COVID-19 Vaccine Frequently Asked Questions

COVID-19 Vaccine Frequently Asked Questions

Should I get vaccinated for COVID-19?

Yes. It is strongly recommended that persons 16 years of age and older receive the COVID-19 vaccine.


Can the vaccine give me COVID-19?

No. The COVID-19 vaccine will also not affect the results of viral tests. However, it typically takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity after vaccination and efficacy is higher after the second dose. This means it is possible to be infected with the virus just after vaccination. Continue to wear your mask, social distance, and practice good hand hygiene.


How effective are the COVID-19 vaccines?

Both Pfizer and Moderna showed a vaccine efficacy of 95% after dose 2.


If I currently have or have already had COVID-19 and recovered, do I still need to get vaccinated?

Vaccination is recommended to persons regardless of history of prior symptomatic or asymptomatic COVID-19 infection.   Vaccination should be deferred until recovery from acute illness and criteria to discontinue isolation have been met.

There is no minimal interval between infection and vaccination, however, current evidence suggests reinfection is uncommon in the 90 days after initial infection. Persons with documented acute infection in the preceding 90 days may defer vaccination until the end of this period.


What are the possible side effects?

The most common side effect of the vaccine is a sore arm and injection site redness.  Other common side effects that occurred in the trial were headache, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, and chills.  These were mostly mild/moderate symptoms and lasted on average of 2 days after the first injection and 3 days after the second injection.   There were no anaphylactic or severe hypersensitivity reactions related to the vaccine in the trial. If symptoms last longer than 72 hours, or you have more serious symptoms, contact your doctor.


Do I need 2 doses?

Yes. The Pfizer vaccine requires 2 doses 21 days apart and the Moderna vaccine requires 2 doses 28 days apart.  Both doses are necessary to provide the best protection.


Can my 2 doses be with different vaccines?

No. These vaccines are not interchangeable with each other or any other brand of COVID-19 vaccine.  You should receive the same vaccine for dose #2 that you did for dose #1.


I am immunocompromised, can I still receive the COVID-19 vaccine?

Specific guidelines stating who should not receive the vaccine have not been released yet. Until specific guidelines are published we suggest you reach out to your primary care provider or specialist for guidance.


I received my vaccine, can I stop wearing my mask now?

No. The best protection will not occur until a couple weeks after the second dose. It is also important to understand that no vaccine is 100% effective. Vaccinated persons should still follow all guidelines regarding COVID-19 safety.


I have a history of allergies; can I still receive the COVID-19 vaccine?

If you know you have a severe allergy (e.g. anaphylaxis) to any component of any of the COVID-19 vaccines do not get the vaccine at this time.

If you have had a severe allergic reaction to any vaccine or injectable therapy, you may still receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Please alert you vaccinator if this is the case.

If you have a history of environmental, food, oral medication, latex, etc. allergies you can receive the COVID-19 vaccine.


Are there any long-term side effects?

Since all COVID-19 vaccines are new, more time will be needed to determine possible long-term effects. However, current findings do suggest that the benefits of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine outweigh the risks of getting infected with the virus itself.

Some of the long-term concerns with developing Coronavirus include (but are not limited to): inflammation of the heart muscle, lung function abnormalities, acute kidney injury, Blood clots and strokes, rash or hair loss, loss of smell and taste, sleep abnormalities, or depression.


How do I report side effects?

All recipients of the vaccine should to enroll in v-safe. This is a smartphone tool you can use to tell CDC if you have any side effects after getting a COVID-19 vaccine. If you report serious side effects, someone from CDC will call to follow up. Information on v-safe can be found here: Side effects can be reported online through a Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS).


I previously received monoclonal antibody therapy for COVID-19, can I get vaccinated?

Vaccination should be deferred for at least 90 days to avoid interference of the treatment with vaccine-induced immune responses.


Can I get another vaccine at the same time as the COVID-19 vaccine?

Current information suggests not getting other vaccines within 14 days of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.



UPDATE: Employee Face Masks and Eye Protection

UPDATE: Employee Face Masks and Eye Protection

Recommendations have changed. Beginning Monday, December 21st, employees in all departments must wear a level 3 surgical mask instead of a cloth mask while at work.

