Vaccines — What You Need to Know
An up-to-date source for comprehensive information related to the development and distribution of life-saving COVID-19 vaccines.
Vaccine Resource Hubs
Facts & Myths about COVID-19 Vaccines
Now that COVID-19 vaccines are widely available in the United States, getting accurate information about them is critical. Learn the key facts here! Get vaccinated and get a booster when you are eligible!
Why should you get vaccinated?
Vaccines are one of the most effective public health tools available to prevent disease and help end the pandemic. Additionally, getting vaccinated prevents severe illness, hospitalizations, and death. It’s important to learn more about why vaccinations are so important and how they work. In America, COVID-19 cases are surging in unvaccinated communities with about 40% of all new COVID-19 cases occurring in three of the states with the lowest vaccination rates (Florida, Texas, and Missouri), during the week ending Friday, July 23. COVID-19 cases are going up in over 90% of U.S. States and territories. Immunization is critical to halting the further spread of the COVID-19.
Some people may be concerned about getting these new COVID-19 vaccines. There is an infodemic of misinformation circulating about them. While these vaccines have been developed more rapidly than ever before, strict guidelines are used to ensure the safety and effectiveness of any vaccine that is authorized or approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
How do COVID-19 vaccines work?
Over the past year, vaccines have been rapidly developed to prevent COVID-19. A vaccine is a substance that stimulates a person’s immune system to build resistance to a specific disease, protecting the person from that illness. Vaccines reduce the risk of getting a disease by working with your body’s natural defenses to build immune protection. When you get a vaccine, your immune system responds — it recognizes the invading germ, such as a virus like SARS-CoV-2; produces antibodies to fight the disease; and remembers the disease as well as how to fight it in the future.
Learn the basics about the immune system and the different types of COVID-19 vaccines here.
What progress is being made in developing additional COVID-19 vaccines?
According to the World Health Organization, as of July 27, 2021, globally, there are currently 108 vaccines in clinical development and 184 in pre-clinical development. You can compare what we know about different COVID-19 vaccines here or at this site.
The Pfizer COVID-19 mRNA vaccine has received a full approval from the FDA. Two other vaccines have received emergency use approval and are currently being administered in the United States. Data from other vaccine trials have also demonstrated other vaccines’ effectiveness in preventing COVID-19. including the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 immunization and Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine.
The AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine will be reviewed by the FDA in the months ahead for use in America. It has been authorized by the World Health Organization and is being administered in other countries. A request for additional data by the FDA has delayed this vaccine’s review process in the United States. In April 2021, the Biden Administration announced that it would begin sharing its entire stock of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines with the world once it clears federal safety reviews This easy-to-store product uses a similar platform as the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, but its adenovirus comes from a chimpanzee. It uses a weakened common cold virus to carry SARS-CoV-2 genetic material into cells to make coronavirus spike proteins that trigger an immune response.
Novavax has developed a two-dose, protein-based coronavirus vaccine. In January, 2021, Novavax announced results from a Phase 3 clinical trial conducted in the United Kingdom that their vaccine had an efficacy rate of 89%. In June 2021, the company also announced a 90% effectiveness rate from a 30,000 person clinical trial conducted in the United States and Mexico. The Novavax vaccine can be shipped at normal refrigeration temperatures and will stay stable for up to three months in a refrigerator, making it much easier to distribute than many other available vaccines. The company plans to apply for FDA emergency use authorization in the third quarter of 2021.
Other countries have approved additional vaccines for use in their populations and more are expected to be reviewed in the coming months.
Which COVID-19 vaccines are currently available in the United States?
The Pfizer COVID-19 mRNA vaccine has received a full approval from the FDA. Two other vaccines have received emergency use approval and are currently being administered in the United States. More than 360 million vaccine doses have been administered in America, but vaccination rates have been plateauing. On August 2nd, 2021, 70% of adults in the U.S. have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, meeting a national goal for immunizations. There are still 100 million unvaccinated Americans.
Visit the CDC Vaccine Administration Tracker to learn more about progress in getting people immunized in America to prevent COVID-19.
Depending on where you live and the facility where you get vaccinated, you may receive any one of these options:
The first two vaccines listed above are from a new generation of immunizations that use mRNA technology to fight the novel coronavirus and were found to be at least 94% effective. mRNA vaccines teach our cells how to make a protein—or even just a piece of a protein—that triggers an immune response inside our bodies. This immune response produces antibodies and protects us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies.
The FDA has also granted an emergency use authorization to the single-shot vaccine made by Johnson & Johnson, which has been found to be safe and effective and completely prevented hospitalizations and deaths in a large clinical trial. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was 72% effective in preventing COVID-19 in the United States and is a very important tool in ending the pandemic. This vaccine simplifies the logistics of administering a complicated mass vaccination campaign as it can be stored in a refrigerator for several months and does not require a follow-up visit for a booster shot.
How effective are vaccines against the COVID-19 Delta variant?
