Frequently asked Questions

Learn more about the COVID-19 vaccines

The COVID-19 vaccines are made to save lives, and the moments we miss most—hugs, afternoons with friends, time with family, and so much more. The COVID-19 vaccines are extremely effective in preventing death, serious illness, and hospitalization from COVID-19, which has disproportionately impacted communities of color

Frequently asked questions about each vaccine. Click on the link below.

Omicron Variant

Omicron is a new variant of COVID-19 first detected by South Africa’s leading researchers, though the origins are unknown. Many variants of the virus have been detected so far, but only Delta has been listed as a “variant of concern” by the CDC in the United States.

Should I be worried about Omicron?

Scientists abroad are working to swiftly answer questions related to whether Omicron makes people sicker or is transmitted more quickly, but the best way to combat the pandemic remains widespread use of the safety measures we know to be effective: masking, avoiding large crowds, vaccination and booster shots for all who are eligible.

What is a “variant” of COVID-19?

As Johns Hopkins University notes, ​variants of viruses occur when there is a change or mutation to the virus’s genes. Mutations in viruses, including the coronavirus causing the COVID-19 pandemic, are neither new nor unexpected. For example, because flu viruses change frequently, doctors recommend getting a new flu vaccine every year.

Children and the vaccines

The vaccine for children ages 5-11 is one third of the dose given to teenagers and adults.  The dose was chosen to balance safety and effectiveness for the immune system of a child ages 5 to 11.  Of note, the vaccine is not dosed by weight, but by the age of the immune system. Source: CDC

Yes. The American Association of Pediatrics recommends the COVID-19 vaccine for all children five and up who don’t have severe allergic reactions to vaccines. Over 4 million kids have been vaccinated so far. In the case of heart problems such as myocarditis, an independent panel of doctors and scientists agreed that the risks of heart problems are far lower than the risks posed by contracting COVID-19 in children. They similarly agreed that the overall risk of contracting COVID-19 is bigger than any potential side-effect from the vaccine. Source

According to the CDC COVID Data Tracker (as of Oct. 7), children ages 5-11 account for over a million cases (5% of all COVID-19 cases) and 136 deaths. Since the pandemic began, children represented 16% of total cases.  That percentage is increasing as more adults get vaccinated. For the week ending September 30, children were 27% of reported weekly COVID-19 cases (children, under age 18, make up 22% of the US population). Source

Just as with other vaccines, this vaccine is expected to have short-term side effects like a sore arm and fever. The vaccine is gone from your system within days. In the history of vaccines, reactions typically show up within a few weeks after the shot. We have not seen long-term side effects after nearly a year of giving the vaccine to hundreds of millions of adults, and we do not expect to see long-term effects in kids besides being protected against COVID-19.  Additionally, medical researchers are constantly monitoring to make sure they catch and can tell the public about even very rare side effects.  Source

No. There is no evidence that fertility problems are a side effect of any vaccine, including COVID-19 vaccines.  The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (fertility specialists) both strongly recommend that people get the COVID-19 vaccine. Source

It depends. States differ in their consent requirements for minors. Many require parental consent, with some additionally requiring a parent or adult to be present. A database of state parental consent laws has been compiled by Kaiser Family Foundation. 

Yes! According to the CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics, routine childhood immunizations and flu shots can be safely given at the same time.  Source: CDC

Booster Shots

The vaccines are continuing to work very well to reduce risk of infection, spreading infection, severe disease, hospitalization, and death – including against the delta variant.  As is common with other vaccines, booster doses are now recommended for everyone 16 years or older.

If you received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, then, you should get a booster dose at least 6 months after your second dose if you are:

If you received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, then you should get another dose as a booster at least 2 months after your single dose.

Learn more here.

The CDC recommends that you get the same vaccine that you got originally, or you can get any of the three available vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson). Any of the vaccines will significantly boost your immune system’s response to COVID-19. Researchers are continuing to collect data comparing different combinations to see what’s best for each particular person.  The data so far suggests that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines provide more of a boost than the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, so you can consider choosing either Pfizer or Moderna for the booster.

There’s understandable confusion about whether a booster shot of COVID-19 vaccine OR an additional (third) dose of COVID-19 vaccine is needed. A third dose of both Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines is needed in people who are moderately or severely immunocompromised. It is called a third dose, not a booster, because people who are immunocompromised need an additional dose to develop the same amount of protection against COVID-19 as those who are not immunocompromised develop after two doses. Individuals who need a third dose are those who:

  • Have been receiving active cancer treatment for tumors or blood cancers
  • Received an organ transplant and are taking medicine to stop their bodies from rejecting the organ
  • Received a stem cell transplant within the last two years
  • Have moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency
  • Are taking high-dose corticosteroids or other drugs that may suppress your immune response
  • Have advanced or untreated HIV infection

Credit: Vaccinate your family

Making the Vaccine

All of the COVID-19 vaccines that have been authorized for use in the U.S. were studied in diverse volunteers who were Black, Latino, Asian, Native American, white, young, old, healthy, not healthy, rural, and urban. Multiple groups are monitoring safety in the millions of people who have gotten them too. Learn more here.

