Questions and Answers About COVID-19 Vaccines

It is completely understandable to have questions about the new COVID-19 vaccines. While medical and public health experts are still learning about COVID-19 and the COVID-19 vaccine, this website is a place where you can start getting answers. See below. (More Q&As coming soon. Check back often.)

For more information and resources regarding COVID-19 and the vaccines being developed to prevent it, visit Vaccinateyourfamily.org/covid19

Even though COVID-19 vaccines are being developed more quickly than usual, vaccine safety is still a top priority in all phases of vaccine development, vaccine approval, and post-approval vaccine monitoring.

While steps are being streamlined or overlapped, none of them are being skipped. 

Below is what public health and medical experts in the U.S. are doing to make sure any COVID-19 vaccine approved in the U.S. is safe and works like it’s supposed to.

Clinical Trials

Just like all other vaccines in the U.S., COVID-19 vaccine candidates are first tested by vaccine manufacturers/researchers in three phases of clinical trials. The purpose of these trials is to see if the vaccine candidates are safe and effective. During the Phase 3 clinical trials, researchers compare the health of those who get the vaccine to that of those who didn’t. This helps researchers spot common side effects and see if those in the vaccinated group are less likely to get sick than those who got a placebo. (A placebo is a harmless, “fake” vaccine given to half the people in the clinical trial. People in the vaccine clinical trial are not told whether they received the actual vaccine or the placebo), COVID-19 vaccine trials done so far have generally included tens of thousands of people, including people of color.

Researchers follow everyone in the clinical trials who gets the vaccine for at least two months after their last dose to make sure there aren’t any lingering issues or side effects that could be caused by the vaccine. 

Vaccines and Related Biological Products and Advisory Committee (VRBPAC)/FDA

Before being approved for use in the U.S., the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products and Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) decided if each COVID-19 vaccine met its safety and effectiveness standard. If the known and potential benefits outweigh the known and potential risks of the vaccine, the FDA can make the vaccine(s) available for use in the U.S. by approval or emergency use authorization (EUA).

As of February 28, three COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson) have been approved by the FDA for emergency use authorization in the U.S.

Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP)/CDC

After each COVID-19 vaccine is authorized for emergency use (EUA) or approved by the FDA, the ACIP will meet to carefully review the available scientific research and make recommendations for the use of that particular vaccine. The CDC Director will review ACIP’s recommendations and decide whether or not to make them “official”.

As of February 28, the CDC has recommended three COVID vaccines for use in the U.S. (Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson)

Post-Approval Vaccine Safety Monitoring Systems

After each COVID-19 vaccine is authorized for emergency use in the U.S. by the FDA, there are a number of vaccine safety monitoring systems that are working together to watch for rarer possible side effects that may not have been seen in the vaccine’s clinical trials.

Some of the vaccine safety monitoring systems have been around for a long time to monitor vaccine safety after being licensed for use in the U.S. population. These include:

  • Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) -U.S. system for reporting adverse events that happen after vaccination. Anyone can report to VAERS. Reports of side effects that are unexpected, appear to happen more often than expected, or have unusual patterns are followed up with specific studies.
  • Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD) – A network of 9 healthcare organizations that conducts vaccine surveillance and research. VSD is also used to figure out if side effects identified using VAERS are actually related to vaccination.
  • Clinical Immunization Safety Assessment (CISA) Project A collaboration between CDC and 7 medical research centers to provide expert consultation on individual cases and conduct clinical research studies about vaccine safety.

There are also systems being developed or expanded to add additional safety monitoring, giving the CDC, FDA, and others the ability to evaluate COVID-19 vaccine safety in real-time and make sure the vaccines are as safe as possible. These are:

  • V-SAFE – A new smartphone-based, after-vaccination health checker for people who receive COVID-19 vaccines. V-SAFE will use text messaging and web surveys from CDC to check in with vaccine recipients for health problems following COVID-19 vaccination. The system also will provide telephone follow up to anyone who reports medically significant (important) adverse events.
  • National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) – An acute care and long-term care facility monitoring system with reporting to VAERS.
  • FDA’s Biologics Effectiveness and Safety (BEST) System and FDA’s Sentinel InitiativeSystems that contain administrative and claims-based data for surveillance and research.
  • Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Database – FDA and CMS will collaborate to monitor the CMS database (includes approx. 650K nursing home residents).
  • Genesis – National Institute on Aging awarded a grant to a team of researchers based at Brown University to design a monitoring system to identify and track adverse health impacts after nursing home residents receive COVID-19 vaccinations.

If any serious safety issues are detected, immediate action will be taken to find out if the issue is related to the COVID-19 vaccine and determine the best course of action.

Monitoring Vaccine Safety for Veterans

  • Department of Veteran Affairs’ (VA) Data Warehouse and Electronic Health Records – A system of electronic health record and administrative data for active surveillance and research
  • VA Adverse Drug Event Reporting System (VA ADERS) – A national reporting system for adverse events following receipt of drugs and immunizations

Monitoring Vaccine Safety for Members of the Military 

Monitoring Vaccine Safety for Tribal Nations

  • Indian Health Service (IHS): IHS VAERS data— Spontaneous adverse event reporting to VAERS for populations served by IHS and Tribal facilities

Click to view/download

 

For now, there is only a limited supply of COVID-19 vaccine available. This means that everyone who wants a COVID-19 vaccine will not be able to get it right away.