According to the CDC, the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines offer significant protection against the Delta variant. Almost all of the cases in the United States linked to the Delta variant are occurring in unvaccinated people, though recent studies suggest that breakthrough infections are occurring in vaccinated individuals as well more frequently in recent weeks. Studies are underway to determine the ongoing effectiveness of currently available vaccines against emerging variants of the virus that causes COVID-19.
A recent study conducted in the United Kingdom found that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was only 36% effective against the Delta variant after one dose, but 88% effective after two doses. New data from Israel suggests reduced efficacy of the Pfizer vaccine. After two immunizations, the vaccine was 39% effective at reducing the risk of infection, 40% effective at reducing the risk of symptomatic disease, but importantly was still 91% effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death during a period when the Delta variant was the dominant strain in Israel. A recent study in Canada found that two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was 87% effective in protecting against symptomatic infection. The data suggests that mRNA vaccines like Pfizer and Moderna offer a high degree of protection against COVID-19 infection especially preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death.
Studies of Johnson & Johnson’s single shot COVID-19 vaccine had suggested it provides durable protection.A recent study from South Africa found the Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine helps prevent severe disease among those infected with the Delta variant, with the evidence showing that single-dose shot was 71% effective against hospitalization and as much as 96% effective against death. It also demonstrated durability of eight months.
However, other research which has not yet been peer reviewed found that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine may not be as effective at preventing illness caused by the Delta and Lambda variants suggesting that those who have received it may require a booster shot with one of the mRNA vaccines in the future.
With recent media attention focused on breakthrough infections, the CDC has underscored that 99.9% of fully vaccinated Americans against COVID-19 have not had a breakthrough case resulting in hospitalization or death. These statistics reinforce the effectiveness of vaccines in preventing serious illness and death from COVID-19 and are our country’s best shot at slowing down the pandemic. As COVID-19 infections continue to spread, it is important to keep practicing the 3 W’s (wear a mask if you are unvaccinated and in some settings if you are vaccinated; wash your hands; and watch your distance if unvaccinated) to prevent the spread of the virus.
How do COVID-19 mRNA vaccines work?
COVID-19 mRNA vaccines give instructions for our cells to make a harmless piece of what is called the “spike protein” which is found on the surface of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. COVID-19 mRNA vaccines are administered to the upper arm muscle. Once the instructions (mRNA) are inside our immune cells, the cells use them to make the protein piece which can be displayed on the cell surface. Our immune systems recognize that this protein doesn’t belong there and begins building an immune response and making antibodies, similar to what happens in natural infection against COVID-19. At the end of the process, our bodies have learned how to protect against future infection. The benefit of mRNA vaccines, like all vaccines, is those vaccinated gain this protection without ever having to experience the serious complications of getting sick with COVID-19.
mRNA do not use the live virus that causes COVID-19 and cannot give someone COVID-19. They do not affect or interact with our DNA in anyway. mRNA never enters the cell’s nucleus where DNA (genetic material) resides. The cell breaks down and gets rid of the mRNA soon after it is finished using the instructions.
Learn more about how mRNA vaccines work here.
Additional Information about COVID-19 vaccines
What are the side effects of COVID-19 vaccines?
After receiving a COVID-19 vaccination, you may experience some side effects, which signals that your body is building protection to help prevent you from getting sick with COVID-19. The most common side effects include pain and swelling in the arm where you receive the shot as well as fatigue, headache, chills, and fever. These symptoms should resolve within a day or two. There have been rare reports of myocarditis (heart inflammation) in adolescents and adults that have occurred more frequently in men. There have also been rare reports of Guillain-Barré syndrome developing after receiving Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine, leading the FDA to add a warning to the vaccine’s fact sheet. These cases have largely been reported about 2 weeks after vaccination and mostly in men who are older than 50 years of age.
If you have persistent discomfort from vaccine side effects, talk to your doctor about taking an over-the-counter medicine, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Pain medication should only be taken after receiving the vaccine, not before, unless it is part of a usual medication regimen. To reduce pain where you got the shot, apply a clean, cool, wet washcloth over the area and use or exercise your arm. With the currently available mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, you will need 2 shots in order for them to work. Get the second shot even if you have side effects after the first shot, unless a vaccination provider or your doctor tells you not to get a second immunization. The U.S. government plans to make COVID-19 vaccine booster shots widely available to anyone in America starting on September 20, 2021 as infections rise from the Delta variant of the coronavirus. Remember to get a booster when you are eligible!
Contact your doctor or healthcare provider for further consultation if:
- The redness or tenderness where you got the shot increases after 24 hours.
- Your side effects are worrying you or do not seem to be going away after a few days.
If you get a COVID-19 vaccine and think you might be having a severe allergic reaction after leaving the vaccination site, seek immediate medical care by calling 911. Learn more about COVID-19 vaccines and rare severe allergic reactions here.
Learn more about potential side effects
How effective are vaccines against other COVID-19 variants?
Current data suggest that COVID-19 vaccines that have been issued emergency use authorization in the United States offer protection against most variants currently spreading in the United States in the dominant Delta variant. Additionally, the Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines have demonstrated significant protection against the virus in the United Kingdom. However, it is essential that individuals receive two doses of these vaccines to be fully vaccinated in order to have maximal protection against the virus and variant strains. According to data gathered by Public Health England, two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine provides 94% protection against symptomatic disease for the Alpha variant. However, one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine only provides 50% protection against symptomatic disease with the Alpha variant.
