Frequently Asked Questions
You can go to vaccines.gov to find available locations near you to get vaccinated. You can select the type of vaccine you want and make appointments.
Please remember: you are only fully vaccinated after BOTH doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. You only need one shot of the J&J vaccine.
Yes! These vaccines are effective and have been shown to significantly reduce your risk of getting sick with COVID-19. The risk decreases very quickly. Results from the Pfizer vaccine have shown that within 10 days of receiving the 1st shot, your risk of COVID significantly decreases. This is the same regardless of sex, race, age, or weight.
But with the two-dose vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna), the first dose of the vaccine is only partially effective—you need to get the second dose to be fully protected.
Yes! ALL three approved COVID vaccines have shown to SIGNIFICANTLY decrease severe COVID-19, hospitalization and death. This is incredibly important for you. In fact, currently 99% of all people hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated.
With the Delta variant, we are seeing that even people who are fully vaccinated can have a breakthrough infection. These are mild or even without symptoms. However, for a short time (shorter than an unvaccinated individual), they can pass virus to others. Therefore, currently the CDC recommends that in areas of high or substantial transmission, that EVERYONE wear a mask indoors.
You can follow your current transmission level here: https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#datatracker-home
The clinical trials for the Pfizer, Moderna and Janssen vaccines all indicated that there was no difference in efficacy by age, race, sex or underlying other medical conditions.
Varying immunosuppressed states have reported different responses to the vaccines. Currently, there are recommendations for moderate-severe immunosuppressed individuals to get a third dose of the vaccine: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/recommendations/immuno.html
While a few studies have shown that immunity against any COVID infection may decrease over time (requiring a “booster” similar to a tetanus booster we get, for example), all of the COVID vaccines have shown sustained protection against severe COVID requiring hospitalization/ICU-stay. This is excellent news!
No! In fact, both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have shown efficacy after their first dose alone. However, you do not get the full efficacy until you get the second dose—so please make sure to follow-up with your second dose; and always wear a mask, maintain social distancing and wash your hands.
Yes! People should absolutely get the vaccine even if they have had COVID. This is recommended because we know that natural immunity (from a COVID vaccine) isn’t as strong and doesn’t last as long as the immunity from a vaccine.
If you are actively infected with COVID, you should wait until you have recovered from your acute infection and your quarantine period is over. This is so that we protect those giving the vaccines and others at the sites where vaccinations will be happening.
If you have been exposed to someone who had COVID, you should wait until your quarantine period is over — again to protect those giving the vaccines and others at the sites were vaccinations are happening.
If you have been treated with a monoclonal antibody treatment, you should also wait 90 days from that treatment before getting vaccinated.
The federal government is providing the vaccine free of charge to people living in the United States. However, your vaccination provider may bill your insurance company, Medicaid, or Medicare for an administration fee.
No-there did not appear to be any negative interactions (remember, the clinical trials ran through flu season, so many participants received both). We do know that getting both the flu and COVID illnesses at the same time appears to be associated with a significantly increased risk of death, so we recommend obtaining BOTH vaccines!
Previously, out of an abundance of caution, it was recommended to space out vaccines by 2 weeks with the COVID-19 vaccine. We now know that it is fine to get your COVID vaccine at the same time as other vaccinations.
We are so glad that you want to get vaccinated! Please: get whichever one is available to you first. The efficacy and the safety data of all three vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna, and Janssen) are very comparable to each other (neither one was “better” than the others). Due to supply and/or logistical issues, one may be available to you before the other.
Many have been concerned because of a perceived lower efficacy of the Janssen vaccine. It is very important to know that the Janssen vaccine clinical trials ran after the Pfizer/Moderna trials did, and in countries with a high prevalence of the new COVID variants. Despite this, the Janssen vaccine efficacy was incredibly good and it still protected against hospitalization and death from COVID. We do not know how the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines would have performed in similar situations, so the vaccine trials are not directly comparable.
The one thing we DO know is that all three vaccines have been shown to be protective against severe COVID or death from COVID, and that the longer we go without vaccinations the more time the virus has to make new variants. So we strongly urge people to get whichever vaccine is available to them first!
Currently the vaccine trials only evaluated the efficacy of two doses of their own vaccine. The safety and efficacy was not tested for obtaining doses from different vaccines.
No—you do not need to get multiple vaccines. All of the vaccines approved by emergency use authorization (EUA) are effective on their own and currently there are no recommendations that multiple vaccinations are needed.
I received convalescent plasma or a monoclonal antibody therapy for COVID; can I still get the vaccine?
The current CDC recommendations are that you wait 90 days from the time you received either convalescent plasma or monoclonal antibody therapy before receiving any of the three approved COVID vaccines.