The first COVID-19 vaccine doses are being offered to certain high-risk populations (see below). More COVID vaccine supply should become available throughout 2021, so everyone who wants a COVID vaccine should be able to get one sometime this year.

Who is Deciding Who Will Be Offered the First Doses of the COVID-19 Vaccine?

In December 2020, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) – the group of public health and medical experts that makes vaccine recommendations for the U.S. – made its official recommendations of who should get the first available doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to the Director of the CDC.  They recommended that the COVID-19 vaccine doses be offered in phases. The ACIP’s recommendations were made with these three goals in mind:

  • Decrease death and serious disease as much as possible.
  • Preserve the functioning of society.
  • Reduce the extra burden COVID-19 is having on people already facing disparities.

The CDC has now officially adopted ACIP’s recommendations and gave the following guidance to the states:

First available COVID-19 vaccine doses should go to people in Phase 1A.

  • Phase 1A
    • Healthcare personnel (HCPs), including non-medical staff.
    • People who live and work in long-term care facilities (LTCFs).

Groups who should be offered vaccination next are in Phases 1B and 1C.

  • Phase 1B
    • Frontline essential workers. These workers are in sectors essential to the functioning of society and are at higher risk of COVID-19. They include first responders (firefighters, police), educators (teachers, support staff, daycare), food & agriculture workers, workers in manufacturing, corrections workers, U.S. Postal Service workers, public transit workers, and grocery store workers.
    • People 75 years and older. This population is at high risk of hospitalization, illness, and death from COVID-19.
  • Phase 1C
    • People 65 – 74 years old. This population is at high risk of hospitalization, illness, and death from COVID-19.
    • People 16 – 64 years old with certain underlying medical conditions. These conditions increase the risk of serious, life-threatening complications from COVID-19.
    • Other essential workers. These include people who work in transportation and logistics, food service, housing construction and finance, information technology, communications, energy, law, media, public safety, waste and wastewater, and public health.

As more vaccine becomes available, vaccination recommendations will expand to include more people.

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While CDC provides COVID-19 vaccination recommendations and guidance for the U.S., each state (or city or county) makes the decision exactly how COVID-19 vaccines will be distributed. Click here to find the COVID information on the website for your state or territorial health department.

While waiting for a COVID-19 vaccine, here are other ways that you can help protect your family from COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses like flu.
  • Get your flu vaccine as soon as possible. You want to protect your family at least 2 weeks before the flu begins spreading in your community.
  • Wear a mask.
  • Practice social distancing – stay at least 6 feet from other people who are not from your household in both indoor and outdoor spaces.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • If you are sick, stay away from other people as much as possible to keep from spreading your germs to them.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. If you don’t have a tissue, use the inside of your elbow.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently-touched objects and surfaces in your home.
  • Keep these items on hand when venturing out of your house: a face mask, tissues, and a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, if possible.
  • Follow public health advice regarding stay-at-home orders.

 

For now, there is only a limited supply of COVID-19 vaccine available. This means that everyone who wants a COVID-19 vaccine will not be able to get it right away. Each state/territory (or city or county) is making the decision of exactly how their limited supply of COVID-19 vaccines will be administered. Click here to find the COVID-19 vaccine information on the website for your state or territorial health department.

Can I Get a COVID-19 Vaccine at My Local Pharmacy?

Maybe. The federal government and states/territories are working with some retail pharmacies to help give COVID-19 vaccines to eligible people. Retail pharmacies participating in the program vary by state/territory, and the pharmacies that are participating are currently administering the COVID-19 vaccine based on their local guidelines.

People who are eligible for COVID vaccination in their state and are interested in getting vaccinated at their local pharmacy should call or check the pharmacy’s website to find out if vaccine is available. To see which pharmacies are administering COVID-19 vaccines, visit CDC’s list of pharmacy partners in each state. Most pharmacies are using online scheduling systems to schedule vaccination visits for eligible individuals based on their limited available vaccine supply.

In December 2020, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) – the group of public health and medical experts that makes vaccine recommendations for the U.S. – made its official recommendations of who should get the first available doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to the Director of the CDC.  Because of the limited COVID-19 vaccine supply, they recommended that the COVID-19 vaccine doses be offered to high-risk populations in phases.

The CDC has now officially adopted the ACIP’s recommendations and gave the following guidance to the states:

First available COVID-19 vaccine doses should go to people in Phase 1A. (Phases can overlap).

  • Phase 1A
    • Healthcare personnel (HCPs), including non-medical staff.
    • People who live and work in long-term care facilities (LTCFs).

People who should be offered vaccination next are in Phases 1B and 1C.

  • Phase 1B
    • Frontline essential workers. These workers are in sectors essential to the functioning of society and are at higher risk of COVID-19. They include first responders (firefighters, police), educators (teachers, support staff, daycare), food & agriculture workers, workers in manufacturing, corrections workers, U.S. Postal Service workers, public transit workers, and grocery store workers.
    • People 75 years and older. This population is at high risk of hospitalization, illness, and death from COVID-19.
  • Phase 1C
    • People 65 – 74 years old. This population is at high risk of hospitalization, illness, and death from COVID-19.
    • People 16 – 64 years old with certain underlying medical conditions. These conditions increase the risk of serious, life-threatening complications from COVID-19.
    • Other essential workers. These include people who work in transportation and logistics, food service, housing construction and finance, information technology, communications, energy, law, media, public safety, waste and wastewater, and public health.