Real-world data from May 2021 involving 385,000 people in Qatar found that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is 90% effective against the Alpha variant, and 75% effective against the Beta variant. The vaccine is 97.4% efficacious against severe, critical, or fatal COVID-19 across all variants.
Additionally, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is also effective against the Beta variant in South Africa, demonstrating 82% protection against severe COVID-19 beginning 28 days post-vaccination. Another study found this vaccine generated strong activity against SARS-CoV-2 for at least 8 months, including against variants of concern.
How many shots of the COVID-19 vaccine will be needed?
The number of doses needed depends on which vaccine you receive. To get the most protection and be considered fully vaccinated you need:
The U.S. government plans to make COVID-19 vaccine booster shots widely available to anyone in America starting on September 20, 2021 as infections rise from the Delta variant of the coronavirus. The White House is prepared to offer a third booster shot starting on that date to anyone in America who completed their initial inoculation at least eight months ago, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has said in a statement. The booster shots initially will be given primarily to healthcare workers, nursing home residents and older people, all of whom were among the first groups to be vaccinated in late 2020 and early 2021, according to HHS. This decision was based on studies that show the protectiveness of mRNA COVID-19 shots currently authorized in the United States begins to diminish in the months after the shots are given. Remember to get a booster shot when you are eligible!
How do you report vaccine side effects?
V-Safe is a smartphone-based tool that uses text messaging and web surveys to provide personalized health check-ins after you receive a COVID-19 vaccination. Through V-safe, you can quickly report any side effects that you experience after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Once you receive a COVID-19 vaccine, you can enroll in V-safe using your smartphone. Participation is voluntary and you can opt out at any time. During the first week after you get your vaccine, v-safe will send you a text message each day to ask how you are doing. Depending on your answers someone from the CDC may call to check in on you. Your personal health information recorded in v-safe is protected so that it stays confidential and private.
Additionally, side effects can also be reported to Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). This national system collects reports of adverse events that happen after vaccination from healthcare professionals, vaccine manufacturers, and the public.
If I am unvaccinated, what can I do now to help protect myself from acquiring COVID-19?Click for more info
If I am unvaccinated, what can I do now to help protect myself from acquiring COVID-19?
Until you get vaccinated, in order to protect yourself and others, follow these recommendations:
- Wear a mask over your nose and mouth when around other people
- Stay at least 6 feet away from others
- Avoid crowds
- Avoid poorly ventilated spaces
- Wash your hands often
Get more information about these and other steps you can take to protect yourself and others from COVID-19
Who is eligible for vaccination in the United States?
Everyone 12 years of age and older is now eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccination. So get vaccinated as soon as you can! Mass vaccination is a critical tool for ending the pandemic. It is estimated that 70-85% of people should be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity. On August 2nd, 2021, 70% of adults in the U.S. have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, meeting a national goal for immunizations.
If I have already had COVID-19 and recovered, do I still need to get vaccinated?Click for more info
If I have already had COVID-19 and recovered, do I still need to get vaccinated?
Even if you have recovered from COVID-19, you should get immunized, especially as the Delta variant surges. Getting the vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and others around you. Experts do not yet know how long you are protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19. Even if you have already recovered from COVID-19, it is possible—although rare—that you could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 again. Studies have shown that vaccination provides a strong boost in protection in people who have recovered from COVID-19. A new study shows survivors who ignored the advice to get vaccinated were more than twice as likely to get reinfected. While the shots are not 100% effective, they provide strong protection against hospitalization and death. Learn more about why getting vaccinated is a safer way to build protection than getting infected here. A few special circumstances are detailed below:
If you were treated for COVID-19 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.
If you or your child has a history of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in adults or children (MIS-A or MIS-C), consider delaying vaccination until you or your child have recovered from being sick and for 90 days after the date of diagnosis of MIS-A or MIS-C. Learn more about the clinical considerations people with a history of multisystem MIS-C or MIS-A.
Will I be required to get vaccinated for work or school?
The federal government does not mandate (require) vaccination for individuals. However, it was recently announced that federal government employee and on-site contractors will be asked to document to their vaccination status. Employees who have not been vaccinated will be required to wear a mask on the job no matter their geographic location, physically distance from all other employees and visitors, comply with a weekly or twice weekly screening testing requirement, and be subject to restrictions on official travel. For some healthcare workers or essential employees, a state or local government or employer, for example, may require or mandate that workers be vaccinated as a matter of state or other law. Recently, New York City and Los Angeles have required vaccination or weekly testing for their employees. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has announced that it will require its frontline health care workers to be vaccinated. Be sure to check with your employer to see if they have any rules that apply to you.
Many colleges and universities have opted to require vaccinations for the safety of students, staff, and faculty. Any K-12 school vaccination requirements are determined at the state level. Check with your school about their vaccine requirements for attendance.
Do I need to wear a mask and still social distance if I have been vaccinated?Click for more info
Do I need to wear a mask and still social distance if I have been vaccinated?
