For the latest COVID-19 information, visit vcuhealth.org/covid-19 or Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU for pediatrics. For vaccine details, visit vcuhealth.org/covidvaccine.

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COVID-19 vaccine: How do I get it?

Front-line health care workers are getting vaccinated. When can you?

Man getting COVID-19 vaccine Photo: Getty Images

Please note that this content is accurate as of January 8, 2021. For the most up-to-date information on this topic, please visit the VCU Health COVID vaccine page.


As vaccine supplies arrive across the United States and thousands of people have rolled up their sleeves, you may be wondering when your turn will come. Here we answer common questions about when the general public can receive the vaccine.

Can patients or the general public get the vaccine now?

The vaccine is not yet approved for distribution to the general public. VCU Health is working closely with the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), other area health care systems and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to support a statewide plan to distribute COVID-19 vaccines when they are approved for patients and the general public.

When will the vaccine be available for the general public?

According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and one of the nation's top experts on COVID-19, the vaccine might be available for the general public in April. 

Dr. Fauci gave his estimate during a "Facts & Faith Friday" Zoom event January 8. The event was co-sponsored by the Governor’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, the Office of Health Equity at the Virginia Department of Health, VCU Massey Cancer Center and faith leaders from Massey’s “Facts & Faith Fridays.”

Until then, the CDC recommends that the first vaccines go to health care workers, residents of long-term care facilities, people at high risk for severe COVID-19 illnesses due to underlying medical conditions, and people 65 and older.

How will I know when it's my turn? 

Approval of the vaccine for public use will come from the CDC and the Virginia Department of Health (VDH). VCU Health is working closely with VDH and will share any announcements pertaining to public availability of the vaccine on our website, VCUHealth.org, our social media channels and in partnership with our local media. You can also sign up for our VCU Health email newsletter.

How much will the vaccine cost?

The vaccine will be offered to everyone at no cost. Any fees will be covered either by insurance companies or by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration Provider Relief Fund. You will not have any out-of-pocket costs.

Where will I get the vaccine?

The Virginia Department of Health is currently enrolling a variety of providers to administer the COVID-19 vaccine. These include hospitals, long-term care facilities, local health departments, urgent care centers and outpatient centers. VCU Health is working closely with VDH to offer the vaccine to the public once it is available. More information about vaccine availability will be communicated as it becomes available.

Are the COVID-19 vaccines safe?

Yes. Our experts believe the COVID-19 vaccines are very safe. The COVID-19 vaccines were developed and tested the same way as every other vaccine in the United States. Before vaccines are approved for the general public, they have gone through a careful trial process with several phases to address their safety and effectiveness. The COVID-19 vaccines have been produced faster than any other vaccine because public health officials have been preparing for this vaccine since the virus was first discovered in 2019 and prioritized its development.

How long will the vaccine work? 

This is not clear yet. The response to vaccination is quite robust, at least initially. It’s possible that over time more doses will be needed to provide continued protection, similar to the flu vaccine. We just don’t know yet.

Are there side effects?

As with most vaccines, you may experience mild to moderate side effects. These include fatigue, headache, muscle aches and pain in your arm, at the injection site. These side effects may last a couple days but are completely normal. 

If I’ve had COVID-19, do I still need to get the vaccine?

At this point we don’t know if and for how long protection lasts after infection. At this point it is not clear if vaccination will be recommended. We are awaiting guidance from national organizations like the CDC.

When can children get the vaccine? 

So far the COVID-19 vaccines have only been fully tested on adults. More research is needed to ensure the vaccine will be safe and effective for infants, kids and teens. We we will stay on top of the research and begin offering the vaccine to children as soon as it is approved.

Once I’ve gotten the vaccine, can I stop wearing my mask?

No. Continue to wear your mask, practice social distancing and wash your hands often. Although it looks like the vaccines will be very effective at preventing COVID-19, some people will still get infected. The illness may be much milder than if you had not been vaccinated, but there is still the possibility of developing infection and spreading it to others.

For more information on the COVID-19 vaccine, please visit our COVID-19 vaccination page. For a variety of news and information on COVID-19, and how VCU Health is keeping patients safe, please visit our COVID-19 News Center.