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Your guide to getting the COVID-19 vaccine in the Brazos Valley

What group are you in? What if you don't want the vaccine? Where do you sign up? When do you sign up? Get your answers here.

BRAZOS COUNTY, Texas — Now that the COVID-19 vaccine is here in the Brazos Valley, there's also a lot of information to keep track of. What group are you in? Are you required to get the vaccine? Does it cost anything? Where do you go, what do you do? What if you've already had COVID-19, should you get the vaccine? We compiled a list of your questions about the COVID-19 vaccine and got you the answers. If you have more, send them in and we'll add them to this guide! If any information changes, we'll update it as soon as possible.

UPDATES

Here's where you'll see updates to this article, including the dates where new information is added.

January 19, 2021 - VOLUNTEERS NEEDED If you are wanting to help out with the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine in the Brazos Valley, we've got the information for you. The American Red Cross said it needs 30 volunteers a day starting on January 25 to work at the Brazos Center COVID-19 Vaccination Hub. We've got all the details in the story below:

LINK: Volunteers needed for Brazos County COVID-19 vaccine task force

Remember, the Brazos County Vaccination Hub is not yet open and the only way you can be vaccinated at this location is by appointment only. They are not accepting walk-ins. The health district has not released information on how to schedule an appointment yet, but they will do so in the coming days. We'll keep you updated.

What phase do I qualify to be in?

The Texas Department of State Health Services has broken up the groups as to when they will be able to get the vaccine.

Phase 1A: Tier One

  • Paid and unpaid workers in hospital settings working directly with patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 or are at high risk for COVID-19.
  • Long-term care staff working directly with vulnerable residents.
  • EMS who work 911 emergency services, including pre-hospital care and transport.
  • Home health care workers, hospice workers who work with high-risk patients
  • Residents of long-term care facilities

What was it like to get the COVID-19 vaccine? A Brazos County health care worker shared their story with us. You can watch that here:

Phase 1A: Tier Two

  • School nurses who provide health care to students and teachers.
  • Workers who provide mortuary or death services to those with COVID-19.
  • Public health and emergency response staff who are involved in giving COVID-19 tests and vaccinations.
  • Direct care staff in free-standing emergency medical care facilities and urgent care clinics.
  • Staff in outpatient care settings who have direct contact with patients who display symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Pharmacy workers who provide direct services to clients, vaccinations and testing for people who may have COVID-19.

Vaccinations for this group began back in the middle of December. To find out where the vaccinations went in the Brazos Valley, you can read those stories here:

Phase 1B

  • People 65 years of age and older.
  • People 16 years of age and older with at least one chronic medical condition that puts them at increased risk for severe illness from the virus that causes COVID-19. Some of these conditions include cancer, COPD, chronic kidney disease, organ transplant recipients, pregnancy, Type 2 diabetes and sickle cell disease. Also on this list is obesity and severe obesity, if your body mass index (BMI) is 30 or higher. Heart conditions include heart failure, coronary artery disease and cardiomyopathies.

The DSHS said providers could begin vaccinations in Phase 1B on December 29, but vaccine supply is limited. That's why not many people from this group have been vaccinated yet.

Phase 2

At this time, the State of Texas has not outlined any specific tier of the general public who will be included in Phase 2. The state said it hopes when it is time to start vaccinating this group, that there will be enough vaccine to go around. The state has set a goal that frontline workers and those who are the most vulnerable or at high risk for COVID-19 will have been vaccinated by this point.

To get the latest information directly from the Department of State Health Services, click below:

"All providers that have received COVID-19 vaccine must immediately vaccinate healthcare workers, Texans over the age of 65, and people with medical conditions that put them at a greater risk of severe disease or death from COVID-19. No vaccine should be kept in reserve." - DSHS Commissioner John Hellerstedt, M.D.

I'm eligible for a vaccine now. What do I do?

The week of January 11, the state issued most of its COVID-19 vaccine supply to large sites around the state to start vaccinations. The goal is that these sites can vaccinate up to 100,000 people.

So where do you go to sign up? How do you know how many vaccines are at your hospital or health care facility? The DSHS created this map below! Just type in your city and it will list the providers who have the vaccine. Click on that provider and it will show you the amount of vaccines, including the type. If you want to know what the difference is between the two vaccines available now, we've got you covered right after this section.

So now that you know where the vaccine is, what comes next? You've got to register. You can't just walk into the hospital and say, 'I want the vaccine.' You've got to make an appointment. You may be put on a waiting list until more vaccines are available. Since the Brazos Valley covers several counties, click on the link below to see the list of vaccine providers, their contact information and where you go to register. If your county is not on this list, you can travel to the one closest to you. Make sure you call ahead. Check back on this list as it will be updated as more vaccine becomes available. ↓ Click this box to see the hubs.↓

The week of January 11, Texas will direct most COVID‑19 vaccines received to large sites or hubs around the state to vaccinate more than 100,000 people. The goal of this plan is to provide more people the vaccine and a simpler way to sign up for an appointment.

On Thursday, Brazos County announced that CHI St. Joseph Health Services had been selected by the state to be a vaccination hub. (You'll see them listed in the hub list above) Because of this distinction, the hospital received 1,200 more doses of the vaccine, most of which will be used up by January 15, according to the Brazos County Health District. Those doses are being given to those in Phase 1B.