While the CDC provides COVID-19 vaccination recommendations and guidance, each state (or city or county) makes the decision of exactly how COVID-19 vaccines will be given out. Click here to find the COVID-19 vaccine information on the website for your state or territorial health department.

There are now three COVID-19 vaccines that are FDA-approved for emergency use in the U.S. – Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johsnon (Janssen).

Due to the limited supply of COVID vaccines, you should get whichever COVID-19 vaccine is offered to you. They have all been tested for safety (and continue to be monitored for safety) and they all work to prevent severe COVID-19 illness.

 

Pregnant women, who are in one of the groups recommended to get a COVID-19 vaccine in their state, may choose to be vaccinated. 

Things for Pregnant Women to Consider When Deciding Whether or Not to Get a COVID-19 Vaccine
  • Getting a COVID-19 vaccine is a personal choice for pregnant women.
    • While a conversation with a healthcare provider may be helpful, it is not required prior to vaccination. Things that pregnant and breastfeeding women may want to discuss with their healthcare provider include:
      • Your chances of coming in contact with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19
      • Risks of COVID-19 to you and the potential risks to your baby
      • What is known about the vaccine: how well it works to develop protection in the body, known side effects of the vaccine, and the current lack of data of getting vaccinated during pregnancy.
  • Pregnant women are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, including COVID illness that results in intensive care unit (ICU) admission; placement on a ventilator to help with breathing; and death.
  • Pregnant women with some health conditions, such as obesity and gestational diabetes, may have an even higher risk of severe COVID-19 illness.
  • Some studies suggest there may be an increased risk of preterm birth and stillbirth for pregnant women with COVID-19.
  • Some side effects, like a sore/red arm, tiredness, chills, joint aches, and muscle aches are possible. They are a normal part of the body’s reaction to the vaccine and developing antibodies (immunity) to protect against COVID-19.
    • Pregnant women who experience fever after getting a COVID-19 vaccine may be counseled to take acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol) because fever has been associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes. Acetaminophen may be suggested as an option for pregnant women experiencing other expected side effects as well.
  • There are limited data about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in people who are pregnant. While COVID-19 vaccines have been tested for safety in many people during clinical trials, they have not been tested in pregnant people yet. So, it is currently unknown if there are any risks. However, based on what is known about how these COVID mRNA vaccines are made, experts believe they are likely to be safe in pregnancy. (Both the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are made using mRNA technology).
    • mRNA vaccines do not contain the live virus that causes COVID-19 and therefore cannot give someone COVID-19. Additionally, mRNA vaccines do not interact with genetic material DNA because the mRNA does not enter the nucleus of the cell.
    • Animal developmental and reproductive toxicity (DART) studies are ongoing and studies in people who are pregnant are planned.
    • CDC and the FDA have safety monitoring systems in place to capture information about vaccination during pregnancy and will closely monitor reports.
  • Pregnant women who get vaccinated (like everyone else who gets vaccinated) should continue to follow the current guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19:
    • Wear a mask
    • Stay at least six feet away from others (social distancing)
    • Avoid crowds
    • Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or using hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol
    • Follow quarantine guidance after exposure to COVID-19
    • Follow any applicable workplace guidance
  • Routine testing for pregnancy before COVID-19 vaccination is not recommended. Women who are trying to become pregnant do not need to avoid pregnancy after receiving an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.
VYF Joins Maternal Immunization Task Force and Other Partners To Urge That COVID-19 Vaccine be Available to Pregnant Individuals

“All pregnant individuals who choose to receive the COVID-19 vaccine must be allowed to do so in alignment with their state and local vaccination allocation plan. This includes the estimated 330,000 health care workers who are pregnant and should be allowed to receive the vaccine as part of the first phase of vaccine distribution plans. Reports of pregnant individuals being refused vaccination are concerning.

Pregnant individuals who otherwise meet the criteria for COVID-19 vaccines should not be denied the opportunity to be vaccinated, should they choose to do so. Although a conversation with a clinician may be helpful for patients to aid in their decision-making, it should not be required prior to vaccination.”

Read the full joint statement here.

Click here to read what the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has to say about COVID-19 vaccination of pregnant and breastfeeding women.

For more information about COVID-19 and the vaccines being created to prevent it, see other questions on this Q&A page or visit vaccinateyourfamily.org/covid19.

