Skip to main content

COVID-19 FAQ

You probably have questions about COVID-19, and we’re here to help. You can find more information on the CDC’s COVID-19 website.

General

What is COVID-19?

What is COVID-19, and how is it spreading?
COVID-19 is a respiratory (lung) disease caused by a novel (new) virus. The most common way for the virus to spread is through person-to-person transmission, including:
  • Through the air (by coughing or sneezing).
  • Through close, personal contact (like touching or shaking hands.)
  • By touching an object or surface that has the virus on it, then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
Information from the CDC about how COVID-19 spreads
What is the Delta variant?
Viruses constantly change through mutation. SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, has mutated many times. Those mutations have caused different variants of COVID-19 to appear around the world. One variant of concern circulating globally is the Delta variant.

According to the CDC, the Delta variant causes more infections and spreads faster than early forms of SARS-CoV-2. Unvaccinated people are at the greatest risk of getting the Delta variant.

The best way to reduce your risk from the Delta variant is to get vaccinated. The COVID-19 vaccines authorized in the United States are highly effective at preventing severe disease and death, including against the Delta variant.

Symptoms

What are the potential symptoms of COVID-19?
People with COVID-19 have mild to severe symptoms, including some or all of the following:
  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or a runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
This list does not contain all possible symptoms. These symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure. Older people and individuals with health conditions like heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes are at a higher risk for developing serious COVID-19 symptoms.

Information from the CDC about COVID-19 symptoms

What can I do?

What can I do to protect myself?
Take preventive actions:
  • Avoid close contact by practicing social distancing.
    • Maintain 6 feet of distance between yourself and people who do not live in your household.
  • If you are sick, stay home.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a mask when you are around others.
  • Monitor your health daily.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes.
  • Frequently clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces.

Information from the CDC about how to protect yourself and others

Mask guidelines

Can I stop wearing my mask after I get my vaccines?
If you are fully vaccinated you should still follow federal, state, local, and other requirements, and regulations. Keep in mind that guidelines where you live, work, or travel may change and it is important to take safety precautions, like wearing a mask in certain situations, when they are recommended by federal, state, or local authorities. Remember, your mask should fit snugly against the side of your face and should not have any gaps.

If you need additional information, you can read more about when to wear a mask at upmchp.us/protect.

Treatment

Testing

I think I might have COVID-19. How do I get tested?
Visit our COVID-19 testing page to evaluate your symptoms and read about how to get tested for COVID-19.
How much will testing cost?
Visit our COVID-19 coverage for members page for more information about the cost of diagnostic COVID-19 testing based on your coverage type.

Coverage

What else is covered if I need care related to COVID-19?
Visit our COVID-19 coverage for members page for more information about what’s covered based on your coverage type.

Monoclonal antibodies

What is monoclonal antibody treatment for COVID-19?
If you test positive for COVID-19, UPMC offers a treatment called monoclonal antibodies. It works like the antibodies your body naturally produces when fighting infections. This treatment is given in an outpatient clinic through an IV infusion in your arm, and it should help keep your symptoms from getting worse. It is for people with mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms who are at risk for severe disease.

To receive the monoclonal antibodies from UPMC, you must test positive for COVID-19, have had symptoms for 10 days or less, and meet one of the following criteria:
  • Be at least 65 years old
  • Be at least 55 years old with heart disease, hypertension, or lung disease
  • Be at least 18 years old with diabetes, immunosuppression, kidney disease, or be overweight
  • Be 12-17 years old with certain medical conditions
Are monoclonal antibodies safe? Is this a new type of treatment?
Monoclonal antibodies have been used to treat different conditions—including rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, cardiovascular disease, and certain types of cancer—for many years. As with all drugs, they are subject to review and approval by the FDA to ensure that they are safe and effective before they can be used. For more information:
Does UPMC Health Plan cover monoclonal antibody treatment? Is it covered at no cost?
Yes, in-network monoclonal antibody treatment for COVID-19 is covered through January 20, 2022.a,b

Vaccine

Appointments/Scheduling

Can you schedule an appointment for me at UPMC?
If you wish to receive a vaccination, please schedule your COVID-19 vaccine with UPMC.

