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Last Updated December 21, 2020

eMD Access remains updated about COVID-19 and will continue to add new information to this page as it becomes available.

Read the latest COVID-19 updates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Frequently Asked Questions:

COVID-19 Vaccine

    • What are the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines?

      The Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are both Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines. The FDA has authorized the emergency use of both vaccines to prevent COVID-19. The Pfizer vaccine can be used for individuals 16 years of age and older and the Moderna vaccine is for individuals 18 years of age and older under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). Learn more.

    • What are the side effects after getting a COVID-19 vaccine?

      It is normal to have some side effects after any vaccination, like pain and swelling where you received the shot. You may also have fever, chills, tiredness, and headache. They are normal signs that your body is building protection. These side effects may slow you down but should go away in a few days.

    • What are the risks of allergic reaction after getting a COVID-19 vaccine?

      The CDC recommends that someone with a history of severe allergic reactions or anaphylactic reaction to anything NOT in the vaccine can still get the COVID vaccine but must be observed for 30 minutes after vaccination instead of 15 minutes. If someone has had an anaphylactic reaction to any component that is PART OF the vaccine, then the vaccine should not be given.

    • Who should NOT get the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine?

      You should not get the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine if you:

      • had a severe allergic reaction after a previous dose of this vaccine.
      • had a severe allergic reaction to any ingredient of this vaccine. Learn more.
    • What are the ingredients in the Pfizer-Biontech COVID-19 vaccine?

      The Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine includes the following ingredients: mRNA, lipids ((4-hydroxybutyl)azanediyl)bis(hexane-6,1-diyl)bis(2-hexyldecanoate), 2 [(polyethylene glycol)-2000]-N,N-ditetradecylacetamide, 1,2-Distearoyl-sn-glycero-3- phosphocholine, and cholesterol), potassium chloride, monobasic potassium phosphate, sodium chloride, dibasic sodium phosphate dihydrate, and sucrose. Learn More.

    • What are the ingredients in the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine?

      The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine contains the following ingredients: messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA), lipids (SM-102, polyethylene glycol [PEG] 2000 dimyristoyl glycerol [DMG], cholesterol, and 1,2-distearoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine [DSPC]), tromethamine, tromethamine hydrochloride, acetic acid, sodium acetate, and sucrose. Learn more.

    • How are the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines given?

      • Both the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are given as an injection into the muscle.
      • Both are a vaccination series of 2 doses.
      • Pfizer’s 2nd dose is given 21 days after the first dose and Moderna’s is given1 month after the first dose.
      • You must receive a second dose of the same vaccine to complete the vaccination series. Learn more.
    • What is an mRNA vaccine?

      Messenger RNA (mRNA) is the genetic material that a virus or a cell in your body uses to teach our cells how to make a protein—or even just a piece of a protein—that triggers an immune response inside our bodies. That immune response, which produces antibodies, is what protects us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies.

    • How does the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine work?

      The COVID-19 virus uses mRNA to produce the spike protein that forms the outer layer of the virus. The spike protein in the virus generates an immune response. The COVID-19 mRNA vaccines give instructions for our cells to make a harmless piece of the spike protein, our immune system recognizes it does not belong and begins making antibodies. The advantage of an mRNA vaccine is that it generates a stronger type of immunity –making antibodies and immune system killer cells – a double strike against viruses. Learn more.

    • How new are mRNA vaccines?

      Scientists have been exploring developing mRNA vaccines as far back as 30 years ago, so it’s not an entirely new concept. In fact, it’s relatively easy and fast to make mRNA in large quantities in the laboratory. mRNA vaccines have been studied before for flu, Zika, rabies, and cytomegalovirus (CMV). Beyond vaccines, cancer research has used mRNA to trigger the immune system to target specific cancer cells. Learn more.

    • Should I be concerned about having genetic material injected into me?

      Messenger RNA (mRNA) enters the immune cells in your body as a message for that cell to create proteins that generate an immune response. The mRNA gets rapidly degraded inside the cell and never enters the nucleus of the cell (where your DNA is contained). So, the mRNA is not interfering or interacting with your genetic material.