Vaccinated individuals should wear masks indoors in public settings in in communities where the virus is spreading. Wearing a mask is still required on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States and while indoors at U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and train stations. People are considered fully vaccinated:
- 2 weeks after their second dose in a 2-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or
- 2 weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine
Some vaccinated people may choose to wear a mask out of extra precaution, for example if they have a weakened immune system or if, because of their age or an underlying medical condition, if they are at an increased risk for severe disease, or if a member of their household has a weakened immune system, is at increased risk for severe disease, or is unvaccinated.
Can I get a COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as another vaccine?
Yes. COVID-19 vaccines were previously recommended to be administered alone, with a minimum interval of 14 days before or after administration of any other vaccines. This was out of an abundance of caution and not due to any known safety or immunogenicity concerns. However, substantial data have now been collected regarding the safety of COVID-19 vaccinations currently authorized by the FDA for use under EUA.
COVID-19 vaccines and other vaccines may now be administered without regard to timing. This includes simultaneous administration of COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines on the same day, as well as coadministration within 14 days. It is unknown whether reactogenicity of COVID-19 vaccine is increased with coadministration, including with other vaccines known to be more reactogenic, such as adjuvanted vaccines or live vaccines. When deciding whether to coadminister another vaccine(s) with COVID-19 vaccine, providers should consider whether the patient is behind or at risk of becoming behind on recommended vaccines, their risk of vaccine-preventable disease (e.g., during an outbreak or occupational exposures), and the reactogenicity profile of the vaccines. If multiple vaccines are administered at a single visit, administer each injection in a different injection site.
Can I take a pain reliever before getting a COVID-19 vaccine?
Experts say that taking anti-inflammatory pain relievers such as Tylenol or ibuprofen before getting a coronavirus vaccine to prevent symptoms could blunt the body’s immune response. It’s recommended that people only take these medications following vaccination if they experience symptoms such as fever, chills, or severe body aches.
If a COVID-19 vaccine is inadvertently given within 14 days of another vaccine, you do not need to restart the COVID-19 vaccine series; you should still complete the series on schedule. When more data are available on the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines administered simultaneously with other vaccines, this recommendation might then be updated.
Do COVID-19 vaccines interfere with common prescription drugs?
Medical experts say the vast majority of prescription drugs will work just as well after you get a COVID-19 vaccine, and they won’t diminish the effectiveness of the shot you’re getting to ward off the coronavirus. You should consult your doctor if you have specific concerns, but most maintenance medications do not affect your immune system which is the primary target of COVID-19 vaccines.
However, there are a few exceptions to this principle that should be taken into consideration. If you happen to be taking prescription drugs that do affect your immune system, the vaccine might not be as effective as it would be if you weren’t. For example, if you are taking immunosuppressant drugs for an autoimmune disease or following an organ transplantation, these drugs could decrease the efficacy of the vaccine. Certain cancer chemotherapies could have a similar effect.
If you are taking a blood thinner, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends informing your vaccine provider when you go in for your COVID-19 shot. Blood thinners prevent clotting, so even a small injury such as a needle piercing the skin can cause more bleeding or bruising than usual. Neither the FDA nor the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say you shouldn’t receive a coronavirus vaccination just because you are on a blood thinner.
After I get vaccinated for COVID-19, do I still need to quarantine after being exposed to someone who has been infected with the coronavirus?Click for more info
After I get vaccinated for COVID-19, do I still need to quarantine after being exposed to someone who has been infected with the coronavirus?
People who have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, meaning they have received two doses of either the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine or one dose of Johnson & Johnson and at least 14 days have passed, should get tested 3-5 days after an exposure to someone with COVID-19. Vaccinated people are no longer required to quarantine following an exposure to someone with COVID-19, according to the CDC. People who have been vaccinated should still watch for symptoms for 14 days after they have been exposed to a person who is infected and should quarantine if they show symptoms. Recent research has found that people who have been fully vaccinated can get infected and transmit the virus to other people. Additionally, new unpublished data from the CDC suggests that vaccinated individuals infected with delta may be able to transmit the virus as easily as those who are unvaccinated.
Can I get vaccinated when I am pregnant or breastfeeding?
COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for all people 12 years and older, including people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, trying to get pregnant now, or might become pregnant in the future. CDC’s recommendations align with those from professional medical organizations serving people who are pregnant, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Fetal Maternal Medicine.
Despite this guidance, as of August 14, 2021, 76.2 percent of pregnant people were unvaccinated.
Evidence about the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy has been growing. These data suggest that the benefits of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine outweigh any known or potential risks of vaccination during pregnancy. There is currently no evidence that any vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, cause fertility problems in women or men.
Vaccination is very important as pregnant and recently pregnant people are at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 when compared with non-pregnant people. According to a recent study, pregnant women with COVID-19 are 15 times more likely to die, 14 times more likely to need to be intubated, and 22 times more likely to have preterm birth than those who are uninfected. Additionally, pregnant people with COVID-19 are at an increased risk of other adverse pregnancy outcomes, compared with pregnant women without COVID-19.
