Resolve to Save Lives has developed the following answers to frequently asked COVID-19 vaccine-related questions, with a focus on building public awareness, understanding and trust. Each section contains current information from the most credible COVID-19 vaccine authorities, including federal health agencies, prominent academic institutions and leading advocacy organizations. These FAQs are updated as new information becomes available.
Are the COVID-19 vaccines safe?
All COVID-19 vaccines were tested in clinical trials involving tens of thousands of people to ensure they meet safety standards and protect adults of different ages, races and ethnicities. There are no serious safety concerns.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) paused the use of the Johnson & Johnson Janssen vaccine in early April, which has since been lifted. A small number of people had experienced thrombosis-thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS), a rare condition of blood clotting in combination with a low platelet count, one to two weeks after receiving the Janssen vaccine. The risk of developing this condition is very rare. It has occurred in only about three out of one million recipients of the vaccine.
CDC and FDA continue to monitor the safety of all authorized vaccines.
Will I develop heart problems from the mRNA vaccines?
CDC’s Vaccine Safety Technical Working Group is investigating a small number of reports of myocarditis following injection of the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna). The number of reported cases does not exceed the expected baseline rates for myocarditis in the U.S. (the number of cases that would have occurred among the general population without the vaccines).
CDC will continue to monitor the situation and investigate any new cases to ensure vaccine safety. The agency also has provided information about this potential adverse event to clinicians to ensure early recognition and appropriate management of people who develop myocarditis symptoms following vaccination.
Can the COVID-19 vaccine give me COVID?
No. None of the COVID-19 vaccines currently authorized for use or in development in the U.S. use the live virus that causes COVID-19. However, it usually takes two weeks for the body to build stronger immunity after the second dose of an mRNA vaccine or after the single–dose Janssen vaccine. Therefore, it is very important to continue to follow all public health guidance, such as wearing a mask indoors, watching your distance and washing your hands until you have full vaccine protection against COVID-19.
What is an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA)? Did speed compromise safety?
The FDA is globally respected for its scientific standards of vaccine safety, efficacy and quality. In an emergency, like a pandemic, the FDA can make a judgement that it is worth releasing a vaccine, drug, device and/or test for use even without all the evidence that would go into the normal approval process. That judgement, in this case that the known and potential benefits of a COVID-19 vaccine must outweigh the known and potential risks of the vaccine, is called an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). Under both EUA and normal approval, the FDA provides scientific and regulatory requirements to vaccine developers and undertakes a rigorous evaluation of the scientific information through all phases of clinical trials, which continues after authorization or approval. Clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccines must first show they are safe and effective before any vaccine can be issued an EUA. Watch a video on what an EUA is here.
Is it safe to get a COVID-19 vaccine if I have an underlying medical condition?
Yes. COVID-19 vaccination is especially important for people with underlying health problems like heart disease, lung disease, diabetes and obesity. People with these conditions are more likely to get very sick from COVID-19.
Can my child get vaccinated for COVID-19?
Children ages 12 and older are able to get the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Clinical trials among this age group showed 100% efficacy against the virus that causes COVID-19. The Moderna and Janssen vaccines are authorized for people 18 years of age and older. Additional studies are underway to test COVID-19 vaccine efficacy in younger children.
Moderna is currently testing their vaccine candidate among children ages 12-17. Early results show 100% efficacy among this age group after two doses, and 93% efficacy after one dose. Moderna will likely seek FDA authorization of their vaccine for adolescents before this fall. Johnson & Johnson’s adolescent trial, which began in April, is ongoing. Both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna have started clinical trials with children ages 6 months to 11 years old. Authorization of at least the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for the 5- to 11-year-old age group is expected around October2021.
As we await these additional clinical trial data, children, like adults who are unvaccinated, should wear masks, watch their distance, wash their hands and avoid congregating in groups to help prevent infection.
Source: CDC and Pfizer
I have a shellfish or other food allergy. Should I get the vaccine?
CDC recommends that people with a history of severe allergic reactions that are not related to vaccines or injectable medications—such as food, pet, venom, environmental or latex allergies—get vaccinated. People with a history of allergies to oral medications or a family history of severe allergic reactions may also get vaccinated.
Tell the provider about your allergy when you get the vaccine. They are prepared to administer the vaccine safely and provide treatment in the rare case of allergic reactions. As a precaution, the CDC guidelines recommend that those with allergies be observed at the site for 30 minutes instead of 15 minutes. But this is not something to prevent you from getting vaccine.
Can I receive the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as other routine immunizations?
Yes. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recently adjusted their recommendations to allow all COVID-19 vaccine candidates authorized in the United States to be administered at the same time as other routine immunizations This applies to all age groups.
Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Vaccine
Why did CDC and FDA pause the use of the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine?
CDC and FDA paused Janssen COVID-19 vaccination “out of an abundance of caution” to investigate reports of a rare and severe blood-clotting disorder that emerged in six recipients. The pause allowed doctors and scientists to carefully review all reported adverse events after COVID-19 vaccination to help ensure the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine. It also enabled federal officials to alert physicians to these rare adverse events, called thrombosis-thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS), and provide guidance on appropriate treatment in case they see any additional TTS cases. This action showed that the regulatory and safety monitoring systems in the U.S. are working as they are supposed to.
After careful review, CDC and FDA decided that the benefits of the Janssen vaccine far outweigh the potential risk of this very rare adverse event, and they lifted the pause on April 23, 2021.
Why weren't blood clots cited as a possible adverse event following clinical trials of the Janssen vaccine?
The Janssen vaccine was tested in clinical trials with about 43,000 participants. As noted in the emergency use authorization (EUA) fact sheet for the vaccine, several types of blood clotting events were observed during the trials among people in both the placebo and vaccine groups. One person who received the vaccine had a cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST)—the same type of rare, serious blood clot that prompted CDC and FDA to recommend the pause on April 13. However, there may have been other factors that contributed to this person’s illness during the trial. Similarly, there was no evidence that the vaccine was associated with increased occurrence of any non-CVST blood clots. In general, vaccine clinical trials are not designed to detect very rare events, such as those occurring in only two people out of one million people vaccinated.