Breastfeeding women, who are in one of the groups recommended to get a COVID-19 vaccine in their state, may choose to be vaccinated

Things for Breastfeeding Women to Consider When Deciding Whether or Not to Get a COVID-19 Vaccine
  • Getting a COVID-19 vaccine is a personal choice for breastfeeding women.
    • While a conversation with a healthcare provider may be helpful in helping you make a decision, it is not required prior to vaccination. You might want to discuss the following things with your healthcare provider, including:
      • Your chances of coming in contact with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19
      • Risks of COVID-19 to you and the potential risks to your baby
      • What is known about the vaccine: how well it works to develop protection in the body, known side effects of the vaccine, and the current lack of data of getting vaccinated while breastfeeding.
  • There are no data on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in breastfeeding women or on the effects of mRNA vaccines on infants who are breastfed or on milk production/excretion. However, mRNA vaccines are not thought to be a risk to breastfeeding infants. (Both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are both made using mRNA technology).
  • Some side effects, like a sore/red arm, tiredness, chills, joint aches, and muscle aches are possible. They are a normal part of the body’s reaction to the vaccine and developing antibodies (immunity) to protect against COVID-19.
  • Breastfeeding women who get vaccinated (like everyone else who gets vaccinated) should continue to follow the current guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19:
    • Wear a mask
    • Stay at least six feet away from others (social distancing)
    • Avoid crowds
    • Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or using hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol
    • Follow quarantine guidance after exposure to COVID-19
    • Follow any applicable workplace guidance

Click here to read what the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has to say about COVID-19 vaccination of pregnant and breastfeeding women.

For more information about COVID-19 and the vaccines being created to prevent it, see other questions on this Q&A page or visit vaccinateyourfamily.org/covid19.

Adults of any age with certain underlying medical conditions are at increased risk for serious illness if they get COVID-19. (Serious illness from COVID-19 means being hospitalized, admission to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), being placed on a ventilator to breath for you, or death.)

Adults of any age with the following health conditions are at increased risk of severe illness from the virus that causes COVID-19:

Based on what medical experts know at this time, adults of any age with the following health conditions might be at an increased risk for serious illness due to COVID-19:

The CDC recommends that people 16 through 64 years old with underlying health conditions, like the ones mentioned above, should be vaccinated against COVID-19 during phase 1C. However, each state is making the final decisions. Visit your state health department’s website for more information on when and where you can get the COVID-19 vaccine.

 

The first two COVID-19 vaccines approved for emergency use by the FDA (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna) are messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines. (Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine – the third vaccine to be authorized for use in the U.S. – is a viral vector vaccine.)

An mRNA vaccine is a new type of vaccine that protects against infectious diseases. mRNA vaccines teach our cells how to make a protein – or a piece of a protein – that triggers an immune response (antibodies) in our bodies. These antibodies then protect us from future infections.

Specifically, COVID-19 mRNA vaccines tell our cells to make a harmless piece of the “spike protein.” Spike proteins are the red “spikes” that you see on the surface of the coronavirus. (See picture of the virus below). Our immune system sees that the protein doesn’t belong there and this causes our body to start building our immune response and making antibodies, like what happens when we “naturally” get a COVID-19 infection. Again, it is these antibodies that protect us the next time we come in contact with the virus that causes COVID-19.

Can I get COVID disease from the COVID-19 vaccine?

No. COVID-19 vaccines made using mRNA cannot give you COVID. mRNA vaccines don’t use the live virus that causes COVID-19, meaning that the vaccine cannot cause you to get COVID.

Does mRNA stay in my body after I get the vaccine?

No, our cells break down and get rid of the mRNA soon after it has been recognized and translated in order to make the protein that triggers our body’s immune response.

Why would I want to get a vaccine instead of just getting the natural immunity that comes from getting the disease? Isn’t that better?

The benefit of mRNA vaccines, like all vaccines, is that you get protection from a disease without ever having to risk the serious, and sometimes deadly, consequences of getting sick with COVID-19.

The COVID-19 vaccination will help keep you from getting a serious COVID-19 infection.

COVID-19 vaccination is a safest way to help build protection against COVID since there is no way to know how getting sick with a COVID infection will affect you – you might have a mild case or you could have serious, life-threatening complications.  In addition, if you get COVID, you could spread the disease to friends, family, and others around you, which could be particularly dangerous for people who have underlying health conditions.

COVID-19 vaccine doses will be given for free to people living in the U.S. 

Vaccine providers will be able to charge an administration fee for giving the COVID shot to someone. However, people who get the COVID vaccine should not have to pay this fee out of their own pocket. Instead, vaccine providers can get this fee reimbursed by their patient’s public insurance (e.g., Medicaid, Medicare, CHIP) or private insurance company. For uninsured patients, vaccine providers can get the vaccine administration fee reimbursed through the Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA’s) Provider Relief Fund. No one can be denied a vaccine if they are unable to pay the vaccine administration fee.

Learn more about paying for vaccines for all members of your family (children, teens and adults).

No, you can not get the flu vaccine – or any other vaccine – and the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time.

According to the medical experts, COVID-19 vaccines should be given alone – with a minimum of 14 days before or after you get other vaccines.

Why? Due to the newness of the COVID-19 vaccines, there is a lack of scientific data currently available related to getting the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as other vaccines.  If COVID-19 vaccine is accidentally given within 14 days of another vaccine, doses do not need to be repeated for either vaccine.

Johnson and Johnson (Janssen) created a new one-dose COVID-19 vaccine. Based on a careful review of the clinical data, in late February, the FDA approved this vaccine for emergency use in the U.S. and the CDC recommends it for people 18 years of age and older in the U.S.

How Does the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 Vaccine Work?

Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine was developed using viral vector technology.  The vaccine uses a harmless version of a different virus (Adenovirus) that has been combined with the coronavirus spike protein gene. (Spike proteins are what you see on the surface of the coronavirus. See picture below.)

