Questions and Answers About COVID-19 Vaccines

It is completely understandable to have questions about the new COVID-19 vaccines and this website is a place where you can find answers. See below. (This page is regularly updated. Check back often.)

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

On April 13th, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended a pause in the use of the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) COVID-19 vaccine due to six reported U.S. cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (or CVST) COMBINED WITH low levels of blood platelets (thrombocytopenia) after getting the J&J COVID-19 vaccine. 

On April 14, after carefully reviewing and discussing the data from the six cases, the CDC’s expert advisory group – Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) – recommended that the pause in use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine continue while experts further study this complication after vaccination with the J&J COVID-19 vaccine. 

The ACIP will hold its second emergency meeting to discuss J&J (Janssen) COVID-19 vaccine on April 23, 2021. 

This situation is developing and we will continue to share information with you as we receive it. This is what we’ve learned so far:

  • CVST with thrombocytopenia is a very rare complication. Of the approximately 7 million people who got the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S., 6 cases of this adverse event were reported through the U.S. vaccine safety systems.
  • All 6 reports occurred among women between the ages of 18 and 48, and symptoms in these women started between 6 to 13 days after getting the J&J COVID vaccine.
  • One woman has died
  • The FDA, CDC, and CDC’s independent expert committee (Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices) are all reviewing these cases and determining next steps.
  • There are currently no concerns about this adverse effect in people who receive the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. (As of April 13, no cases have been reported among the more than 180 million people who received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.)
  • Usually, heparin is administered to people experiencing blood clots, but that can be dangerous to people who have CVST with low levels of blood platelets. Both FDA and CDC, along with partners across the country, are working alert healthcare providers about this difference in treatment and reminding them to report any adverse events after vaccination to VAERS.

It is important to remember this health complication after getting the J&J COVID-19 vaccine is very rare.

What Should You Do If You Received the Johnson & Johnson COVID Vaccine?

If you received the J&J COVID-19 vaccine more than three weeks ago, your risk of this adverse event is very low (but call your doctor’s office if you have any concerning symptoms).

If you received the J&J COVID-19 vaccine within the last three weeks, your risk of this adverse event is also very low and that risk will decrease over time.

Please seek medical care urgently if you develop any of the following symptoms:

  • severe headache
  • backache
  • new neurologic symptoms
  • severe abdominal pain
  • shortness of breath
  • leg swelling
  • tiny red spots on the skin (petechiae)
  • new or easy bruising

Please note that it is COMMON to experience mild to moderate flu-like symptoms, including fever, headache, fatigue and joint/muscle pain, DURING THE FIRST WEEK after receiving any COVID-19 vaccine These common side effects are a sign the vaccine is working. They usually start within  3 days of getting a vaccine and should only last a few days.

Everyone who received a COVID-19 vaccine – any COVID vaccine – should sign up for V-Safe – CDC’s After Vaccination Health Checker.

What If You Have an Appointment for a Johnson & Johnson COVID Vaccine?

If you are scheduled to receive the J&J COVID-19 vaccine, please contact your healthcare provider, vaccination location, or clinic to learn about other available COVID vaccines, such as vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna.

Should You Receive the Johnson & Johnson COVID Vaccine in the Future?

During the CDC/FDA joint media call on April 13, Dr. Anne Schuchat, Principal Deputy Director at CDC stated “safety and transparency are paramount to the FDA and CDC.”

This pause in the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is out of an abundance of caution. COVID-19 vaccine safety is a top priority and all reports of health problems following COVID-19 vaccination are taken very seriously. This potential safety issue was caught early, and the FDA and CDC acted quickly to recommend a pause the use of the J&J COVID-19 vaccine while they carefully review these adverse event cases.

It is also important to know this is a recommended pause, not a mandate. Each state has to decide whether or not to pause the use of the J&J vaccine, and it possible that some vaccination sites may still be administering the J&J COVID-19 vaccines while the investigation is underway. If your J&J COVID vaccine appointment has not been cancelled, please talk to your healthcare provider to find out if you should get the J&J COVID vaccine or one of the other FDA-authorized vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) instead.

The Bottom Line…

This is a sign that the vaccine safety monitoring system is working well. It was able to find a rare, serious adverse event. It is only associated with the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) COVID-19 vaccines, not the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

FDA and CDC have moved swiftly to save lives. Vaccinate Your Family will continue to share information on this situation as it develops. In the meantime, learn more about COVID-19 and all of the COVID-19 vaccines on this page. You can also find other COVID-19 related resources here.

 

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. 