Since the vaccine was authorized for emergency use among the general U.S. population, more than nine million people have received the Janssen vaccine. The risk of developing thrombosis-thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS), or blood clotting and low platelets, is about three in one million. Because the scale of the vaccine rollout is significantly larger than that of the clinical trials, it is possible to detect these very rare events. This is why CDC and FDA continue to monitor safety after vaccines are authorized for use. The pause is proof that our safety and monitoring processes are working as intended.
I am a woman between the ages of 18-49. Should I get the Janssen vaccine?
The risk of getting blood clots with low platelet count, called thrombosis-thrombocytopenia syndrome or TTS, after receiving the Janssen vaccine is extremely low for all age groups and demographics. However, the majority of reported cases were in women between the ages of 18-49. The risk of developing TTS is highest among women ages 30-49, but only nine to 12 in one million women in this age group develop TTS. However, if you prefer not to take the Janssen vaccine, you can still get either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine. Call your health care provider or check vaccines.gov to determine where these alternatives are available.
Does taking oral contraceptive pills increase my risk of a blood clotting event after vaccination with the Janssen vaccine?
There is not enough evidence at this time that taking oral contraceptives increases the risk of experiencing thrombosis-thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) after receiving the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine.
I have underlying conditions including a history of blood clotting, heart attacks, high cholesterol, and/or high blood pressure. Is it still safe for me to get the Janssen vaccine?
The potential risk for thrombosis-thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS), or blood clotting and low platelets, after receiving the Janssen vaccine is extremely low. Until more information becomes available, experts advise that people with a history of autoimmune syndromes with blood clots with low platelets should be offered one of the FDA-authorized mRNA COVID-19 vaccines if they are within 90-180 days after resolution of their illness. Based on current knowledge, people with risk factors or a prior history of other types of blood clots are unlikely to be at increased risk. However, if you prefer not to take the Janssen vaccine, you can get either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine. There is no evidence of increased risk of blood clotting associated with the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines.
If you prefer not to take the Janssen vaccine, call your health care provider or check online at vaccines.gov to make sure your local vaccine clinic has alternatives available.
I’ve been vaccinated with the Janssen vaccine—am I safe?
Symptoms associated with these very rare blood clotting events typically occur one to three weeks after vaccination; therefore, if you received the Janssen vaccine more than three weeks ago, your risk of developing thrombosis-thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) is very low. Because these events are so rare, if you were vaccinated within the last three weeks, your risk of developing TTS is also very low. However, you should be on the lookout for possible symptoms of a clot. CDC is advising people who received the vaccine to seek urgent medical care if they experience any of the following symptoms:
- Severe headache
- Severe backache
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Leg swelling
- Severe or persistent abdominal pain
- Severe or persistent headaches or blurred vision
- Easy bruising or tiny blood spots under the skin beyond the site of the injection
If you do experience any of these symptoms, contact your health care provider immediately and make them aware of your recent vaccination history.
Efficacy and Effectiveness
How well does the COVID-19 vaccine protect me?
Based on the current research, the one-dose Janssen vaccine and the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech and the Moderna vaccines are incredibly good at preventing people from getting sick with COVID-19. Janssen has 72% vaccine efficacy (83.5% against severe disease), Pfizer-BioNTech has 95% efficacy and Moderna has 94.1% efficacy.
Which of the three available COVID-19 vaccines is considered the best?
The Janssen, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are all proven to be safe and effective in preventing COVID-19-related hospitalizations and deaths. Getting vaccinated with any of these vaccines will greatly reduce your risk of serious illness due to the virus and it is recommended that you take the first vaccine available to you.
The single-dose Janssen vaccine has been shown to be 85% effective in preventing severe illness from COVID-19 and 100% effective against COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths. The vaccine also lowered the risk of moderate-to-severe COVID-19 illness by 72% among people who were vaccinated compared to people who received the placebo. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine showed efficacy of 95% at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 infection after two doses. And the Moderna vaccine was 94.1% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 infection after the second dose.
How long does it take for the COVID-19 vaccines to provide immunity?
After you are vaccinated, it takes some time for your body to build an immune response to the vaccine. CDC advises that the vaccines offer strong protection starting two weeks after completing the vaccination series (one dose for Janssen, two doses for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines).
Once you get vaccinated, you will have a lower risk of getting sick from COVID-19. However, no vaccine provides 100% immunity and many people around you are likely to be unvaccinated. To protect others, continue wearing a mask when indoors, particularly around unvaccinated individuals at risk of severe disease or death from COVID-19. Fully vaccinated people should also continue to wash their hands and watch their distance until enough people are vaccinated to stop the spread of the virus.
Can I “mix” doses of COVID-19 vaccines?
The COVID-19 vaccines are not interchangeable, and the safety and efficacy of a mixed-product series have not been evaluated. If two doses of different mRNA COVID-19 vaccines are mistakenly administered, no additional doses of either product are recommended at this time.
In rare situations where the first dose of one mRNA vaccine product cannot be determined, or it is no longer available, the other mRNA COVID-19 vaccine may be administered at a minimum interval of 28 days between doses to complete the mRNA COVID-19 vaccination series. Only one dose of Janssen vaccine is recommended at this time.
These recommendations may change as further information becomes available and/or other vaccine types (e.g., viral vector, protein subunit vaccines) are authorized.
How effective is the mRNA vaccine after just one dose?
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine includes two shots, 21 days apart while the Moderna vaccine includes two shots, 28 days apart. Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine efficacy after a single dose was 52.4% in clinical trials, although a recent study by the CDC estimates one-dose efficacy to be around 80%; Moderna’s was 80.2% in clinical trials.