When you get the J&J COVID-19 vaccine, the modified Adenovirus virus enters your cell and shares instructions with it on how to create a harmless piece of the “spike protein.” Your cell then creates and displays the spike protein on its surface.  Your immune system sees that the spike protein doesn’t belong there and this causes your body to start building a immune response and making antibodies to fight off what it thinks is a COVID-19 infection. It is these antibodies that protect you the next time you come in contact with the virus that causes COVID-19.

Other Facts about the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 Viral Vector Vaccine
  • It cannot give someone COVID-19 or other infections.
    • The Adenovirus (the viral vector) used in making the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine was modified by researchers so it can not replicate in your body or cause illness. It is harmless.
  •  It cannot change our DNA.
  • Viral vector technology is not new.

See FDA’s FACT SHEET FOR RECIPIENTS AND CAREGIVERS for the J & J COVID-19 Vaccine.

Looking for More Info on the J&J Vaccine?

 

 

 

 

No. The false claim that COVID-19 vaccines contain microchips that can track people started earlier this year. This myth comes from people taking comments by billionaire and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates completely out of context.

Gates is often the subject of conspiracy theories and vaccine-related disinformation because of his foundation’s work related to public health and vaccines. While it’s true that The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation works with global partners to provide effective vaccines and medications to those who need it most, and they also invest in the development of new vaccines to prevent infectious disease, Gates is not directly involved in the creation of any vaccines. There is absolutely no evidence that backs up this false claim.

See more COVID-19 mythbusters from the World Health Organization (WHO).

No. There is no connection between 5G networks and COVID-19 or COVID-19 vaccines.

Viruses cannot travel on radio waves/mobile networks. In fact, COVID-19 is spreading in many countries that do not have 5G mobile networks. In addition, the way that vaccines work, they don’t need to be, and cannot be, “activated”.

Learn more about how vaccines work on our website or by watching this short animated video.

Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna Vaccines (mRNA COVID Vaccines)

The mRNA vaccines that have been approved for emergency use in the U.S. (Pfizer and Moderna) need 2 doses to be effective.

The first shot starts building protection against COVID-19. A second shot given 3 or 4 weeks later (depending on which COVID vaccine you get) is needed to get the best protection from the vaccine.

  • Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine doses should be given 3 weeks (21 days) apart
  • Moderna COVID vaccine doses should be given 4 weeks (28 days) apart

It takes time for your body to build protection after any vaccination, so it will take about 1-2 weeks after the second vaccine dose for you to be protected against COVID-19.

If the COVID-19 vaccine that you get requires 2 doses, you will need to get both doses from the same type of COVID-19 vaccine (created by the same vaccine manufacturer).

You should get your second dose as close to the recommended 3-week or 4-week interval as possible. However, if necessary, your second dose may be given up to 6 weeks (42 days) after the first dose, if necessary. You should not get the second dose earlier than the recommended interval.

Johnson and Johnson (Janssen) Vaccine (Viral Vector COVID-19 Vaccine)

The Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) COVID vaccine is made using viral vector technology and requires one-dose.

 

Learn more about how vaccines work.

What is Herd Immunity?

Diseases, like COVID-19 can travel quickly through a community and make a lot of people sick. However, when enough people have been infected with or vaccinated against a certain disease, the virus or bacteria can’t travel as easily from person to person, and the entire community is less likely to get that disease. This is what is known as “herd immunity” or “community immunity”.

How Many People Need to Be Vaccinated for Herd Immunity to Occur?

The percent of people who need to have protection through natural immunity or vaccination in order to achieve herd immunity varies by disease. The levels of vaccination rates needed to protect communities from diseases vary based on several factors, including how infectious each disease is and how well the vaccine works.

What percent of the population needs to be vaccinated for herd immunity to occur for COVID-19?

While medical and public experts learn more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide under real-life conditions, they are also figuring out what percent of the population needs to get vaccinated in order to achieve herd immunity (also known as community immunity) to COVID-19.  Some experts have estimated that approximately 70-85% of people will need to be vaccinated for the U.S. to experience community immunity.

Learn more about community immunity by checking out the the FRED Measles Epidemic Simulator, developed by the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. It shows how measles spreads when only 80% of the community is vaccinated (too low to benefit from herd immunity) vs. when 95% of the community is vaccinated (high enough to benefit from herd immunity).

The currently approved COVID-19 vaccines will not cause you to test positive on viral tests, which are used to see if you have a current COVID-19 infection.​

However, if your body develops an immune response to COVID-19, which is the goal of getting vaccinated, you may test positive on some COVID antibody tests. Antibody tests show if  you had a previous COVID-19 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.

No. Vaccines can not alter DNA. This is a great example of misinformation designed to scare people away from lifesaving vaccines and downplay the very real risks of vaccine-preventable diseases. At a glance, it sounds possible, but the science doesn’t support it.

Some of the COVID-19 vaccines (such as the vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna) are made using messenger RNA (mRNA). According to the medical expertsmRNA is not able to alter or modify a person’s DNA. In fact, the mRNA from a COVID-19 vaccine never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA is kept. This means the mRNA doesn’t interact with our DNA in any way. Instead, COVID-19 vaccines that use mRNA work with a body’s natural defenses to safely develop protection against COVID-19 disease.