If you have limited access to online services or technology – like a computer or smartphone – or you need assistance in scheduling, you can call your Health Care Concierge at 1-833-280-8510 (TTY: 711) Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

We expect high call volume on this line. To keep this option open to those who need it most, please use the online scheduling process if you can.
What happens if I can’t receive my second vaccine dose when I’m supposed to?
The second dose should be administered as close to the recommended interval as possible. However, if a delay in vaccination is unavoidable, the second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines may be administered up to six weeks (42 days) after the first dose.

Coverage

Does UPMC Health Plan cover the COVID-19 vaccine? Is it covered at no cost?
Yes. The COVID-19 vaccine is covered no matter where you are and no matter where you go in the U.S.

Safety

Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine if I had the virus?
Yes. In most cases, you should still get vaccinated even if you already had COVID-19. Experts do not yet know how long you are protected after you recover from an infection. Although rare, it is possible to get sick again after recovering from COVID-19. You should also get vaccinated if you have not had COVID-19. Getting the vaccine can help protect you from getting the virus or becoming severely ill if you do get it.

If you have other questions, you can learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine.
Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine if I’m sick?
No. You should not get the COVID-19 vaccine if you have the virus, have been exposed to COVID-19, or if you have another respiratory illness. If you have symptomatic or asymptomatic COVID-19 or have been exposed to COVID-19, you should not get vaccinated until you meet the CDC’s guidelines for ending isolation. Talk to your provider about rescheduling your appointment.

If you have another respiratory illness, talk to your provider about when it is safe for you to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Will I feel any side effects after I get the COVID-19 vaccine?
Like many vaccines, the COVID-19 vaccines may come with some side effects. This is because the vaccine triggers an immune response in your body. Some common side effects include pain and swelling where you got the shot, fever, chills, fatigue, and headache. These should go away in a few days. Rare and serious side effects have been reported, but the risk of developing these side effects is far less than the risks if you get COVID-19 and are unvaccinated.
Should I get Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 vaccine?
Whenever you are able and eligible, you should get any available vaccine, including Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 vaccine. Both the CDC and the FDA recommend the use of this vaccine. However, the CDC notes that “Women younger than 50 years old especially should be aware of the rare risk of blood clots with low platelets after vaccination, and that other COVID-19 vaccines are available where this risk has not been seen.” If you received a J&J/Janssen vaccine, here is what you need to know. Read the CDC/FDA statement.
Should I be worried about getting a COVID-19 vaccine?
It’s normal to have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine. These vaccines are safe. Each COVID-19 vaccine has gone through large trials. Each developer followed safety protocols, including human testing. The results are continuously monitored to ensure ongoing safety. In the U.S. alone, more than 100 million people have been fully vaccinated, and millions more have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

If you have questions about the safety of the vaccine, talk to your doctor. He or she can offer guidance that may help to ease your mind.
Is the vaccine safe? Does UPMC recommend that everyone get the vaccine?
We strongly believe in vaccination. The more people who are vaccinated, the better protected our loved ones and communities. For the health and safety of all, we encourage you to get vaccinated. Your vaccine will be provided at no cost to you wherever you receive it in the U.S.

Vaccines are a safe and effective way to protect yourself and those around you from serious illnesses. Like all vaccines in the U.S. before being made available, the COVID-19 vaccines underwent clinical trials and scientific evaluation that included multiple levels of review for safety and effectiveness. Even after authorization, vaccination results are continuously monitored across millions of patients to ensure ongoing safety. This process is administered by the FDA and the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).

If you have questions about whether the COVID-19 or any vaccine is recommended for you, you should talk to your doctor.