Update (on April 14)

On April 13th, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended a pause in the use of the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) COVID-19 vaccine due to six reported U.S. cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (or CVST) COMBINED WITH low levels of blood platelets(thrombocytopenia) after getting the J&J COVID-19 vaccine.  All cases were in women between 18 and 48 years old, and their symptoms started 6 – 13 days after getting the J&J COVID vaccine. 

On April 14, after carefully reviewing and discussing the data, the CDC’s expert advisory group – Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) – recommended that the pause in use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine continue while experts further study this adverse event after vaccination with the J&J COVID-19 vaccine. The ACIP will hold its second emergency meeting to discuss J&J (Janssen) COVID-19 vaccine on April 23, 2021.

This pause in the use of the J&J vaccine is a sign that the vaccine safety monitoring system is working well. It was able to find 6 cases of a rare, serious complication (CVST with thrombocytopenia) among the approximately 7 million doses of J&J COVID vaccine administered in the U.S.

This event has only been connected to the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) COVID-19 vaccines, not the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. (As of April 13, no cases of CVST with thrombocytopenia have been reported among the more than 180 million people who received the Pfizer or Moderna COVID vaccines.)

Read more about this here. You can also find more information from the American Heart Association or CDC.

What are public health and medical experts doing to make sure that the COVID-19 vaccines approved in the U.S. are safe and effective?
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. 

Before a new vaccine is ever given to people, extensive lab testing is done that can take several years. Once testing in people begins, it can take several more years before clinical studies are complete and the vaccine is licensed.

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) were 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

 

Each state and territory (or city or county) decides exactly how the vaccine is being given out to the people in their communities. In most states, people at high-risk of serious COVID-19 illness are being offered vaccine first. Click here to find the COVID-19 vaccine information for your state.

Who Decided Who Would 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 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.

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.

 

COVID-19 vaccine supply is still limited, but more doses should be available soon.

Each state/territory (or city or county) decides exactly how the COVID-19 vaccine is being given out. Click here to find the COVID-19 vaccine information for your state.

You can also check:

  • Vaccinefinder.org to see where COVID-19 vaccination appointments are available in your area. (In some states, information may be limited while more vaccination providers and pharmacies are being added.)
  • Your local pharmacy’s website to see if COVID vaccine appointments are available. To see which pharmacies are administering COVID-19 vaccines to eligible people, visit CDC’s list of pharmacy partners in each state. Most pharmacies are using online scheduling systems to schedule vaccination visits for eligible people based on their limited available vaccine supply.
  • Your local news. They may have information on how to get a vaccine near you.

There are now three COVID-19 vaccines that have been authorized for emergency use in the U.S. – Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johsnon (Janssen). All three COVID-19 vaccines available in the U.S. have been shown to be highly effective at preventing serious illness due to COVID-19.

Update (April 14)

On April 13th, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended a pause in the use of the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) COVID-19 vaccine due to six reported U.S. cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (or CVST) COMBINED WITH low levels of blood platelets (thrombocytopenia) after getting the J&J COVID-19 vaccine.  All cases were in women between 18 and 48 years old, and their symptoms started 6 – 13 days after getting the J&J COVID vaccine.

On April 14, after carefully reviewing and discussing the data from the 6 cases, the CDC’s expert advisory group – Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) – recommended that the pause in use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine continue while experts further study this adverse event after vaccination with the J&J COVID-19 vaccine. Read more about this on our Shot of Prevention (SOP) blog.

In the meantime, you should get whichever COVID-19 vaccine is offered to you – Moderna or Pfizer. The CDC does not recommend one COVID vaccine over another. If you are scheduled to receive the J&J vaccine, please contact your healthcare provider, vaccination location, or clinic to learn about other COVID vaccine availability.

Which Vaccine Should I Get if I am Under 18 Years Old?

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is currently the only COVID-19 vaccine (currently authorized for use in the U.S.) that recommended for people 16 years old and older. The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccines are currently only recommended for people 18 years old and older.

Vaccination is the safest way to help you build protection against COVID-19

COVID-19 can have serious, life-threatening complications, and there is no way to know how COVID-19 will affect you. And if you get sick – even if you have no symptoms – you could spread the disease to friends, family, and other vulnerable people around you.

