The Covid Vaccine

The Covid-19 Vaccine

At Southern Tier Connect, we strive to give you the most trusted and up-to-date information about the Covid-19 pandemic and this newly developed vaccine.


On August 23, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first Covid-19 vaccine. First known as the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 Vaccine, it will now be marketed as Comirnaty (koe-mir’-na-tee) for the prevention of Covid-19 in individuals 16 years of age and older. The vaccine is still available for emergency use authorization, including for individuals 12-15 years of age, and for the administration of a third dose in certain immunocompromised individuals.

On Monday, August 16, Governor Cuomo announced that all healthcare workers in New York State, including staff at hospitals and long-term care facilities, including nursing homes, adult care, and other congregate care settings, will be required to be vaccinated against Covid-19 by Monday, September 27. It is yet to be determined if OPWDD facilities are included in this mandate.

The State Department of Health has also authorized a third Covid-19 vaccine dose for New yorkers with compromised immune systems. Following the CDC’s recommendation, eligible New Yorkers can receive their third vaccine dose 28 days after the completion of their two-dose vaccine series, effective immediately.

As always, if you are interested in receiving a Covid-19 vaccine, whether it be your first dose or a booster shot, please contact your care manager for more information. If you cannot reach your care manager, please contact:
our main info line at 607-376-7526 ext. 100
or email

People get vaccinated so it is easier to fight diseases like Covid-19. Vaccines are just one of the ways to help stop (or slow) the spread of disease. The information on this page is intended to help you make informed decisions about whether or not you choose to be vaccinated. As always, please discuss the vaccine with your healthcare provider before making any decision about your health, especially if you have any concerns. Here is also a plain-text document from the OPWDD you can reference.
Vaccine Graphic

Why this vaccine is important for individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

A recent review of private health insurance claims data for 467,773 people diagnosed with the coronavirus in the U.S. between April and August found that individuals with developmental disorders were three times more likely to die compared to others. That’s the highest risk of any of the 15 conditions that the study looked at, which included heart failure, chronic kidney disease, liver disease, and various types of cancer. Meanwhile, a separate category for people with intellectual disabilities and related conditions like Down syndrome showed a risk of death 2.75 times higher and was third on the list of conditions. That was followed by spina bifida and other nervous system anomalies. You can read more about this report here. 

We also encourage you to read this important letter from the OPWDD Commissioner. 

Latest Information – What we Know Right Now

The Pfizer BioNTech (pronounced Bee-On-Tech) vaccine has received emergency use authorization by the FDA as of 12/11/2020. As of May 14, 2021, the New York State Clinical Advisory Task Force has approved the use of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine for 12-15-year-olds.

The Moderna (pronounced Mo-der-Na) vaccine has received emergency use authorization by the FDA as of 12/18/2020. Please take a look at this supplied Vaccine Recipient Fact Sheet we received directly from Moderna. 

Both vaccines are mRNA (messenger RNA) vaccines meaning they do not inject the patient with a live or dead strain of the virus.

    • mRNA vaccines teach your body to create virus proteins. The immune system develops antibodies against these proteins to help you fight the virus that causes COVID in the case that you are exposed (immune response).

Both  vaccines are completed with two doses given 3-4 weeks apart depending on which vaccine you get.

No studies with the vaccine have been completed in children under 12 and limited information is available on pregnant women.

The vaccine IS being recommended for people who have already had COVID.

Patients who choose to get the vaccine will still be required to wear a mask and social distance.

The vaccine will be available at NO COST to all New Yorkers.

First priority in NY to get the vaccine are:

    1. High-Risk Hospital Workers (ER, ICU & Pulmonary Dept. Staff)
    2. Nursing Home Residents & Staff
    3. All Long-Term and Congregate Care Residents & Staff (Including OPWDD)
    4. EMS workers
    5. Other healthcare workers
    6. Coroners & medical examiners

Vaccine Confidence Plain Language Talking Points & Graphic Resources

The National Center on Disability in Public Health assembled a variety of plain language talking points and graphic resources that can be helpful to parents and care managers when explaining the vaccine to people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. Visit their website to learn more. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I get Covid-19 from the vaccine?

You cannot get Covid-19 from the vaccine. None of the leading vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Janssen) contain the actual SARS-CoV-2 virus. The vaccine uses messenger RNA (mRNA), the genetic material that our cells read to make proteins. Once the proteins, which don’t cause disease, are produced, the body launches an immune response against the virus, enabling the person to develop immunity.

This recent article in the New York Times gives a great overview of how mRNA vaccines work. 

Can I choose which vaccine I get?

This depends on a number of factors, including the supply in your area at the time you’re vaccinated and whether certain vaccines are found to be more effective in certain populations, such as older adults.

Is there a risk that supply will run out before I get my second dose?

If you are in the first group of people vaccinated, your booster shot will be set aside for you and won’t be given to someone else. Later, when supplies are more plentiful, reserves probably won’t be necessary. Gen. Gustave F. Perna, the chief operating officer for Operation Warp Speed (the federal effort to speed a vaccine to market) has said that after the first doses are given, the doses earmarked for the second shot will be set aside to be given three weeks later. An additional 500,000 backup doses will also be held in reserve, in case they are unexpectedly needed.