If you receive the Pfizer or Moderna two-dose vaccine, you will need to receive your second dose from the same provider who administered the first. Both doses should be the same brand.
Will UPMC Health Plan cover the cost of emergency treatment for a member who experiences a severe adverse reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine?
Yes. If you have a severe and immediate (within four hours) adverse reaction and require emergency medical care, UPMC Health Plan will cover the costs of emergency and inpatient treatment for members. Deductibles, copays, or coinsurance will not be applied.d
How does the COVID-19 vaccine affect mammograms?
A mammogram is an important screening for women. It can find changes in breast tissue and lead to early detection and diagnosis of breast cancer.

Some women have developed swelling in the lymph nodes under the arm in which they received the COVID-19 vaccine. This is a rare side effect caused by the vaccine activating your immune system. It typically goes away within a few days or weeks. However, this side effect could alter the reading of your mammogram because swollen lymph nodes are also a rare sign of breast cancer.

If your mammogram shows swollen lymph nodes, your radiologist will typically recommend a follow-up exam.c Because of that, it’s important to keep the timing of your COVID-19 vaccine and your mammogram in mind.
  • If you already have a mammogram appointment: You do not need to reschedule it around the COVID-19 vaccine. If you feel strongly about rescheduling, you should reschedule your mammogram for a date that is before your vaccine appointment date. If your mammography appointment is less than four weeks after your vaccine, tell your technician which arm you received the vaccine in and whether you received the first or second dose.
  • If you do not currently have a mammogram appointment: You may want to consider scheduling your mammogram around the vaccine—as long as you’re not delaying care. Some experts recommend scheduling your mammogram either:
    • Before getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
    • Four weeks after getting your final dose of the vaccine.

Where can I get the vaccine?

Can I get a COVID-19 vaccine at home?
Yes. We offer no-cost vaccinations at outdoor clinics, hospitals, churches, community centers, and other locations. If you can’t get to one of these locations, you can get the vaccine in your home (if you are 12 years or older). A qualified clinical provider will come to you and administer either the Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine to you in your home at no cost. To request this service, please call 844-876-2822 and indicate that you are homebound when scheduling your vaccine.

Remember, the COVID-19 vaccine is covered at no cost, no matter where you are and no matter where you go in the U.S.
Do I have to get the COVID-19 vaccine from a primary care provider (PCP)?
No.
Do I have to get the COVID-19 vaccine from a network provider?
No.
Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine at a pharmacy?
Yes, if/when available.
I’m currently in a state other than Pennsylvania – will the COVID-19 vaccine be covered no matter where I get it?
Yes.

Why get vaccinated?

Getting vaccinated will help stop the spread of COVID-19 and help all of us get back to doing what we love.

Here’s what you can do when you are fully vaccinated
  • Unless mandated by regulations, you can do the activities you did before the pandemic without wearing a mask or social distancing in any setting—indoors or outdoors!
  • You still need to follow federal, state, local, and other requirements and regulations. For example, some businesses and workplaces may still require you to wear a mask.
  • Protect yourself when you travel. Be aware that you will still be required to wear a mask on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation. This also includes any time spent in airports or transit stations.
Vaccines work
  • Getting a vaccine will help protect you and those around you from COVID-19.
  • Getting a COVID-19 vaccine may help keep you from getting seriously ill if you get the virus.

See how many people have been vaccinated so far.

What about the COVID-19 vaccine and children?


Questions your child may have about the COVID vaccine

Is the vaccine safe?
Yes, vaccines are safe. All of the COVID-19 vaccines you can get went through a lot of thorough testing. Health experts are also still monitoring the vaccines. Millions of people in the United States and around the world have already been safely vaccinated.
Will getting a vaccine hurt?
At first, it will feel like any shot you get. For the first few hours and up to a few days after you get the shot, your arm may be sore. You also might feel a little tired and achy. You could have a fever or a headache. Remind your child to tell you right away if he or she notices any of these things.
Why should I get the vaccine?
Like all vaccines (“shots”), this one will help keep you from getting sick. If you do get an infection, it will also help keep you from giving COVID-19 to your family, teachers, coaches, friends, and others that you are around. If you get the vaccine you will also be able to safely get back to school, sports, other activities you’ve missed like being with your friends.
Does the vaccine work? What does it do?
Yes! The COVID-19 vaccine helps your body learn how to protect you against the COVID-19 virus (germs). If you do get sick, it also helps prevent serious complications.