 

  • When you get the vaccine, you and your healthcare worker will both need to wear masks that cover your nose and mouth. Stay 6 feet away from others while inside and in lines.
  • You should receive a vaccination card that tells you which COVID-19 vaccine (Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson) you received, the date you got it, and where you got it. Keep your vaccination card.
  • You should receive a fact sheet that tells you more about the specific COVID-19 vaccine you are being offered. Each authorized COVID-19 vaccine has its own fact sheet that contains information to help you understand the risks and benefits of receiving that specific vaccine. View the fact sheets for the COVID vaccines authorized for use in the U.S.
    • Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine
    • Moderna COVID-19 vaccine
    • Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) COVID-19 vaccine (Update: On April 13, CDC and FDA recommended that the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine be paused due to a very rare adverse event. On April 14, CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended that the pause in use of the J&J COVID vaccine continue as they look further into these 6 cases. The ACIP will hold its second emergency meeting to discuss this vaccine on April 23, 2021.)
  • All people who get a COVID-19 vaccine should be monitored on-site (15 – 30 minutes) to make sure they don’t have any allergic reactions.
  • At your vaccination appointment, ask the vaccine provider about registering for V-SAFE, which is a free, smartphone tool that uses text messaging to check in with you after you receive a COVID-19 vaccination. V-SAFE also reminds you to get your second dose if you need one. If you recently got your COVID vaccine, but haven’t already registered for V-SAFE, click here to register.

If you’re pregnant and in one of the groups eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine in your state, you may choose to be vaccinated. 

Note: The CDC, FDA and CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices are recommending a pause in the use of Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine. Learn more.

Things for Pregnant People to Consider When Deciding Whether to Get a COVID-19 Vaccine
  • Getting a COVID-19 vaccine is a personal choice for those who are pregnant. While a conversation with a healthcare provider may be helpful, it is not required prior to vaccination.
  • A COVID vaccine may protect you from severe illness, which could help both you and your baby.
  • Side effects, like a sore/red arm, tiredness, chills, joint aches, and muscle aches are possible, and are a normal part of the body’s reaction to the vaccine and developing antibodies (immunity) to protect against COVID-19.
    • Pregnant individuals 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 during pregnancy to manage other expected side effects as well.
  • There are limited data about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in people who are pregnant — but what we do know is reassuring. While COVID-19 vaccines have been tested for safety in many people during clinical trials, they have not been tested in pregnant people yet. However, based on what is known about how COVID vaccines are made and the data collected so far, experts believe they are likely to be safe during pregnancy
  • COVID-19 vaccines made with either mRNA (Pfizer and Moderna) or viral vector technology (Johnson & Johnson):
  • According to the the Vaccine Safety Technical Subgroup of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), a large number of pregnant women have chosen to receive COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S.
    • The vaccinations being given are being monitored closely by public health officials through safety monitoring systems, including a new pregnancy registry in V-Safe to monitor pregnancy and birth outcome
  • Click here to see what the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has to say about COVID-19 vaccination of pregnant and breastfeeding women.
New Research on COVID-19 Vaccines During Pregnancy

A study published in March 2021 found that pregnant people who were vaccinated against COVID-19:

  • Had a stronger immune response than pregnant people who were naturally infected with the COVID-19 virus
  • Passed protective antibodies (immunity) to their babies. (Flu and whooping cough vaccinations during pregnancy also protect both mom and baby from dangerous illness.)
  • Passed antibodies to their babies in their breast milk.
  • Getting vaccinated during pregnancy didn’t result in more or worse side effects for participants in the study.
COVID-19 Vaccine Should Be Available to Pregnant Individuals

VYF joined the Maternal Immunization Task Force and other partners to put out the following statement: “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.

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.

Yes. According to the experts at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), if you are planning or trying to get pregnant, you can get a COVID-19 vaccine.

  • There is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccines cause infertility.
  • You do not need to delay getting pregnant after you get a COVID vaccine.
  • Some COVID-19 vaccines, such as the vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, require two doses for the best protection. If you find out you are pregnant after you have the first dose of COVID vaccine, you should still get the second dose.

Note: The CDC, FDA and CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices are recommending a pause in the use of Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine. Learn more.

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

Note: The CDC, FDA and CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices are recommending a pause in the use of Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine. Learn more.

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.
  • There are no clinical trial data on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines while breastfeeding or what effect they might have on breastfed infants or on milk production/excretion. However, given what is known about how COVID vaccines are made, health experts don’t think they pose a risk to breastfed babies.
  • 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.
  • Click here to read what the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has to say about COVID-19 vaccination of pregnant and breastfeeding individuals.
New Research on COVID-19 Vaccines During Pregnancy

A study published in March 2021 found that pregnant people who were vaccinated against COVID-19:

  • Had a stronger immune response than pregnant people who were naturally infected with the COVID-19 virus
  • Passed protective antibodies (immunity) to their babies. (Flu and whooping cough vaccinations during pregnancy also protect both mom and baby from dangerous illness.)
  • Passed antibodies to their babies in their breast milk.
  • Getting vaccinated during pregnancy didn’t result in more or worse side effects for participants in the study.