Level 3 Surgical Mask

Staff in clinical areas have already been wearing surgical masks, but this change will apply to non-clinical areas and office spaces. Because we cannot always guarantee our staff can safely distance themselves at least 6 feet at all times from co-workers, surgical masks will be required while on campus at any ARHS facility, regardless of your role.

A surgical mask protects the user from larger droplets from others and reduces the transfer of respiratory secretions from the user. Based on guidance from the CDC, AppHealthcare and Toe River Health departments, we know that surgical masks have proven to provide better protection for the user and those they encounter.

Employees may continue to wear fabric masks when reporting to work. However, all employees should obtain a hospital-approved surgical mask as soon as they reach their work area/department.


What is a level 3 surgical mask?

A surgical mask is a loose-fitting disposable mask that protects the wearer’s nose and mouth from contact droplets, splashes and sprays that may contain germs. A surgical mask also filters large particles in the air and may protect others by reducing exposure to the saliva and respiratory secretions of the mask wearer.


How to request level 3 surgical masks for your department/staff?

Materials Management currently stocks level 3 masks in all inpatient and outpatient clinical areas and have sent supplies to non-clinical areas. If you need masks in your department, please contact Materials Management at 828-262-4159.


How long can I wear a level 3 surgical mask?

Based on our current supply of masks, we recommend that employees in use their level 3 surgical mask for multiple days as long as it remains clean. Employees should replace masks if they become visibly soiled and/or when the integrity of the mask has been torn, degraded or compromised.


May I purchase level 3 masks online?

ARHS cannot certify that masks purchased online are actually level 3 masks. Employees must utilize surgical masks obtained from Materials Management only.


Do I need to wear eye protection as well?

Anyone involved in direct patient care must wear appropriate PPE, including eye protection.
Staff interacting with patients/visitors from behind a plexiglass barrier are not required to wear eye protection.
Staff interacting with patients/visitors without a plexiglass barrier or through a slide window must wear eye protection.
Fact Sheet: Eye protection for COVID-19



Email Mike Rawls ( or Kathy Miller ( in Materials Management or call 828-262-4159.

Heroes Health Initiative – supporting YOU as you care for others

Heroes Health Initiative – supporting YOU as you care for others

Heroes Health App Image


snowmanYou are doing so much for others, Heroes Health is to support you. ARHS employees can now join Heroes Health, an app-based intervention and research study for healthcare workers.

The UNC School of Medicine and UNC Health have launched the Heroes Health Initiative to help support the mental health of first responders and healthcare workers during the COVID-19 global pandemic.

Download the Heroes Health App to your mobile device through the App Store/Google Play Store.

Track your wellness through 5-minute surveys

Anonymously let ARHS Know how we’re doing

Access ARHS-specific mental health resources

Health Heroes 1
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The COVID-19 crisis poses a threat to healthcare workers’ wellness, from front-line sanitation professionals to outpatient physicians. While the need for mental health care among these heroes is significant, barriers such as stigma, irregular work schedules, and a lack of knowledge regarding available resources lead many to suffer in silence.

By taking 5 minutes to complete weekly surveys, healthcare workers and first responders can track their own wellness throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Heroes Health connects healthcare workers to vetted mental health resources and uses the power of collective data to support the development of new programs tailored to current needs.

When combined, these surveys paint a dynamic picture of the health and needs of the healthcare worker community, allowing for units, healthcare organizations, and policymakers to develop tailored solutions to support our heroes.

Learn more about the Heroes Health Initiative >

November 22 Employee Update

Situation Update

Cumulative/Active cases:
  • Watauga County Cases: 2197 (125 active)
  • Ashe County Cases: 857 (97 active)
  • Avery County Cases: 923 (137 active)
Statistics Source: NC Department of Health & Human Services, AppHealthCare, Avery County Health Dept.  Last update: 11/22 1:02 pm

Topics covered in today’s update:

  • Visitor Restrictions
  • Mary Street Parking Lot
  • Employee Illness Protocol

Essential WorkersVisitation Restrictions Apply to Employees and the Community

As you are aware, the COVID case count is still trending upward. Our emergency departments are seeing an increase in patients who are positive or exhibiting the symptoms of COVID-19. For this reason, we ask all employees not to travel through the ED unless your visit is work-related. Unlike our COVID units, it is difficult to establish isolation areas within the ED, therefore we consider the whole ED as a potential exposure risk.

