illustration of a needle and container for a vaccineOn Dec. 15, UAB received 10,725 initial doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and began to vaccinate health care workers from UAB and other Jefferson County hospitals and EMS providers in the coming days. UAB is the only location in Jefferson County to receive the initial shipment of vaccine. UAB Medicine and the university have several of the minus-80 degree freezers needed to store the vaccine. The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine requires two separate shots separated by at least 21 days.

Each vaccine we receive will have been reviewed for safety and efficacy by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and received approval.

Who Will Receive the Vaccine

The vaccines provided to UAB Medicine are under the direction of the Alabama Department of Public Health, which issued the vaccines. We continue to follow their administration schedule available here

The order in which UAB Medicine employees will be offered the vaccine has been reviewed and approved by a multidisciplinary group of UAB Medicine leaders using the guidelines provided by the ADPH.

Vaccines for patients and family members of health care personnel will be available in a later phase of vaccine distribution. Vaccines are expected to be distributed to the general public by late spring or summer 2021. The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is approved for people age 16 and up.

In keeping with ADPH guidance, UAB  has started to invite patients 75 years and older to receive vaccines and will also be inviting UAB patients 75 or older. Check your email regularly for communications related to vaccine availability, including appointment invitations.

Vaccines for UAB Employees

The COVID-19 vaccination will not be mandatory for UAB employees at this time and there will be no work-related consequences for not receiving a vaccine. However, we strongly encourage you to get one when you are invited to participate. Our goal is 100 percent vaccination to best protect our employees, families and patients.

How Eligible Employees Will Be Notified

Some can now register for a COVID-19 vaccine without receiving an email invitation.

Employees and Patients 75 Years and Older

In keeping with ADPH guidance, UAB  has started to invite employees 75 years and older to receive vaccines and will also be inviting UAB patients 75 or older. Check your email regularly for communications related to vaccine availability, including appointment invitations.

Healthcare Employees

UAB's COVID-19 vaccine program is opened scheduling to all employees in Phase 1a: ALL on-site or hybrid employees who work in UAB Hospital/UAB Hospital-Highlands, Spain Rehabilitation Center, or other UAB clinical settings where patients are seen – including inpatient, outpatient, mental health, and home health environments – may register for vaccination online. This includes contractors or others who are not UAB employees but who physically work in these facilities. UAB employees who work in any clinical setting where patient care is delivered or in any laboratory environment where COVID-19 specimens are handled also may register for vaccination using this link: Individuals in these groups who have not yet scheduled a vaccine should register online; if you are in these groups, do not wait for an invitation. 

Employees who work only remotely and who never come to campus or do not work in a health care environment are not included in Phase 1a and should not sign up for vaccination at this time, unless you are over the age of 75. Employees who fall into this category will be offered an opportunity to be vaccinated in a later phase, as determined by the Alabama Department of Public Health. Please DO NOT complete this form if you are an employee who:

  • Received an invitation and declined or ignored it but has now decided to be vaccinated.
  • Received an invitation and did not respond to it before it expired.
  • Received an invitation and scheduled an appointment but missed it.
  • Received an invitation but was within 90 days of being COVID-19-positive and are now outside that window.

Submitting multiple requests creates additional work to reconcile duplicate forms, thereby delaying the scheduling of vaccinations. Instead, if you fall into one of the categories above, please notify Employee Health atThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Please note that rescheduling is a labor-intensive process, so it is important to make every effort to keep your appointment. By maximizing our efficiency, we will be able to ensure all faculty and staff receive their vaccinations as quickly as possible.

Additionally, employees who previously submitted a vaccination form but have yet to be scheduled for a vaccination should NOT contact Employee Health. Your vaccination will be scheduled according to the established prioritization schedule.   

After registration, employees will be added to a pool of people who want to receive the vaccine. It will take time to schedule a vaccination appointment for everyone in this pool, depending on the rate at which we receive the vaccine from the Alabama Department of Public Health and the number of people who request vaccination.

Even after you receive your vaccine, we are advising faculty, students and staff to continue to participate in COVID testing, wear a mask and practice social distancing. The vaccine is not fool proof and you may still contract covid or spread the virus to others, so continued precautions will still be important.

Read FAQs for UAB employees on the vaccine distribution process (PDF)

The Vaccine and How It Works

The active ingredient in the vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and another company, Moderna, is messenger RNA, which is genetic information used to make the spike protein found on the outside of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. The spike protein is the part of the virus that attaches to human cells. The spike protein is recognized by the body’s immune system to develop protection from infection.