Although the overall risk of severe illness is low, pregnant and recently pregnant people are at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 when compared with non-pregnant people. Severe illness includes illness that requires hospitalization, intensive care, need for a ventilator or special equipment to breathe, or illness that results in death. Additionally, pregnant people with COVID-19 are at increased risk of preterm birth and might be at increased risk of other adverse pregnancy outcomes compared with pregnant women without COVID-19.
Additional Information Resources
Are COVID-19 vaccines safe?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has fully authorized the Pfizer mRNA vaccine to be safe and effective for use in preventing serious illness from COVID-19. The FDA has also provided Emergency Use Authorizations (EUA) to the Moderna as well as the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines, for preventing COVID-19. For FDA approval, large clinical trials must be conducted with the findings about the known and potential benefits of a COVID-19 vaccine outweighing the known and potential risks of the vaccine. Learn more about how federal agencies are ensuring the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in the United States.
If you’d like to learn more, view a video describing the FDA emergency use authorization process.
Will a vaccine affect my fertility?
No. There is no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 vaccines will negatively impact fertility in men and women nor do they reduce the chance of becoming pregnant and completing a healthy pregnancy. There is currently no evidence that any vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, cause female or male fertility problems. The CDC does not recommend routine pregnancy testing before COVID-19 vaccination. If you are trying to become pregnant, you do not need to avoid getting pregnant after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. As with other vaccines, scientists are studying COVID-19 vaccines carefully for side effects now and will report findings as they become available.
Is it safe for me to get a vaccine if I have an underlying medical condition?Click for more info
Is it safe for me to get a vaccine if I have an underlying medical condition?
Vaccination is an important consideration for adults of any age with certain underlying medical conditions because they are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Most people with underlying medical conditions can receive the FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccines provided they have not had an immediate or severe allergic reaction to a COVID-19 vaccine or to any of the ingredients in the vaccine. Learn more about vaccination considerations for persons with underlying medical conditions here. If you have questions about getting a COVID-19 vaccine, talk with your healthcare provider for advice. Inform your vaccination provider about all your allergies and health conditions.
Is there risk of a severe allergic reaction if I receive the vaccine?
Serious adverse effects from vaccination can happen, but they are rare. There have been reports that several people have experienced severe allergic reactions—also known as anaphylaxis—after getting a COVID-19 vaccine. As an example, an allergic reaction is considered severe when a person needs to be treated with epinephrine or EpiPen© or if they must go to the hospital. Learn more about COVID-19 vaccines and allergies. Given how many people have received the vaccine, these allergic reactions are very rare.
Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 Vaccines
Which is longer, immunity after getting COVID-19 or protection from a COVID-19 vaccination?Click for more info
Which is longer, immunity after getting COVID-19 or protection from a COVID-19 vaccination?
Experts are working to learn more about both natural immunity and vaccine-induced immunity. We don’t know how long protection lasts for those who are vaccinated. What we do know is that COVID-19 has caused very serious illness and death for millions of people. If you get COVID-19, you also risk transmitting it to loved ones, friends, and colleagues who may get very sick. We do know that vaccines are very effective in preventing COVID-19. CDC will keep the public informed as new evidence becomes available.
What percentage of the population needs to get vaccinated to achieve herd immunity to COVID-19?Click for more info
What percentage of the population needs to get vaccinated to achieve herd immunity to COVID-19?
Experts do not know what percentage of people would need to get vaccinated to achieve herd immunity to COVID-19 but estimates range between 70-90%, The rapid spread of the Delta variant has some experts believing we’ll need to have closer to 80% vaccination rate. Herd immunity is a term used to describe when enough people have protection—either from previous infection or from vaccination—that 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 don’t have immunity to the disease. The percentage of people who need to have protection in order to achieve herd immunity varies by disease. For COVID-19, it’s very important that most people in the population get vaccinated. On August 2nd, 2021, 70% of adults in the U.S. have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, meeting a national goal for immunizations.
What are the ingredients in COVID-19 mRNA vaccines?
Who pays for COVID-19 vaccines?
Vaccine doses purchased with U.S. taxpayer dollars will be given to the American people at no cost. However, vaccination providers are able to charge an administration fee for immunizing people. Vaccine providers can get this fee reimbursed by the patient’s public or private insurance company or, for uninsured patients, by the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Provider Relief Fund. No one can be denied a vaccine if they are unable to pay this vaccine administration fee.
What can I safely do if am unvaccinated?
Unvaccinated individuals should continue to wear masks, stay 6 feet from others, and wash their hands frequently. Consult the CDC’s guides to “Choosing Safer Activities” and “Daily Activities and Going Out” for more information about specific activities. The most important thing you can do right now is to get vaccinated.
What can I safely do if I am vaccinated?
After you have been fully vaccinated, you can resume activities that you did prior to the pandemic. However, to reduce the risk of being infected with the Delta variant and possibly spreading it to others, you should continue to wear a mask indoors in public if you are in an area where the virus is spreading. Some individuals might even choose to wear a mask regardless of the level of transmission if you have a weakened immune system or if, because of your age or an underlying medical condition, you are at increased risk for severe disease, or if a member of your household has a weakened immune system, is at increased risk for severe disease, or is unvaccinated. View the CDC’s guidelines to assess the risk level of various activities.
