COVID-19 Testing, Care, and the Vaccine

COVID-19 is still spreading around our communities. Erie offers testing, vaccination and the healthcare you need, while still keeping you safe.

Young Woman Making Appointment - v1

Please CALL Erie FIRST at (312) 666-3494 for any needs. DO NOT JUST WALK IN to any of our health centers - if you do not feel sick.

We are currently experiencing a high call volume and increased hold times, particularly on Monday mornings and during lunchtime. We are grateful for your patience and understanding during this time of high demand for our services.

We are now offering the COVID-19 vaccine to all CURRENT Erie patients age 16 and up.

Note: 16- and 17-year-olds need consent from a parent or legal guardian to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Important Information About COVID-19 Testing and Results

Erie Family Health Centers is able to provide COVID-19 testing for current Erie patients, with or without symptoms. Due to the current overwhelming demand for testing across Illinois, there may be delays in the processBased on your symptoms or risk level, you may have to wait to schedule a testing appointment, and then wait another 5 business days to receive your test results.  

We are currently experiencing a high call volume and increased hold times, particularly on Monday mornings and during lunchtime.  

Please make sure that Erie has your current email address and phone number when you make your appointment.  

  • If your COVID-19 test is negative, you will receive a text message.  
  • If your COVID-19 test is positive, you will receive a phone call from Erie. 
  • Everyone who is tested will also receive a letter with your test results by email.   

Please check both your email inbox and junk folder for an email from news@eriefamilyhealth.org. Do not send email to this email address.

As you wait for your test results, it is important that you make sure you don’t get other people sick. Please read more here about what to do while you wait for results.  

You most likely will not have to pay for your COVID-19 test 

  • If you do not have insurance, there should be no cost for a COVID-19 test.  
  • The cost for a COVID-19 test is covered under most health insurance plans, including Medicaid.  If you have commercial insurance, please check to see if your plan covers COVID-19 testing. 
Telehealth Appointments

Illustration of woman using her smartphone to make a Telehealth call

To help Erie patients still get the healthcare you need at this time, we are now offering what are called “telehealth” appointments.

This is the chance to meet with your healthcare provider over a video chat or phone call, right from your own home.

When you call 312.666.3494 to make an appointment, an Erie representative will let you know if a telehealth appointment will work for you! Some examples of things that your healthcare provider can help you with through telehealth include:

  • chronic illness management (such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and asthma)
  • symptoms of illness (such as cough, fever, headaches, upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea)
  • minor injuries (such as cuts, scrapes, and burns)
  • birth control management
  • medication refills
  • verification of pregnancy screening, and even some prenatal visits
  • counseling and behavioral health
  • …and more!

Erie will speak to you about what kind of phone, smartphone or computer apps you have at home, and will send you instructions on how to connect with your healthcare provider, face-to-face on screen or just over the phone, when it’s time for your appointment. Click here for how to prepare for your telehealth visit.

While many of your healthcare needs can be taken care of completely through telehealth, your provider may schedule you to come in to an Erie clinic if you need in-person follow-up or lab work.

Telehealth visits are available for patients with or without insurance. There is temporarily no cost for patients with Medicaid or commercial insurance. Patients with Medicare may have a small co-pay. And for patients without insurance, all telehealth visits are temporarily eligible for our sliding scale fees – most uninsured patients will pay less than $10.

General Health Services

Erie Family Health Centers offers a wide range of high-quality services to help you stay healthy at every stage of life. Our programs and services are comprehensive and tailored to meet your needs and the needs of the people you love.

We offer a full range of primary care services, from school checkups and vaccinations to diabetes management. Some of our health centers also offer specialized services such as HIV/AIDS care, dental care, and podiatry care.

See our full range of healthcare services.

Get Your Flu Shot

Getting a flu shot is more important than ever this year in order to keep you and your loved ones healthy and out of very busy health centers and emergency rooms.  

Here is where Erie suggests you go to get your shot, based on your insurance status.  

I'm worried about getting the vaccine.

We understand that some people may be concerned about getting vaccinated. This is the first time we’ve been faced with a situation like this in our lifetimes. And there have been times throughout history where our government and healthcare system has abused communities of color. All of this can lead to mistrust and concern.