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. You can also look for COVID-19 vaccines near you through Vaccinefinder.org.

 

 

While most children with COVID-19 have mild symptoms or no symptoms at all, children can – and some do – get severely ill from COVID. Those that get very sick from COVID could need to be hospitalized  In rare cases, they might die.

Children with COVID-19 – with or without symptoms – can also spread the COVID-19 virus to others.

Babies under 1 year old and children with certain underlying conditions may be more likely to have severe illness from COVID-19.

Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children

Medical and public health experts are looking into a rare, but serious medical condition, associated with COVID-19 in children, called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C).  Unfortunately, experts do not yet know what causes MIS-C and who is at increased risk for developing it. Learn more about MIS-C.

Learn more.

COVID-19 Vaccines

At this time, there are no COVID-19 vaccines approved for emergency use in children under 16 years old in the U.S.

A number of vaccine makers are currently testing COVID-19 vaccines in children through clinical trials.

Learn how to keep your children healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Find answers to your questions about COVID-19 vaccines here.

The CDC has made recommendations related to travel within the U.S. and internationally. Get the most up-to-date information on this topic on CDC’s website

DOMESTIC TRAVEL

People who are fully vaccinated with an FDA-authorized vaccine can travel safely within the United States.

  • Fully vaccinated travelers do not need to get tested before or after travel unless their destination requires it
  • Fully vaccinated travelers do not need to self-quarantine
  • Fully vaccinated travelers should still follow CDC’s recommendations for traveling safely including:
    • Wear a mask over your nose and mouth (Masks are required on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the U.S.  and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations.)
    • Stay 6 feet from others and avoid crowds
    • Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer

If you are not fully vaccinated and must travel, take the following steps to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.

  • Get tested with a viral test 1-3 days before your trip.
  • While you are traveling:
    • Wear a mask over your nose and mouth. (Masks are required on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations.)
    • Avoid crowds and stay at least 6 feet/2 meters (about 2 arm lengths) from anyone who is not traveling with you.
    • Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol).

Do NOT travel if you were exposed to COVID-19you are sick, you test positive for COVID-19, or you are waiting for results of a COVID-19 test. Learn when it is safe for you to travel. Don’t travel with someone who is sick.

INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL

International travel poses additional risks and even fully vaccinated travelers are at increased risk for getting and possibly spreading new COVID-19 variants. CDC recommends delaying international travel until you are fully vaccinated.

If you are fully vaccinated with an FDA-authorized vaccine:

  • You should continue to follow CDC’s recommendations for traveling safely and get tested 3-5 days after travel.
  • You do NOT need to get tested before leaving United States unless your destination requires it.
  • You do NOT need to self-quarantine after arriving in the United States.

International Travel Recommendations for Unvaccinated People

CDC recommends delaying international travel until you are able to get fully vaccinated. If you are not fully vaccinated and must travel, take the following steps to protect yourself and others from COVID-19:

  • Before you travel:
    • Get tested with a viral test 1-3 days before your trip.
    • Make sure you understand and follow all airline and destination requirements related to travel, testing, or quarantine, which may differ from U.S. requirements. If you do not follow your destination’s requirements, you may be denied entry and required to return to the United States.
    • Check the COVID-19 situation in your destination.
  • While you are traveling:
    • Wear a mask over your nose and mouth. Masks are required on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations.
    • Avoid crowds and stay at least 6 feet/2 meters (about 2 arm lengths) from anyone who is not traveling with you.
    • Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol).
  • Before you arrive in the United States:
    • All air passengers coming to the United States, including U.S. citizens and fully vaccinated people, are required to have a negative COVID-19 viral test result no more than 3 days before travel or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 in the past 3 months before they board a flight to the United States.

Do NOT travel if you were exposed to COVID-19you are sick, you test positive for COVID-19, or you are waiting for results of a COVID-19 test. Learn when it is safe for you to travel. Don’t travel with someone who is sick.

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.

Yes, all COVID-19 vaccines currently available in the United States have been shown to be highly effective at preventing COVID-19.

  • All COVID-19 vaccines that are in development are being carefully evaluated in clinical trials and will be authorized by FDA only if they make it much less likely you’ll get COVID-19.
  • Based on what we know about vaccines for other diseases and early data from clinical trials, experts believe that getting a COVID-19 vaccine may also help keep you from getting seriously ill even if you do get COVID-19.
  • Experts continue to conduct more studies about the effect of COVID-19 vaccination on severity of illness from COVID-19, as well as its ability to keep people from spreading the virus that causes COVID-19.
New Research Shows COVID Vaccines are Working in Real-World Conditions

A CDC study published in late March 2021 showed that mRNA COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) are highly effective in preventing COVID-19 in real-world conditions (not only vaccine clinical trials) among healthcare personnel, first responders, and other essential workers.