Breakthrough COVID-19 infections occur in a small number of people who have been fully vaccinated. Preliminary evidence suggests that fully vaccinated people who become infected with the Delta variant can spread the virus to others. New unpublished data from the CDC suggests that vaccinated individuals infected with delta may be able to transmit the virus as easily as those who are unvaccinated, underscoring the need to remain vigilant about COVID-19 even after vaccination. If a fully vaccinated person has been around someone who has COVID-19, they should get tested 3-5 days after the exposure, even if they don’t have symptoms. You should also wear a mask indoors in public for 14 days following an exposure or until your test result is negative. You should isolate for 10 days if your test result is positive.
People who are immunocompromised should be counseled about the potential for reduced immune responses to COVID-19 vaccines and to follow current prevention measures (including wearing a mask, staying 6 feet apart from others they don’t live with, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces) regardless of their vaccination status to protect themselves against COVID-19 until advised otherwise by their healthcare provider.
Can I get vaccinated if I am HIV positive?
Vaccination is recommended! The U.S. vaccine safety system makes sure all vaccines are as safe as possible. COVID-19 vaccines have gone through the same safety tests and meet the same standards as other vaccines. People with HIV were included in clinical trials, though safety data specific to this group are not yet available.
We are still learning about COVID-19 and how it affects people with HIV. Based on limited data, we believe people with HIV who are on effective HIV treatment have the same risk for COVID-19 as people who do not have HIV. People living with HIV should follow the CDC guidance for individuals with underlying medical conditions. If you have HIV, you may choose to get vaccinated if you have not had a severe or immediate allergic reaction to any of the vaccine ingredients. If you have a weakened immune system, you should also be aware of the potential for a reduced immune response to the vaccine. If you decide to get vaccinated, continue to take everyday preventive actions to protect yourself against COVID-19. Learn more about COVID-19 and HIV here.
Find additional guidance for HIV positive people here.
If I am fully vaccinated against COVID-19, will I need a booster shot?
The U.S. government plans to make COVID-19 vaccine booster shots widely available to anyone in America starting on September 20, 2021 as infections rise from the Delta variant of the coronavirus. The White House is prepared to offer a third booster shot starting on that date to anyone in America who completed their initial inoculation at least eight months ago, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has said in a statement. The booster shots initially will be given primarily to healthcare workers, nursing home residents and older people, all of whom were among the first groups to be vaccinated in late 2020 and early 2021, according to HHS. They will deliver booster shots directly to residents of long-term care facilities, given the distribution of vaccines to this population early in the vaccine rollout and the continued increased risk that COVID-19 poses to them. This decision was based on studies that show the protectiveness of mRNA COVID-19 shots currently authorized in the United States begins to diminish in the months after the shots are given. Recommendations about boosters for those people who received the Johnson and Johnson vaccine must await the results from additional studies. They expect to have more data on its effectiveness in the next few weeks. Many experts believe we can provide boosters to fully vaccinated individuals in America while also strengthening our commitments to providing vaccines for people in the developing world.
For moderately or severely immunocompromised people, the CDC has recommended an additional dose now of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine after the initial two doses and it should be administered at least 28 days after a second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine or the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. Moderately or severely immunocompromised people who should receive a booster RNA vaccine includes individuals who have:
- Been receiving active cancer treatment for tumors or cancers of the blood
- Received an organ transplant and are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
- Received a stem cell transplant within the last 2 years or are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
- Moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (such as DiGeorge syndrome, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome)
- Advanced or untreated HIV infection
- Active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids or other drugs that may suppress your immune response
People should talk to their healthcare providers about their medical condition, and whether getting an additional dose is appropriate for them.
Around the world, Israel has recently announced that it will provide booster shots to people over the age of 50 who were vaccinated more than five months ago, citing early data that suggests vaccine protection against severe illness is waning in that country. Germany, following Israel’s example, said this week that it would start offering booster shots to some higher-risk citizens. France, Russia and Hungary have plans to provide booster doses as well. The WHO called for a moratorium on booster shots of coronavirus vaccines through at least September as poorer countries struggle to access the shots, even for high-risk populations such as health-care workers and the elderly. Many experts believe we can provide boosters to fully vaccinated individuals in America while also strengthening our commitments to providing vaccines for people in the developing world.
Addressing COVID-19 Vaccine Inequities
COVID-19 Vaccine Inequities
Significant racial and ethnic disparities have been reported during the COVID-19 pandemic. Blacks and Hispanics have a two-fold rate of dying from COVID-19 compared to their white counterparts. Life expectancy decreased about three years for both Black and Latino Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic as well. Vaccinations are urgently needed in communities of color to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 in the United States. Below is a visualization of the rates of vaccination by race/ethnicity.
Visit this website to review the latest data on COVID-19 Vaccinations by Race/Ethnicity
Barriers to Vaccinations
Many people from communities of color face challenges that interfere with their ability to get vaccinated. Below are three of the most common barriers to accessing COVID-19 vaccines with some helpful resources to address these obstacles.
