COVID-19 Vaccines: Frequently Asked Questions

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Updated May 19, 2021

There are multiple vaccines for COVID-19 authorized for use in the United States. The vaccines are a safe and vital way to stop the spread of the virus, get back to work and get back to life. Below are answers to frequently asked questions about the vaccines.

How do these vaccines work?

Vaccines are intended to prepare your immune system should you ever be exposed to the actual virus, and the COVID-19 vaccines specifically teach our immune systems how to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19.

Are they safe?

(More more information on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine see below). The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only authorizes vaccines shown to be safe and effective, and the vaccines authorized for COVID-19 have passed rigorous scientific, clinical and regulatory requirements. They have been studied in clinical trials in large and diverse groups of people, of various ages, gender identities, races and ethnicities. Hundreds of millions of people around the world, from every racial and ethnic group, have been vaccinated safely. The FDA and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continue to monitor for any safety issues.

How did these vaccines get developed and approved so quickly?

Researchers have been studying similar viruses and preparing for a scenario like this for many years. Now with a focused scientific effort and billions of dollars, we created multiple COVID-19 vaccines that have been shown to be safe and effective.

Why do I have to take two doses?

Some vaccines require two doses. Two doses of the same vaccine are necessary in order to be fully effective. You will likely make an appointment for your second dose at the time you receive your first dose. Keep in mind that it may take several weeks after vaccination for your body to be ready to fight the virus if you are exposed.

How many people need to get vaccinated? Can I skip it?

Most experts agree that community immunity can be achieved when approximately 70 - 80% of the population is vaccinated. It is recommended that every adult in the U.S. be vaccinated unless their physician or CDC guidance recommends otherwise. By getting vaccinated, you can contribute to a safer workplace and help protect the people you know and love.

I've had COVID-19. Should I get the vaccine?

Yes, you should still be vaccinated because you can become infected more than once. Although you may have some short-term natural protection (known as immunity) after recovering from COVID-19, we don’t know how long this protection will last. Vaccination is the best protection, and it is safe. People who get COVID-19 can have serious illnesses, and some have terrible symptoms that continue for months. If you’ve had COVID-19, ask your doctor when you should be vaccinated.

How much does it cost?

Nothing. The federal government is providing vaccines free of charge to all people living in the United States, regardless of insurance coverage or immigration status. 

When will I receive the vaccine?

CDC now recommends that everyone ages 12 and older get vaccinated for COVID-19. Vaccines are widely available to everyone in the United States aged 12 and older, regardless of health coverage or immigration status.

Which vaccine should I take?

COVID-19 vaccines have passed the same rigorous review process and have each proven highly effective, so it is recommended that you take whichever vaccine is available. Only the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has been authorized by FDA for use on children ages 12 - 15.

Are there side effects?

Some people might get sore muscles, feel tired, or have mild fever after getting the vaccine. These reactions mean the vaccine is working to help teach your body how to fight COVID-19 if you are exposed. For most people, these side effects will last no longer than a few days. If you have any concerns, call your doctor or nurse.

Are there those who should not get vaccinated?

Children under 12 are currently not being vaccinated, as clinical testing is still underway. While there is currently no specific data on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines for pregnant or breastfeeding women, pregnant women are at high-risk for COVID-19 complications. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are encouraged to discuss the decision with their healthcare provider. If you have severe allergies, talk to your doctor about what precautions to take and when is the best time for you to be vaccinated.

Will I get COVID-19 from the vaccine?

No, the vaccine does not cause COVID-19. None of the approved COVID-19 vaccines contain the virus that causes COVID-19. It does take a few weeks after vaccination for your body to build up antibodies to protect you from the virus. That means it’s possible you could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or just after getting the vaccine and still get sick.

Can vaccinated people still transmit COVID-19?

We are still learning how well vaccines prevent you from spreading the virus that causes COVID-19 to others, even if you do not have symptoms. Early data show that vaccines help keep people with no symptoms from spreading COVID-19.

Do I still need to wear a mask after getting the vaccine?

Fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.

Should my children get vaccinated? Is it safe?

On May 10, 2021, the FDA expanded its emergency use authorization for the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to children and adolescents 12 years of age and older. CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommend that everyone ages 12 and older get vaccinated for COVID-19.  They made this recommendation after rigorous review of data from clinical trials involving tens of thousands of children and adolescents. The FDA determined that the known and potential benefits of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in individuals 12 years of age and older outweigh the known and potential risks, supporting the vaccine’s use in this population. 

While fewer children have been sick with COVID-19 compared to adults, children can be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, can get sick from COVID-19, and can spread the virus that causes COVID-19 to others. Children, like adults, who have COVID-19 but have no symptoms (“asymptomatic”) can still spread the virus to others. Most children with COVID-19 have mild symptoms or have no symptoms at all. However, some children can get severely ill from COVID-19. They might require hospitalization, intensive care, or a ventilator to help them breathe. In rare cases, they might die. Public health experts say it is important to vaccinate children to protect kids themselves, build immunity in the wider population and protect others who aren’t yet eligible for vaccines, including younger children.

What is the current status of the J&J vaccine?

On April 23, a CDC panel recommended that the pause in the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine be lifted. The panel also recommended that a warning label be added to the vaccine packaging noting the very rare blood clotting disorder risk. Based on the panel’s recommendation, the FDA ended the pause; states and local jurisdictions can now resume use of the J&J vaccine. The decision to lift the pause is based on the experts’ determination that the benefits of again administering the vaccine greatly outweigh the very small degree of risk associated with its use, particularly now that the risk and treatment protocols are better understood.

The likelihood of the blood clotting disorder resulting from the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is extremely rare. The risk varies by age and gender. There have been fewer than 1 case per million for men and for women who are 50 years or older; the risk is estimated to be about 7 cases per million for women age 18 to 49. The risk of blood clotting is much higher for people who contract COVID than it is for people who receive the J&J vaccine.

 If you have questions about the J&J vaccine or other vaccines, talk to your doctor. The CDC and FDA will provide monitoring and treatment information to health care providers and vaccine recipients.

Should I be concerned about the safety of other vaccines?

The identification of what is approximately a less than 2-in-a-million risk associated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a sign that the nation’s safety monitoring system for COVID vaccines is working. After any vaccine is successful in clinical trials and approved for use, the FDA continues to monitor it for safety. The pause in the use of the J&J vaccine allowed scientists to evaluate each incidence of the clotting disorder. They determined that the level of risk was very low and that the benefits of continued use of the J&J vaccine greatly outweighed any risk associated with it.

If I’m offered the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, should I wait until I can get either Pfizer or Moderna?

For most people, getting the first available COVID vaccine is the best thing you can do to safeguard your health. Your odds of contracting a possibly life-threatening case of COVID-19 are much higher than your odds of serious side effects from the vaccine. The risk of blood clots from COVID illness is 165,000 per million cases.More than 90% of the vaccine supply in the United States is either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. However, for some settings the Johnson & Johnson vaccine may be the one that is available. And some people prefer the option of a single-dose vaccine.If you have additional questions about which vaccine is best for you, check with your doctor.

Public health guidance on COVID-19 is constantly evolving. Health Action Alliance is committed to regularly updating our materials once we've engaged public health, business and communications experts about the implications of new guidance from the public health community and effective business strategies that align with public health goals.

Together, we can turn the tide against COVID-19 and build a stronger, healthier future.

Source: CDC