General questions about vaccinating your child

Are any COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in children?
Yes. The Pfizer vaccine is authorized for use in children ages 12 to 15, and it has full FDA approval for recipients who are 16 or older. The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are authorized for recipients who are 18 or older. While authorization for younger children is anticipated before the end of 2021, use of the vaccine outside of the currently authorized/approved age groups is not recommended and is considered to be off-label.
When will COVID-19 vaccines be available for children under age 12 years?
Studies to evaluate the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine in younger children are underway. While there is no definitive timeline at present, researchers hope to have enough information to begin vaccinating children under age 12 by the end of 2021.
Can my child get the COVID vaccine?
If your child is 12 years or older, they are eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine. Talk to your child’s doctor.
After getting the vaccine, is my child immune?
Your child is not protected against COVID-19 until 2 weeks after receiving the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. As of June 1, 2021, this is the only vaccine currently available to children ages 12 and older. One dose of the vaccine is not enough to fully protect your child from COVID-19.
What are the side effects of the vaccine?
COVID-19 vaccines are safe. However, your child could have some short-term side effects. These are signs that the body is building protection.

Possible side effects on the arm where your child got the shot:
  • Pain
  • Redness
  • Swelling

Possible side effects throughout the rest of the body:
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Tiredness
  • Nausea
  • Muscle pain
Call your pediatrician and ask about medicines that can reduce these symptoms. Symptoms usually go away in a few days.

While very rare, some people have had serious allergic reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine. This is why your child will need to wait for 15 to 30 minutes after receiving a vaccine. If your child has a reaction, there are medications to quickly treat it.

As for long-term side effects, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that these are unlikely. Research and monitoring on other vaccines show that side effects almost always happen within six weeks of getting a vaccine. While it is important to monitor for both allergic reactions and other side effects after vaccination, the current vaccines have been safely given to more than 200 million people across the United States (and many millions more worldwide) under the most intense safety monitoring in U.S. history. Allergic reactions are rare and no long-term side effects have been detected.
When do I need to bring my child back for the second vaccine?
Persons age 12 years and older should receive 2 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech (mRNA vaccine) COVID-19 vaccine at least 21 days apart.

Types of vaccines

What are the differences between the vaccines authorized to prevent COVID-19?
According to the CDC, all COVID-19 vaccines currently available in the U.S. are highly effective at preventing COVID-19. All COVID-19 vaccines that are in development are being carefully evaluated in clinical trials and will be authorized or approved only if they make it substantially less likely you’ll get COVID-19.

Based on what we know about vaccines for other diseases and early data from clinical trials, experts believe that getting a COVID-19 vaccine may also help keep you from getting seriously ill even if you do get COVID-19. Furthermore, getting vaccinated may help protect people around you.

Type of vaccine Number of shots How given Does not contain
Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA 2 shots, 21 days apart Shot in the muscle of the upper arm
  • Eggs
  • Preservatives
  • Latex
ModernaTX, Inc. mRNA 2 shots, 1 month (28 days) apart Shot in the muscle of the upper arm
  • Eggs
  • Preservatives
  • Latex
Janssen Pharmaceuticals Companies of Johnson & Johnson Viral vector 1 shot Shot in the muscle of the upper arm
  • Eggs
  • Preservatives
  • Latex

Learn more about the different COVID-19 vaccines by visiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What happens after I get my vaccine?

