COVID-19 Vaccine FAQs
Frequently Asked Questions and Answers About the COVID-19 Vaccine
Although distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine has started, there is still much to know about when it will be widely available and how to get the vaccine. Hopefully, the questions and answers below will help you make an informed decision for you and your family.
Are the vaccines safe?
Yes. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has given its full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for everyone over the age of 16, citing the most evidence it had ever received to determine the safety of a drug. The FDA states that as the first FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine, the public can be very confident that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine meets the high standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality the FDA requires of an approved product.
Additionally, all three vaccines – Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson – are still available to everyone aged 12 and older under the FD's Emergency Use Authorization from earlier this year. During a public health emergency, the FDA uses a process called "Emergency Use Authorization" for therapy and vaccine approvals if specific criteria are met. These criteria were met for COVID-19. For COVID-19 vaccines, the FDA expects specific information to be available to ensure vaccines will be safe and effective before they are approved for the public’s use. Most notably, in the clinical trial phases, the vaccine should be 50% or more effective in preventing individuals from getting COVID-19 compared to others who did not receive the vaccine. Both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines demonstrated efficacy rates of 94–95% and received Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA.
What does the FDA approval of the COVID-19 vaccines mean to me?
On August 23, 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave its full approval for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for everyone over the age of 16, citing the most evidence it had ever received to determine the safety of a drug. All three vaccines – Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson – are still available to everyone aged 12 and older under the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization from earlier this year.
To be FDA-approved, the vaccines must undergo the agency’s standard process for reviewing the quality, safety and effectiveness of medical products. The FDA states that as the first FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine, the public can be very confident that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine meets the high standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality the FDA requires of an approved product. Full FDA approval for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are anticipated for later this year.
When can I get a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot?
Not immediately. The goal is for people to start receiving a COVID-19 booster shot beginning in the fall, with individuals being eligible starting 8 months after they received their second dose of an mRNA vaccine (either Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna). This is subject to authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and recommendation by CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).
Do the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines contain the live COVID-19 virus?
No. These vaccines use mRNA (messenger RNA) technology. mRNA is a single molecule that gives cells instructions on how to create an immune response. Once the cell creates the immune response, the mRNA molecule is destroyed by the cell.
Can individuals with egg allergies receive the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines?
Yes. The Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are not developed using egg-based technology. Therefore, egg protein is not used in these vaccines.
Are aborted fetal embryo cells used to produce the vaccines?
None of the FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccines contain fetal tissue. Pfizer and Moderna use technologies derived from earlier work using this material, but neither of them has used this material in the production of their actual COVID-19 vaccines. Johnson & Johnson scientists use this material to grow the virus used in its vaccine. The material is included in the process used for development and production, but the final product does not include fetal tissue.
How many doses will I need to get?
Both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines require two-doses, the second dose 21–28 days after the first, depending on which vaccine you receive in the first dose. It is very important that you get BOTH doses for the vaccine to be effective. There are some vaccines on the horizon that will require only one dose.
Are there any side effects?
As with other vaccines, you may experience soreness at the injection site, fatigue, achiness or headache the day after receiving the vaccine. The second dose may result in more pronounced side effects. Should an individual experience side effects following either the first or second dose, acetaminophen or ibuprofen may help. Recent reports of allergic reactions to one of the vaccines in California found the incident to be isolated and that the vaccine remains safe. There were no patients in the COVID-19 vaccine trials that experienced a serious safety event or reaction related to the vaccine.
Why is it important to get the vaccine?
Vaccines are the most effective and accessible tools to slowing the transmission of disease and eradicating it. The faster and more widespread distribution of a vaccine in a community, the faster we can end the pandemic and return to a more normal way of life.
Who will get the vaccine first?
Initial supplies go to health care workers and other high-risk groups, such as the elderly and those with certain health conditions such as cancer, chronic kidney disease, heart disease, pulmonary disease and immunosuppressed conditions. As supplies increase over the coming weeks and months, vaccines will be available to the general population. The overall goal is that all individuals have access within a few months of their availability.
Where can I get the vaccine when it becomes available?
Initially, vaccines will likely be available to the general population only through hospitals and dedicated vaccination sites. As supplies get more plentiful, you should also be able to get a vaccine at BMG Primary Care Clinics and local retail pharmacies (e.g., Wal-Mart, Walgreens, CVS, etc.). Check with your state and local health departments for updates on availability and phases of distribution.
What is Baptist’s plan for distribution?
Baptist has begun distribution of CDC and Health and Human Services-approved vaccines. During the initial phase, we will follow CDC guidelines for distribution, giving priority to our frontline workers and patients who are high-risk for the COVID-19 infection. As supplies increase, we will be able to make the vaccine available to the general public.
Will I need to get the COVID-19 vaccine every year, similar to an annual flu shot?