In this moment, we believe that COVID-19 vaccination is the best tool to help stop the pandemic, keep people from getting sick and dying, allow us to spend time with our loved ones again, re-open schools and businesses, and go back to our normal way of life. Getting vaccinated yourself protects people around you, particularly people at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Once you and your friends and loved ones are vaccinated and the rate of COVID in the community have decreased, it will be possible for you to finally spend time with them again without fear or risk of spreading the virus.

This seems too fast. How was a vaccine developed so quickly?

The COVID-19 vaccine development process included all the usual safety steps – none were skipped. The process was quicker than we’re used to for a few main reasons:

  • Scientists and public health experts around the entire world focused their efforts on the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time. This has not happened in our lifetimes!
  • Companies produced millions of vaccine doses at the same time as the clinical trials were happening – this way, we would not need to wait to actually make the vaccines at the end of the safety tests.
  • Scientists didn’t have to start from scratch. They used what they learned from previous coronavirus outbreaks like SARS in 2003 and MERS in 2012 to help figure out the science behind how the COVID vaccine works.
How well does the COVID-19 vaccine work?

All three vaccines available now are very effective at preventing severe illness from COVID-19, hospitalizations and death. Data from clinical trials shows that Pfizer and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines were 95% effective at preventing COVID-19 infection. The Johnson & Johnson, one-dose, vaccine is 86% effective at preventing severe illness or death from COVID-19. The vaccines were effective for everyone 18 years of age and over, and all genders, races and ethnicities. This is very good news!

Will I need more than one shot?

It depends on which brand of vaccine you get. Both the vaccine created by Pfizer and the vaccine created by Moderna require two doses.  After you receive the first dose, you will need to come back to Erie at least 21 days later to receive the second dose. While you might receive some protection after the first dose, neither vaccine is fully effective until one or two weeks after the second dose. 

The vaccine made by Johnson & Johnson requires only one dose. It is fully effective two weeks after you receive it. 

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?

Almost 200 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been given out across the United States without reports of serious side effects. Scientists at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and FDA will continue to closely study the results of all vaccine trials before approving any vaccine for use.

Note, as of April 13, 2021, the FDA and CDC have temporarily paused the administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine while scientists investigate extremely rare reports of blood clots in six people who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Erie will provide updates as new information is available.

10% of the Pfizer vaccine trial participants were Black, 26% were Hispanic/Latinx and 5% were Asian. 10% of the Moderna vaccine trial participants were Black and 20% were Hispanic/Latinx.

Which vaccine is the best?

The best vaccine is the one you are offered first. It is very important for all of us to get vaccinated as soon as possible. All three vaccines available to us now are very effective at preventing severe illness from COVID-19, hospitalization and death. 

4.13.21 What's going on with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine?

On April 13, 2021, the FDA announced that it is looking into a very rare side effect of the Johnson & Johnson, one-dose vaccine. Out of an abundance of caution, Erie is following their recommendation to pause using that vaccine until they are able to study it further.

The FDA is studying six cases of a rare blood clot in people who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. This is considered extremely rare in comparison to the nearly 7 million doses of Johnson & Johnson that have been given to people so far. At this time, there is no need to panic. We will wait for the FDA to make a final decision on the vaccine. In the meantime, Erie will continue to give patients the vaccines made by Moderna and Pfizer. 

If you received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine within the past month and develop any new symptoms like shortness of breath, chest pain or swelling in one leg, please give Erie a call at 312-666-3494. 

What side effects might the vaccine cause?

The most common side effects reported by people who received the COVID-19 vaccine so far are:

  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Pain or swelling at the site of the injection (upper arm)

Most people report that the side effects are more noticeable after the second dose (if it is a two-dose vaccine). Any side effects typically go away after a day or two.

When will I be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Erie now has vaccine appointments available for all CURRENT Erie patients age 16 and up. Please note that 16- and 17-year-olds must have consent from a parent or legal guardian in order to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. 

It will take several weeks for Erie to vaccinate all interested patients. Right now the demand for the vaccine is much larger than our supply. We are experiencing a significant increase in phone calls. Thank you for your patience and understanding as we work to get all Erie patients vaccinated.

Can't I just skip the vaccine and wait until enough other people are immune?

COVID-19 can be serious, and even deadly, and there is no way to know how the virus will affect you. And even if you catch the virus and don’t get very sick, you could still spread the disease to friends, family, and others around you. COVID-19 has proven to have much more serious symptoms than the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine is by far the safer bet.  Public health experts say that it would be well after 2021 for enough people in the US to become naturally immune to COVID-19, and that without a vaccine, hundreds of thousands more people will die.