What happens after I get my vaccine?
After getting your vaccine, you may feel some common side effects like pain and swelling where you got the shot, fever, chills, fatigue, and headache. These should go away after a few days. Even when you are fully vaccinated, you should still follow the current CDC guidelines to protect yourself and those around you.
When do I get a COVID-19 vaccine card and what do I do with it?
When you go to your first COVID-19 vaccine appointment, you should receive a vaccine card. It should include the following information:
  • What COVID-19 vaccine you received
  • The date you received it
  • The place where you received it
If you are getting a two-shot series, bring the card to your second appointment. This will allow the provider to fill in the information about your second dose. If you didn’t get a card at your vaccine appointment, contact the health care provider office or site where you got vaccinated. You can also call your local health department to find out how you can get a card.

Make sure to keep your vaccine card. You can also take a picture of it as a backup.

If you lose your vaccine card, contact the vaccine provider to access your vaccination record.

Who is eligible to get a third dose booster shot?

Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) expanded the emergency use authorization (EUA) to allow for additional doses of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines for certain groups of people.

Here is what you need to know:

  • For those who are immunocompromised, including those who have had a solid organ transplant, are on chemotherapy, or have certain chronic illnesses:
    • Third doses of both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been approved.
    • A third dose of the same vaccine is encouraged and can be received 28 days or more from the second dose.
  • For those who are not immunocompromised:
    • Third doses have been approved if you
      • Received your first and second doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine at least six months ago and one of the following applies to you:
        • You are 65 or older.
        • You are 18 or older and live in a long-term care or high-risk setting.
        • You are 18 or older and work in high-risk settings.
        • You are 18 or older and have an underlying medical condition.
        • Received your dose of the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine at least two months ago and you are 18 or older.
  • You can receive any brand of vaccine for your booster shot. It does not matter what brand you received for your first dose(s).
  • Please bring your official CDC card with you to receive an additional/third dose.

Currently, UPMC offers online scheduling to eligible people for third doses of COVID-19 vaccines. UPMC Health Plan members can also schedule by calling a Health Care Concierge at 1-833-280-8510 (TTY: 711) Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

If you have questions about your coverage, see your plan documents or contact a health care concierge for the most up-to-date information regarding your benefits.

Benefits, copayments/coinsurance may change on January 1st of each year.

*These recommendations are not intended for health care settings, correctional facilities, or homeless shelters. Staff, visitors, and residents in these settings should continue to follow the rules as posted by the facility, including universal masking.

This applies to all of our comprehensive medical coverage products, including Medicare Advantage (UPMC for Life), Special Needs Plan (UPMC for Life Complete Care), Medicaid (UPMC for You), CHIP (UPMC for Kids), UPMC Community HealthChoices, and all UPMC commercial group and individual (Pennie/Marketplace) products. Members of Community Care Behavioral Health (CCBH) should contact their Physical Health MCO regarding coverage. Coverage does not apply for standalone dental, EAP, wellness-only, or other limited scope benefit products. Coverage applies to the FDA-emergency use authorized vaccines administered in the United States.

aUPMC Health Plan will cover these services from in-network providers with no member cost share until January 20, 2022, so long as permitted under the current State and Federal emergency declarations.

bFor more information on monoclonal antibody treatments, visit UPMC.com/AntibodyTreatment or call 1-866-804-5251

cOnly one follow-up screening will be permitted per benefit year. Coverage is retroactive effective January 1, 2021, through January 20, 2022, so long as permitted under the current state and federal emergency declarations. Our self-insured or ASO employer groups can opt out of this coverage. Coverage for out-of-network providers and facilities will follow standard rules under a member’s benefit plan, which may include higher cost-sharing or non-coverage.

dProviders are responsible for indicating which patient conditions are attributable to an adverse vaccine reaction. Standard network, authorization, and other coverage rules will still apply. Our self-insured or ASO employer groups can opt out of this coverage. Coverage for out-of-network providers and facilities will follow standard rules under a member’s benefit plan, which may include higher cost-sharing or non-coverage of non-emergency services. This coverage is effective through January 20, 2022, so long as permitted under the current state and federal emergency declarations.

CMN21-0517-8