There is no way to know how COVID-19 will affect you – you might have a mild case or you could have serious, life-threatening complications.  While you might have an uncomfortable day or two after getting vaccinated against COVID-19, it is the safest way to help build protection. Also, if you get COVID-19, you also risk giving it to loved ones who may get very sick.

Experts are Still Learning:
  • How effective COVID vaccines are against variants of the virus that causes COVID-19.
    • According to the CDC, current data suggest that COVID-19 vaccines used in the U.S. should work against these COVID virus variants. But more studies are being done to confirm how well each vaccine works against each virus variant.
  • How well COVID-19 vaccines keep people from spreading the disease.
    • 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.
    • Early data show that the vaccines may help keep people from spreading COVID-19, but experts are learning more as more people get vaccinated.
  • How long COVID-19 vaccines can protect people.

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 kind of vaccine, doses do not need to be repeated for either vaccine.

Johnson and Johnson (Janssen) created a 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 recommended it for people 18 years of age and older in the U.S.

Update (April 14)

On April 13th, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended a pause in the use of the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) COVID-19 vaccine due to six reported U.S. cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (or CVST) COMBINED WITH low levels of blood platelets (thrombocytopenia) after getting the J&J COVID-19 vaccine.

On April 14, after carefully reviewing and discussing the data, the CDC’s expert advisory group – Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) – recommended that the pause in use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine continue while experts further study this complication (CVST with thrombocytopenia) after vaccination with the J&J COVID-19 vaccine. The ACIP will hold its second emergency meeting to discuss J&J (Janssen) COVID-19 vaccine on April 23, 2021. 

This adverse event after getting the J&J COVID-19 vaccine is very rare. There have been 6 cases out of the approximately 7 million doses of J&J COVID vaccine given out in the U.S.

What to Do If You Received the J&J (Janssen) COVID-19 Vaccine

If you received the vaccine more than three weeks ago, the risk of developing this complication is likely very low at this time.

If you received the vaccine within the last three weeks, your risk of developing this complication is also very low and that risk will decrease over time.

Contact your healthcare provider and seek medical treatment urgently if you develop any of the following symptoms:

  • severe headache
  • backache
  • new neurologic symptoms
  • severe abdominal pain
  • shortness of breath
  • leg swelling
  • tiny red spots on the skin (petechiae)
  • new or easy bruising

Please note that it is common to experience mild to moderate flu-like symptoms, including fever, headache, fatigue and joint/muscle pain, during the first week after receiving any COVID-19 vaccine These common side effects are a sign the vaccine is working. They usually start within three days of getting a vaccine and should only last a few days.

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.
For More Information

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 2 weeks after the second vaccine dose for you to be protected against COVID-19. You will need to get both doses from the same type of COVID-19 vaccine (created by the same vaccine maker).

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.

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

The Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) COVID vaccine is made using viral vector technology and requires 1 dose. It takes time for your body to build protection after any vaccination, so it will take 2 weeks after your shot for you to be protected against COVID-19.

Learn more about how mRNA and viral vector COVID vaccines work.

Public health experts consider people to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19:

  • 2 weeks after their second dose in a 2-dose series, like the Pfizer or Moderna COVID vaccines, or
  • 2 weeks after a single-dose vaccine, like Johnson & Johnson’s COVID vaccine

If it has been less than 2 weeks since your COVID-19 shot, or if you still need to get your second dose, you are NOT fully protected. (It takes time for your body to build immunity after getting the vaccine).

Keep taking all prevention steps to protect yourself and others from COVID until you are fully vaccinated, including:

  • Wearing a mask to protect yourself and others and stop the spread of COVID-19.
  • Staying at least 6 feet (social distancing) from others who don’t live with you.
  • Avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces. The more people you are in contact with, the more likely you are to be exposed to COVID-19.
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.

mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines

Some of the COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna vaccines) 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.

Viral Vector COVID-19 Vaccines

Viral vector vaccines (Johnson & Johnson vaccine) use a modified version of a different, harmless virus (the vector) to deliver important instructions to our cells to start building protection against COVID-19. The instructions are delivered in the form of genetic material and this material does not integrate into a person’s DNA.