    • Who will be the first to get the COVID-19 vaccine?

      Phase 1 of the COVID-19 Vaccination Program in Texas will involve very limited distribution of vaccine for first responders and frontline healthcare workers.  Inventory, distribution, and any repositioning of vaccine will be closely monitored through reporting to ensure end-to-end visibility of vaccine doses. Read more about the phased rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine in Texas.

    • Should I get the vaccine if I am pregnant?

      The COVID-19 vaccine has not yet been studied in pregnant women. This is best discussed with your Ob/Gyn physician so you can consider exposure risk and health complications.

    • Is the vaccine safe for children?

      The CDC has approved the vaccine for 16 and older only. ARC is enrolling children between 12 and 15 years old for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Sign up your child for the COVID-19 Pfizer Study.

    • If I had a positive COVID-19 test or if I have antibodies is the vaccine needed?

      People who have gotten sick with COVID-19 may still benefit from getting vaccinated as re-infection is possible. Experts do not yet know how long someone is protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19. We won’t know how long immunity produced by vaccination lasts until we have more data. Click here for more information.

    • How long does immunity last from the vaccine?

      We won’t know how long immunity produced by vaccination lasts until we have more data. Both natural immunity and vaccine-induced immunity are important aspects of COVID-19 that experts are trying to learn more about. Click here for more information.


Social distancing

    • How important is it to practice social distancing now?

      Social distancing minimizes the spread of the virus. When we stay away from many people we deprive the virus the opportunity to move from one person to another. What does that mean in everyday actions?

      • Stay at home as much as possible.
      • Avoid gathering in public places.
      • Get your exercise outside rather than in a space with groups of people.
      • Take advantage of grocery delivery and pick-up services or shop when it is less crowded. Keep 6 -10 feet away from other people.
      • Avoid handshakes, hugs, and kisses. Learn how to greet without exposure.

      Social distancing feels awkward and unnatural. We are social beings who need human interaction, so this call to distance ourselves from each other will be difficult. It has proved successful in places like Hong Kong and Singapore where they were able to flatten out the curve, unlike in Italy where it has overwhelmed their healthcare resources. The best we can do is learn from others' success.


Risk factors

    • Am I at risk for COVID-19 in Central Texas?

      There is now community spread of COVID-19 in Central Texas. Community spread means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected. The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) and the City of Austin are working closely with CDC in monitoring the developing outbreak.

      Read more about the risk of COVID-19 in the Austin area

      Read more about the risk of COVID-19 in Texas

      View the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 tracking map

    • How easily does COVID-19 spread?

      The virus that causes COVID-19 spreads easily and sustainably in the community ("community spread") in some affected geographic areas. Community spread means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected. The virus spreads between people who are in close contact with one another and through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

      Read more about how COVID-19 spreads.

    • Are children at increased risk for severe illness, morbidity, or mortality from COVID-19 infection compared with adults?

      Limited reports from China suggest that children with confirmed COVID-19 may present with mild symptoms and though severe complications (acute respiratory distress syndrome, septic shock) have been reported, they appear to be uncommon. However, as with other respiratory illnesses, certain populations of children may be at increased risk of severe infection, such as children with underlying health conditions.

      Read more about COVID-19 and children.

    • Are pregnant women more susceptible to infection, or at increased risk for severe illness, morbidity, or mortality with COVID-19, compared with the general public?

      The CDC does not currently know if pregnant women have a greater chance of getting sick from COVID-19 than the general public nor whether they are more likely to have serious illness as a result. Pregnant women experience changes in their bodies that may increase their risk of some infections. With viruses from the same family as COVID-19, and other viral respiratory infections, such as influenza, women have had a higher risk of developing severe illness. It is always important for pregnant women to protect themselves from illnesses. No infants born to mothers with COVID-19 have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. In these cases, which are a small number, the virus was not found in samples of amniotic fluid or breastmilk.

      Read more about COVID-19 and pregnant women.

    • Is breastfeeding safe when a mother has an infectious illness?