Visitation restrictions apply to all ARHS employees, as well as to the public. Employees should not be “visiting” ED staff or congregating in break rooms or other areas during meals. This is to limit not only your risk, but the risk that you might unknowingly expose others to the virus.

Employees are not permitted to use their ID badge at any time to gain access to family or friends who are patients. The one (1) visitor per patient rule is there to protect all patients and staff. If you have questions or concerns, please discuss with your supervisor or contact the House Supervisor.

No ParkingMary Street Parking Lot

Starting December 3rd, the Mary Street Parking Lot will be closed to all vehicles in order to begin the next phase of the WMC construction project.

All three levels of the parking deck at WMC are available for employee parking.

COVID-19 Workflow for ARHS Employee Illness-Exposure

The COVID-19 Workflow for ARHS Employee Illness-Exposure has been updated and is found in Policy Manager in the COVID-19 Resources folder.

The updated workflow states “Employee may return to work in 10 days from date of symptom onset or positive test result if asymptomatic with at least 24 hours fever-free without medication. Employee must be cleared through OH to return to work.”

November 18 Employee Update

Situation Update

Cumulative/Active cases:
  • Watauga County Cases: 2092 (147 active)
  • Ashe County Cases: 757 (74 active)
  • Avery County Cases: 843
Statistics Source: NC Department of Health & Human Services, AppHealthCare. Last update: 11/18 5:33 pm

Topics covered in today’s update:

  • Holiday Gatherings
  • COVID-19 Workflow
  • COVID-19 County Alert System
  • Slow the Spread
  • COVID-19 Vaccines

Holiday Gatherings

As we enter the holiday season, we typically celebrate with co-workers through sharing meals and gathering for parties. However, staying true to 2020, we need to evaluate what has been the norm and look for alternate opportunities.

We are asking departments/facilities across ARHS not to host department luncheons/dinners where groups would gather to eat. While we do not enjoy being a scrooge, COVID cases in the community have increased, along with staff exposures resulting in employee quarantines and/or a positive COVID diagnosis. Although Governor Cooper’s Phase 3 order currently allows social gatherings of 10 or less, we ask that you refrain during this holiday season.

In the spirit of the season, we do encourage creativity in finding alternate ways to celebrate. A few ideas are listed below.

  • Plan a workstation or clinic door decoration contest
  • Sponsor a family through the E2E, Families Helping Families program, as a department/office.
  • Have an office scavenger hunt
  • Ugly sweater day or other holiday theme
  • Secret Santa
  • Thanksgiving or Christmas Trivia Contest
  • Participate in the ARHS Food Drive and donate to the Food Pantry

One of the best ways to celebrate is to ensure you and your co-workers remain safe and healthy. Thank you for helping ensure not only a happy, but healthy holiday season!

COVID-19 Workflow for ARHS Employee Illness-Exposure

The COVID-19 Workflow for ARHS Employee Illness-Exposure has been updated and is found in Policy Manager in the COVID-19 Resources folder. 
The updated workflow states “Employee may return to work in 10 days from date of symptom onset or positive test result if asymptomatic with at least 24 hours fever-free without medication. Employee must be cleared through OH to return to work.”

COVID-19 County Alert System

On November 17th, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NC DHHS) announced a new COVID-19 County Alert System to pinpoint counties with the highest levels of COVID-19 spread and offer recommendations to bring numbers down. The map will be updated every four weeks.

You can help Slow the Spread of COVID-19

Know how COVID-19 can spread

  • COVID-19 spreads easily from person to person, mainly through the following:
    • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within 6 feet).
    • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, breathes, sings or talks. Respiratory droplets cause infection when they are inhaled or deposited on mucous membranes, such as those that line the inside of the nose and mouth.
  • People who are infected but do not have symptoms can also spread the virus to others.
  • Under certain circumstances (e.g., people gathered in enclosed spaces with poor ventilation), COVID-19 can sometimes be spread by airborne transmission.