I don’t trust the vaccine because I don’t think my community (people who look like me) were represented.
That is a really good concern. COVID19 has affected certain communities far more than others, and it is really important to ask if those communities have been part of this vaccine development as well as the safety reviews for these vaccines. In addition, we recognize that medicine historically has not treated underrepresented communities equally, and this creates legitimate distrust of the system.
In regards to the COVID-19 vaccine, scientists and advocates from very diverse backgrounds have been part of the leadership of these vaccines as well as reviewing and making guidelines and decisions regarding them. For example, Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, who works for the National Institutes of Health, is an African-American woman who helped develop the Moderna vaccine. The safety monitoring and review boards for both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines included scientists, physicians and advocates from diverse backgrounds representing numerous groups from all parts of the country. These hearings were also open to the public so that they could be as transparent as possible.
We fully recognize this may not be enough, but we hope that it gives some measure of comfort knowing that representation has occurred at all levels, from vaccine development through the independent safety reviews. COVID19 has been devastating and these vaccines represent the first real hope we’ve had to combat this pandemic.
This is when a person is “hesitant” about receiving the vaccine. This can be due to many factors, such as concern about the safety and development of this specific vaccine, lack of confidence in vaccines as a whole, or a lack of education about vaccination.
This is why it’s important for all of us to talk to each other, discuss concerns, and address them as honestly as possible.
Herd immunity occurs when a majority of the population (the “herd”) is vaccinated. When enough people are immune through vaccination, the disease is unable to spread. With nowhere to go, the virus dies out. It is then far less likely that anyone, immunized or not, will become infected with the virus. Usually, about 70%-90% of people must be vaccinated to reach herd immunity. Because these vaccines will take time to be distributed, we will need patience because it will take many months to reach this point with COVID-19.
To be clear: herd immunity is not the idea that a majority of people get sick with COVID-19 and recover. Herd immunity only applies to the COVID vaccine.
The shot will help protect you from being infected with SARS-CoV-2 (the infection that causes COVID-19) and, even if you get infected, it will help prevent you from developing symptoms of severe COVID-19.
Getting the vaccine reduces your risk of becoming ill, seriously ill, or dying from COVID-19. The vaccine may also decrease the chance you could pass the virus on to someone else (see below).
- No vaccine is 100%. Some people will get breakthrough infections. However, for those who are vaccinated, those infections are mild or even without symptoms. So while the vaccine may not prevent all infections, it helps prevent you from becoming seriously ill or dying from COVID-19.
- This is similar to the influenza (flu) vaccine, which is much less effective than the COVID-19 vaccine at preventing breakthrough infections; but still protects against serious flu or death from the flu.
RNA are like post-it notes (or, for the younger crowd, Snapchat messages that expire!). At any moment, a human cell has 5000+ different RNA messages. They are read by the cells and then destroyed within minutes to hours.
Because they are temporary, they do NOT become a permanent part of your body. In fact, they do not enter the nucleus of the cell and they never interact with a person’s DNA.
These temporary RNA messages instruct the cells of the body to make proteins. In the case of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine, they message for one single coronavirus protein: the spike protein. This is the protein that the virus needs to enter the cells. So by developing antibodies to block it, you prevent COVID!
Now: remember — it takes 25 different proteins to make a coronavirus. So your body is NOT making a coronavirus with the RNA vaccine!
This is a great question because we knew that we would learn more about the mRNA vaccines as they rolled out. And the FDA discussed the data to date at the J&J hearing on February 26th, which covered over 55 million people having received a dose of either the Pfizer (over 28 million) or Moderna (over 26 million). They have data on nearly 4 million who completed at least one v-safe health check in. What they have found is that there was no difference in the safety data between Pfizer and Moderna, with most people reporting injection site pain, fatigue, headaches and myalgias within 24 hours of their injections. They also found no increased risk of any serious adverse outcome as detailed in the data they presented here: https://www.fda.gov/media/146269/download.
Yes! It’s an incredible scientific achievement! But realize—research on the technology behind the new COVID-19 vaccine has been underway for at least the past 10+ years. We’ve had prototypes for influenza, rabies and other types of viruses. This pandemic pushed scientists across the world to be really motivated and focused on a single virus and utilized the knowledge they already with significant resources. In the US, we had Operation Warp Speed, a federal partnership between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), Department of Defense (DOD), and private companies to develop, manufacture, and distribute 300 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. It was incredibly fortunate that they picked the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 to focus on, as it turned out this was the right protein to target!
These vaccines have been tested in clinical trials enrolling tens of thousands of people, just like other vaccines. The timeline was accelerated, but steps were not skipped. You can see the FDA briefing materials that provide a comprehensive overview of the safety and efficacy data.