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For more information, visit How Do Vaccines Work? and Vaccine Ingredients

There is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines will lead to infertility. Part of why people believe this misinformation has to do with the similarities between the spike proteins (the red spikes) around the coronavirus and the proteins needed to form the placenta.

COVID-19 vaccines using mRNA technology (Pfizer and Moderna) and viral vector technology (Johnson & Johnson) teach your body to make a harmless piece of the spike proteins (like what we see on the surface of the coronavirus). Your immune system sees that the spike protein doesn’t belong there and this causes your body to start building an immune response and making antibodies. (This is also how your body responds when you “naturally” get a COVID-19 infection.) This means that the next time you come in contact with the virus that causes COVID-19, your body knows how to fight it off.

Some people have falsely claimed that those same antibodies that teach your body to fight against COVID will attack the proteins on the placenta, leading to infertility. But while those placental proteins are similar to the coronavirus spike proteins, they aren’t the same – and our bodies know that. Our body’s antibodies know what they’re looking for, and the two aren’t similar enough to confuse them.

 

While this particular claim is aimed at the COVID-19 vaccine, it’s not new. It’s a pretty common tactic already used by people who want to scare people away from getting vaccinated against other diseases, such as hepatitis B, polio, and cancer-causing HPV. Just like with COVID-19 vaccines, these claims just aren’t based on science.

For more info, visit the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists – Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Women’s Health Care: A Message for Patients | ACOG

Or visit yourlocalepidemiologist.com/vaccine-andfertility/

You can also fact check this false claim here

Learn more about how vaccines work.

Yes. People who want to get pregnant in the future can get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Based on what is currently known about the COVID-19 vaccines, experts believe that they are unlikely to pose a risk to a person trying to become pregnant in the short or long term. Scientists study every vaccine carefully for side effects immediately and for years afterward.  Like all vaccines approved/authorized for use in the U.S., the COVID-19 vaccines are being studied carefully now and will continue to be monitored for safety for many years.

Currently, there is no evidence that suggests that a person will have problems getting pregnant as a result of getting the vaccine. People who are trying to become pregnant now or who plan to try in the future can get the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available to them.

No. Getting vaccinated will not cause you to get or to spread COVID-19 to others.

While the vaccines can’t give you COVID-19, it might still be possible to get or even spread the virus to others even after you’re vaccinated. Your body needs time to develop protection after getting vaccinated. And although the getting the vaccine lowers your chances of getting seriously sick or dying from COVID-19, researchers are still studying whether getting vaccinated will keep you from getting and spreading the virus in the future, even if you don’t feel sick. For these reasons, medical experts still recommend you keep wearing a mask, washing your hands and avoid being around people you don’t live with.

mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna)

The mRNA COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) do not use the live virus that causes COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) and cannot cause you to get COVID-19 or cause you spread it to others.

Viral Vector COVID-19 Vaccine (Johnson & Johnson)

The Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) vaccine does not contain SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID), and cannot give you COVID-19 or cause you to spread it to others.

 

 

You might experience some side effects after getting one or both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine (shot) — and that’s totally normal.

While the side effects after getting vaccinated against COVID can be uncomfortable, they are generally mild, temporary, and nothing compared to how sick you could become with COVID-19. What’s more, the reactions are often a sign that your body is responding to the vaccine.

Reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine can vary, depending on your age, which vaccine product you’re getting (Pfizer’s vaccine, Moderna’s vaccine, etc.), and whether it’s your first or second dose of COVID vaccine.

You might get one or more of the following reactions after getting the first or second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

  • Pain, redness or swelling where you got the shot
  • Tiredness (Fatigue)
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Joint pain
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes on the side you got vaccinated

These possible side effects usually happen within 3 days of getting the vaccine and should only last a few days. Not everyone who gets vaccinated will have side effects. Some people get the vaccine and feel fine. But if you’re worried or if you have other reactions after getting the vaccine, please call your doctor right away.

How to Handle Side Effects

The CDC doesn’t recommend taking pain or fever-reducing drugs like ibuprofen (e.g., Advil) or Acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol) before getting your COVID-19 vaccine. However, if you feel uncomfortable or have pain after the first or second vaccine dose, talk to your doctor about taking an over-the-counter medicine like ibuprofen (e.g., Advil) or acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol). To reduce pain and discomfort in your arm where you got the shot, the CDC suggests that you apply a clean, cool, wet washcloth over the area, or use/exercise your arm. To reduce discomfort from fever, drink plenty of fluids and dress lightly.

COVID-19 Vaccine Safety Monitoring

If someone has a severe allergic reaction after getting the COVID vaccine, their vaccination provider will send a report to the Vaccine Adverse Reporting System (VAERS), a U.S. system for reporting adverse events. Anyone can report to VAERS. Reports of vaccine side effects that are unexpected, appear to happen more often than expected, or have unusual patterns are followed up with specific studies. 

