COVID-19 vaccine eligibility news

The current timeline set by the Connecticut COVID-19 vaccine advisory group indicates that everyone over 16 will be eligible to schedule a vaccination appointment starting April 1.

Yale New Haven Health is now receiving doses of the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) vaccines. When you sign up for your vaccine appointment, you will have access to a calendar to view dose type by location. All three vaccines are safe, effective and reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection. Most importantly, research shows that they eliminate the risk of developing severe disease and death due to COVID-19. 

All vaccinations are by appointment only, on a first-come basis, and based on current availability. Learn more about current vaccine availability. If dates are not available at your preferred location, check back often. New appointments open up based on the available vaccine supply provided by the state. Remember to bring a form of ID, insurance card and mask to your scheduled vaccination appointment. 

Help protect yourself and your family against this virus. Get  vaccinated as soon as possible with whichever vaccine becomes available to you. For the latest information about Connecticut’s vaccine rollout plan, visit the state’s website

Full list of Yale New Haven Health COVID-10 vaccination sites 
More COVID-19 vaccine information

Tips to reduce COVID-19 vaccine side effects

It’s no secret that some people who get the COVID-19 vaccine experience side effects. This is normal and expected. It means the vaccine is stimulating your immune system to produce antibodies that will protect you against coronavirus infection in the future. Be prepared for side effects, which range from fatigue to fever, with localized pain or swelling at the injection site as the most common symptom.

Some people may have no side effects, yet the vaccine is still strengthening the immune system. Different people react differently to vaccines. 

If your arm feels sore after getting the shot, you might be tempted to keep it still. Experts say don’t do it! Move the arm frequently. By restricting movement, the vaccine is more likely to stay concentrated in one spot for longer, which can contribute to muscle soreness. For this reason, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you receive the shot in your dominant arm because you are more likely to use it for everyday tasks following vaccination. 

The CDC also suggests applying a clean, cool washcloth to sooth the injection site. This can numb the area and reduce any swelling. If the pain feels deeper within the muscle, or if the pain causes a feeling of tightness, a warm compress may also help those muscles to relax. 

Many people have no symptoms beyond a sore arm. Others may have symptoms that include fever, fatigue, headache, body ache, chills and/or nausea. Symptoms tend to fade after a day or two. To reduce discomfort from fever or body aches, drink plenty of fluids and take an over-the-counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. 

Side effects after your second shot may be more intense than the ones you experienced after your first shot. Again, this is normal. Try to schedule the second dose when you have the ability to rest if needed. Some people schedule the second shot when they have time off from work or when they are able to work from home. If that is not an option, consider telling your employer that you're getting the vaccine in case you need to take time off that day or the next.

When to call the doctor

Contact your doctor or healthcare provider:

  • If the redness or tenderness where you got the shot gets worse after 24 hours
  • If you are worried about the side effects or they aren’t going away after a few days

It’s unlikely to happen, but if you experience emergency warning symptoms after you receive the COVID-19 vaccine, you should call 9-1-1 immediately. Emergency warning symptoms include trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to arouse, bluish lips or face, or any other sudden and severe symptom. 

When you should get tested for COVID-19

The following are signs and symptoms of COVID-19 – they are not side effects from the vaccine. If you experience any of these symptoms, stay at home, and call your healthcare provider or the YNHHS Call Center at 833-ASK-YNHH (833-275-9644) to schedule a COVID-19 test:  

  • New loss of smell or taste
  • Cough or shortness of breath
  • Congestion/sore throat/runny nose/conjunctivitis (red eye)
  • Nausea/vomiting or diarrhea.

Five reasons to keep your mask on

Are you looking forward to getting the COVID-19 vaccine so you can toss your mask in the trash? Not so fast. Health experts say that masks – and social distancing – will need to continue into the foreseeable future. 

Here are five reasons why you should keep your mask on after being vaccinated:  

  1. No vaccine is 100 percent effective.
    Large clinical trials found that two doses of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines prevented 95 percent of illnesses caused by the coronavirus. That's great — but it's not 100 percent. It means that 1 in 20 people are left unprotected. Since you don’t know if you will be that one person, use caution when around others. Keep your mask up and avoid crowded indoor settings. 

  2. Vaccines don’t provide immediate protection. 
    No vaccine is effective right away. It takes about two weeks for the immune system to make the antibodies that block viral infections. It takes about two weeks to develop the optimal immune protection after the second COVID-19 vaccine.

    The Pfizer doses are given three weeks apart; the Moderna doses, four weeks apart. This means that full protection doesn’t arrive until five or six weeks after the first shot. 

  3. The COVID-19 vaccine may not prevent you from spreading the virus.
    While COVID-19 vaccines clearly prevent serious illness, researchers need more time to determine if they prevent transmission. You may not get sick, but you could still pass the virus to others after getting a shot and infect them if you're a carrier. Until researchers can answer this question, wearing masks is the safest way for vaccinated people to protect those around them. 

  4. Masks protect people with compromised immune systems.
    Some people can’t get vaccinated. While most people with allergies can receive the COVID-19 vaccines safely, the CDC advises those who have had severe allergic reactions to vaccine ingredients to avoid vaccination. The agency also warns that people who have had dangerous allergic reactions to a first vaccine dose should skip the second.

    Immunosuppressed patients, such as those with cancer or autoimmune conditions, are at particular risk from COVID-19. Studies show they’re more likely than others to become infected and experience severe complications from the virus. It’s important to continue wearing masks to protect these patients as well. 

