Jan 11, 2021, 4:42:33 PM CST Jun 28, 2021, 9:56:16 AM CDT

COVID-19 vaccine FAQs

Learn the facts about COVID-19 vaccines and what they mean for the health of your family


As COVID-19 vaccines become available, many people are hopeful that we're one step closer to ending the pandemic. But there are also many questions about the vaccines, such as how do they work, are they safe and when will they be available for everyone?

While the details surrounding COVID-19 vaccines are rapidly changing, we've addressed some common questions and myths to help you and your family prepare. For the most up-to-date information about the COVID-19 vaccines, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.

When will the COVID-19 vaccine be ready?

In December 2020, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted emergency use authorization to two COVID-19 vaccines, one developed by Pfizer and BioNTech and another developed by Moderna. A third COVID-19 vaccine, developed by Johnson & Johnson/Janssen, was granted emergency use authorization on February 27, 2021.

Several other companies are in large-scale clinical trials for additional COVID-19 vaccines, and it's possible others will be approved in the future.

When will my family be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Adult getting vaccineCOVID-19 vaccines were first given to specific groups of people at increased risk, such as health care workers, residents of long-term care facilities, people over a certain age and people with certain medical conditions. Now, anyone 12 years and older is eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

The COVID-19 vaccines are not yet approved for younger children. Currently, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is authorized for use in people 12 years and older, and the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines are approved for use in people 18 years and older. This is because initial clinical trials did not include children. New clinical trials are looking at the effects of the vaccine in children as young as 6 months old, but it is not yet known when younger children will be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

How does the COVID-19 vaccine work?

Vaccines work by helping our bodies develop immunity to a virus. Many vaccines, such as the flu vaccine, do this by putting weakened or inactivated virus particles into the body to trigger an immune response. The COVID-19 vaccines work differently.

Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines. This is a new type of vaccine that uses mRNA to teach our cells how to make a protein (called a spike protein) that is found on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19. This protein triggers an immune response which produces antibodies. These antibodies protect us if we are exposed to the actual virus. While the COVID-19 vaccines are the first approved vaccines to use mRNA technology, mRNA vaccines have been researched for decades. They have also been tested to ensure safety. Learn more about how mRNA vaccines work.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a viral vector vaccine. This type of vaccine uses a “vector,” or a modified, harmless version of a different virus, to teach our bodies how to protect us from the virus that causes COVID-19. Learn more about viral vector vaccines.

COVID-19 Vaccine Myths & Facts
Myth: The COVID‑19 vaccine can alter my DNA.
Fact: mRNA does not affect or change a person's DNA or genetic makeup in any way. The mRNA from the COVID‑19 vaccine does not enter the nucleus of the cell, which means it cannot interact with DNA.

How many doses of the COVID-19 vaccine do you need?

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine require two doses to be effective. The Pfizer vaccine requires a second shot 21 days after the first. The Moderna vaccine requires a second shot 28 days later. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine only requires one dose.

It's important to know that it takes time for the body to develop immunity after getting the COVID-19 vaccine. It may take a week or two after your final dose of the vaccine to become protected.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?

Safety is a top priority for the COVID-19 vaccines. The COVID-19 vaccines have gone through rigorous clinical trials and approvals to determine that they are safe and effective. In addition, it's been shown that the benefits of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine far outweigh any potential risk. The COVID-19 vaccines protect you and others from the potential dangers of COVID-19 infection.

Experts are closely monitoring the safety of the vaccines as they are distributed. There have been some reports of immediate allergic reaction to the vaccine, but these reactions are quite rare (~11 allergic reactions per 1 million doses).

The CDC and FDA also recently reviewed six cases of blood clots that developed in individuals after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. These adverse events appear to be extremely rare, and the vaccine was approved as safe for continued use. See more details from the CDC.

If any other unanticipated side effects are detected, there will be updates to vaccine recommendations to continue to ensure your safety.

COVID-19 Vaccine Myths & Facts
Myth: The COVID‑19 vaccine can’t be safe because it was developed so quickly.
Fact: Before receiving approval for use, manufacturers had to show data from large clinical trials to ensure that the vaccines were safe and effective. The emergency nature of the pandemic required a quick response, but thorough safety standards were still required and met.

Is there anyone who should not receive the COVID-19 vaccine?

Anyone with a severe allergy to any of the ingredients in the COVID-19 vaccines should not receive the vaccine. In addition, anyone with an allergy to polyethylene glycol (PEG) or polysorbate should not receive the vaccine. If you've had an allergic reaction to another vaccine, check with your health care provider before receiving the vaccination.