There is not enough information yet to know if we will need to take a vaccine every year or at some other interval. As we move forward through the vaccination process and learn more about this disease, we will learn more about the vaccines’ range of effectiveness.
Can I still get COVID-19 even after I receive the vaccine?
As with the seasonal flu vaccine, there is a small chance a person could still get COVID-19 even after receiving a vaccine. However, it is likely the symptoms will be less severe than the symptoms for someone who has not been vaccinated.
Is the vaccine safe for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding?
People who are pregnant and part of a group recommended to receive the COVID-19 vaccine may choose to be vaccinated. While no data are available yet on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in lactating women or on the effects of mRNA vaccines on breastfed infants or on milk production/excretion, mRNA vaccines are not thought to be a risk to breastfeeding infants.
Pregnant people are encouraged to enroll in v-safe, CDC’s new smartphone-based tool being used to check-in on people’s health after they receive a COVID-19 vaccine. If pregnant people report health events through v-safe after vaccination, someone from CDC may call to check on them and get more information. Additionally, pregnant people enrolled in v-safe will be contacted by CDC and asked to participate in a pregnancy registry that will monitor them through pregnancy and the first 3 months of infancy. For more information on v-safe, visit the CDC.gov website.
Should you get the vaccine if you have severe allergies?
CDC recommends that people with a history of severe allergic reactions 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. If you have had an immediate allergic reaction—even if it was not severe—to a vaccine or injectable therapy for another disease, ask your doctor if you should get a COVID-19 vaccine. Your doctor will help you decide if it is safe for you to get vaccinated.
Should you get the vaccine if you have an autoimmune disease?
People with autoimmune conditions may receive an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. However, they should be aware that no data are currently available on the safety of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines for them. Individuals from this group were eligible for enrollment in clinical trials. Ask your doctor if you should get a COVID-19 vaccine.
Does the vaccine cause Bell’s palsy?
Although cases of Bell’s palsy were reported in participants in the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not concluded these cases were caused by vaccination. Furthermore, persons who have previously had Bell’s Palsy may receive an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.
Does the vaccine cause infertility in women of childbearing age?
There is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine reduces your natural fertility or harms the placenta or fetus. While the COVID-19 vaccine is new, existing safety data provide reassurance regarding the safety of COVID-19 mRNA vaccines during pregnancy. Furthermore, if you become pregnant after receiving your first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, do not delay getting the second booster dose as scheduled.
Should you get the vaccine if you’ve already had COVID-19?
Yes. Due to the severe health risks associated with COVID-19 and the fact that reinfection with COVID-19 is possible, you should be vaccinated regardless of whether you already had COVID-19 infection. If you were treated for COVID-19 symptoms with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma, you should wait 90 days before getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Talk to your doctor if you are unsure what treatments you received or if you have more questions about getting a COVID-19 vaccine.
How will getting the second dose of the vaccine later than scheduled affect you?
Both COVID-19 mRNA vaccines require 2 shots to get the most protection. The timing between your first and second shot depends on which vaccine you received. You should get your second shot:
- for the Pfizer-BioNTech 3 weeks (or 21 days) after your first shot,
- for the Moderna 1 month (or 28 days) after your first shot.
You should get your second shot as close to the recommended 3-week or 1-month interval as possible. However, there is no maximum interval between the first and second doses for either vaccine.
Can you skip getting the second dose of the vaccine if you contract COVID-19 after getting your first dose?
You should get your second dose even if you get COVID-19 after getting your first shot. If you do get COVID-19, you should isolate yourself, get tested and contact your healthcare provider. Once you have recovered and are symptom free, you should make sure to get the second shot as scheduled. You may still benefit from it and be better protected for the future.
What should you do if you have a severe reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine?
If you get a COVID-19 vaccine and you think you might be having a severe allergic reaction after leaving the vaccination site, seek immediate medical care by calling 911.
Have there been any cases of anyone dying from the COVID-19 vaccine?
No. All the COVID-19 vaccines being used have gone through rigorous studies to ensure they are as safe as possible. Systems that allow CDC to watch for safety issues are in place across the entire country.
Can children get the vaccine?
Currently, no vaccine is available for children age 15 and under. The Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is available to people age 16 and older. Moderna's vaccine is currently authorized for ages 18 and up. However, both companies have begun clinical trials for younger kids.
Do I need to quarantine after being exposed to COVID-19 if I have been vaccinated?
According to the CDC, vaccinated persons with an exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 are not required to quarantine if they meet all of the following criteria:
- Are fully vaccinated (i.e., at least 2 weeks following receipt of the second dose in a 2-dose series, or at least 2 weeks following receipt of one dose of a single-dose vaccine)
- Are within 3 months following receipt of the last dose in the series
- Have remained asymptomatic since the current COVID-19 exposure
Persons who do not meet all three of the above criteria should continue to follow current quarantine guidance after exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.