So far, there have been less than 20 severe allergic reactions that have been reported with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. It is important to remember that this is out of >1 million people worldwide who have been vaccinated. In all cases, people have successfully been treated for the allergic reaction. These events are being evaluated to determine exactly what reactions have occurred and what (if any) allergies these people have had.
The CDC is currently recommended a 15-minute monitored waiting period after the vaccine; but if you have had a serious of severe anaphylaxis, they are recommending you have 30 minute monitored waiting period after your vaccine.
Additional recommendations will be forthcoming or change, so check back here!
Are there any underlying health conditions where it is recommended that people shouldn’t get the COVID vaccine?
No! Currently there are no underlying medical conditions that preclude you from getting the vaccine. That is because getting COVID is so much worse, especially for people with underlying chronic conditions.
If you do have a significant allergy history, or believe you are allergic to any of the ingredients in the vaccine, you should let your provider know. You may be monitored more closely following the vaccine.
Great question! The only people who should NOT get the vaccine are those with a history of severe reactions to the vaccine ingredients. Those ingredients are listed on page 2 of this document: https://www.fda.gov/media/144414/download
We do strongly recommend you also discuss your allergy concerns with your doctor!
None of the vaccines are live vaccines. The mRNA vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna) are simply mRNA vaccines, which are like temporary notes that tell the cell what to do—in this case, make antibodies to the spike protein of SARS-CoV2.
The J&J vaccine uses an adenovirus—another type of virus—as a carrier of DNA coding for the spike protein, so the cells can make antibodies to it. Many have worried about this adenovirus component of the vaccine and if this is a “live” vaccine—but it’s very important to understand that this adenovirus component has had both its replicative and survival abilities erased from its genome. So it’s really just scaffolding for the DNA coding the spike protein—no live virus involved. It is therefore safe for those patients with suppressed immune systems, either through medications or due to underlying medical conditions.
mRNA vaccines contain no human or animal in them — they are just made with a few salts, sugar, water, a lipid capsule and mRNA.
It appears that people who get the COVID vaccines are more likely to get some mild flu-like symptoms: sore arm, muscle aches, fatigue, GI discomfort, etc. This appears to happen a bit more with this vaccine than with (for example) the flu vaccine; and it appears to be more common after the second dose of the vaccine, and can last up to 24–36 hours.
But please remember: this is a GOOD thing! It means your body is responding to the vaccine and building up the defense you need to protect you from COVID! (Think of it like working out — you have to get a little sore to build up that muscle!)
It is absolutely fine to take Tylenol or ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) to treat these symptoms if they occur; but it is currently NOT recommended to take those medications to prevent these symptoms before they start because it is unclear at this time if they will interfere with the antibody response and vaccine effectiveness.
And don’t worry if you don’t have these symptoms — some people do, some people do not!
I am immunosuppressed and/or have a high-risk medical problem: is it safe for me to get the COVID vaccine?
Yes! The CDC absolutely recommends that people who are immunosuppressed or have high-risk medical problems get vaccinated. Please remember: none of the vaccines are live vaccines. And these vaccines protect against severe COVID-19 or dying from COVID-19.
I have heard that if I’ve had COVID and get the vaccine, it could lead to too many antibodies which could predispose you to autoimmune disorders. Is there any concern or truth to that?
This is not true. It is recommended that even if you have had COVID in the past you get vaccinated. We have not seen an increased number of autoimmune flares with either the vaccine or with COVID.
People with autoimmune disorders have not been reported to have “flares” after receiving the COVID vaccines or after having active COVID-19 infections.
Yes vaccines can contain metals; and so do blueberries, eggs and bananas! Metals are part of nature. Your body needs certain types of metals for appropriate function; and your body can handle these micro doses of metals and excrete them appropriately — including those in the foods you eat AND in vaccines.
Bell’s Palsy is a facial paralysis, usually on one side, that causes drooping of the face. It is usually temporary but can rarely become permanent. The CDC has been monitoring this, along with a number of other outcomes, with the COVID vaccines and have not found any increased risk with the COVID vaccines. For more on this research, please see the informational slides here.
Initially with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, there was concern regarding allergic reactions. As we have accumulated millions more people receiving these vaccines, it appears there is no increased risk of an allergic reaction. However, for ALL the vaccines (the Pfizer, Moderna and J&J vaccine), the CDC recommends a 15-minute monitored waiting period after the vaccine; and a 30-minute monitored waiting period if you have any history of serious allergies to medications.
Per the CDC, a delayed local injection-site reaction after the first mRNA vaccine dose is not a contraindication or precaution to the second dose. You will also want to discuss with your health care provider.
Is it possible to pass COVID to someone after I’ve gotten the vaccine? Should I quarantine after getting the vaccine?
