Health Department

Joel Strasz - Public Health Officer
Andre Reed - Deputy Health Officer
Emily Nelson - Public Health Nursing Services Manager
Melissa Opheim - Public Health Services Manager/EPC
Amy Revette - WIC Manager
Mark Pickell - Business Services Manager
Joel Kwiatkowski - Environmental Health Manager
Dr. Thomas Bender - Medical Director
Dr. William Morrone - Medical Examiner
Bay County Health Department
1200 Washington Avenue
Bay City, Michigan 48708
Voice: (989) 895-4009
Fax: (989) 895-4014

Vaccine FAQs

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?

  • Yes. The mRNA vaccines are especially safe: among the tens of thousands of people enrolled in the Phase III mRNA-Vaccine Clinical Trials, none have experienced severe adverse reactions. This is unheard of for vaccine clinical trials.
  • Vaccines are traditionally developed from one of several methods: (1) “live-attenuated” virus, made from virus that has been altered to decrease its virulence (harmful, infectious potential); (2) killed virus; (3) purified portions of virus, such as surface proteins.  Them RNA vaccine contains none of those components, only the “message” used for our cells to produce a single protein to stimulate our immune system. These mRNA vaccines are the safest in vaccine history to date.

What is the end goal for the Health Department in regards to vaccinating our population?

  • To free ourselves from restrictions and gain herd immunity. It is our goal to vaccinate 70% of Bay County by July 4, 2021. This means we will work with every provider in Bay County and aim to vaccinate around 600-800 people per day.

Which COVID-19 vaccines are currently being offered by the Health Department?

  • As of 10/22/2021, Bay County Health Department primarily offers the Pfizer BioNTech Vaccine mRNA vaccine due to its deep freeze storage capacity. It requires 2 doses 21 days apart. BCHD has also received limited supplies of Johnson & Johnson's vaccine product, which only require 1 dose.

Are there any side effects associated with the COVID-19 Vaccine?

Should I sign up for the V-SAFE Program? What is the V-SAFE program?

  • V-safe is a smartphone-based tool that uses text messaging and web surveys to provide personalized health check-ins after you receive a COVID-19 vaccine.Through v-safe, you can quickly tell CDC if you have any side effects after getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Depending on your answers, someone from CDC may call to check on you and get more information. V-safe will also remind you to get your second COVID-19 vaccine dose if you need one.  Once you get a COVID-19 vaccine, you can enroll in v-safe using your smartphone. Your healthcare provider will give you an information sheet on v-safe that explains how to register and get started. V-safe is free to use — you will need a smartphone with a modern browser and access to the internet to participate. Participation is voluntary and you can opt out at anytime. To opt out, simply text “STOP” when v-safe sends you a text message. You can also start v-safe again by texting “START.” Yes, link.  The link to V-Safe can be found here:

Can I get the COVID-19 Vaccine if I already tested positive for the virus?

  • Yes as long as you are not exhibiting symptoms, you are recovered and not in quarantine.

How much will the COVID-19 vaccine cost?

  • Nothing out of pocket. We may ask for your insurance information to recover the administration cost of the vaccine, but there are no out of pocket costs. We are not asking for any money. If you do not have insurance, you will not pay for the vaccine. Our goal is to vaccinate as many people as possible.

Can I get the vaccine if I am Pregnant or Breastfeeding?

  • The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM), the two leading organizations representing specialists in obstetric care, recommend that all pregnant individuals be vaccinated against COVID-19. While breastfeeding is an important consideration, it is rarely a safety concern with vaccines. No data are available yet on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in lactating women or on the effects of mRNA vaccines on breastfed infants or on milk production/excretion. mRNA vaccines are not thought to be a risk to breastfeeding infants. If you have questions about getting vaccinated, talking with a healthcare provider may help you make an informed decision. Pregnant or breastfeeding people are strongly encouraged to enroll in v-safe, CDC’s smartphone-based tool to check-in on people’s health after they receive a COVID-19 vaccine. If pregnant people report health events through v-safe after vaccination, someone from CDC may call to check on them and get more information. Additionally, pregnant people enrolled in v-safe will be contacted by CDC and asked to participate in a pregnancy registry that will monitor them through pregnancy and the first three months of infancy. Learn more about COVID-19 vaccination considerations for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding. 

Can I get the vaccine if I have co-morbidities?

  • People with underlying medical conditions can receive the FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccines provided they have not had an immediate or severe allergic reaction to a COVID-19 vaccine or to any of the ingredients in the vaccine. Learn more about vaccination considerations for persons with underlying medical conditions. Vaccination is an important consideration for adults of any age with certain underlying medical conditions because they are at increased risk for severe illness from the virus that causes COVID-19.

How will I know when to get the 2nd shot of this vaccine?

  • Appointments are expected 21 days after receiving the first dose of Pfizer/BioNTech and 28days after Moderna.  Expect that within 2-3 days of the expected appointment, representatives from the Bay County Health Department or one of its partner providers in the community will be calling and/or emailing you to confirm an appointment time.  Appointments, however, may be delayed to limited supplies of the vaccine.

Will the MRNA vaccine alter my DNA?

  • No. mRNA stands for messenger ribonucleic acid and can most easily be described as instructions for how to make a protein or even just a piece of a protein. mRNA is not able to alter or modify a person’s genetic makeup (DNA). The mRNA from aCOVID-19 vaccine never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA are kept. This means the mRNA does not affect or interact with our DNA in anyway. Instead, COVID-19 vaccines that use mRNA work with the body’s natural defenses to safely develop protection (immunity) to disease.
  • Learn more about how COVID-19 mRNA vaccines work.

Can the vaccine give me a COVID-19 infection?

  • No. None of the COVID-19 vaccines currently in development in the United States use the live virus that causes COVID-19. There are several different types of vaccines in development. The goal for each of them is to teach our immune systems how to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19. Sometimes this process can cause symptoms, such as fever. These symptoms are normal and are a sign that the body is building immunity. Learn more about how COVID-19 vaccines work.
  • It typically takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity after vaccination. This means it is possible a person could be infected with the virus that causesCOVID-19 just before or after vaccination and get sick. This is because the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection.

Will I have a positive COVID-19 test after getting the vaccine?

  • No. Vaccines currently in clinical trials in the United States won’t cause you to test positive on viral tests, which are used to see if you have a current infection.
  • If your body develops an immune response, which is the goal of vaccination, there is a possibility you may test positive on some antibody tests. Antibody tests indicate you had a previous infection and that you may have some level of protection against the virus. Experts are currently looking at how COVID-19 vaccination may affect antibody testing results.

Additional FAQ Resources