Both doses are recommended to get the maximum protection because clinical trials have not assessed the mRNA vaccines as single-dose regimes.
Until the population is broadly vaccinated, and the outbreak is under control, which will take many months, everyone needs to continue taking precautions to protect themselves and everyone around them. For unvaccinated people, this means continuing to wear masks and practice social distancing indoors and outside.
If I already had COVID, do I still need to get the vaccine?
Yes. CDC recommends that you get vaccinated even if you have already had COVID-19. While you may have some short-term antibody protection after recovering, we don’t know how long this protection will last, and it is possible to catch it more than once.
Vaccination of a person with known current SARS-CoV-2 infection should be deferred until they have recovered from the acute illness (if they had symptoms), and they have met criteria to discontinue isolation. This recommendation applies to people who become infected before receiving any vaccine dose and those who become infected after the first dose of an mRNA vaccine, but before receipt of the second dose.
While there is no recommended minimum interval between infection and vaccination, current evidence suggests that the risk of SARS-CoV-2 reinfection is low in the months after initial infection but may increase with time due to waning immunity. Thus, people with recent documented acute SARS-CoV-2 infection may choose to delay vaccination temporarily, recognizing that the risk of reinfection and subsequent need for vaccination, might increase with time following initial infection.
For the two-dose vaccines, how long do I have to wait between the two doses?
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine includes two shots, 21 days apart while the Moderna vaccine includes two shots, 28 days apart.
You should not be scheduled to receive the second dose earlier than recommended (three weeks for Pfizer-BioNTech and four weeks for Moderna). However, second doses administered within a grace period of four days earlier than the recommended date are still considered valid. Doses that are mistakenly administered earlier than the grace period should not be repeated.
If it is not feasible to adhere to the recommended interval, the second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines may be scheduled for administration up to six weeks (42 days) after the first dose. Currently, there are limited data on the efficacy of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines administered beyond this window. If the second dose is administered beyond these intervals, there is no need to restart the series.
How many people must be vaccinated for us to have “herd immunity"?
Experts do not know exactly what percentage of people would need to get vaccinated to achieve herd immunity to COVID-19. The current estimation is between 70-85%. Herd immunity is a term used to describe when enough people in a community have protection—either from previous infection or vaccination—so it is unlikely a virus or bacteria can spread and cause disease. As a result, everyone within the community is protected, even if some people are not vaccinated. The percentage of people who need to be vaccinated in order to achieve herd immunity varies by disease.
Source: CDC COVID-19 Vaccine FAQ
How did the clinical trials assess efficacy and safety?
Clinical trials are studies to assess the safety and efficacy of vaccines. They are typically conducted in three phases, each with increasingly larger numbers of volunteers.
- Phase 1 clinical trials assess the safety and dosage of a vaccine in a small number of people, typically a dozen to several dozen healthy volunteers.
- Vaccine safety is also assessed in Phase 2 studies, in which adverse events not detected in phase 1 trials may be identified because a larger and more diverse group of people receive the vaccine.
- Only much larger Phase 3 clinical trials can demonstrate whether a vaccine is actually protective against disease. Safety is also more fully assessed. Phase 3 clinical trials often include thousands of volunteers. For the COVID-19 vaccines, phase 3 trials will involve tens of thousands of people.
Is there a place I can track the various kinds of COVID-19 Vaccines?
The New York Times has developed a vaccine tracker with detailed information and visuals on the development process for each of the leading vaccine candidates. The tracker is updated nearly every day as new evidence is collected and progress is made.
What is the difference between "natural immunity" and "vaccinated immunity"?
Natural immunity refers to the process of building an immune response to a disease after being infected by it. After getting COVID-19, most people will build an immune response that will last at least months and help fight the disease if they are exposed to it again, so they do not become sick.
Vaccine-induced immunity refers to a process where weakened or dead parts of an organism are introduced to the body to produce the same type of immune response without the person having to become sick with the disease in order to have immunity. After completing a COVID-19 vaccination, people are expected to build an immune response that will last months and help their immune system fight COVID-19 if they are exposed to it, so they do not become sick.
Experts are still studying how long natural and vaccine-induced immunity will last for COVID-19. There may also be differences in the level of immune response from natural immunity versus vaccine-induced immunity, so scientists are continuing to evaluate this as well.
How worried should I be about the new variants or mutations? Will the COVID-19 vaccine be effective?
Viruses frequently change through mutation, and new variants of a virus are expected to occur over time. Multiple variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 have been documented in the U.S. and globally during this pandemic. This includes the B 1.351, B.1.1.7, P.1, and B.1.617 variants first detected in South Africa, the United Kingdom, Brazil and India, respectively as well as the more recent Lambda variant of interest (C.37) first identified in Peru. Data suggest that these variants spread more easily and quickly than other variants.
Mask-wearing and other preventive measures, such as social distancing and avoiding crowds, are still highly effective protection against all of the COVID-19 variants. Unvaccinated people should continue taking these actions to protect themselves and others from contracting the virus. In light of the Delta variant, vaccinated individuals should also adhere to these measures, particularly in areas of high community transmission.
Studies suggest that currently authorized vaccines are likely to provide effective protection against these variants, particularly in preventing severe disease. Data released from Pfizer suggest that its vaccine is highly effective against the B.1.351 variant. The company conducted a six-month study of 800 participants in South Africa. Nine members of the placebo group tested positive for COVID-19, while none of the vaccinated participants tested positive, suggesting a 100% efficacy. Pfizer is also studying the efficacy of its vaccine against other variants and additional studies are underway to determine the efficacy of other vaccine candidates against the B.1.351 and other variants as well.
Source: CDC and Pfizer
Will I need a regular booster shot to continue to ward off COVID-19?
