confer maximum immunity. It is administered into the deltoid muscle (the upper outer portion of your arm, same location as a flu shot).
The interval between doses for the Pfizer vaccine is 21 days, and 28 days for the Moderna vaccine.
The second dose must be administered as closely as possible to the recommended interval, and there is very little room for deviating from that schedule. Please plan accordingly.
The vaccines are not interchangeable. Both doses must be of the same type. We highly recommend visiting the same provider for both doses to avoid the chance of a mixup and to aid accounting.
After receiving your first dose, you will receive a vaccination card specifying which vaccine was administered, where, and when. Bring this card with you to your second appointment.
How much does vaccination cost?
At this time, all vaccines being administered have been obtained and paid for by the Federal government. There is no cost to you.
How do I get my vaccine at Riverside Remedies?
The vaccines allocated to us by the Department of Health will be under strict scrutiny to minimize loss and ensure that we are utilizing as many doses as have been provided.
To that end, we will need an accurate headcount to determine how many vaccines to request each week.
Step 1: Prebook.
- Submit the form below, whether you are eligible for a vaccine at this time or not.
- When you do become eligible, we will notify you and provide a link to access our appointment booking system.
- Prebooking serves only to provide us your contact information. It is not a reservation.
Step 2: Create an appointment.
- After you receive the appointment link, you will be able to schedule a date and time to receive your vaccine.
- This link may arrive at any time. Check your email daily, especially in the morning.
- If you cannot make any of the available appointment slots, there will be an option to defer your appointment to the next available round.
You will not lose your place in line or forfeit your vaccine if you need to postpone. We will get you in as soon as possible.
- When you have selected a date, please make absolutely sure you can attend before you click submit.
Step 3: Receive your first dose.
- Arrive ten to fifteen minutes before your appointment to sign the consent form. If possible, bring a completed form with you.
- Bring your medical insurance card for our records and tracking. You will not be charged for receiving the vaccine.
- Please wear a mask and practice social distancing; other patients will be inside the pharmacy for prescriptions or vaccines.
- After receiving the vaccine, you will be given an immunization card recording the vaccine manufacturer, date, location administered, and provider. Do not lose this card.
- You must schedule your second appointment before you leave the pharmacy. Be mindful of your availability at 21 days and 28 days after your first appointment.
Step 4: Receive your second dose.
- You will receive a confirmation email in advance of your second appointment.
- Again, arrive early to sign a second consent form or bring it with you.
- Bring your vaccine card to the second appointment to be updated.
After that, you will have been fully immunized and contributed in your part to ending this pandemic, and we thank you.
Things to consider before scheduling an appointment:
If you are feeling ill, please defer your appointment until you have recovered.
Guidelines recommend against receiving another vaccine within two weeks (before or after) a COVID-19 vaccine, to avoid potentially compromising efficacy of either. Take note of any recent vaccines and plan your appointment accordingly.
If the Department of Health ships us fewer than the requested number of vaccines for the week to satisfy all appointments, we will contact you to reschedule. You will not lose your place in line.
If we approach the end of the week with a surplus of vaccines on hand, we may contact you to move your appointment up to an earlier time or date.
Depending on supply and demand, we may allow scheduling of appointments outside our normal operating hours. Double check that the appointment date and time you are selecting is correct. The available slots you see might include late evenings or availability on Sundays, depending on the week.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Are the vaccines safe? (Continued)
These two links from the CDC for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines illustrate the range and severity of reported side effects versus placebo. They are the same sorts of reactions present for any vaccine: predominantly pain, redness, and swelling at the injection site, as well as a variety of less common systemic reactions. You will note that the most serious systemic reactions are evenly divided between the vaccine groups and their placebos.
Visit the CDC’s webpage on COVID-19 vaccine safety and side effects for additional information.
How many COVID-19 vaccines are currently available?
As of now, two manufacturers have received Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA to distribute COVID-19 vaccines: Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech.
Moderna is an American biotechnology company, manufacturing their vaccines in Norwood, Massachusetts and Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Pfizer is also an American company, who for their vaccine partnered with the German company BioNTech SE. Production for the US market is at three facilities: Andover, Massachusetts; Kalamazoo, Michigan; and St. Louis, Missouri.
These are the only two vaccines currently approved for use within the United States.
We are not able to accommodate requests for a particular manufacturer, should you have a preference.
I’ve already had COVID-19 and recovered. Can I/Should I get the vaccine?
Yes. Individuals who have already recovered from a past infection should still receive the vaccine, as we do not know how long natural immunity lasts after infection.
Additionally, COVID-19 infections vary dramatically in severity, from completely asymptomatic cases to protracted ICU care. The symptoms you may have experienced cannot be used as a yardstick to predict the strength of immunity you may have now, or how long it will last into the future.
Can I stop wearing a mask after receiving the first (or second) dose?
No, you should continue to wear a mask, practice social distancing, and wash your hands frequently.
As with any vaccine, some amount of time is necessary for your immune system to react. It will take four to six weeks from the date of your first dose before you achieve the level of immunity seen during the clinical trials. Don’t let your guard down when we are this close to the finish line.
Is one dose sufficient? What happens if I miss the second dose?
Two doses on the recommended interval are critical for immunity. One dose may afford a reasonable level of immunity, though it is unknown how long that immunity will last; additionally we are less certain of the risk for a partially-immunized individual to spread the virus to others, even if they are not symptomatic. In other words, after the first dose there is still a chance you could become infected – you might be asymptomatic enough for you to not feel ill, but still capable of infecting others who have not yet been immunized.
Missing or delaying the second dose can jeopardize your immunity, places others around you at risk of infection, and further complicates matters for your provider. Your pharmacist or physician can discuss your options with you in this scenario.