Lack of affordable transportation prevents people from reaching a vaccination site. Millions of older adults and people with low-incomes do not have cars, drive, or live near public transportation Several rideshare companies are mobilizing partners and community members to help provide transportation to and from vaccine appointments.
Demanding Work Schedules
The demands of work schedules pose additional challenges to getting vaccinated. Research has shown that unvaccinated Hispanic and Black adults report more concerns compared to their White counterparts that they may miss work due to getting the vaccine or its side effects.
Visit this resource to learn about employer actions that can facilitate equity in obtaining COVID-19 vaccinations.
Immigration Status Concerns
With nearly 22 million non-citizen immigrants living in the United States, many are working essential jobs and face a variety of barriers to getting vaccinated. To achievea high vaccination rate across all communities and eliminating the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on immigrant communities, it is important to address the concerns of citizenship that exist as a barrier to getting vaccinated.
Visit this website to learn about vaccine eligibility. The CDC does not require that a person be a US citizen to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Promoting Vaccine Equity
To ensure that COVID-19 vaccines are widely distributed and administered, it is important to involve community-and faith-based organizations, national and community influencers, employers, healthcare providers, public health agencies, policy makers and others in promoting equitable access to healthcare. These influencers can also serve as important role models for healthy behaviors like getting vaccinated to prevent COVID-19.
Additional Healthy Equity Resources
Health Equity Hub – U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
The CDC’s resource center describes the longstanding systemic health and social inequities that have put racial and ethnic minorities at increased risk for COVID-19. Resources on this site includes data on racial and ethnic health disparities during the pandemic and health equity updates. Additionally, it provides information on advancing vaccine equity for racial and ethnic minority groups. Visit the website here.
COVID-19 Vaccine Community Toolkit – CDC
This toolkit assembled by the CDC is designed to provide accurate and clear COVID-19 vaccine information for communities around the country. It includes communication resources (e.g. posters, fact sheets, and infographics) for health departments and local organizations to use in their communities. The toolkit also includes sample social media posts and strategies for communicating about COVID-19 vaccines to diverse population groups. Visit the website here.
Guide for Community Partners – CDC
The CDC has created this guide for community organizations that are seeking to boost COVID-19 vaccine confidence and access in racial and ethnic minority communities. Visit the website here.
Shots at the Stop Initiative – The University of Maryland School of Public Health
Shots at the Shop is a program to engage 1,000 Black-owned barbershops and hair salons nationwide to act as health advocates. Participants assist their clients in making informed COVID-related decisions, dispel misinformation and host COVID-19 vaccination clinics in their shops. Visit the website here.
Achieving Global Vaccine Equity
While the United States has a sufficient supply of vaccinations to immunize people in America, there are currently significant global disparities in vaccine access. Below are a few of the international initiatives that are working to secure and distribute vaccines around the world:
ACT-Accelerator – World Health Organization (WHO)
The Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator is a global collaboration to accelerate the development, production and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines. It brings together governments, scientists, businesses, civil society, philanthropists, and global health organizations to speed up an end to the COVID-19 pandemic. Visit the website here.
COVAX – World Health Organization (WHO) working in partnership with other organizations
COVAX is one of three pillars of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, which was launched in April in response to the COVID=19 pandemic. Bringing together governments, global health organizations, manufacturers, scientists, private sector, civil society and philanthropy, with the aim of providing innovative and equitable access to COVID-19 diagnostics, treatments and vaccines. The COVAX pillar is focused on the latter component. Its mission is to ensure that people around the world will get access to COVID-19 vaccines once they are available, regardless of their wealth. COVAX has the world’s largest and most diverse portfolio of COVID-19 vaccines, and as such represents hope of bringing the acute phase of this pandemic to an end globally. It is co-led by WHO, CEPI, and GAVI, in partnership with UNICEF. Visit the website here.
The Vaccine Alliance – (Gavi)
GAVI is co-leading COVAX, the vaccine pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator. It is coordinating the development and implementation of the COVAX Facility, the global procurement mechanism for COVAX. Visit the website here.
The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation – (CEPI)
CEPI is a global partnership between public, private, philanthropic, and civil society organizations that develops vaccines to stop future pandemics. Its mission is to accelerate the development of vaccines against emerging infectious diseases and to ensure equitable access to them. Visit the website here.
Building Vaccine Confidence
Vaccine confidence is the trust that patients, their families, and providers have in:
- Recommended vaccines
- Providers who administer vaccines
- Processes and policies that lead to vaccine development, licensure or authorization, manufacturing, and recommendations for use
Many factors influence vaccine decision-making, including cultural, social, and political factors; individual and group factors; and vaccine-specific factors. However, confidence in the vaccines, the vaccinator, and the system all support the decision to get vaccinated. There has been an infodemic of misinformation about the vaccines circulating resulting in a pandemic of unvaccinated people in the U.S. That is why the Surgeon General just released a Call to Action to combat vaccine misinformation and encourage everyone over the age of 12 to get immunized.
