The COVID-19 vaccine is now available for those with chronic or high-risk health conditions. Learn who is now eligible, whether it is safe for your unique health condition(s), and more commonly asked questions about COVID-19 vaccination.

Coronavirus Updates, News

COVID-19 Vaccines for those with Chronic Conditions

The COVID-19 vaccine is now available for everyone ages 12+, including those who are immunocompromised or with chronic or high-risk health conditions. Learn whether it's safe for your unique health condition(s), whether you're eligible for the newly recommended 3rd dose, and more commonly asked questions about COVID-19 vaccinations.

Information current as of August 20, 2021

NEW! On August 13, 2021, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) amended the emergency use authorizations (EUAs) for both the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) recommend that anyone with a weakened immune system (moderate or severe) should get a 3rd dose of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. People with weak immune systems are more vulnerable to COVID-19 because they are more at risk of serious, prolonged illness.

With approvals by the FDA, the CDC, and the NCDHSS, Atrium Health is prepared to give 3rd doses to anyone who is immunocompromised. Currently, there is not enough data to know if people who are immunocompromised and who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine would benefit from a 2nd shot. 

At this time, the CDC does not recommend another dose for any other group of people. 

Who is considered ‘immunocompromised’ and eligible for a 3rd dose?

The CDC recommends immunocompromised (moderate or severe) people get an extra dose. This includes anyone who has:

  • Been getting cancer treatment for tumors or cancers of the blood
  • Received an organ transplant and takes medicine to suppress the immune system
  • Received a stem cell transplant within the last 2 years or takes medicine to suppress the immune system
  • Moderate to severe primary immunodeficiency (such as DiGeorge syndrome, Wiskott-Adlrich syndrome)
  • Advanced or untreated HIV infection
  • Been getting treatment with high-dose corticosteroids or other drugs that may suppress your immune response

The CDC recommends people should talk to their healthcare provider about their medical condition. This will help to know if getting another dose is right for them. However, patients do not need a referral or letter from their doctor to receive their 3rd dose.

Why is a 3rd dose needed?

The 3rd dose will help anyone with a weakened immune system to have stronger protection against COVID-19.  This is since they are more likely to have an infection after getting the vaccine. Studies have shown 2 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are less effective in this people group compared to those without chronic conditions. CDC recommends an extra dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine be given at least 4 weeks after a second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

A “booster” may be recommended in the fall for other groups whose protection wanes or goes away over time. More information on when boosters may be needed will become available in the weeks to come following approvals and guidance from the FDA and CDC.

Can I mix and match the vaccines?

The CDC says people who received either Pfizer or Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines should get a 3rd dose of the same mRNA vaccine. A person should not get more than 3 mRNA vaccine doses at this time. If the mRNA vaccine given for the first 2 doses is not available or is unknown, either Pfizer or Moderna may be given.

If I am immunocompromised and get my 3rd dose, will I be fully protected from COVID-19?

No vaccine is 100% effective to prevent any illness or disease. But a 3rd COVID-19 dose helps protect people with weakened immune systems against severe illness, being admitted to the hospital, and death.

Anyone who is immunocompromised and gets their 3rd dose should still to wear a mask, wash their hands often, avoid large crowds and social distance where possible.  This is especially in communities where COVID-19 cases are rising and are high-risk.  This is the best way to protect themselves against COVID-19.

Where can I get my 3rd COVID-19 vaccine?

Go to to see how to schedule an appointment.

At this time, all 3rd doses will be given where we give existing vaccines.  This includes our doctor’s offices, including family medicine, internal medicine, pediatric primary care and urgent care locations.

For the most up-to-date information, news and updates, please visit

For help, call 704-468-8888.

Information current as of July 29, 2021

It’s normal to have questions about vaccinations, especially if you are immunocompromised or have a chronic or high-risk health condition. Learn more below about the COVID-19 vaccination and whether or not it’s right for those in the high-risk category.

Should I get the COVID-19 vaccine if I have a chronic condition?

Most experts agree that those with chronic conditions should receive a COVID-19 vaccination. It is especially important to protect yourself from COVID-19 if you are immunocompromised or at high-risk for severe illness from the virus—and the COVID-19 vaccination is one added layer of protection. 

According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Resources, high-risk conditions include:

  • Asthma 
  • Cancer
  • Cerebrovascular disease or history of stroke
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Diabetes type 1 or 2
  • Chronic heart conditions
  • Hypertension or high blood pressure  
  • HIV and those in an immunocompromised state 
  • Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, including Down Syndrome
  • Liver disease, including hepatitis
  • Neurologic conditions
  • Pulmonary fibrosis
  • Overweight or obesity 
  • Pregnancy
  • Sickle cell disease (not including sickle cell trait) or thalassemia
  • Smoking (current or former, defined as having smoked at least 100 cigarettes in their lifetime)

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?