A vaccination site will be opening at the Brazos Center on Monday. This is important: DO NOT call the Brazos Center for information on this vaccination site. They are not responsible for administering vaccinations. The site will be open for the next three months. If you want to know more about this, watch the report from KAGS' Tristan Lewis, who talked with the people in charge of the site:

What are the vaccines and what are their risks? What are their differences?

Currently, there are two COVID-19 vaccines available: Pfizer and Moderna. Other companies are also making their own vaccines, in the hopes with more vaccine, we can get people vaccinated faster. However, companies must go through a rigorous approval process to make sure their vaccine is ready for the public. Here are the two vaccines available at this time, along with some quick facts and a link to learn more:

Pfizer

  • 16 years of age and older
  • 2 doses given within 21 days
  • A shot given in the upper arm
  • Data shows it to be 95% effective
  • While considered safe for pregnancy/breast-feeding, go over these concerns with a doctor
  • Unknown at this time how long the vaccine will protect you from COVID-19
  • Common side effects: Tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, fever, pain at the injection site. It should be noted that Pfizer said most of these side effects happened after the 2nd dose. The side effects were also known to last several days.
  • For more details on the Pfizer vaccine, including frequently asked questions, click here.

RELATED: Pfizer study suggests coronavirus vaccine works on variants from Britain, South Africa

Moderna

  • 18 years of age and older
  • 2 doses given within 28 days
  • A shot given in the upper arm
  • Does not contain eggs, preservatives or latex
  • Data shows it to be 94.1% effective
  • Most common side effects: Pain at the injection site, chills, tiredness and headache. It should be noted that Moderna said the side effects were noticeable within a day or two of people getting the vaccine. They reported the side effects to be similar to flu-like symptoms. The symptoms were also more common after the 2nd dose.
  • For more details on the Moderna vaccine, click here.

RELATED: CHI St. Joseph Health in Bryan gets first doses of Moderna vaccine

Now, can you choose the vaccine you want to get? Maybe, maybe not. It depends on the number of vaccines available, allergies, etc. As always, if you have questions, ask your doctor!

Will there be more vaccines coming? Yes! In fact, vaccine production is happening in Brazos County. Check out this story with KAGS' Tristan Lewis:

How much will the vaccine cost?

One of the biggest questions is, do you have to pay to get the COVID-19 vaccine? According to the federal government, NO.

The CDC and the  Medicaid Services and the Centers for Medicare said everyone in the United States can get the COVID-19 vaccine for free whether or not they have health insurance.

Vaccine providers can charge a fee for giving the shots, but that should be covered by your insurance company. What if you don't have insurance? The federal government has set aside money for those who need it for the COVID-19 vaccine. Need proof? The Trump Administration set up the Health Resources and Services Administrations Provider Relief Fund: ↓Click below for that info!↓

The Provider Relief Fund supports American families, workers, and the heroic healthcare providers in the battle against the COVID-19 outbreak. HHS is distributing $178 billion to hospitals and healthcare providers on the front lines of the coronavirus response.

Need more proof? Check out this Verify segment that talks all about why the COVID-19 vaccine will be free if you want it:

RELATED: COVID-19 vaccine will be free when approved, health officials say

Can my kids get vaccinated?

At this time, you must be 18 years of age or older to get the vaccine. Pfizer has been launching trials involving children around the age of 12, but it's just not ready for them yet. Health officials said a vaccine for kids could come by the fall of 2021.

When can we get back to normal? Will it take everyone getting vaccinated?

This is important. You do not have to get vaccinated against COVID-19. It is your choice. It's also important to note that COVID-19 is a raging inferno, especially in the United States. A vaccine isn't going to be enough to put out the fire. However, health experts said vaccination will help us reopen and get back to a new normal.

As more people become vaccinated, large groups can gather once again. If most of the population is vaccinated by fall of 2021, there will be holidays once again to be celebrated with extended family and our most vulnerable family members. We won't see the hospitals extended beyond measure or our health care workers pushed to their limits.

While it is your choice to be vaccinated, the more vaccinated people we have, cases will decrease. Hospitalizations will decrease. Deaths will decrease. COVID-19 infections will be more manageable.

It also should be noted if you've had COVID-19 and recovered, you can still be vaccinated. As is unknown with the vaccine, it too, is also unknown how long you are protected from getting COVID-19 again once you've survived it the first time. Also, there is a new strain popping up, including right here in Texas. A strain that has proven to spread faster and more easily than the first one. The vaccine is said to also protect against this strain, although that data is not yet all analyzed. If you want to know more about that strain, check out KAGS' Sunny Tsai on this story:

The bottom line is this: It's been nearly a year since COVID-19 first entered our lives here in Texas. We know much more than we did a year ago. Science has helped us learn and health care workers have been doing everything they can to heal the community. However, there is a lot we still don't know, including about the vaccine. The best thing you can do is take all of the information and from there, decide what is best for you and your loved ones.

If you have any questions you would like to see answered, or would like more information, let us know! Text us your questions or comments at 979-703-8404. You can also email us at news@kagstv.com

This article will continue to be updated as more information comes in on COVID-19 vaccines in the Brazos Valley.

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