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Frequently asked questions

General Information

What COVID-19 vaccines are available?


There are three COVID-19 vaccines currently authorized for emergency use by the FDA: -the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine can be given to people 12 years or older. It is administered as two shots, given 3 weeks apart. -the Moderna vaccine can be given to adults aged 18 or older. It is administered as two shots, given 4 weeks apart. -the Johnson & Johnson vaccine can be given to adults aged 18 or older, and is administered as single dose shot. -There are also several other vaccines in various stages of development.




How are the vaccines administered?


The Pfizer vaccine is given in two shots, three weeks apart. The Moderna vaccine is given in two shots, four weeks apart. You must get the same vaccine for both doses. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is given as a single dose shot.




How effective are the vaccines?


According to FDA data: - the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines are about 95% effective in preventing symptomatic illness for COVID-19 after both doses are received. - In clinical trials, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was 72% effective at preventing moderate-to-severe COVID-19 in the U.S., and 66% effective at preventing moderate-to-severe COVID-19 overall (this includes results from trials in the U.S. as well as South Africa and Brazil).




How do the vaccines work?


The vaccines stimulate your immune system to produce antibodies against certain proteins found on the surface of SARS-CoV-2, which is the virus that causes Covid. These antibodies block the virus from entering human cells, and thus prevent the virus from replicating and making you sick.




Are the vaccines effective against new COVID-19 variants?


There are several new variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. These include the B.1.1.7 variant, first reported in the U.K.; the B.1.351 variant, first reported in South Africa; and the P.1 variant, first reported in Brazil. Research is underway to see how effective the currently authorized vaccines are against these variants. As of January 2021, data suggests that: - for the B.1.1.7 (UK) variant - both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines seem to work as intended - for the B.1.351 (South African) and P.1 (Brazil) variants, the vaccines appear to be somewhat less effective. However, even with this reduction, the vaccines still offer significant protection. Moderna announced they are developing a booster shot to better target B.1.351 and other emerging strains.




Can I get COVID-19 from the vaccine?


NO. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines include a small piece of genetic material from the virus (messenger RNA, or mRNA); this material tells your cells to make a "spike" protein which your body then recognizes as a "threat", which your immune system fights off by producing antibodies against future infection. The mRNA cannot replicate the full viral particle, and therefore cannot cause COVID infection.




Why should I get the vaccine?


COVID-19 kills between 1 and 4 percent of people infected with the virus. The death rate is highest in people over 65 or those with underlying medical conditions (such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity, lung disease). People who survive COVID-19 can still suffer significant long-term complications from the disease, including damage to the lungs, heart, and nervous system. Some symptoms can last for weeks or even months, including: fatigue, "brain fog", chest pain, shortness of breath, loss of sense of taste or smell. The COVID-19 vaccine will save lives and decrease the risk of long term complications. The more people who get vaccinated, the better our ability to stop the spread of COVID-19.




I already had COVID - should I still get the vaccine?


Yes. We do not know how long after infection someone is protected from getting COVID-19 again, so you should still get the COVID-19 vaccine if you have already recovered. However:

  • You cannot receive the vaccine if you currently have an active COVID-19 infection.
  • You may choose to hold off getting the vaccine for up to 3 months after you have COVID, as you likely have some degree of protection from antibodies your immune system made while you were ill. However, it is still possible to get re-infected, particularly since new COVID variants continue to emerge and spread.




Is there a COVID vaccine for children or adolescents?


For 12-16 year olds - YES. As of 5/10/21, the FDA extended its Emergency Use Authorization for the Pfizer vaccine to be administered to adolescents age 12-16. For under 12 year old - Not yet, but stay tuned.





Safety & Side Effects

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?


All the COVID-19 vaccines being used have gone through rigorous studies to ensure they are as safe as possible. Systems that allow CDC to watch for safety issues are in place across the entire country. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted Emergency Use Authorizations for COVID-19 vaccines that have been shown to meet rigorous safety criteria and be effective as determined by data from the manufacturers and findings from large clinical trials.




What are the possible side effects of the vaccine?


Some people who receive the COVID-19 vaccine may experience side effects, which are normal signs that your body is building protection. These side effects may affect your ability to do daily activities, but they should go away in a few days. Common side effects include:

  • Pain, swelling, or rash on the arm where you get the shot
  • Fever/chills
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
Rare but serious side effects may include:
  • blood clots that may present as severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath (~ 2 cases per million vaccine doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine)




Can the vaccines cause a serious allergic reaction?


While serious allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) can occur, they are very rare. Current estimates are 11 per million doses of Pfizer vaccine and 2.5 per million doses of Moderna. People with a history of prior anaphylaxis are at increased risk and should discuss this with their primary care physician or allergist prior to getting vaccinated.




What can I do to prevent or treat side effects from the vaccine?