People with other allergies, including food allergies, can receive the COVID-19 vaccine. If you are immunocompromised, pregnant or breastfeeding, you can also still receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Talk with your health care provider if you have specific questions about if it is safe for you to get vaccinated.

COVID-19 Vaccine Myths & Facts
Myth: I can't get the COVID‑19 vaccine if I have a food allergy or am immunocompromised, pregnant or breastfeeding.
Fact: You can still get vaccinated if you have food allergies, existing health conditions, or are pregnant or breastfeeding. The vaccine can help protect you from the dangers of COVID‑19 infection.

What are the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine?

You may experience some side effects after receiving the COVID-19 vaccination. These side effects are normal signs that your body is building protection or immunity against the virus. Common side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine can include:

  • Pain, redness or swelling at the injection site
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Tiredness
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Nausea

For vaccines requiring a second dose, side effects may be more common after the second dose than the first dose. These side effects should go away within a few days after immunization. You can also ask your doctor about taking ibuprofen and acetaminophen after vaccination to help relieve pain or discomfort.

Can I get COVID-19 from the vaccine?

You cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccine. It can take a few weeks to build immunity after you get the vaccine, so it is possible to become infected with COVID-19 just before or after you get your shot.

COVID-19 vaccines will not cause you to test positive on a COVID-19 viral test, which is used to check for a current infection. As your body develops an immune response, there is a possibility you may test positive on some antibody tests. Antibody tests are designed to tell if you had a previous infection because they indicate some level of protection against the virus. Experts are learning more about how the COVID-19 vaccine may affect antibody testing.

COVID-19 Vaccine Myths & Facts
Myth: The COVID‑19 vaccine can give me COVID‑19.
Fact: It is not possible for the COVID‑19 vaccine to give you COVID‑19. You may experience some side effects after the vaccine. These are a normal sign your body is developing protection against the virus. It takes a few weeks for your body to build immunity after vaccination, which means it is possible for you to get COVID‑19 just before or after you get a COVID‑19 vaccine.

If I've had COVID-19, should I get the vaccine?

Even if you've had COVID-19, there are still benefits to getting the vaccine. We do not yet know how long someone is protected against COVID-19 after infection (called natural immunity). Because reinfection with COVID-19 is possible, it is still recommended that you receive a vaccine.

If you are currently infected with COVID-19, you should wait until symptoms resolve and you are done quarantining to receive the vaccination. Experts are still learning more about natural immunity, as well as how long the vaccine will provide immunity. Recommendations will be updated as they learn more.

COVID-19 Vaccine Myths & Facts
Myth: If I’ve had COVID‑19, I don't need to get the COVID‑19 vaccine.
Fact: If you've already had COVID‑19, there are still benefits to receiving the COVID‑19 vaccine. It is not known how long natural immunity lasts, and the vaccine can protect you from reinfection.

Will we still have to wear face masks after getting vaccinated?

Yes. As experts continue to learn more about COVID-19 and the vaccines, we should take every step we can to stop the pandemic. Continue to wear a face mask when in public, practice proper hand hygiene and take other steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The COVID-19 vaccines were highly effective in clinical trials. However, people who get the vaccine may still be at low risk to get COVID-19. Further, it's unknown if people who get the vaccine could have asymptomatic infection (infection with no symptoms) and shed the virus, potentially putting others at risk of COVID-19 infection. For these reasons, it's important to continue safety behaviors. Getting a COVID-19 vaccine, combined with safety precautions, will offer you the best protection against COVID-19.

Once you're fully vaccinated, there are some activities you can start to do safely. Learn more about recommendations for life after vaccination. Experts will continue to monitor the spread of COVID-19 and how many people get vaccinated. They will adjust any recommendations when it is safe to do so.

COVID-19 Vaccine Myths & Facts
Myth: I can stop wearing my mask and social distancing once I’ve received my COVID‑19 vaccine.
Fact: To stop the pandemic, it's important for everyone to take every step they can to prevent the spread of COVID‑19. Even if you receive your COVID‑19 vaccine, it's important you still take other precautions to prevent the spread of COVID‑19. Experts are still learning more about how the vaccines work in real‑life conditions and may update recommendations when it is safe to do so.

The COVID-19 vaccines are an important and exciting step in ending the coronavirus pandemic. The vaccines can help prevent illness and may also protect others around you. To learn more about the COVID-19 vaccines, visit the CDC website.

For more information about the COVID-19 vaccine, watch a video of our virtual town hall.

MYTH: #COVID19 vaccines mean we can stop wearing #masks. FACT: To end the pandemic, we have to take every step we can. @Childrens shares the facts about vaccines here.

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Children's Health℠ is committed to remaining a trusted source of health information and care for you and your family during this time. See more resources to keep your family healthy at the Children's Health COVID-19 hub.

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