How to Get the COVID-19 Vaccine at Costco
Costco is one of many retailers that will be offering COVID-19 vaccines. Here's how the vaccination process works and what you need to do.
Getting the COVID-19 vaccine at Costco
Two highly effective vaccines for COVID-19 are available and there’s no doubt that more are on the way, says William Schaffner, MD, an infectious diseases specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. That means an end to the pandemic may be in sight.
Right now, health officials are focused on vaccinating health care workers, people in nursing homes, and older Americans (75 years and older, or 65 and older depending on your state), but hopefully, in the not-too-distant future, the rest of the public will be eligible. In November, the Department of Health and Human Services partnered with several large chain pharmacies to make the vaccines widely available. One of those is Costco Wholesale, which has locations all across the United States. You can also find the COVID-19 vaccine at Walmart soon, too.
How well do the vaccines work?
So far, the United States has two vaccines for COVID-19: one from Moderna and one from Pfizer. Each is about 95 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 after two doses, which means that there were 95 percent fewer cases of COVID-19 in members of the clinical-trials group who got the vaccine compared with those who got a placebo.
Experts don’t yet know if these vaccines protect against the asymptomatic spread of the virus, how long the immunity will last, and how well the vaccine works in specific subgroups of people, such as those with weakened immune systems, says Katherine L. Baumgarten, MD, medical director of infection control and prevention at Ochsner Health in New Orleans. That’s why we’ll still have to wear masks and practice social distancing even after getting vaccines. Here are the best face masks you’ll actually want to wear.
Will the vaccines protect against new variants of the virus?
Recently, two new strains of the virus have emerged: one first identified in the U.K. and one in South Africa. We still need more studies on whether the existing and upcoming vaccines will cover these variants, but preliminary research published this month in the preprint bioRvix, indicates that the Pfizer vaccine, at least, is effective against the new mutations.
Why is a vaccine important?
To put it simply, we need vaccines to stop SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, from spreading in order to end the pandemic. The virus has infected more than 22 million people in the United States and is still spreading wildly, causing 375,000 deaths and counting.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has altered our way of life in ways not seen in over a decade,” says Alex McDonald, MD, a practicing family physician in San Bernardino, California. “Based on the amount of disease spreading…it is unlikely we would be able to return to a real sense of normalcy for quite some time without the vaccine,” he says.
What is herd immunity?
Vaccines can end the pandemic (though they won’t eradicate the virus) by helping us achieve herd immunity. That’s when enough people are immune to the virus that it no longer spreads as easily or widely. Experts are estimating that about 70 percent to 80 percent of the population need to be immunized to get to this goal, though no one really knows the exact number, says Dr. Schaffner.
Who should and should not get a vaccine?
Authorities approved the Pfizer vaccine for people 16 and over, while the Moderna vaccine is approved for those 18 and over, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Because a few people have had potentially serious allergic reactions to one or the other of the vaccines, the CDC is recommending that people who had such a reaction to the first dose of a vaccine shouldn’t get a second dose.
The CDC recommends that all others get the vaccine, especially those at high risk for complications from COVID-19.
Are there any side effects?
Apart from the allergic reactions, side effects have been mild. Like other vaccines, the shots can cause pain where the needle went in. Sometimes they also cause flu-like symptoms like a slight fever, chills, muscle aches, and a headache.
These are actually good signs that your immune system is responding to the vaccine the way it should and they usually go away in a day or two. “We can say that the vaccine is very safe,” says Dr. Schaffner. And certainly, it is safer than getting COVID-19, he adds.
What is the vaccination process?
To be fully effective, both the vaccines require two doses separated by either 21 days (Pfizer) or 28 days (Moderna). At this point, says Dr. Baumgarten, it doesn’t really matter which one you get as they both have similar effectiveness and similar side effects. The CDC recommends that you don’t get any other vaccines within 14 days of the COVID-19 vaccine, simply because we don’t know if there’s any interaction.
Most health insurance policies, Medicare, and Medicaid should cover the cost of the shots. The federal government is also reserving vaccines for people who are uninsured. When you do get your vaccine, resist the urge to share your vaccine card on social media.
How can I get a COVID-19 vaccine at Costco?
Costco Wholesale is involved in the roll-out of the vaccine in Alaska and Washington State and will eventually expand to all states. Costco is expected to offer COVID-19 vaccinations to the general public in early spring. At that time, stores will be hosting “clinic days” at certain locations.
Otherwise, you’ll be able to get a vaccine at all their pharmacies during business hours but you’ll need an appointment. You’ll also need to be a Costco member.
- William Schaffner, MD, infectious diseases specialist, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “How CDC Is Making COVID-19 Vaccine Recommendations”
- Department of Health and Human Services: “Trump Administration Partners with Chain and Independent Community Pharmacies to Increase Access to Future COVID-19 Vaccines”
- Costco Pharmacy
- Food and Drug Administration: “Briefing Document Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine”
- New England Journal of Medicine: “Safety and Efficacy of the BNT162b2 mRNA Covid-19 Vaccine”
- Katherine L. Baumgarten, MD, medical director, infection control and prevention, Ochsner Health
- bioRxiv: “Neutralization of N501Y mutant SARS-CoV-2 by BNT162b2 vaccine-elicited sera”
- Johns Hopkins University: “Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases”
- Alex McDonald, MD, practicing family physician, San Bernardino, California
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Interim Clinical Considerations for Use of mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines Currently Authorized in the United States”
- Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report: “Allergic Reactions Including Anaphylaxis After Receipt of the First Dose of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine — United States, December 14–23, 2020”
- The Commonwealth Fund: “The COVID-19 Vaccine Is Coming, but Will It Be Paid For? Federal and State Policies to Fill Gaps in Insurance Coverage”
- Healthcare IT News: “Pharmacy giants ramp up logistical assistance for COVID-19 vaccine rollout”
- CNBC: “Here’s when the Covid vaccine could be available at your neighborhood drugstore, grocery store”