Click to Enlarge

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

There is currently no evidence that antibodies formed from COVID-19 vaccination cause any problems with pregnancy, including the development of the placenta. There is also no evidence suggesting that fertility problems are a side effect of any FDA-authorized vaccine. 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.

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, experts 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.

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-19), 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 to moderate. temporary, and nothing compared to how sick you could become with COVID-19. (Severe side effects are rare). 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, J&J 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.

Update (April 14)

On April 13th, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended a pause in the use of the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) COVID-19 vaccine due to 6 reported U.S. cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot (CVST) IN COMBINATION WITH low levels of blood platelets (thrombocytopenia) after getting the J&J COVID-19 vaccine. 

On April 14, after carefully reviewing and discussing the data from the 6 cases, the CDC’s expert advisory group – Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) – recommended that the pause in use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine continue while experts further study this rare adverse event after vaccination with the J&J COVID-19 vaccine.  The ACIP will hold its second emergency meeting to discuss this vaccine on April 23, 2021.

This complication after getting the J&J COVID-19 vaccine is very rare. There have been 6 cases out of the approximately 7 million doses of J&J COVID vaccine given out in the U.S. Read more about this issue on this page. You can also find more information from the American Heart Association or CDC.

What to Do If You Received the J&J (Janssen) COVID-19 Vaccine

If you had the vaccine more than three weeks ago, your risk of getting this health complication is very low (but call your doctor’s office if you have any concerning symptoms).

If you’ve had the vaccine within the last three weeks, your risk is still very low, but seek medical care right away if you develop any of the following symptoms:

  • severe headache
  • backache
  • new neurologic symptoms
  • severe abdominal pain
  • shortness of breath
  • leg swelling
  • tiny red spots on the skin (petechiae)
  • new or easy bruising
Red, Itchy, Swollen or Painful Rash on Arm a Few Days to More than a Week After Vaccine Dose

The CDC has learned of reports that some people have experienced a red, itchy, swollen, or painful rash where they got first COVID shot. These rashes can start a few days to more than a week after the first vaccine dose and are sometimes quite large. These rashes are also known as “COVID arm.” If you experience “COVID arm” after getting your first COVID shot, you should still get the second COVID shot at the recommended time. Tell your vaccination provider that you experienced a rash or “COVID arm” after the first shot. They may recommend that you get the second COVID shot in the opposite arm.

How to Handle Mild to Moderate 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

Severe allergic reactions to vaccines are extremely rare. But 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 COVID-19 subcommittee of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety (GACVS) has reviewed reports of rare cases of blood clots with low platelets following vaccination with the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine* since their onset a few weeks ago.

In their interim statement on April 7, the WHO stated that their GACVS subcommittee reviewed latest information from the European Medicines Agency, United Kingdom’s Medicines and other Health products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), and other Member States. They noted:

    • Based on current information, a causal relationship between the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine and the occurrence of blood clots with low platelets is considered plausible but is not confirmed. Specialized studies are needed to fully understand the potential relationship between vaccination and possible risk factors.
    • While concerning, the events under assessment are very rare, with low numbers reported among the almost 200 million individuals who have received the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine around the world.
    • WHO’s GACVS subcommittee will continue to gather and review further data.
    • WHO is carefully monitoring the rollout of all COVID-19 vaccines and will continue to work closely with countries to manage potential risks, and to use science and data to drive response and recommendations. In extensive vaccination campaigns, it is normal for countries to identify potential adverse events following immunization. This does not necessarily mean that the events are linked to vaccination itself, but they must be investigated to ensure that any safety concerns are addressed quickly. 

*The AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is not currently authorized for use in the United States.

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.

There are currently five “variants of concern” in the U.S.

  • B.1.1.7: This variant was first identified in the United Kingdom (UK). It was first seen in the U.S. in December 2020.
  • B.1.351: This variant was initially detected in South Africa in December 2020. It was first seen in the U.S. at the end of January 2021.
  • P.1: This variant was initially identified in travelers from Brazil, who were tested during routine screening at an airport in Japan, in early January. It was first seen in the U.S. in January 2021.
  • B.1.427 and B.1.429: These two variants were first identified in California in February 2021 and were classified as “variants of concern” in March 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?

According to the CDC, current data suggest that COVID-19 vaccines used in the U.S. should work against these COVID virus variants. But more studies are being done to confirm.

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

According to the CDC, current data suggest that COVID-19 vaccines used in the U.S. should work against these COVID virus variants. For this reason, COVID-19 vaccines are an essential tool to protect people against COVID-19, including against new variants.

Learn more about virus variants.

The Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines (mRNA vaccines) 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.