It is still unclear how long immunity from the COVID-19 vaccines will last. Current evidence from Pfizer shows that their vaccine continues to provide strong immunity for at least six months after vaccination. Studies have shown that the Moderna vaccine also continues to provide immunity six months after the second dose. Research is ongoing to determine the full length of immunity of each of the approved vaccine candidates. Pfizer is studying a third booster shot in some people who received the vaccine more than six months ago.
Some of the COVID-19 variants might reduce the efficacy of current vaccines and require a targeted booster to ensure immunity. Moderna has developed a booster shot against the B.1.351 variant first identified in South Africa, which is now being studied in Phase 1 clinical trials.
Equitable allocation and distribution
How long will it take for the general public in the U.S. to be vaccinated?
All Americans ages 12 and older are now eligible to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Expanded manufacturing capabilities have increased vaccine supply in the U.S., but it is important to continue promoting vaccination across the entire population. Building trust in the COVID-19 vaccines, particularly in communities with a long-standing mistrust of the government, is critical.
How much do the vaccines cost?
There is no cost associated with COVID-19 vaccination. The government is providing vaccines for free, but health care providers are allowed to charge a fee for giving the shots. They can recoup the fee from public and private insurance plans and from a government fund to cover uninsured individuals. There should be zero out-of-pocket costs for individuals being vaccinated.
Source: National Public Radio (NPR)
Where can I get the vaccine?
Initially, states directed supplies to larger distribution centers, such as hospitals, large health systems and long-term care facilities. Now, many states have organized large mass vaccination sites at entertainment venues and stadiums. The major pharmacy chains, such as CVS and Walgreens, are also administering doses as part of CDC’s Federal Retail Pharmacy Program. The federal government recently announced plans to expand vaccination to primary care facilities.
To find vaccination locations near you, check out vaccines.gov or consult your local health department’s website.
Can I choose which vaccine I get?
Three vaccines are available in the U.S. under the Emergency Use Authorization – Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Janssen.
All of these vaccines can dramatically lower your risk of getting sick from COVID-19. You are likely to receive whichever vaccine is supplied to your health care provider/local health department/pharmacy by the federal government. It is important to get vaccinated to make sure you and your community can benefit from all of the tools we have to fight COVID-19.
Source: Johns Hopkins Medicine
What should I know about the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine?
The Janssen COVID-19 vaccine has been shown to prevent severe COVID-19 illness, hospitalization and death. It is easier to administer than the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines because it only requires one dose and can be stored in a regular refrigerator at doctor’s offices, pharmacies and other community settings. It also can be transported to mobile vaccination sites with ease.
Did Black scientists play any role in vaccine development?
Yes, an important one. As Dr Anthony Fauci noted, “The very vaccine that’s one of the two that has absolutely exquisite levels — 95 percent efficacy against clinical disease and almost 100 percent efficacy against serious disease that are shown to be clearly safe — that vaccine was actually developed in the NIH’s vaccine research center by a team of scientists led by Dr. Barney Graham and his close colleague, Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, or Kizzy Corbett.” Corbett, a Black woman, is the lead scientist for the National Institutes of Health’s coronavirus vaccine research and has addressed hesitancy within the Black community in the past. “Trust, especially when it has been stripped from people, has to be rebuilt in a brick-by-brick fashion,” she said. “And so, what I say to people firstly is that I empathize, and then secondly is that I’m going to do my part in laying those bricks. And I think that if everyone on our side, as physicians and scientists, went about it that way, then the trust would start to be rebuilt.”
Does my child have to be vaccinated before returning to school in the fall?
It depends. No state currently mandates students to receive a COVID-19 vaccine before returning to public schools this fall. But this may change, so you should continue to check your state requirements. In addition, perhaps some extracurricular activities, such as youth sports teams (for children 12 years and older), may choose to mandate vaccination for participation.
Private schools and universities make their own decisions on whether or not to require vaccination. Many universities have announced they will mandate vaccination for students who wish to return to campus in the fall. Governor Cuomo of New York announced that all public universities in the state will require proof of vaccination to return to campus. Contact your school to determine their specific requirements.
Do I have to be vaccinated to travel?
The CDC recommends delaying travel until you are fully vaccinated, meaning two weeks after receiving the second dose of a two-dose regimen or two weeks after receiving a single dose of a one-dose regimen. If you are unvaccinated and must travel, CDC recommends getting tested for COVID-19 one to three days before your trip, adhering to public health and social measures, such as mask wearing and social distancing, getting tested upon arrival, and self-quarantining for a full 7 days. Remember that wearing a mask is required while traveling via plane, train, boat and bus and any form of public transportation.
If you are vaccinated, you do not need to get tested for COVID-19 or quarantine upon arrival when traveling domestically, as long as all other protective measures were followed. International travel is still not recommended at this time. However, if you are fully vaccinated and choose to travel abroad, you should follow the CDC guidance below:
- You do NOT need to get tested before leaving the U.S. unless your destination requires it
- You need to show a negative test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 before boarding a flight to the U.S.
- You need to get tested three to five days after international travel
- You do not need to self-quarantine after arriving in the U.S.
There may be different requirements to enter other countries—including proof of vaccination—so check with your destination country before any international travel.
What COVID-19 vaccine resources exist for the Black/African American population?
The Black Coalition Against COVID-19 is a trusted source of COVID-19 vaccine information, which is partnering with the four historically Black medical schools in the U.S. Its resources include: 1) Make it Plain: What Black America Needs to Know about COVID-19 Vaccines, 2) Resources for Enrolling in Vaccine Trials, and 3) Personal Account of a Black Doctor Who Got the Vaccine.
Source: Black Coalition Against Covid-19
Where can I find information in Spanish on vaccines for the Latinx population?
The CDC offers Spanish-language resources to help combat COVID-19 vaccine misinformation and COVID-19 and FAQs.