I have allergies. Should I still get the vaccine?

The only people who cannot receive the COVID-19 vaccine are people with a history of severe allergies to its ingredients. Anyone with a history of severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) can still receive the vaccine but will be monitored for 15 minutes longer after vaccination to ensure they are safe. People with mild to moderate allergies to food, the environment or medications are still highly encouraged to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. If you have further questions, talk to your healthcare provider.

Can I get the vaccine if I am pregnant or breastfeeding?

Please call your healthcare provider to talk about what is best for you.

I heard the vaccine can cause infertility. Is this true?

There is currently no evidence that any vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, cause fertility problems.  If you are trying to become pregnant, you do not need to avoid pregnancy after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.

I already had COVID-19. Do I still need to get the vaccine?

Yes, you should. After you have recovered from COVID-19, scientists do not yet know how long you are immune from catching COVID-19 again. The vaccine will be your best protection.

If I get the vaccine can I stop wearing a mask and social distancing?

Even if you get vaccinated, we will all need to continue wearing a mask and social distancing for a while. We know that the vaccine protects you from getting sick from the virus that causes COVID-19, but we don’t yet know if it prevents you from spreading the virus. As more and more people get vaccinated, other safety measure may be able to be dialed back.

Will you have to be a US citizen to get the COVID-19 vaccine at Erie?

No. Erie provides all of our care, including the COVID-19 vaccine when it is available, regardless of a person’s immigration status.

What will the COVID-19 vaccine cost?

The COVID-19 vaccine is free for everyone, with or without insurance.

 
How can I find out when Erie has a vaccine available for me?

Please check our website often! We will update it as we learn more about when vaccines will be available for our patients. Please also make sure Erie has your current email address. We use email to provide updates about vaccine availability and other important services.

But please know: If you have the opportunity to get the vaccine from somewhere else – like a hospital, other healthcare provider, or your employer – before you hear from Erie, take it! We want our patients to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as they are able to.  

Erie is open for you seven days a week

Our health centers and telehealth services are available 7 days a week. Locate a health center near you to learn its hours of operation.

Think you have COVID-19? Follow These Steps.

If you have – or if you think you might have – COVID-19, follow these steps to help protect people in your home and your community.

Food, Rent, and Utilities Assistance Resources

Erie put together a list of resources that can provide help with food, rent and utilities, as well as applying for unemployment during this challenging time. Please check back frequently as we will keep adding to this list.

You may qualify for low-cost high speed internet. Click here to learn more.

Other COVID-19 Resources

You can call or visit the websites of the following organizations for even more information on COVID-19:

  • Chicago residents: Call the Chicago Department of Public Health hotline at 312.746.4835

  • Illinois residents who live outside of Chicago: Call the Illinois Department of Public Health hotline at 800.889.3931 or email dph.sick@illinois.gov

  • For general information, visit the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website.

5 Tips for Taking Care of Yourself
  1. Take care of your body– Try to eat healthy well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, and get plenty of sleep. Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. Learn more about wellness strategies for mental health.
  2. Connect with others– Share your concerns and how you are feeling with a friend or family member. Maintain healthy relationships, and build a strong support system.
  3. Take breaks– Make time to unwind and remind yourself that strong feelings will fade. Try taking in deep breaths. Try to do activities you usually enjoy.
  4. Avoid too much exposure to news– Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories. It can be upsetting to hear about the crisis and see images repeatedly. Try to do enjoyable activities and return to normal life as much as possible and check for updates between breaks.
  5. Seek help when needed– If distress impacts activities of your daily life for several days or weeks, talk to a clergy member, counselor, or doctor, or contact the SAMHSA helpline at 1-800-985-5990
Rush University Medical Center Vaccine Study

I am interested in joining a COVID-19 Vaccine Study

 Adults age 18 and older who are more likely to be exposed to COVID-19 are invited to join a study  at RUSH University Medical Center to test a COVID-19 vaccine candidate to see if it can prevent illness if people are exposed to the vaccine in their everyday lives. The study will require going to RUSH University Medical Center for 7 or more visits over 2 years. You would be compensated for your time if you choose to participate. If you would like to learn more or to join if you meet the criteria, call Paula Carcamo at 312-563-6920.  

Help us fight COVID-19 and protect our communities. Consider donating today.

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