The Johnson and Johnson vaccine (viral vector vaccine) does not contain eggs, preservatives or latex. It also doesn’t contain the virus (SARS-CoV-2) that causes COVID-19 and the vaccine cannot give you COVID. 

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

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 to moderate, 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

There is no way to know how COVID-19 will affect you – you might have a mild case or you could have serious, life-threatening complications.  While you might have an uncomfortable day or two after getting vaccinated against COVID-19, it is the safest way to help build protection. Also, if you get COVID-19, you also risk giving it to loved ones who may get very sick, especially if they have underlying medical conditions.

 

 

No. Just like people can have allergic reactions to certain medications, it is possible to have an allergic reaction to a COVID-19 vaccine. It is rare, but some people have had severe allergic reactions (also known as anaphylaxis) after getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

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.

Update

 

Who Can Still Get a COVID-19 Vaccine – Even If They Have a History of Allergic Reactions? (CDC Recommendations)
  • If you have a history of severe allergic reactions not related to vaccines or injectable medications, such as food, pet, venom, environmental, or latex allergies, you can still get vaccinated against COVID-19.
  • If you have a history of allergies to oral medications or a family history of severe allergic reactions, you can get still get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Who Should Not Get a COVID-19 Vaccine or Should Ask Their Doctor About a DIFFERENT COVID-19 Vaccine? (CDC Recommendations)
  • If you have had a severe allergic reaction or an immediate allergic reaction—even if it was not severe—to any ingredient in an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine, you should not get either of the currently available mRNA COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna are mRNA vaccines).
  • If you have had a non-severe or severe allergic reaction after getting the first dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine, you should not get the second dose.
    • If you aren’t able to get the second shot of an mRNA vaccine because you had an allergic reaction to the first shot, ask your doctor if you should get a different type of COVID-19 vaccine, such as the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine (a viral vector vaccine).
  • If you have had a severe allergic reaction or an immediate allergic reaction to any ingredient in Johnson & Johnson’s (Janssen) COVID-19 vaccine, you should not get the J&J (Janssen) vaccine.
    • Ask your doctor if you should get a different type of COVID-19 vaccine, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.
  • If you are allergic to PEG, you should not get an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. (Pfizer and Moderna)
    • Ask your doctor if you can get the Johnson and Johnson (Janssen) vaccine.
  • If you are allergic to polysorbate, you should not get the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) COVID-19 vaccine
    • Ask your doctor if you can get an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.
Full List of Vaccine Ingredients

Please see each vaccine’s Fact Sheet for Recipients and Caregivers

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

 

Yes.

The CDC has learned of reports that some people have experienced a red, itchy, swollen or painful rash or a lump where they got first COVID shot. These rashes can start a few days to more than a week after the first vaccine dose and are sometimes quite large. These rashes are also known as “COVID arm.”

If you experience “COVID arm” after getting your first COVID shot, you should still get the second COVID shot at the recommended time. Tell your vaccination provider that you experienced a rash or “COVID arm” after the first shot. They may recommend that you get the second COVID shot in the opposite arm.

What if the Rash on My Arm is Itchy or Painful?

According to CDC, if the rash is itchy, you can take an antihistamine  (e.g., Benadryl.). If it’s painful, you can take a pain medication like acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol) or a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) (e.g. Motrin, Advil, Alleve and others).

The Johnson & Johnson (J&J) COVID-19 vaccine is very effective at preventing serious illness, including hospitalization and death, in people who did get COVID-19.

So far, the data shows that J&J COVID-19 vaccine might also provide protection against asymptomatic infection (when a person is infected by the virus that causes COVID-19 but does not get sick.)

As more people get the vaccine, experts will learn more about how the J&J COVID-19 vaccine works in real-world conditions.

Update (April 14)

On April 13th, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended a pause in the use of the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) COVID-19 vaccine due to 6 reported U.S. cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot (CVST) IN COMBINATION WITH low levels of blood platelets (thrombocytopenia) after getting the J&J COVID-19 vaccine. 

On April 14, after carefully reviewing and discussing the data from the 6 cases, the CDC’s expert advisory group – Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) – recommended that the pause in use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine continue while experts further study this rare adverse event after vaccination with the J&J COVID-19 vaccine. 

This event has only been connected to the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) COVID-19 vaccines, not the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. 

This pause in the use of the J&J vaccine is a sign that the vaccine safety monitoring system is working well. It was able to find 6 cases of a rare, serious adverse event among the approximately 7 million doses of J&J COVID vaccine given to people in the U.S.

Learn more on this page and on our Shot of Prevention blog.