COVIDguia.org also provides current COVID-19 information in Spanish, compiled by the American Public Health Association and the COVID-19 Latinx Task Force. PAHO provides communications materials in Spanish and Portuguese for its Latin American audience.
In addition, the Department of Health for the Government of Puerto Rico maintains a Spanish-language COVID-19 vaccine website with information about the benefits of the vaccine, fact sheets and nearly 30 FAQs.
Source: The Department of Health for the Government of Puerto Rico
What COVID-19 vaccine resources exist for Tribal, Indigenous and Native populations?
The Indian Health Service (IHS) COVID-19 vaccine website offers resources, including a COVID-19 Pandemic Vaccine plan and FAQs specific to the concerns of the community. You may also wish to consult the IHS List of Provider Resources for Vaccination Clinics.
What COVID-19 vaccine resources exist for the Asian American (AA), Native Hawaiian (NH) and Pacific Islander (PI) communities?
The following sites provide key resources that are updated regularly:
Is there a “one-stop shop” for data and information on COVID-19 disparities, equity and social/racial justice?
The American Public Health Association provides a roundup of webinars, articles, and blogs on COVID-19 and health equity and health justice. This includes CDC data on COVID-19 racial and ethnic disparities, and information on the impact on the unhoused population.
The Atlantic’s COVID Racial Data Tracker is a collaboration between the COVID Tracking Project and the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research. It gathers the most complete and up-to-date race and ethnicity data on COVID-19 in the U.S.
How can we ensure COVID-19 vaccine information is available in as many languages as possible?
Consult the multilingual fact sheets, in over 25 languages, for providers and recipients of the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines. (Additional languages for Janssen fact sheet will be available soon. Currently it is available in English, Burmese, Russian and German.)
How can we promote an “equitable distribution” of the vaccine?
Experts recommend the following five key principles for equitable COVID-19 vaccine distribution:
- Recruit diverse populations to participate in clinical trials for a COVID-19 vaccine to ensure the data reflect the racial, ethnic, age and gender diversity of the U.S.
- Require transparency when it comes to reviewing safety and efficacy data, with approval discussions taking place in the public eye, particularly in the event of an Emergency Use Authorization.
- Ensure access to vaccinations for all individuals, regardless of their ability to pay; remove financial barriers.
- Engage state-level task forces and working groups in discussions about how to distribute vaccines effectively to recommended populations, with a focus on communication strategies and ensuring proper representation of minority voices.
Source: Full recommendation in Health Affairs
Are there recommended resources for advocates who want to monitor the equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines?
NIH commissioned a study for the National Academies of Medicine (NAM) to develop a framework for equitable vaccine distribution. The study looked at risks and proposed that equity be a key focus of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which is advising CDC. You can download a free copy of the report here.
Source: The Chicago Community Trust, NAM
Will the COVID-19 vaccines be available for the undocumented community?
Yes, the COVID-19 vaccines are available for the undocumented community. Health providers should not discriminate against undocumented individuals from getting the COVID-19 vaccines. Some personal information might be requested, and the personal information requested will vary by site. Speak with a trusted source in your community to determine how you can get a COVID-19 vaccine in your area and the personal information that will be needed.
¿Las vacunas estarán disponible para la comunidad indocumentada?
Sí, las vacunas contra el COVID-19 están disponibles para la comunidad indocumentada. Los proveedores de salud no deben discriminar a las personas indocumentadas para que no reciban las vacunas contra el COVID-19. Es posible que se solicite cierta información personal y la información personal solicitada variará según el sitio. Aunque el miedo a dar información personal es una realidad para la comunidad indocumentada, es importante buscar información de los aliados de la comunidad. Hable con una fuente local confiable en su comunidad sobre cómo puede obtener las vacunas contra el COVID-19 en su estado y qué información personal se le pedirá.
How can COVID-19 vaccine distribution and messaging address challenges and concerns of the immigrant community?
Prioritizing reaching immigrants disproportionately at-risk: Some states have indicated prioritizing immigrants as part of vaccination distribution efforts. For example, the state health director in Arizona referred to the undocumented population as a high priority for vaccination, Virginia includes people living in migrant labor camps and New Jersey includes migrant workers as a high-risk population. Oregon indicated plans to develop targeted messaging and outreach to immigrant and refugee communities, including them in planning and advisory work to inform vaccine dissemination.
Data sharing, privacy, and the “public charge rule”: The U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services has clarified that it will not consider testing, treatment, or preventive care, including vaccines, related to COVID-19 as part of a public charge inadmissibility determination. Despite these limits on how the data may be used, the collection of personal data and sharing of it with the federal government will likely make some immigrant families more reluctant to access the vaccine. The January 2021 White House National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response states the federal government “will safeguard privacy, and ensure these data will be used exclusively for public health services…and will not be shared or used by any federal or law enforcement agencies, including actions by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Combating misinformation (the Infodemic)
How can I combat misinformation and rumors about the vaccine?
Now that there are FDA-authorized and CDC-recommended COVID-19 vaccines available in the U.S., accurate vaccine information is critical. It is important not to repeat any rumor itself, verbatim, as this may reinforce the rumor or be shared out of context, leading to further misinformation.
Here are CDC’s key facts about the COVID-19 Vaccines (available in Spanish here):
- FACT: COVID-19 vaccines will not give you COVID-19
- FACT: COVID-19 vaccines will not cause you to test positive on COVID-19 viral tests
- FACT: People who have gotten sick with COVID-19 may still benefit from getting vaccinated
- FACT: Getting vaccinated can help prevent getting sick with COVID-19
- FACT: Receiving an mRNA vaccine will not alter your DNA
How was the COVID-19 vaccine developed so quickly?
Although COVID-19 vaccines have been developed quickly, all steps were taken to ensure safety and efficacy.