How long will it take to work?

You won’t get the full protection from the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine until about a week after the second dose, based on clinical trial data. The researchers found that the vaccine’s protection started to emerge about ten days after the first dose, but it only reached 52 percent efficacy, according to a report in the New England Journal of Medicine. A week after the second dose, the efficacy rose to 95 percent.

What should I mention to my provider before I receive any shots?

It is recommended that you inform your vaccination provider about all medical conditions, including if you:

  • Have any allergies
  • Have a fever
  • Have a bleeding disorder or are on a blood-thinner
  • Are immunocompromised or are taking a medicine that affects your immune system
  • Are pregnant or are planning to become pregnant
  • Are breastfeeding
  • Have received another Covid-19 vaccine
I had Covid-19 already. Should I still get vaccinated?

It’s safe, and probably even beneficial, for anyone who has had COVID-19 to get the vaccine at some point, experts said. Although people who have contracted the virus do have immunity, it is too soon to know how long it lasts. So for now, it makes sense for them to get the shot. The question is when. Some members of the CDC advisory committee have suggested people who have had COVID-19 in the past 90 days should be toward the back of the line.

If I have allergies, should I be concerned?

People with severe allergies who have experienced anaphylaxis in the past should talk to their doctors about how to safely get the vaccine and what precautions to take. The FDA. Has said it would require Pfizer to increase its monitoring for anaphylaxis and submit data on it once the vaccine comes into use. Fewer than one in a million recipients of other vaccines a year in the U.S. have an anaphylactic reaction, said Dr. Paul Offit, a vaccine expert at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Among those who participated in the Pfizer trials, a very small number of people had allergic reactions. A document published by the FDA said that 0.63 percent of participants who received the vaccine reported potential allergic reactions, compared to 0.51 percent of people who received a placebo. In Pfizer’s late-stage clinical trial, one of the 18,801 participants who received the vaccine had an anaphylactic reaction, according to safety data published by the FDA on December 10, 2020. None in the placebo group did.

Additional Sources: 

New York Times – Here’s What People With Allergies Should Know About Covid Vaccines

How do I report a problem or bad reaction to getting vaccinated?

The CDC and FDA encourage the public to report possible side effects (called adverse events) to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). This national system collects these data to look for adverse events that are unexpected, appear to happen more often than expected, or have unusual patterns of occurrence. Healthcare providers will be required to report certain adverse events following vaccination to VAERS. Healthcare providers also have to adhere to any revised safety reporting requirements according to FDA’s conditions of authorized use throughout the duration of any Emergency Use Authorization; these requirements would be posted on FDA’s website.

The CDC is also implementing a new smartphone-based tool called v-safe to check-in on people’s health after they receive a COVID-19 vaccine. When you receive your vaccine, you should also receive a v-safe information sheet telling you how to enroll in v-safe. If you enroll, you will receive regular text messages directing you to surveys where you can report any problems or adverse reactions you have after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.

As a parent of a 12-15 year old, what do I need to know about vaccinating my child?

As of May 14, 2021, the New York State Clinical Advisory Task Force has approved the use of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine for 12-15-year-olds. Southern Tier Connect members with children in this age range should contact their care manager if they wish to make a vaccine appointment.

If you are a parent with children in this age range, we are sure you must have questions regarding safety and efficacy. The below article does a good job of helping answer some of the questions you may have and help alleviate some hesitation.


OPWDD Vaccination Informational Video

Below is an informational overview from the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) regarding the vaccine and why it is important in helping to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Vaccine Information for DSPs

Are you a Care Manager? Check out this Webinar from the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP): The Facts About Covid-19 Vaccines for Direct Support Professionals

A Public Town Hall with Bassett Healthcare Network

Bassett Healthcare Network sponsored a public town hall on December 17, 2020 to help our local communities better understand the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. Our team answered some frequently asked questions about these vaccines, including their safety and effectiveness, as well as addressed some common myths and concerns about the vaccines. If you missed this webinar, please watch this recording.

Be Wise – Immunize!

While many eligible people are getting vaccinated, some people are skeptical about receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. If this is you, your concerns are not unwarranted. On Tuesday, January 26, from 3:00 – 4:00 pm STC hosted a special webinar: Be Wise – Immunize! We were excited to host two local healthcare providers who answered questions about the vaccine: Betty Lee, Springbrook’s healthcare provider at The Wellness Clinic, and Dr. Gennaro Falco, a surgeon who has practiced medicine for over 40 years. If you missed this webinar, please watch this recording.


Have you received, or are you planning to get the COVID-19 Vaccine? We want to hear from you!
Southern Tier Connect has launched an ongoing social campaign to feature members of our community and share the reasons why they choose to vaccinate. Have you received the vaccine, or are you planning to receive it? Please share your story with us by completing the entry form at the link below.