 

 

COVID-19 vaccines made using mRNA technology — such as those made by Pfizer and Moderna — don’t contain any fetal cells. 

Viral vector COVID-19 vaccines, like the one made by Johnson & Johnson (Janssen), use lab-replicated fetal cells (known as fetal cell lines) during its production process. After the vaccine viruses are grown using the fetal cell lines, they are “purified,” and leftover cell fragments are removed. The vaccine itself does not contain any fetal cells (or their DNA). (See the full list of ingredients in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The cells used to make the vaccine come from a decades-old cell line. No additional aborted fetuses are needed in order to create the vaccine.

The reason fetal cells are sometimes used in vaccine development is because:

  • Viruses need cells to grow and tend to grow better in cells from humans than animals (because they infect humans).
  • Almost all cells die after they have divided a certain number of times. For most cell lines, the limit of cell divisions is about 50; however, fetal cells can go through many more divisions before dying.
Additional Resources

Learn more about vaccine ingredients.

Vaccine Ingredients – Fetal Cells (Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia)

Watch Are Fetal Cells Used to Make Vaccines? 

Reuters Fact Check: Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine does not contain aborted fetal cells

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 takes 2 weeks after the 2nd dose of COVID-19 vaccine for you to be protected against COVID-19.
  • Viral Vector COVID-19 Vaccine (Johnson & Johnson) requires 1 dose. It takes time for your body to build protection after any vaccination, so it will take 2 weeks after your shot for you to be protected against COVID-19.

If it has been less than 2 weeks since your shot (J&J), or if you still need to get your second dose (Pfizer or Moderna), you are NOT fully protected. Keep taking all prevention steps until you are fully vaccinated.

On March 8, 2021, the CDC Updated Their Guidance for People Who Have Been Fully Vaccinated

The CDC now states that if you’ve been fully vaccinated:

  • You can gather indoors with fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask.
  • You can gather indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household (for example, visiting with relatives who all live together) without masks, unless any of those people or anyone they live with has an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
  • If you’ve been around someone who has COVID-19, you do not need to stay away from others or get tested unless you have symptoms.
    • However, if you live in a group setting (like a correctional or detention facility or group home) and are around someone who has COVID-19, you should still stay away from others for 14 days and get tested, even if you don’t have symptoms.

What Hasn’t Changed

What Has Not Changed Yet

For now, if you’ve been fully vaccinated:

  • You should still take steps to protect yourself and others in many situations, like wearing a mask, staying at least 6 feet apart from others, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces. Take these precautions whenever you are:
  • You should still avoid medium or large-sized gatherings.
  • You should still delay domestic and international travel. If you do travel, you’ll still need to follow CDC requirements and recommendations.
  • You should still watch out for symptoms of COVID-19, especially if you’ve been around someone who is sick. If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you should get tested and stay home and away from others.
  • You will still need to follow guidance at your workplace.

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 CDC is tracking the number of people who have gotten 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, social distancing, and avoidng crowds, 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. Getting a COVID-19 vaccine will also keep you from getting seriously ill even if you do get COVID-19.

Masks, Social Distancing and Avoiding Crowds

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

 

It depends on whether you are “fully vaccinated”* and who you are going to be around. (*Fully vaccinated means it has been at least two weeks after your COVID shot if you got the J&J vaccine OR it is at least two weeks after your 2nd COVID shot if you got the Pfizer or Moderna vacccine).

Experts have been learning more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide under real-life conditions. Based on that information, on March 8, the CDC updated their guidance for people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

What’s New

If you’ve been fully vaccinated:

  • You can gather indoors with fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask.
  • You can gather indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household (for example, visiting with relatives who all live together) without masks, unless any of those people or anyone they live with has an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
  • If you’ve been around someone who has COVID-19, you do not need to stay away from others or get tested, UNLESS you have COVID-19 symptoms.
    • However, if you live in a group setting (like a correctional or detention facility or group home) and are around someone who has COVID-19, you should still stay away from others for 14 days and get tested, even if you don’t have symptoms.
What is Still the Same

For now, if you’ve been fully vaccinated:

  • You still need to protect yourself and others by wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, avoiding crowds and avoiding poorly ventilated areas when you are:
  • You should still avoid medium or large-sized gatherings.
  • You should still delay domestic and international travel. If you do travel, you’ll still need to follow CDC requirements and recommendations.
  • You should still watch out for symptoms of COVID-19, especially if you’ve been around someone who is sick. If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you should get tested and stay home and away from others.
  • You will still need to follow guidance at your workplace.

Learn more.