All authorized vaccines followed every step required by the FDA. Governments and companies around the world invested more money in the COVID-19 vaccines than any other vaccine, and medical researchers have been working on these vaccine technologies for decades. Bureaucratic hurdles were lifted and research was shared at a scale never seen before to enable fast vaccine development. Learn more here.

The Vaccines and Side Effects

No. None of the authorized or in development vaccines contain the virus at all – just bits of mRNA, DNA, or protein. It takes way too long to grow and inactivate viruses, plus it’s trickier to ensure safety, so nobody is even trying. Learn more here.

No. COVID-19 vaccines do not change or interact with your DNA in any way. Learn more here.

Some people have no side effects. Others have pain or swelling on the arm where they were given their shot; tiredness, headache, chills, or fever. These symptoms are normal and should go away after a few hours or 2-3 days. Learn more here.

No. The COVID-19 vaccines are strongly recommended for everyone who wants to be pregnant in the future (Source: CDC). There are many untrue rumors being spread that the vaccines make people infertile. There is no evidence that any vaccine causes infertility, including the COVID-19 vaccines (ASRM). Evidence so far shows that the vaccines are safe and effective for pregnant people and those who are trying to get pregnant. In fact, in just the first two months after the vaccines were first given in the US, nearly 5000 vaccinated women reported that they got pregnant. On the other hand, getting infected with COVID-19 can make young healthy people very sick or give them long-term health problems.

Yes. Pregnant people who get infected with COVID-19 are at increased risk of COVID-19 complications compared to non-pregnant patients (CDC).  The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that all pregnant individuals be vaccinated against COVID-19. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you should receive a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as you can; it is not required to talk to your doctor first. People who have recently delivered and were not vaccinated during pregnancy are also strongly encouraged to get vaccinated as soon as possible.  Evidence so far shows that the vaccine works well and is safe for people who are pregnant.  Learn more about pregnancy, breastfeeding, and the COVID-19 vaccine from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Yes. The COVID-19 vaccine is strongly recommended for people with medical conditions.  That includes people who have weakened immune systems (immunocompromised), diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney disease, or cancer.  It also includes people who have even severe allergies to food or other medications.  And it includes people who are pregnant or want to become pregnant.  Many of these conditions put people at higher risk for COVID-19 complications.  The only exception is that people who have a severe allergic reaction to one COVID-19 vaccine or a component of it or have had an immediate allergic reaction to another vaccine should talk to their doctor.

Yes. If you’ve had COVID-19, you should still get vaccinated. That’s because experts do not yet know how long you are protected from getting sick again after recovering from the virus. You can get vaccinated once you have no symptoms and are no longer required to isolate. Learn more here.

COVID-19 vaccines may be administered to most people with underlying medical conditions once a vaccine is available to them. If you want to know more about your specific health condition, ask your doctor. You can also look at the CDC page on Vaccine Considerations for People with Underlying Medical Conditions. Learn more here.

Getting Vaccinated and Other Frequently Asked Questions

The vaccines have been proven to be safe, and highly effective at protecting you from COVID-19. The Delta variant is causing case rates to go up all over the country, and more than one thousand people are still dying every day. But nearly all of those being hospitalized and dying are unvaccinated. Recent evidence suggests that vaccines have sustained effectiveness against hospitalization for COVID-19.

Yes. For decades, vaccines have been an important tool for preventing serious, life-threatening diseases, from the flu to polio to the measles, and now COVID-19. All the available data show the vaccines are safe. The FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccines give us the chance to play our part in protecting our loved ones from a pandemic that has resulted in unprecedented loss and devastation. Health experts recommend that you get vaccinated as soon as you have the chance. Learn more here.

Very robust monitoring systems are working to detect even very very rare potential complications and alert medical researchers to investigate. All data is publicly shared.

As of April 23, the CDC and FDA officially recommended resuming the administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, with a note of the extremely rare risk of blood clots combined with low platelets. 

All the authorized vaccines are made to save lives. They are effective in preventing death, serious illness, and hospitalization from COVID-19. The CDC recommends you get vaccinated with the first vaccine available to you to protect yourself, your family, and your friends. Learn more here.

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