      Breast milk provides protection against many illnesses. There are rare exceptions when breastfeeding or feeding expressed breast milk is not recommended. The CDC recommends a mother with sypmtoms or with confirmed COVID-19 should take all possible precautions to avoid spreading the virus to her infant, including washing her hands before touching the infant and wearing a face mask, if possible, while feeding at the breast.  If expressing breast milk with a manual or electric breast pump, the mother should wash her hands before touching any pump or bottle parts and follow recommendations for proper pump cleaning after each use. If possible, consider having someone who is well feed the expressed breast milk to the infant.

      Read more about COVID-19 and breastfeeding.


Common symptoms

    • What is COVID-19?

      COVID-19 is a respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus.

    • What are the symptoms?

      Most people, especially children and those under 60 with no chronic medical conditions, who contract COVID-19 develop very mild symptoms that include fever, a dry cough, and fatigue, few will develop more advanced symptoms such as shortness of breath.

      covid19 symptoms

      The World Health Organization (WHO) found that nasal congestion occurs in only 4.8% of patients. Some people, usually with additional medical complications, can develop more severe symptoms, including pneumonia.

      If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19, get medical attention immediately. Emergency warning signs* include difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to arouse, bluish lips or face.

      *This list is not all inclusive. Please consult your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning.

    • What are similarities between flu, and COVID-19?

      Both COVID-19 and flu can have varying degrees of signs and symptoms, ranging from no symptoms (asymptomatic) to severe symptoms. Common symptoms that COVID-19 and flu share include:

      • Fever or feeling feverish/chills
      • Cough
      • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
      • Fatigue (tiredness)
      • Sore throat
      • Runny or stuffy nose
      • Muscle pain or body aches
      • Headache
      • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea

      Signs and symptoms of COVID-19, different from flu, may include change in or loss of taste or smell.

      Click here to read more.

    • How can I tell if I have a cold, flu, allergies, or COVID-19?

      A stuffy nose, sore throat, and a cough are all common symptoms. While there are subtle ways to help you distinguish between cold, flu, and allergies, COVID-19 is less predictable. No matter what may be slowing you down, we recommend extra caution this season. Stay home if you are not feeling well to avoid spreading any virus you may be carrying. Chat with an eMD Access doctor if you have questions or other health concerns.

      Click here to read more.


Diagnosing & testing

    • Can anybody get tested for COVID-19?

      Doctors determine who should be tested based on current CDC guidelines and the patient level of risk. Doctors are more likely to test high-risk patients with fever, dry cough, fatigue, shortness of breath, and exposure to a positive COVID-19 patient.

      If you are not at high risk we will advise you on treating your symptoms. 

    • Where do I go to get tested if I have fever, dry cough, and suspect COVID-19?

      Start with eMD Access. Our doctors determine who should be tested based on current CDC guidelines and the patient level of risk.  

    • What if I test negative for COVID-19 and still have symptoms?

      If your COVID-19 test result is negative but you have symptoms related to the illness, you may still have the virus in your system and should continue to protect yourself and minimize spread.

      Treat your symptoms with over the counter medications. Please remain in home quarantine no less than 10 days from the onset of symptoms AND until you have been fever-free without medications at least three days (72 hours) AND until you have improvement in cough and shortness of breath. Practice heightened home hygiene to avoid spread in your household.


When to seek medical care

    • When should I call my doctor?

      You should seek medical advice if you have symptoms of fever, a dry cough, fatigue, or shortness of breath, especially if you are over 60 or have underlying health conditions. If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19, get medical attention immediately. Emergency warning signs include:

      • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
      • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
      • New confusion or inability to arouse
      • Bluish lips or face

      You can call the 24/7 ARC COVID-19 Information and Advice Hotline at 866-453-4525 if you have questions.

    • Do I need to go to the ER?

      You should call 9-1-1 or go to the ER only if you experience emergency warning signs. Emergency warning signs include:

      • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
      • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
      • New confusion or inability to arouse
      • Bluish lips or face

      We recommend you call your primary doctor at the first sign of symptoms. This will help limit the spread of the virus in our community. It will also allow emergency departments to care for patients with the most critical needs first.