If you are still deciding about whether to get vaccinated against COVID-19, review the information on this page to find resources or visit this site for additional facts about vaccines.
Resources to Understand the Drivers of Vaccine Hesitancy
It is important to understand the underlying factors that drive mistrust of COVID-19 vaccines. While additional information might help those who are hesitant feel more confident in their decision to get immunized, addressing the systemic factors that lead to their skepticism, fears, and hesitancy are integral to identifying population-level patterns. The resources below can help communities better understand the structural factors and trends behind why certain populations are reluctant to get immunized.
Surgeon General’s Advisory on Building a Healthy Information Environment – Department of Health and Human Services
During the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a parallel infodemic of misinformation that has muddled the messaging we need to beat the virus. This Surgeon General’s Call to Action provides recommendations on what individuals, institutions, and other communities can do to take action against harmful health misinformation. View the report here.
Building Vaccine Confidence Through Community Engagement – American Psychological Association
This resource highlights attitudes and behaviors associated with vaccines. It offers strategies to build vaccination acceptance and confidence that will be important to the COVID-19 vaccination effort. Visit the website here.
How to Build Trust in Vaccines: Understanding the Drivers of Vaccine Confidence – World Economic Forum
This report explores online communication about vaccines during the COVID-19 pandemic and offers insights into how positive, and negative messages spread. Visit the website here.
COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor – Kaiser Family Foundation
The COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor tracks public attitudes and experiences with COVID-19 vaccinations. It provides data and reports on intentions about vaccination, concerns or barriers, messaging and information, and experiences with immunization across target population groups. Visit the website here.
Vaccine Confidence Project – London School of Hygiene and Tropic Medicine
The Vaccine Confidence Project tracks polarization, mistrust, and disinformation surrounding immunization and lays forth strategies to design vaccination programs fit for the communities they service. Visit the website here.
Resources to Help Boost Vaccine Confidence
Vaccine confidence comes from resolving questions and concerns unique to the individual through the messengers and channels that the individual trusts. There is no one way to inspire vaccine confidence. People might understandably have questions about COVID-19 vaccines. Giving people the space to ask these questions and providing them with resources to find credible information from people they trust can help decrease concerns about the vaccine and boost confidence in getting immunized.
This resource page provides guidance on how to have productive conversations about COVID-19 vaccines with friends and family. It has recommendations for communicating about vaccine concerns and ways to share information. Visit the website here.
Building Confidence in COVID-19 Vaccines –CDC
This resource page provides guidance on ways to build vaccine confidence; emphasizes why it is so important during the COVID-19 pandemic; and offers resources to individuals trying to build it in their community. Visit the website here.
COVID-19 Vaccine Education – Ad Council
As a part of the It’s Up to You campaign, the Ad Council has created various toolkits and sample print, video, and social media messages for individuals to adapt for use in their communities to inspire vaccine confidence and address common misperceptions about the COVID-19 vaccines. Visit the website here.
Beat the Virus Social Media Posts – Beat the Virus
The Beat the Virus social media tiles provide public health messaging on COVID-19 to share on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, all in a package that’s easy to use. Visit the website here.
Resources to Boost Vaccine Confidence in Communities of Color
When discussing vaccine hesitancy, it is critical to acknowledge the historical traumas and experiences of racism that have contributed to a lack of trust in health care systems among communities of color. To allay these concerns, more health care professionals of color need to be leading efforts to distribute vaccines, administer doses, and deliver trusted messages. The following resources address the historical inequities contributing to vaccine hesitancy today and strategies to overcome these concerns:
Vaccinations by Race/Ethnicity Reports – Kaiser Family Foundation
The Kaiser Family Foundation provides analysis and data visualization of COVID-19 vaccinations by race and ethnicity. Their data provide insights into who is and who is not getting immunized in the United States. Visit the website here.
Questions and Answers about COVID-19 Vaccines – Emory Healthcare
Emory Healthcare has created videos that answer the most common questions being asked about the COVID-19 vaccines with messages delivered by physicians who represent racial and ethnic minorities. Visit the website here.
Community Equity Stories – Johns Hopkins University
This collection of articles and videos spotlights community engagement efforts and partnerships to boost vaccination in communities of color and advance health equity. Visit the website here.
Beyond Tuskegee — Vaccine Distrust and Everyday Racism – New England Journal of Medicine
This article outlines the historical traumas in African American communities that underly current concerns and mistrust about COVID-19 vaccines and provides recommendations to address these concerns. Visit the website here.
Lecture Series on Improving Health Equity During the COVID Era – American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
This lecture series explores the complex social issues surrounding health disparities that have been exacerbated by the pandemic. It provides an in-depth look into the challenges facing schools, systems of care, and child and adolescent psychiatry training programs. Additionally, it offers suggestions on how to better utilize these systems to promote health equity.
Participate in a COVID-19 Vaccine Clinical Trial
If you are interested in participating in a COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial, click here to learn more. While COVID-19 vaccines to have proven safe and effective in adults and adolescents, we need to know if these vaccines also will protect children without significant side effects. Learn more about how children can participate in clinical trials.