Know how to protect yourself from COVID-19

  • Wear a mask at all times when you are within 6 feet of another person (including co-workers)
  • Avoid eating around others (including co-workers)
  • Perform hand hygiene frequently
  • Notify Occupational Health immediately if you have been exposed to COVID-19 or become symptomatic.


Exposure and Testing for COVID-19

If you have been exposed to COVID-19 or have symptoms, ARHS Occupational Health will guide you through the testing process. Employees may need to be tested on Day 6 (Laboratory Test) and on Day 14 (Rapid Test, if asymptomatic). Refer to COVID-19 Resources in Policy Manager, “Communicable Disease Exposure: COVID-19 Employee Risk Exposure Assessment” for more information.

COVID-19 Vaccines


If you’re following the news, you’ve heard that Pfizer and Moderna have vaccines almost ready. Six other companies also have vaccines in the pipeline. Our medical staff will be meeting this week to discuss the data and help guide our organization as vaccines are made available.

Whenever a vaccine is available, the rollout will happen in multiple phases with high risk groups given the opportunity to receive the vaccine first. We will provide more updates as they become available.

Thanks to each of you for your continued contribution to this extraordinary team effort.

Amy Crabbe
Chief Operating Officer

COVID Facility/Staff Action Plan

COVID Facility/Staff Action Plan

As COVID cases continue to stretch our staff and resources, we wanted to provide an update regarding our current COVID response plans.

ARHS anticipates the following the next few months.

  • Resurgence of COVID cases in November and December
  • Increasing staff fatigue
  • Increasing demand for Medical/Surgical patients with complex care needs
  • Critical workforce shortages
  • Limited transfer availability to tertiary hospitals due to statewide staffing/bed capacity challenges

We continue to work diligently to alleviate the strain and obstacles you face daily. We recognize that when we reduced our services at the beginning of the pandemic, our patients didn’t have the normal access to care and in some cases experienced higher acuity when they did return. Therefore, we are committed to continue our normal operations and navigate the COVID needs. To try to mitigate some of the strain this commitment puts on our staffing and bed capacity, we plan to segment our COVID operations from normal operations.


ARHS Action / Staffing Plan:

To ensure adequate staffing and bed availability for all our patients, we are striving to establish dedicated hospital space and contract staffing to serve the COVID needs. These moves will provide some relief for from COVID demands and allow our clinical staff to resume normal operations.


If you are unable to see the timeline image below, scroll down for a text only version.

Image: COVID Staffing Plan Timeline

We will also continue to optimize Cannon’s bed capacity to meet all patient medical needs within the High Country. If ARHS surges beyond 21 COVID patients, alternative plans may include engaging Samaritan’s Purse to establish and staff an additional COVID unit on our campus.


COVID Vaccines

Our ARHS Pharmacy team has submitted a request for COVID vaccines for all staff, but we have not been notified regarding the quantity we will receive. Priority will be given to those involved in direct patient care and we anticipate employees will be able to make an informed decision about whether to take the vaccine.

We ask that you assist in helping us monitor and conserve PPE when possible. Please continue to be vigilant in not touching your mask or face, practicing good hand hygiene, and social distancing during breaks and meals.

Thanks to each of you for your continued contribution to this extraordinary team effort.

Amy Crabbe
Chief Operating Officer


Timeline: Text Only

Now: Cohort COVID Patients to SSU

Oct. 23: Move Pain Center

Week of Nov. 2: Move Sleep Center

Nov. 2: Dedicated COVID Contract Labor Team arrives

Week of Nov. 2: Convert 3 East to COVID Unit

Nov. 9: Re-open 3 South for Ortho and Med/Surg Overflow

Nov. 9: Expand COVID patients to 3 East, if needed

Nov. 9: Return OB Overflow/Cal I rooms for Nov/Dec baby boom

Early Nov: Implement tele-IPG and tele-ICU provider services