The virus that causes COVID-19 is related to other coronaviruses that cause diseases, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). Scientists have been studying these other coronaviruses for many years to develop vaccines against them. They were able to use this knowledge to produce several COVID-19 vaccines. Similarly, vaccine platforms, including mRNA, have been studied for years to develop vaccines against Zika and other viruses. The scientific body of evidence from that research was applied to the COVID-19 vaccine development process.
After initial development, vaccines go through three phases of clinical trials to assess safety and efficacy. Usually, these are done one at a time, but because of increased urgency due to the pandemic, the phases overlapped during the testing of the COVID-19 vaccines. No trial phases were skipped.
Additionally, the U.S. government pre-purchased vaccine supply from the companies developing COVID-19 vaccines. This means that while the vaccines were undergoing clinical trials, they were also being mass-produced for distribution if they proved to be safe and efficacious. This is why so many doses of vaccine were ready for distribution immediately after the FDA issued emergency use authorizations.
Although the process of developing the COVID-19 vaccines was accelerated, all of the steps to assess safety and efficacy were completed.
Are there microchips or “tracking devices” in the vaccine?
According to Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, lead scientist for the National Institutes of Health’s coronavirus vaccine research: “There are no tracking devices whatsoever in the vaccine. I was the scientific lead in NIH for Dr. Fauci’s lab, and in the last six years we gathered fundamental understanding of how to make vaccines for coronaviruses. They caused MERS in 2014, and SARS before that. We have fundamental knowledge around coronaviruses. We have looked at the protein at atomic detail, we understand every nook and cranny and antibody response. What you see in front of you appears like 10-11 months of vaccine development, but the preclinical science extends beyond my tenure at NIH, 10-15 years starting with SARS, so there’s a large amount of research backing it.”
Will COVID-19 mRNA vaccines change my DNA or genetic makeup?
No. The mRNA from COVID-19 vaccines can most easily be described as a set of instructions for your body on how to make a harmless piece of “spike protein” to allow our immune systems to recognize that this protein doesn’t belong there and begin building an immune response and making antibodies. Essentially, COVID-19 vaccines that use mRNA work with the body’s natural defenses to safely develop immunity to the virus, giving your cells a blueprint of how to make antibodies.
Learn more about how COVID-19 mRNA vaccines work here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/different-vaccines/mrna.html
Do COVID-19 vaccines cause autism?
No. Time after time, studies conducted across the globe continue to show that there is no connection between autism and vaccines.
Source: CDC: Autism and Vaccines
Are there resources to help me talk to family and friends who may be hesitant about getting vaccinated?
Yes, there are many good resources to help guide your conversations. The key is to try to understand where each individual is coming from and to ask open-ended questions that can uncover their specific concerns. Providing information and details about your personal experience can help them. Consider referencing the following resources: 1) How to talk about COVID-19 vaccines with friends and family (CDC); 2) User’s guide to speaking with those who are hesitant (Stat); 3) Confronting misinformation (We Can Do This Campaign).
Do all of the COVID-19 vaccines cause blood clots?
No. To date, there have only been 28 reported cases of blood clotting in the brain, abdomen or legs and low platelets among the nearly nine million recipients who received Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine at that time. There have been no reported cases of this condition among recipients of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
How should I talk to people who have concerns about the Janssen or other vaccines after the pause?
- Respond with empathy and acknowledge their concern.
- Explain how the pause enabled scientists and doctors to learn more about a very rare, yet severe, blood-clotting disorder that initially was reported in six people; and to make sure health care providers know how to identify and treat this condition if other cases arise.
- Reinforce how the experts determined that the risk of having blood clots after getting the Janssen vaccine is extremely low. There is less than a two-in-a-million chance.
- Reassure them that all three available COVID-19 vaccines have undergone and will continue to undergo the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history. Even when the occurrence of severe adverse events is extremely rare, like it is in this case, the CDC and FDA will take every step needed to keep the public informed.
- If they are not comfortable getting the Janssen vaccine, let them know they have other COVID-19 vaccine options. No reports of blood clots have been made by the more than 100 million people who received the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines over the past several months.
- Remind them that getting a COVID-19 vaccine is the best way to curb the spread of COVID-19 and help us get back to doing our favorite things.
- Explain how the benefits of receiving the Janssen vaccine far outweigh the risks, with the following points:
- The Janssen vaccine has been shown to prevent severe COVID-19 illness, hospitalization and death.
- Because it only requires one dose and can be stored in a regular refrigerator at doctor’s offices, pharmacies and other community settings, the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine may offer great convenience for many Americans.
- To date, more than 568,000 Americans have died from COVID-19.
- If you get sick, you could spread the disease to friends, family and others around you.
- There is no way to know how COVID-19 will affect you.
- Many people who have had COVID-19 are suffering from persistent health problems, including:
- Depression and anxiety
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Trouble sleeping
- “Brain fog”
- Numbness and tingling in the hands and feet
- Loss of taste
- Loss of smell
- Muscle pain
- Blurred vision
- Ringing in the ears
- This has affected people of all ages, races and ethnicities across the U.S. Because COVID-19 is a new disease, little is understood about its long-term effects and the best ways to treat these debilitating conditions.
Pregnancy and Lactation
Have COVID-19 vaccines been studied in people who are pregnant or lactating?
As of February 27, 2021, three COVID-19 vaccines are authorized for use in the U.S. None of these vaccines were initially studied specifically in people who are pregnant or lactating. However, a recent study was conducted involving 84 pregnant women, 31 lactating women, and 16 non-pregnant women to determine the efficacy of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna mRNA vaccines among pregnant and lactating women. The study found that the vaccines produced a similar immune response in pregnant and lactating women compared to non-pregnant women, and that immunity passed to newborns through placenta and breastmilk. Animal studies of the COVID-19 vaccines before and during pregnancy have also been done and are ongoing; no evidence of harm has been shown. Despite increased regulatory issues around special populations, including people who are pregnant or lactating in clinical trials, additional studies in pregnant populations are planned.