The spike protein alone cannot cause COVID-19. Once the spike protein is created, it causes the immune system to make antibodies against the virus. These antibodies can then provide protection if a person comes into contact with the virus. mRNA vaccines are non-infectious and do not enter the human cell nucleus, so the mRNA cannot be inserted into human DNA. mRNA vaccines do not have the ability to cause cancer.

All vaccines help develop immunity by imitating an infection. Vaccines greatly reduce the risk of infection by working with the body’s natural defenses to safely develop immunity to disease. When germs, such as viruses, invade the body, they attack and multiply. This invasion, called an infection, is what causes illness. The immune system uses several tools to fight infection. The first time the body encounters a germ or virus, it can take several days for the body to make and use all the germ-fighting tools needed to fight the infection. After the infection, the immune system remembers what it learned about how to protect the body against that disease.

While some vaccines, such as flu vaccines, use dead or deactivated virus to imitate the infection, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine approved for COVID-19 does not. It uses the body’s messenger RNA to teach the immune system to recognize the SARS-CoV-2 virus. A person cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccine.

Vaccine Safety and Effectiveness

According to the FDA, there were no safety concerns identified in the 43,448 participants in the clinical trials of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, and no enhanced disease in the recipients. The most commonly reported side effects were mild and include soreness at the injection site, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain and fever. Side effects were more common with the second of the two required doses of the vaccine. Historically, long-term side effects from vaccines have been rare.

The clinical trials of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and Moderna vaccines included participation from African American and Hispanic people — more than 10 percent of participants were African American and more than 20 percent were Hispanic in the Pfizer/BioNTech trials and more than 20 percent of participants in the Moderna trials were African American — said School of Medicine Dean Selwyn Vickers, M.D. “These studies have included our people to prove they are safe,” Vickers said.

The CDC recommends that people who have experienced severe reactions to prior vaccines or injectable drugs can still get the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for COVID-19, but should discuss the risks with their doctors and be monitored for 30 minutes afterward.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that COVID-19 vaccines should not be withheld from pregnant individuals who meet criteria for vaccination based on ACIP-recommended priority groups.


According to Phase 3 clinical trial results, the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is 95 percent effective at preventing COVID-19 seven days after the second dose. (This vaccine requires two doses, given at least 21 days apart.) The vaccine was 94 percent effective in adults over the age of 65. This means that getting vaccinated reduces the chances of a confirmed coronavirus infection to just 5 percent. The Moderna vaccine showed a 94 percent efficacy rate 14 days after the second dose. These results were consistent across gender, age, race, and ethnicity.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were shown to prevent COVID-19 in people compared to those who received a placebo. Experts believe that getting a COVID-19 vaccine may help keep you from getting seriously ill even if you are exposed to COVID-19 by boosting your immune response should you be exposed to COVID-19 in the future. Getting vaccinated may also protect people around you, particularly people at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Experts continue to conduct more studies about the effect of COVID-19 vaccination on the severity of illness from COVID-19, as well as its ability to keep people from spreading the virus that causes COVID-19.

Precautions Needed After Vaccination

Each person receiving the vaccination will be monitored for 15 minutes following the vaccination for reactions. Medical staff will be on hand for those that may need immediate attention. According to the FDA, the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine starts working within about two weeks of the first dose. Wearing a mask and practicing social distancing is still important after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. There will be limited doses available initially, and because people will be vaccinated in waves, it will take time to vaccinate enough of the population to stop the spread of COVID-19. Additionally, it is not known how long immunity will last. Furthermore, infection after receiving a vaccine may still be possible, although it is likely that it would be less severe, such as a mild or asymptomatic infection. Others can still be infected in this scenario, necessitating the continued use of masks.

The vaccine does not kill or destroy the virus if you are exposed. It simply trains your body to successfully fight off the virus so you do not get sick. You can still infect others, so mask wearing and social distancing is still recommended. The vaccine will take effect roughly 14 days after the first dose. The second dose likely extends the duration of that protection but only a bit more, if any, to the protection.

More Vaccine Questions Answered

UAB Medicine experts have compiled answers to common questions that people have been asking about the new COVID-19 vaccines, including how the work was completed so quickly and why vaccination may be more effective than getting infected with COVID-19.

View COVID-19 Vaccine Myths (PDF)


We are not currently offering Covid vaccines to patients. This is because there is a limited supply of COVID-19 vaccine available, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Alabama Department of Public Health have issued guidance that the first vaccines should go to health care teams, emergency service workers, and long-term care facilities. We are carefully monitoring this situation as it evolves and will make sure that our UAB Medicine patients are notified and are given the opportunity to receive a vaccine once the vaccine is made available to the public, consistent with CDC and ADPH guidance. Please note that it could be early spring before the vaccine is more widely available to the public. We do not have additional information on when the vaccine will be available to you but will continue to communicate as we learn new information.