  5. Masks protect against any strain of the coronavirus – including the new variants. 
    Variant strains of the novel coronavirus are now circulating throughout the United States. One of them, called B117, or the UK-variant, is believed to be 50 percent more contagious than the original strain. Studies suggest the COVID-19 vaccines will still work against these new variants. However, public health measures — such as avoiding crowds, physical distancing and wearing masks — reduce the risk of contracting all strains of the coronavirus, as well as other respiratory diseases. For example, the number of flu cases worldwide has been dramatically lower since countries began asking people to stay home and wear masks. The best hope for ending the pandemic is to continue with the combined effectiveness of masks, physical distancing and vaccines.

Do at-home cancer screening tests live up to the hype?

You’ve seen the commercial. A talking, animated box lets you know that there’s a simple, non-invasive way to test for colorectal cancer in the comfort of your own home. No special prep or time off required. But are home stool tests accurate? And are they covered by insurance? 

Yes, says Xavier Llor, MD, PhD, medical director of the Colorectal Cancer Prevention Program at Smilow Cancer Hospital. “Studies have shown that stool tests they not only detect cancers– they also save lives from colorectal cancer,” he said. “And they are usually covered by insurance.”

With stool tests, you receive a kit from your healthcare provider. You collect stool at home and return the kit to the doctor or a lab, where the stool samples are checked for the presence of blood or cancer cells. 

The accuracy rates vary depending on what is being tested. “Sensitivity for colorectal cancer can reach up to 90 percent for some of the simple stool tests and it can even be a bit higher with the ones that include DNA analysis,” Dr. Llor said. 

However, for polyps, Dr. Llor says the accuracy rate is around 40 percent. Finding these polyps is vital because, while only about one in 200 polyps ever turns into a cancer, all colorectal cancers come from a precancerous polyp or lesion. “These tests are good as long as individuals have them on a yearly basis,” Dr. Llor said. “If a stool test is positive for polyps, you will still need a colonoscopy to find and remove them.” 

Could stool tests be right for you? Talk to your doctor. 

“This is an individual decision that should be taken after discussion with your healthcare provider as there are pros and cons for every approach,” Dr. Llor said. “We don’t suggest using stool-based kits when there is family history of colorectal cancer and in other situations such as history of inflammatory bowel disease, among others. In these cases, we still suggest that the preferred method is colonoscopy. But if the risk is low, stool-based tests are a reasonable alternative.”

What are the symptoms of colon cancer? 

When symptoms of colon cancer occur they may include:

  • Blood in/on the stool
  • Change in bowel habits
  • General stomach discomfort (bloating, fullness, and/or cramps)
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea, constipation, or feeling that the bowel does not empty completely
  • Frequent gas pains
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Constant tiredness, or fatigue during activity that was previously tolerated

People over age 45 have the highest risk of colorectal cancer, which is the third most common cancer among men and women. You may also be at higher risk if you are African American, smoke or have a family history of colorectal cancer or inflammatory bowel disease. If you are at an increased risk of getting colorectal cancer, talk to your doctor about when to begin screening, which test is right for you and how often you should get tested. For a physician referral, call 888-700-6543 or visit our Find a Doctor feature. 

#MeToo founder headlines Women’s Mental Health Conference

Registration is now open for the 2021 Women’s Mental Health Conference, sponsored by Yale School of Medicine. The virtual conference on April 23-24 will center on racial justice, healing and the impacts of COVID-19 on women. The keynote speaker is “#MeToo” founder Tarana Burke, who will offer a Q&A that focuses on her lived experience as a sexual assault survivor, what has helped her and other women heal from trauma, and what it takes to build a movement.

Additional sessions will include discussions on gender identification, women and pregnancy, and women and smoking/substance abuse. 

The conference is free and open to the public. Dedicated to improving the well-being of women through better training of future healthcare professionals, the conference offers CME credit is available for healthcare providers. 

To learn more about the Women’s Mental Health Conference or to register, visit

Have you made your advance care plans?

If you became seriously ill, who would speak for you if you couldn’t speak for yourself? Friday, April 16 is National Healthcare Decisions Day, a day set aside to raise awareness about the importance of advance care planning and to encourage adults at any age or stage of health to make advance care plans. Planning these advance directives involves considering your personal values, life goals and preferences regarding future medical care and sharing them with your loved ones and your physician.

Advance directives legal forms are available to document your treatment preferences, make a living will and appoint healthcare a representative. Visit Yale New Haven Heatlh to access the forms and find other resources or email [email protected]. Complete these forms to ensure you receive the medical care you would want if you ever became too ill to make decisions for yourself, and help your loved ones rest assured that they honor your wishes.

Your medical information in one place

MyChart gives Yale New Haven Health System patients secure, online, 24/7 access to portions of your electronic medical record (EMR). There you can see your medical history, most laboratory and test results, appointment information, medications, allergies, immunizations and other health information. You can schedule appointments with your doctor, request or renew prescriptions, pay your bill, and send and receive secure, confidential electronic messages with your doctor’s office. Sign up by using the activation code on the after-visit summary from your doctor, request a MyChart Activation Code at your next appointment or request an activation code online.

Referrals for physicians and surgeons

YNHH provides free information about and referrals to more than 2,600 affiliated physicians 24 hours a day. Call 888-700-6543 or visit our Find a Doctor feature on the hospital website for information on physician specialties, office hours and locations as well as insurance plans accepted. YNHH physicians represent more than 70 medical and surgical specialties and subspecialties, including internal medicine/family practice, obstetrics/gynecology, orthopedics, pediatrics and psychiatry.  

What would you like to know? 

Want to learn more about a particular health topic or service? Questions about classes and events at YNHH? We want to hear from you! Tell us what you like about Advancing Care or how we can improve. Send an email and let us know how we can better serve your health needs.

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