None of these vaccines contain any live virus. This means they cannot replicate and cause COVID-19.
Are COVID-19 vaccines safe for women who are pregnant or lactating?
Since the initial authorization, new data on the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines has emerged, providing additional evidence that COVID-19 vaccinations in pregnancy are likely safe and effective. CDC has been monitoring vaccine safety in pregnant women since December. As of mid-February, more than 30,000 pregnant people registered their vaccination with CDC. Within this group, 1,815 were enrolled in the v-safe pregnancy registry and 232 have had a live birth. So far, CDC has found that:
- There is no difference in side effects between pregnant and non-pregnant women vaccinated.
- Vaccinated pregnant women do not appear to have elevated rates of pregnancy outcomes, such as miscarriage and stillbirth; complications, such as gestational diabetes or intrauterine growth restriction; or neonatal issues, such as preterm birth or congenital abnormalities.
- While miscarriage was the most frequently reported adverse event among pregnant vaccinated women, it happened less often than in the general population of women.
This safety data was strengthened by a recent study published by Gray et al. in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, which enrolled 84 pregnant, 34 lactating and 16 non-pregnant women at the time of vaccination. The study found that the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna mRNA vaccines work well in pregnant women, creating antibody responses similar to those of non-pregnant and lactating women and a higher response to COVID-19 infection than what they had previously discovered.
What is the current recommendation for COVID-19 vaccines in people who are pregnant?
Currently, there is no recommendation for or against COVID-19 vaccination in people who are pregnant in the U.S. This does not mean that the vaccines are harmful for pregnant people. However, safety is not guaranteed. Until information becomes available, agencies such as CDC and the World Health Organization cannot make an official recommendation to use the vaccine in pregnant people. FDA’s emergency use authorization allows for pregnant people to receive the approved vaccines if they so choose, in accordance with guidance from American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists.
The CDC encourages people who are pregnant to consult with a health care provider to assess the risks and benefits of getting a vaccine while considering their risk of getting and becoming severely ill from COVID-19, with respect to potential exposure and underlying health conditions.
Which people who are pregnant or lactating are eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine?
Eligibility for COVID-19 vaccination varies by state. Check with your local or state health department for more information. CDC says that while there is no official recommendation, people who are pregnant or lactating and are part of an eligible prioritized group for vaccination (e.g., health care personnel, long-term care facility staff, school staff) may choose to get vaccinated when their group is eligible.
Does immunity from the COVID-19 vaccine pass from mother to baby in utero?
According to a recent study of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, pregnant and lactating women who receive one of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines can transfer immunity to their unborn baby through placenta and breastmilk.
Additional studies on the immune response generated by the COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant and lactating women are planned.
What do we know about COVID-19 in people who are pregnant and lactating?
If people who are pregnant get COVID-19, they are at higher risk of having severe disease compared to people who are not pregnant. There is also an increased chance that they may have pre-term labor, which could affect the health of their baby.
Currently, the best science suggests that breastmilk is not likely to transmit SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. People may choose to continue to breastfeed with precautions (wearing a mask, washing hands) or to express breastmilk safely to use to feed their baby. Talk with your medical provider about what may be best for your health and the health of your baby if you are lactating and are diagnosed with COVID-19.
Do I need a pregnancy test before I get the COVID-19 vaccine?
You do not need to take a pregnancy test before getting the COVID-19 vaccine. In addition, if you were recently vaccinated and are considering becoming pregnant, there is no recommendation to wait for any period of time after your vaccination to become pregnant.
What are the side effects after I get the COVID-19 vaccine? Will I have symptoms?
COVID-19 vaccination will help protect you from getting COVID-19 by stimulating your immune system so your body is ready to respond if you come in contact with the virus. You may expect to have some side effects, which are normal signs that your body is building protection. These side effects may affect your daily life, but they should go away in a few days. Common side effects are pain and swelling on the arm where you received the shot, fever, chills, tiredness and headache. Some of these may be more pronounced if you have been previously infected with COVID-19 and, in the case of mRNA vaccines, after the second dose. Note that not everyone who gets a COVID-19 vaccine experiences side effects. The vaccine is still working, even if you do not have any of the side effects.
There is also a very rare adverse event associated with the Janssen vaccine, called thrombosis-thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS), which is a combination of blood clotting in the brain, abdomen or legs along with low platelet levels. This side effect has occurred in about three in one million recipients of the vaccine, although the risk is higher for women ages 18-49. You should seek medical attention right away if you have any of the following symptoms after receiving the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine:
- Severe headache
- Severe backache
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Leg swelling
- Severe or persistent abdominal pain
- Severe or persistent headaches or blurred vision
- Easy bruising or tiny blood spots under the skin beyond the site of the injection
There is another very rare adverse event associated with the Janssen vaccine, called Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS). This is a neurological disorder that can damage nerve cells and cause muscle weakness. Fewer than 1 in 100,000 recipients of the Janssen vaccine have reported developing GBS after vaccination, and the majority of those who did, fully recovered. Seek medical attention right away if you experience any of the following symptoms after receiving the Janssen vaccine:
- Weakness or tingling sensations, especially in the arms or legs, that is worsening and spreading to other parts of the body
- Difficulty walking
- Difficulty with facial movements, including speaking, chewing or swallowing
- Double vision or inability to move your eyes
- Difficulty with bladder control or bowel function
For tips on what to expect after getting a COVID-19, visit CDC.
How safe am I after I get the vaccine?
The three currently available vaccines make people safe from getting sick from COVID-19. Vaccine effectiveness studies have shown that the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are 90% effective after two doses once you are fully vaccinated. Real-world effectiveness studies have not yet been completed for the Janssen vaccine. However, the clinical trial data showed strong results, with 85% vaccine efficacy in preventing people from getting serious COVID-19, and even stronger results against COVID-19 hospitalizations and death.