If you take aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) for a medical reason, you can continue to take it as directed. However, it is recommended that you do not take any of these medicines on the day you are scheduled for your vaccine (prior to getting the shot) because they could dull your body’s immune response. If you have a fever or body aches after being vaccinated, you may take acetaminophen (Tylenol) as needed. You should also NOT take antihistamines (like Claritin, Allegra, Zyrtec, or Benadryl) BEFORE getting the vaccine as these may mask an immediate allergic reaction.




Who should NOT get the COVID-19 vaccine?


Do NOT get the vaccine if you:

  • have ever had a severe allergic reaction to any ingredient in a COVID-19 vaccine, you should not get that specific vaccine.
  • had a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) after getting the first shot, you should not get the second shot.
  • have had 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. Click HERE for a list of vaccine ingredients.
  • are allergic to polyethylene glycol (PEG) or polysorbate
If you have had a severe allergic reaction to other vaccines or injections, you should ask your doctor whether you should get a COVID-19 vaccine. People with a history of severe allergic reactions not related to vaccines or injections may still get vaccinated. You CAN get the vaccine even if you have a:
  • History of allergies to oral medications
  • Family history of severe allergic reactions
  • Milder allergy to vaccines




Can I get the vaccine if I am pregnant or breastfeeding?


YES. It is recommended that pregnant and breastfeeding women get the COVID-19 vaccine. For more information, CLICK HERE.




I already had COVID - should I still get the vaccine?


Yes. We do not know how long after infection someone is protected from getting COVID-19 again, so you should still get the COVID-19 vaccine if you have already recovered. However:

  • You cannot receive the vaccine if you currently have an active COVID-19 infection.
  • You may choose to hold off getting the vaccine for up to 3 months after you have COVID, as you likely have some degree of protection from antibodies your immune system made while you were ill. However, it is still possible to get re-infected, particularly since new COVID variants continue to emerge and spread.





Distribution & Scheduling

When can I get the vaccine?


To see if you are eligible to receive the vaccine, CLICK HERE. When you are eligible, you can schedule a vaccination appointment through any of the following:




How do I schedule a vaccine appointment?


As soon as you’re eligible, you can schedule a vaccination appointment through any of the following:




Where can I get the vaccine?


As soon as you’re eligible, you can schedule a vaccination appointment through any of the following:




Can I choose which vaccine I will receive?


No. Vaccination sites receive vaccines produced by different manufacturers, based on storage requirements and vaccine availability. It is important that you receive the same vaccine for both doses, as vaccines cannot be “mixed.” For example, if you receive the Pfizer vaccine for your first dose, you must get a Pfizer vaccine for your second dose. This is the same for the Moderna vaccine. The J&J vaccine is offered as a single dose. When you schedule your vaccine appointment, you can find out which vaccine is being offered at that location.




How much does the COVID-19 vaccine cost?


At this time, the COVID-19 vaccine is free. If you have insurance, your insurance provider may be charged for the vaccine administration, but there will be no out-of-pocket cost for you. If you do not have insurance, there is no cost.




When can I schedule my second dose?


You need to schedule your second dose at the same site where you received your first dose. Many of these sites will automatically schedule you for a second appointment either at the time when you receive the first dose, or by sending you an email in the week before your second dose is due. Please CHECK HERE for information on how to schedule a second dose.




Where can I schedule my second dose?


You should receive your second dose at the same location where you received your first dose. Many vaccination sites will automatically schedule you for a second appointment either at the time when you receive the first dose, or by sending you an email in the week before your second dose is due. Please CHECK HERE for information on how to schedule a second dose.





Life after Vaccination

Can I still get or transmit COVID after being vaccinated?


We don’t know. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are 95% effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 disease. This means that 5% of vaccinated individuals may get sick from COVID-19. Protection from the vaccine doesn't kick in immediately. Both doses of the vaccine are required, and it may take up to 2 weeks after the second dose to get to maximal immunity.
We do not know yet if the vaccine protects against asymptomatic infection (becoming infected without developing symptoms) and then spreading the virus to others. This is why it's important that even after getting vaccinated, you continue to wear a mask, wash your hands, and practice social distancing.




What are the possible side effects of the vaccine?


Some people who receive the COVID-19 vaccine may experience side effects, which are normal signs that your body is building protection. These side effects may affect your ability to do daily activities, but they should go away in a few days. Common side effects include:

  • Pain, swelling, or rash on the arm where you get the shot
  • Fever/chills
  • Fatigue
  • Headache




What can I do to treat side effects from the vaccine?


If you have a fever or body aches after being vaccinated, you may take acetaminophen (Tylenol) as needed.




Do I still need to wear a mask after being vaccinated?


Yes. While data suggest the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are very effective, no vaccine is 100% effective, and we do not yet know how long immunity will last after getting the two required shots. Therefore, we must continue to follow public health guidelines, such as wearing a mask, practicing physical distancing and avoiding indoor crowds.




How long does protection from the vaccine last?


We do not know yet. Clinical trials have so far followed patients for up to 6 months after vaccination. More time is needed to study how long immunity lasts.