      You can call the 24/7 ARC COVID-19 Information and Advice Hotline at 866-453-4525 if you have questions.



    • Are there any treatments available for children and adults with COVID-19?

      There are currently no antiviral drugs recommended or licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for COVID-19. Antibiotics are not effective to treat COVID-19 since it is caused by a virus and antibiotics do not work against viruses, they only work on bacterial infections. Research is currently ongoing for both anti-viral medications and development of a vaccine.

    • How should I take care of myself or family members if I suspect COVID-19 or test positive?

      If you display any signs of COVID-19, the best course of treatment in the majority of cases is to stay at home and treat your symptoms with over the counter medications. Here is what our ARC doctors recommend:

      • Take acetaminophen (Tylenol) for headache, body aches, fever, and pain.
      • Use the lowest amount of a drug that makes your fever get better as your body is working to fight the virus.
      • Get plenty of rest.
      • Stay well hydrated. Drink plenty of liquids including broth, tea, or another warm beverage.
      • Use cough drops or an over the counter cough suppressant as needed. (Ask the pharmacist what over-the-counter cough medicine is best for your cough. There any many options and your pharmacist can give you good advice).
      • Honey has been shown to help decrease coughing at night. The adult dose is 2 teaspoons (10 ml) at bedtime.
      • Avoid smoking to protect your lungs from infection.
      • The CDC recommends continuing self-isolation until fever is resolved for 72 hours AND symptoms improve AND it has been at least 10 days since symptom onset.



    • Should I wear a face covering when I go out?

      Austin and Travis County on Monday extended stay-at-home orders until May 8 in new mandates that include requirements for people to wear facial covers when in public. The orders, issued simultaneously by Travis County and the city of Austin, require people over the age of 10 to wear facial coverings when in public, as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Exceptions can be made for when people are exercising, are outside only with members of their household, or are eating or drinking.

      Facial coverings are required while using public transportation, ride shares or taxis and while pumping gas. But they are not required while riding in a personal vehicle. The recommendation is for use of cloth face coverings and not medical-grade masks or N-95 respirators, which, while better, are in short supply and should be conserved for healthcare workers and first responders.

      Remember, it is critical to understand that a face covering does not substitute for the need to maintain physical distancing and the Stay Home-Work Safe Order. Instead, face coverings — coupled with physical distancing — are seen as important tools to decrease the risk of illness spread.

      Read the CDC recommendation for face coverings
      View the fabric face covering flyer

    • How can I protect myself and my family?

      The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. Everyday preventive measures are effective; the same ones that prevent the spread of colds and the flu:

      • Stay home if you are sick and self-isolate until fever is resolved for 72 hours AND symptoms improve AND it has been at least 10 days since symptom onset.
      • Avoid contact with those over 60 and with anyone who has any serious chronic medical conditions.
      • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
      • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
      • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
      • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Put your used tissue in a waste basket and wash your hands. If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve, not your hands.
      • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
      • Practice social distancing by avoiding large crowds.
      • Avoid handshakes, hugs, and kisses.
      • Maintain at least 6 feet between yourself and anyone else.
      • Avoid non-essential travel.
    • How can I talk to my kids about Coronavirus?

      Dr. Elizabeth Knapp, Co-Chief of ARC Pediatrics, suggests that before starting the conversation, parents should first check their own anxiety level. If you are anxious about this conversation, perhaps the other parent or a grandparent or another adult should be the one to have the conversation. Start by asking kids of any age about what they already know. Listen to what they say and correct any misinformation. Start with a question like, “Have you heard grownups talking about a new sickness going around?”

      https://www.austinregionalclinic.com/news-and-events/article/clinics/how-to-talk-to-your-kids-about-coronavirus" target="_blank">Read the full article here

    • What can I do to reduce stress and anxiety?

      A few things to reduce stress and anxiety include:

      • Give yourself a break from screens: watching the news, social media, your smart phone.
      • Take deep breaths, eat healthy, outdoor exercise, and get plenty of rest.
      • Do activities you enjoy (keeping in mind the social distancing measures above).
      • Connect with friends and family online or by phone, or in person if everyone is feeling healthy and symptom-free