COVID-19 vaccines may be new, but the science behind it was years in the making. Scientists have been studying vaccines like the one created for COVID-19 long before the start of the pandemic. And while research and trials were expedited for the COVID-19 vaccine, no steps or processes were skipped. All three of the currently available COVID-19 vaccines – including Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson – have been authorized for public use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and are recommended by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Is the COVID-19 vaccination safe for cancer patients, and how should it be timed in relation to cancer treatment?

Most experts agree that it is safe for people with cancer or a history of cancer to receive the vaccine. It is not a “live virus” vaccine, which means it does not contain any amount of the “live” coronavirus and cannot infect you with COVID-19.

However, whether or not the COVID-19 virus is right for you depends on many variables such as cancer type, current treatments, and immune system status. That’s why it’s important to have a conversation with your healthcare provider to discuss vaccination options and the best time to receive one in relation to treatments. 

Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine while pregnant?

During pregnancy, a women’s immune system is compromised and more vulnerable to infections and viruses it is exposed to. Research shows the same is true when it comes to COVID-19. If you are pregnant and get COVID-19, you have a greater chance of becoming very ill are considered a “high-risk” individual. 

Only a portion of COVID-19 vaccine types have been studied in pregnant women. For this reason, we don’t yet know how safe the vaccine is for pregnant women. However, research shows pregnant women who receive the COVID-19 vaccine may pass on some immunity to their babies. 

If you’re pregnant and interested in receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, discuss options with your OB/GYN or healthcare provider. 

Learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine while pregnant.

Should I expect to change my current medication or treatment plan after receiving the vaccine?

Never stop taking medications or alter your treatment plan without first discussing it with your care team. If you are interested in receiving a COVID-19 vaccine and have an upcoming surgery or procedure, reach out to your doctor first to discuss if it’s right for you. 

Those awaiting transplants or patients who have had a transplant more than three months ago, are recommended to get the vaccine. Consult your transplant team for questions and to let them know you have been vaccinated.   

For patients who have received a transplant and are within 12 weeks post-surgery, please discuss whether you are able to get the vaccine with your provider.  

Am I too sick to get it, and how will it impact my condition?

Your healthcare provider or care team will be able to best determine whether or not a vaccine is right for you based on your current health status. 

I’ve heard reports of side effects as a result of the vaccine. Will they be more severe for me due to my current health condition?

While everyone’s experience may be different, COVID-19 vaccine side effects in those with fragile immune systems appear to be the same as those in healthy individuals. 

The most common side effect is pain, redness or swelling at the site of the shot. You may also have: 

  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Tiredness
  • Low fever

While we understand these effects may be an inconvenience, side effects should not be a cause of worry and symptoms should subside within a few days. Severe side effects continue to be extremely rare. If you have questions or concerns about if the vaccine is right for you, contact your doctor. 

Maintain social distancing measures during and after vaccination

While vaccination offers an added layer of protection against COVID-19, the best way to protect yourself is to be mindful about distancing yourself from others and lowering your risk of exposure in everyday life. Always remember to:

  • Wear a mask. When you come for your vaccination, please wear a mask. And even once you are vaccinated, you may NOT be fully protected. Talk to your healthcare provider about what is safe for you. Learn more about CDC recommendations for fully vaccinated people.
  • Don’t skip your appointment(s).Depending on the vaccine you receive, you may have one or two appointments scheduled. If your vaccine requires two shots, be sure to keep both appointments for the vaccine to be effective. 

I am a transplant patient and have been vaccinated, now what?

Current approved vaccines continue to show excellent protection from COVID-19 infections. We encourage transplant patients and their families to get vaccinated. However, there is emerging evidence that transplant patients may not respond as strongly as the general population, and that vaccinated patients may still contract COVID-19. Although the CDC has loosened restrictions for groups of vaccinated individuals, we still recommend masking and physical distancing particularly when in contact with non-household people. We encourage transplant patients’ families and friends to get vaccinated- thus protecting the transplant patient from possible exposure. Booster shots, or additional doses of the vaccine that can help increase immunity and protection from the virus, are being actively studied for the various COVID-19 vaccines. More guidance on this is anticipated soon.

What about antibody testing? Should transplant patients get tested?

Currently we do not recommend antibody testing. Currently this testing is unable to measure specific degree of protection. Preliminary data shows that transplant patients may not show antibody, even after full vaccination.

There are many different tests that may or may not test for vaccine antibody. If you choose to obtain antibody testing, it is important to understand a negative test does not mean the vaccine did not work, and a positive test does not necessarily mean you are fully protected. While there is new information emerging every month, keep in contact with your transplant team for the most current recommendations.

Where can I go to get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Many Atrium Health doctor’s offices and urgent care locations are offering the vaccine. To schedule an appointment or find our walk-in locations, visit

National and state resources: