What you need to know about the COVID-19 vaccine
Developing the COVID-19 vaccine is the most important, complex public health effort in our nation's history. Federal, state and local healthcare experts and public health officials unified to make sure it's safe.
You should also know:
- Getting the vaccine and following fact-based measures proven by science, like masking, distancing and washing your hands, will help us reduce the burden of COVID-19 and its variants.
- You may have questions or be hesitant about the COVID-19 vaccine. Know that ANY vaccine that has been scientifically reviewed, and FDA-approved and distributed, is better than receiving no vaccine at all.
- The vaccine is being monitored closely to ensure safety.
- The vaccine is 95% effective against COVID-19.
How does the vaccine protect me from COVID-19?
Vaccines work by training our immune systems to recognize viruses without making us sick. The immune response that develops after a vaccine protects us from future infections. Research is underway to understand long term COVID-19 immunity. None of the COVID-19 vaccines developed contain the live virus and cannot give you COVID-19.
I understand the mRNA vaccines work by carrying a "message" to our cells that instructs them how to produce spike proteins. I am wondering where they get the mRNA? How is the mRNA made or obtained for these vaccines?
mRNA are genetic messages that all living organisms produce because it is needed to make proteins. Think of mRNA as a recipe and protein, the meal. mRNA can be made easily and artificially in a lab once we know what the message needs to say. This is a common practice utilized daily in research across the world. Any mRNA message (viral, human, bacterial) can be made this way without ever needing to use the virus itself. The COVID mRNA vaccines contain multiple different mRNA messages (recipes) for numerous COVID-19 surface proteins to help our immune system recognize the virus fast. Having multiple messages also protects us in case the virus makes changes to its surface proteins. Once protein is made from the mRNA, the mRNA falls apart.
Can children get the vaccine?
Currently, children as young as 12 can receive the vaccine.
Should I get the vaccine if I'm pregnant or breastfeeding?
Both the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the CDC recommend all eligible persons 12 years and older, including pregnant and lactating individuals, receive a COVID-19 vaccine or vaccine series. Early data suggests receiving an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy reduces the risk for infection. Available data suggests symptomatic pregnant and recently pregnant patients with COVID-19 are at increased risk of more severe illness compared with nonpregnant peers. Pregnant and recently pregnant patients with comorbidities such as obesity and diabetes may be at an even higher risk of severe illness consistent with the general population with similar comorbidities. To date, safety data on COVID-19 vaccines administered during pregnancy do not reveal any safety concerns. However, women younger than age 50 years should be aware of the rare risk of blood clots with low platelet counts (thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome [TTS]) after receipt of the Janssen vaccine and the availability of mRNA vaccines that do not have that risk.
Does the vaccine affect fertility?
There is no evidence the vaccine impacts fertility.
The vaccine was created in a shorter amount of time than usual. Can we trust the vaccine?
While these vaccines are being developed as quickly as possible, all routine steps (clinical trials) were followed to ensure the safety of any vaccine approved for use. Scientists have been working on strategies for coronavirus vaccines since the 2003 coronavirus outbreak (SARS).
Are there any known side effects of the vaccine?
During clinical trials, none of the vaccines reported any serious side effects. Most people did not experience any side effects. For participants that reported side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine, the symptoms are like other vaccines - fever, headache, muscle aches and nausea.
Will I still need to wear a mask after being immunized?
Yes. This helps prevent the ongoing spread of COVID-19 and its variants.
What if I miss the scheduled date for my second dose?
While it is important to keep your scheduled appointment, it is not necessary to start the vaccination series over. Reschedule your appointment to the next opening as soon as possible.
How can I tell the difference between a reaction to the vaccine and COVID-19 infection?
Side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine and early symptoms of COVID-19 infection may be similar. Side effects associated with a vaccine usually start within hours of the dose and will dissipate after a day or two. Symptoms from COVID-19 may vary but can last longer than one to two days and may progress or be associated with other symptoms. Cough, shortness of breath and loss of taste or smell are not associated with the vaccine.
If I had COVID-19, is there a wait period until I can be vaccinated?
It is no longer necessary to defer immunizing patients against COVID-19 for 90 days after a positive COVID-19 test. This was recommended initially when there was a limited supply of vaccine. It was assumed that patients who were recently infected would have antibody protection from the circulating virus. Antibodies from natural disease may not confer cross immunity to variant strains or prolong immunity. Some long haulers may experience some symptom relief after being fully immunized. However, patients who were treated with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma for COVID-19 need to defer their immunization for 90 days.