illustration of a needle and container for a vaccine

UAB is administering the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at several sites in the Greater Birmingham area to people who qualify under to the Alabama Department of Public Health vaccine allocation plan. The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine requires two 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.

UAB Employees

ALL UAB EMPLOYEES can now register to be scheduled to receive a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine. Employee vaccines are not required but highly encouraged. All UAB employees received an email the afternoon of Jan. 29 with instructions to register for a vaccine appointment.

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

Non-UAB Employees

At this time, non-UAB employees eligible for vaccinations in Phase 1B should refer to health department guidance (e.g., Jefferson County residents can register interest in a vaccine online with JCDH – do not register more than once).

UAB will offer vaccinations to the public at multiple sites and will coordinate with JCDH. We continue to work quickly to assess the latest ADPH guidance, and we will communicate additional vaccine information and opportunities for non-UAB employees as soon as additional logistics are finalized.

Due to a limited amount of vaccine doses, scheduling your appointment is taking longer than we had hoped and could take up to a few months to schedule. As we receive additional vaccine doses, we will schedule vaccination appointments in the order in which we received the completed vaccine request form. Confirmation of your place in line will be communicated periodically. Please check your email frequently; we will send your appointment date, time and location as soon as your appointment is scheduled. 

If you received a COVID-19 vaccination at another location other than a UAB vaccine location and are still registered with UAB, please let us know by sending an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. We will remove you from the vaccine appointment wait-list.

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.

Effectiveness

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.

Even after you receive your vaccine, we are advising UAB faculty, students and staff to continue to 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.

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)

IMPORTANT INFORMATION FROM YOUR UAB MEDICINE PROVIDERS ABOUT THE COVID VACCINE

At this time, all UAB and Cooper Green patients age 65 and older can request their vaccination appointment by completing the form at uabmedicinevaccine.org. 

Non-UAB patients who are eligible for vaccination can visit the Jefferson County Vaccine Call Center online at jeffcoema.org and click on the green button to self-register to receive information about obtaining the vaccine.