Watch VYF’s video about COVID-19 Vaccine Side Effects Below:

The CDC doesn’t recommend taking pain or fever-reducing drugs like ibuprofen (e.g., Advil) or acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol) before getting your COVID-19 vaccine. However, if you feel uncomfortable or have pain after getting the shot, talk to your doctor about taking an over-the-counter medicine like ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

To reduce pain and discomfort in your arm where you got the shot, the CDC suggests that you apply a clean, cool, wet washcloth over the area, or use/exercise your arm. To reduce discomfort from fever, drink plenty of fluids and dress lightly.

What to Expect after Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine (cdc.gov)

According to the CDC, there are multiple SARS-CoV-2 variants (the virus that causes COVID-19) that are circulating around world.

Some of these variant viruses spread more easily and quickly, which may lead to more cases of COVID-19. An increase in the number of cases will put more strain on healthcare resources, which could lead to more hospitalizations, and potentially more deaths from COVID-19.

  • United Kingdom (UK) – In the UK, a new variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 has been discovered. This variant spreads more easily and quickly than other variants. In January 2021, experts in the UK reported that this variant may be associated with an increased risk of death compared to other variant viruses, but more studies are needed to confirm this finding. This variant has now been seen in numerous countries, including the United States and Canada.
  • South Africa – This virus variant seen in South Africa shares some mutations with the variant detected in the UK. COVID-19 cases caused by this variant of the virus have been reported in the U.S. at the end of January 2021.
  • Brazil – This  virus variant was first identified in travelers from Brazil, who were tested during routine screening at an airport in Japan, in early January 2021. This variant contains a set of additional mutations that may affect its ability to be recognized by antibodies. More study is needed. This variant was first detected in the U.S. at the end of January 2021.

Experts are working to learn more about these virus variants to better understand them.

Do the current COVID-19 vaccines protect against the virus variants?

Experts think so, but more studies are being done to confirm. So far, studies suggest that protective antibodies created through vaccination can recognize virus variants.

Public Health Experts are Studying the COVID-19 Virus Variants to Find Out More Information and to Control their Spread

They want to understand whether the variants:

  • Spread more easily from person-to-person
  • Cause milder or more severe disease in people
  • Are detected by currently available viral tests
  • Respond to medicines currently being used to treat people for COVID-19
  • Change the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines
What is a variant?

It is not unusual for viruses to have variants. Viruses constantly change through mutation, and new variants of a virus are expected to occur over time. Sometimes new variants emerge and disappear. Other times, new virus variants remain with us.

Learn more from CDC

The two mRNA COVID-19 vaccines currently available in the United States (Pfizer and Moderna) do not contain eggs, preservatives, or latex. They also don’t contain live virus.

For a full list of ingredients, please see each vaccine’s Fact Sheet for Recipients and Caregivers from the FDA.

On February 27, the FDA approved the third COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use in the United States. This vaccine, developed by Johnson & Johnson, uses viral vector technology.

For a full list of ingredients, please see the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 Vaccine Fact Sheet for Recipients and Caregivers from the FDA.

No. For most people, the side effects after getting a dose of COVID-19 vaccine should not be worse than getting a COVID-19 infection.

Can Vaccines Cause Side Effects?

Like all medications and vaccines, getting a COVID-19 shot can cause side effects. While the side effects can be uncomfortable, they are generally mild, temporary and usually happen within 3 days of getting a dose of the vaccine. The side effects should go away on their own within a week. 

Side Effects are a Sign that Your Body is Making Antibodies to Protect You

Vaccines work by jumpstarting our body’s defenses (the immune system) into making antibodies that protect our bodies from germs. That’s a big reason why you get a fever and body aches or feel tired when you get sick. Your immune system is working hard to protect your body from these germs that can cause serious diseases.

Because vaccines kick off that same process, you might experience some of the same things, but to a much lesser degree.

Why Vaccines are Usually Safer for You – and Others Around You – Than Getting the Disease

Thankfully, your immune system won’t have to work as hard responding to a vaccine as it would have to if you were infected with COVID-19, and more importantly, those antibodies don’t come with the added risk of getting seriously sick or hospitalized like you might if you get infected with COVID-19.

So while you might have an uncomfortable day or two after getting vaccinated, it should not be nearly as bad as a “natural” case of COVID-19 infection might be. If you get COVID-19, you also risk giving it to loved ones who may get very sick. Getting vaccinated is a safer choice.

 

 

No. Just like people can have allergic reactions to certain medications, it is possible to have an allergic reaction to the COVID-19 vaccines. It’s not common, but some people have had severe allergic reactions after getting a mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. (Both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are mRNA COVID-19 vaccines.)

Thankfully, when allergic reactions happen, they happen soon after getting the COVID-19 shot and can be managed by a trained healthcare provider. People with a history of severe allergic reactions will be asked to wait 30 minutes after getting the COVID-19 shot so they can be monitored just in case they have a reaction. All other people will be monitored for about 15 minutes after getting the vaccine.

If you get a COVID-19 vaccine and you think you might be having a severe allergic reaction after leaving your vaccination provider, seek medical care right away by calling 911.

