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

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

When do I need to wear a mask?
If you are fully vaccinated:*
  • 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.
  • Unless otherwise mandated for the area that you are in, you can do the activities you did before the pandemic without wearing a mask or social distancing in any setting, indoors or outdoors!
  • 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 while you are in airports and transit stations.

If you are not fully vaccinated:*

It’s still important to protect yourself and others by taking safety precautions, like properly wearing a mask in certain situations. Remember, your mask should fit snugly against the sides of your face and should not have any gaps.
  • Indoor public spaces: You should continue to wear a mask in stores, schools, doctor’s offices, and all other indoor public spaces.
  • Indoors around any unvaccinated people: Anyone gathering indoors with unvaccinated people should wear a mask.
  • Indoors around those at increased risk: If you gather with anyone at increased risk of experiencing the severe effects of COVID-19 (for example, someone who is immunocompromised), you should wear a mask and stay six feet apart. If you live with someone at increased risk, you should take the same safety precautions.
  • Outdoors in crowded areas: If you are at a crowded outdoor event, you should wear a mask. This may include places like sporting events, farmers' markets, and concerts.
  • While traveling: You are still required to wear a mask in many places, including Pennsylvania, while using public transportation. This includes any time spent on planes, busses, trains, and any other form of public transport as well as in airports or train/bus stations.
If you need additional information, you can read more about when to wear a mask.

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 July 20, 2021.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.

Where can I get the vaccine?

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 approved for use in children?
The Pfizer vaccine is approved for people 12 years and older. The Moderna vaccine is approved for 18 years and older and is expected to be authorized for younger children at some point during the Summer.
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.

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

*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 July 20, 2021, 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

CMN21-0517-8