In short, make every possible attempt to receive the second dose on time.
What ingredients are in the vaccines?
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine contains eleven ingredients, including water.
- The active ingredient is a small fragment of mRNA, which codes for a form of the viral spike protein. This is explained in greater detail in the following section.
- Four lipids, in a precise mixture to create nanoparticles that envelop and protect the mRNA. The primary lipid can be given a positive charge, which helps it stick to the mRNA (genetic material generally carries a slight negative charge). The mRNA and lipids that envelop it are extremely delicate, which is why this vaccine must be stored at -94° F.
- Four salts (potassium chloride, monobasic potassium phosphate, sodium chloride, and dibasic sodium phosphate dihydrate), to match the pH and osmolarity of the vaccine to that of the human body. Those familiar with biochemistry might recognize this mixture as phosphate-buffered saline, a common isotonic laboratory buffer used in cell culturing. It is cheap, easy to make, and nontoxic.
- Sucrose, aka table sugar, used to stabilize the vaccine.
The Moderna vaccine is very similar, albeit with a different mixture of lipids and an acetate buffer instead of a phosphate one. Moderna’s lipid mixture is somewhat less sensitive to temperature extremes and part of why it can be stored in a standard freezer.
Neither vaccine contains any preservatives, egg proteins, thimerosal, fetal tissue, live COVID-19 viral particles, infertility agents, or microchips.
How do mRNA vaccines work, and how do they differ from other vaccines?
This is very complicated topic, but here it is as briefly as possible:
With a typical flu vaccine, bits of viral protein are injected into the body for the immune system to respond to. Your standard “policeman-on-the-beat” white blood cells, macrophages, encounter the viral protein, digest it, and carry it to the nearest lymph node to activate B-cells. B-cells are another type of white blood cell that make the antibodies that provide immunity. The next time your immune system encounters that viral flu protein, it already has a store of antibodies ready to go and can fight off the infection before it takes hold.
But this mechanism only involves foreign bits of protein (or bacteria, or viruses) found by a wandering macrophage outside of a cell, in the fluid surrounding your cells. However, your body has an entirely second branch of immune military for infections that occur inside a cell, and it is this alternate system that the COVID-19 vaccines utilize. This new mRNA vaccine technology has actually existed for several decades, but up until now has not been implemented. It is, however, extremely clever.
First, a bit about what mRNA is and how a healthy cell uses it. mRNA is a blueprint, copied from DNA, that tells a cell how to make a specific protein. Every one of your cells is constantly making it’s own mRNA to create the proteins it needs to survive – mechanisms involved in metabolism, replication, mobility, and a host of other specialized functions. mRNA is copied from your own DNA in the cell’s nucleus, transported out of the nucleus, into the cell interior, and transcribed into proteins by structures called ribosomes. The cell controls how much of the desired protein is produced by varying the rate of mRNA production in the nucleus, as any mRNA floating around outside the nucleus is almost immediately digested by proteins called ribonucleases. Importantly, the route mRNA takes out of the nucleus is a one-way door; mRNA cannot enter the nucleus from the outside.
When a virus infects a cell, it hijacks the cell’s internal machinery to do only one thing: to create more copies of the virus. Your cell’s ribosomes don’t necessarily know if a piece of mRNA is foreign or not, so they will happily start transcribing the viral mRNA into viral proteins. Those viral mRNA proteins can be quite varied, depending on the virus in question: structural proteins, more ribosomes to further increase transcription and protein production, ribonuclease inhibitors to stop mRNA degradation, and the proteins that exist on the viral particle’s surface that help it gain entry to the host cell. Pretty soon the cell is wholly consumed with making more viral particles and eventually bursts, spewing new viral particles into the surrounding tissue which then go on to infect more cells. Your immune system has to play catch-up from that point on – macrophages have to arrive, activate B-cells, etc. – a process that takes considerable time, and until your immune system can turn the tide, you feel ill.
With the COVID-19 vaccines, a snippet of mRNA is delivered to your cells for transcription, but with a crucial difference: the vaccine mRNA is mostly missing, and it encodes for only a single viral protein – the spike protein. (These are the club-shaped protrusions you’ve probably seen on depictions of the COVID-19 virus; they make contact with your cells and allow the virus to enter.) As a result, your cells transcribe the fragment of spike protein mRNA as usual, but very soon the mRNA is digested by your own ribonucleases and the cell returns to whatever it was doing. The recently transcribed spike proteins are digested, as they are of no use to the cell, and a few remaining bits of it are attached to another type of specialized cell protein, the MHC Class-I complex.
MHC-I is a cell surface structure that routinely displays bits of protein digested within the cell on the cell’s surface, to interact with another type of white blood cell: the cytotoxic T-cell (aka the “killer” T-cells). These T-cells roam around your body like macrophages, except that they are checking those MHC-I structures to make sure that all the proteins that a cell is displaying on it’s surface are “human.” If a T-cell finds a cell displaying a bunch of foreign proteins on its surface, that means the cell was recently making proteins from non-human genetic material and has an internal infection. The T-cell immediately kicks things into high gear by terminating that cell (as a precaution to prevent it from making any more foreign proteins), and releases a potent mixture of cell-signaling chemicals (called cytokines) to recruit all available immune cells to the area to help. Your immune system treats an infection inside a cell as more serious than one outside a cell, because it is invisible and harder to detect, and thus mounts a more aggressive (and more cohesive) effort to defeat the infection. In the case of the COVID-19 vaccines, your immune system immediately responds at a high level right from the start, so it is that much more prepared when it confronts the actual virus.