Who Should Not Get a mRNA COVID-19 Vaccine? 
  • People who have had a non-severe or severe allergic reaction to any ingredient in an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine should not get either of the currently available mRNA COVID-19 vaccines. (Both Pfizer and Moderna COVID vaccines are made using mRNA technology.)
  • People who have had an allergic reaction to polyethylene glycol (PEG) or polysorbate should not get either of the currently available mRNA COVID-19 vaccines. (Polysorbate is not an ingredient in either mRNA COVID-19 vaccine, but is closely related to PEG, which is in the currently available mRNA COVID vaccines.)
  • People who have had a non-severe or severe allergic reaction after getting the first dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine (from Pfizer or Moderna), should not get the second dose.
Who Should Check with Doctor First to See if They Should Get a mRNA COVID-19 Vaccine?
  • People who have had an immediate allergic reaction – even if it was not severe – to a vaccine or injectable therapy for another disease, should ask their doctor if they should get a mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. Their doctor will help them decide if it is safe for them to get vaccinated.
Who Can Still Get Vaccinated Even If They Have a History of Allergic Reactions?
  • People with a history of severe allergic reactions not related to vaccines or injectable medications, such as food, pet, venom, environmental, or latex allergies, can get vaccinated.
  • People with a history of allergies to oral medications or a family history of severe allergic reactions can get vaccinated.
Full List of Vaccine Ingredients

Please see each vaccine’s Fact Sheet for Recipients and Caregivers from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

For more information about allergic reactions to COVID-19 vaccines, please visit: COVID-19 Vaccines and Allergic Reactions | CDC

 

Both COVID-19 infection and the COVID-19 vaccine are new, and medical and public health experts do not know yet how long protection lasts for those who get “naturally” infected with COVID or those who get the COVID-19 vaccine.

  • mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) require 2 doses. You need to get BOTH doses for the best protection against COVID-19. As with all vaccinations, it will take time after getting vaccinated for your body to build immunity. It will take about 1-2 weeks after the 2nd dose of COVID-19 vaccine for you to be protected.
  • Viral Vector COVID-19 Vaccine (Johnson & Johnson) requires 1 dose.

For now, you still need to wear a mask, social distance and avoid crowds – even after you get vaccinated.

 

Yes. You should be vaccinated, even if you’ve already had a COVID-19 infection.

If you were treated for COVID-19 symptoms with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma, you should wait 90 days before getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Talk to your doctor if you are unsure what treatments you received or if you have more questions about getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

No. According to CDC, people currently sick with COVID-19 who have symptoms should wait to be vaccinated until their symptoms go away and they are no longer isolating (staying away from others, even when at home). More specifically, you should wait to get the COVID-19 vaccine until:

  • At least 10 days have passed since your COVID-19 symptoms started
  • At least 24 hours have passed since resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications (e.g., Advil, Tylenol, Motrin, etc.)
  • Your other COVID-19 symptoms have improved

People who have tested positive for COVID-19, but don’t have symptoms should also wait until they are no longer isolating before getting vaccinated. More specifically, you should wait to get the COVID-19 vaccine until:

  • 10 days have passed since the date you had your positive COVID-19 test. (If you develop symptoms after testing positive, follow the guidance for people are sick with COVID-19 and have symptoms).

People who are sick with COVID-19 and have a weakened immune system (immunocompromised)might need to stay home and isolate for a longer time – possibly up to 20 days. Talk to your doctor for more information and click here for CDC’s guidance.

This CDC guidance also applies to people who get COVID-19 before getting their second dose of vaccine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is tracking COVID-19 vaccinations in the United States. Visit their COVID Data Tracker by clicking here.

Johns Hopkins University of Medicine also has a COVID-19 tracker if you are interested in seeing information from other credible medical and public health experts.

In early 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) went on a two-week fact-finding mission to Wuhan, China to try to find out the origins of the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19. On February 9, 2021, WHO said it is VERY UNLIKLEY that the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 was made in a lab.  WHO states that it is more likely that the virus had jumped to humans from an animal, and this idea needs further investigation.

While this particular coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) is new, coronaviruses (in general), such as SARS and MERS, have been around for decades. It is not unusual for coronaviruses to cause serious disease and outbreaks in humans.

No. There are no other vaccines that will protect you from getting COVID-19. Only the COVID-19 vaccines help prevent COVID-19 infection.

While a flu vaccine will not protect you from getting COVID-19, but it can prevent you from getting flu at the same time as COVID-19.

Stopping a pandemic like COVID-19 requires using all the prevention tools we have. The combination of getting vaccinated and following CDC’s recommendations to protect yourself and others, such as wearing a mask and social distancing, will offer the best protection from COVID-19.

Vaccines

COVID-19 vaccines work with your immune system so your body will be ready to fight the COVID virus if you are exposed to it.

Based on what we know about vaccines for other diseases and early data from clinical trials, experts believe that getting a COVID-19 vaccine will keep you from getting seriously ill even if you do get COVID-19.

Masks and Social Distancing

Masks, social distancing and avoiding crowds will help reduce your chance of getting the virus that causes COVID, and spreading it to others.

 

Yes, for now.  While medical and public experts learn more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide under real-life conditions – including whether the vaccines will stop vaccinated people from spreading the COVID virus to other people, even if they don’t get sick themselves – it will be important for everyone to continue:

Other factors, including how many people get vaccinated against COVID-19 and how the coronavirus is spreading in communities, will also help experts decide when we can stop following these public health guidelines.

Some experts estimate that approximately 70-85% of people will need to be vaccinated for the U.S. to experience “community immunity” (also known as herd immunity).

Watch this short video for more information.

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