No—none of the approved vaccines are live vaccines. You do not have to quarantine after getting the vaccine. You SHOULD continue to wear a mask and physically distance for 2 weeks after you receive either the J&J vaccine or the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.
The FDA and CDC wanted to evaluate a total of 15 rare events of cerebral venous thrombosis (a very rare type of clotting disorder) and low platelet count. One of these people died; and another was hospitalized. This syndrome (large vessel blood clots with low platelet count) was deemed to be biologically plausible to be associated with this type of vaccine.
The pause also afforded the opportunity to provide clarity to providers on a) who appears to be at increased risk and b) how to treat it appropriately if there is concern that it happened in someone who received the J&J vaccine.
The conclusion that they came to was that these rare events were in fact quite rare; and the benefits of the J&J vaccine greatly outweighed the risks of these events.
The complication was a combination of a rare type of clotting disorder called a cerebral sinus venous thrombosis and a low platelet count.
It is important to note that this is different from the regular blood clots we are used to thinking about. In this case, the blood clot is the result of an immune-mediated phenomenon that causes destruction of the platelets (clotting cells) but also causes production of clots itself.
The typical risk factors for blood clots are NOT associated with this type of clots.
With only 15 of these outcomes, it’s very hard to tell if something is truly a pattern. However, analysis did not find any particular risk factors other than all of the people who had this complication were women and the majority (13/15) were under the age of 50.
It is important to understand, however: this vaccine is NOT restricted from women or pregnant women. It is just important to be aware of this potential rare risk.
Yes! And that is part of the reason pause: to really look at all the information and, if it is related, to get appropriate information back to health care providers about exactly what this is, what to look for, and how to appropriately treat it.
This complication seems to happen a median of 9 days after vaccination—so it’s not an immediate side effect. And none of the cases occurred after 3 weeks of vaccination.
Symptoms include: severe headache, difficulty breathing, abdominal pain, swelling in the legs and easy bruising. If you have had these symptoms and recently (within the last 3 weeks) had the J&J vaccine, you should contact your doctor or go to an emergency room to be evaluated.
It is important to remember that this is an extremely rare side effect—6 people out of an estimated 7 million people who have received the J&J vaccine. To put this into perspective, it is twice as rare as getting hit by lightening!
It is also important to remember that despite being so rare, the FDA and CDC still paused vaccination with the J&J COVID vaccine when seeing this. This shows how seriously they take even rare serious side effects and how important it is for them to investigate these fully before allowing them to be given to Americans.
Vulnerable Population Questions
There has now been enough pregnant women who have obtained either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines—over 60,000 pregnant women, in fact. The FDA has been following outcomes of interest including fetal demise, pregnancy complications, maternal intensive care unit admission, adverse birth outcomes, neonatal death, infant hospitalizations and major birth defects. They have found NO increased risk of any of these adverse pregnancy outcomes. Pregnant women report the same side effects (sore arm, fatigue, headaches, myalgias) that non-pregnant individuals report when getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
Therefore, the CDC and FDA now strongly recommend that ALL women considering becoming pregnant, who are pregnant, or who are currently breastfeeding obtain the COVID-19 vaccine.
Additionally, we are seeing rising rates of pregnant women getting COVID-19. These women have worse outcomes including, unfortunately, pregnancy loss or death of the mother.
If I get my COVID19 vaccine while I am pregnant, will protective antibodies cross the placenta during pregnancy?
Yes! There are now numerous studies showing that protective antibodies do cross the placenta if a pregnant woman gets the COVID-19 vaccine.
Is it safe to get the vaccine while breastfeeding? Are protective antibodies from the vaccine spread in breast milk?
Data thus far for both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines indicate that there are no adverse events associated with the COVID-19 vaccines. Initial data from real-world observational studies have shown that antibodies ARE passed in the cord blood and in the breastmilk, which is great news for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding!
This is simply not true! In fact, in the Pfizer trial, 12 women in the vaccine arm became pregnant despite signing a pledge to use 2 forms of birth control or abstinence!
The COVID-19 vaccine has had the benefit of over a decade of cutting-edge research. The progress of the last 11 months shifts the paradigm for what’s possible, creating a new model for vaccine development.
The COVID-19 vaccine has no animal or human embryo products in it. The mRNA vaccines are made of sugars, carbohydrates, proteins—the same things in each one of your cells.
Because the mRNA vaccines have been researched for over a decade, we do know a great deal about their long-term effects—and they are very safe.
Additionally, the first mRNA vaccine was given to someone in March 2020—that is over a year ago. Since that time, they have been given to the elderly, the immunocompromised, vulnerable patients, people with complex medical conditions, pregnant women, and even youth—over 2 BILLION doses of the vaccine have been given. And we know they are very safe.