In areas with high circulation of the Delta COVID-19 variant, limited data show a slight decrease in vaccine effectiveness. Two doses of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines have been shown to be 83-87% protective against symptomatic illness from the Delta variant, compared to 94-95% effectiveness against the original variant. It is very important to get both doses. After just one dose, the mRNA vaccines are only 33-56% effective against symptomatic illness caused by the Delta variant.
Although you will have a lower risk of getting sick from COVID-19 after vaccination, many people around you will still be unvaccinated. If you are unvaccinated, it is crucial to continue practicing the 3 W’s: Wear a mask, Wash your hands and Watch your distance.
I didn’t get any side effects after receiving the vaccine—does that mean it didn’t work?
No. While side effects from the vaccine, like fatigue or headache are common, everyone’s immune system is different and you may not experience any side effects after receiving the vaccine. This is not a sign that the vaccine is not working. In clinical trials, about 25% of Pfizer-BioNTech participants and 20% of Moderna participants did not experience any side effects. For Janssen, about 55% of participants ages 60 and older and 40% of those ages 18-59 did not experience side effects.
Can I resume life as normal after I get my vaccine?
CDC states that people who have been fully vaccinated (defined as those who have received the second dose of a two-dose regimen or one single-dose vaccine no less than two weeks ago) can resume all activities both indoors and outdoors with large and small crowds without masking or social distancing. However, fully vaccinated people should continue to wear masks when required by state or federal laws, per local business or workplace guidance, and when on public transportation or in vulnerable congregate settings, such as hospitals, homeless shelters and prisons. CDC also recommends that fully vaccinated people wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas with substantial or high levels of transmission.
Fully vaccinated individuals are not required to quarantine after a known exposure to COVID-19, as long as they do not experience symptoms; however, they should receive a COVID-19 test 3-5 days after coming into close contact with someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 and should wear a mask in public indoor settings for 14 days afterwards, or until they receive a negative test result. Fully vaccinated individuals can travel domestically in the U.S., as long as other protective measures are taken, including mask wearing and social distancing. It is still not recommended for fully vaccinated people to travel internationally. If they choose to do so, they are required to get tested before re-entering the U.S.
Evidence from a recent CDC study shows that vaccinated people are unlikely to carry or transmit the virus that causes COVID-19 to others. However, studies of the new Delta variant show that vaccinated people are able to carry similar viral loads if they become infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 and may therefore still be able to transmit the disease. Until more people are vaccinated, it is important for unvaccinated people to continue using all the tools available to help end the pandemic.
To protect yourself and others, make sure you get fully vaccinated. Until then, follow these recommendations in public spaces:
- Wear a mask over your nose and mouth
- Stay at least 6 feet away from others
- Avoid crowds
- Avoid poorly ventilated spaces
- Wash your hands often
Together, COVID-19 vaccination and CDC’s recommendations are the best ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We will continue to update this page as we learn more.
If I’ve been vaccinated, do I still need to practice the 3W’s (Wear a mask, Watch my distance and Wash my hands)?
Fully vaccinated individuals are allowed to participate in regular activities, both indoors and outdoors with small or large crowds, without wearing masks or socially distancing; however, in areas of substantial or high transmission, both unvaccinated and fully vaccinated people should wear masks in public indoor settings. Fully vaccinated people should continue to practice the 3 W’s in congregate settings, such as hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters, and on public transportation. Fully vaccinated people should continue to practice the 3W’s when businesses or state/federal law require it.
What should I do if I am exposed to COVID-19 after being vaccinated?
Fully vaccinated people should take a COVID-19 test three to five days after having close contact with someone who has a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 and should wear a mask in indoor public settings for 14 days afterwards or until they receive a negative test result.
Vaccinated individuals with a COVID-19 exposure are not required to quarantine if they meet all three of the following criteria:
- Are fully vaccinated, meaning it has been at least two weeks since they have received both doses of a two-dose vaccine or one dose of a single-dose vaccine
- Have been fully vaccinated for less than three months
- Have not experienced any COVID-19 symptoms since exposure
If you do not meet all of these criteria, then you should follow regular quarantine protocol after being exposed to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19. Source: CDC Interim Clinical Considerations
Am I protected from variants after vaccination?
Yes. All of the vaccines available in the U.S. have demonstrated a high level of protection against the variants of concern, including the Alpha variant (B.117) first identified in the UK and the Beta variant (B.1.351) first identified in South Africa.
Early studies suggest that vaccine effectiveness is slightly reduced against the Delta variant. The two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have been shown to be 83-87% protective against symptomatic illness from the Delta variant, compared to the 94-95% effectiveness against the original variant. It is very important to get both vaccine doses. After just one dose, the mRNA vaccines are only 33-56% effective against symptomatic illness caused by the Delta variant.
There is not enough evidence yet to determine how long immunity will last after vaccination. Data from clinical trials of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines show lasting protection for at least six months post-vaccination, both against mild and severe COVID-19. Research is underway to determine how long protection from the vaccine will last.
Should I postpone my routine mammogram until after I get vaccinated?
Like other vaccines, COVID-19 vaccines can cause swollen lymph nodes in the armpit area where the shot was administered. This is a normal side effect of the vaccine and is evidence that your immune system is building protection against COVID-19.
However, swollen lymph nodes under the arm are routinely screened for during mammograms as a potential sign of breast cancer. If you have recently been vaccinated and develop swollen lymph nodes, it could be mistaken for breast cancer during your mammogram. Therefore, as long as it does not delay essential medical care, you should consider scheduling your mammogram for either before you receive the vaccine, or four to six weeks following vaccination.
If swelling under the arm persists for more than four to six weeks after vaccination, consult with your physician.
Source: Society of Breast Imaging