What can I expect before, during, and after COVID-19 vaccination?
Before getting vaccinated, learn about COVID-19 vaccines and see if vaccination is recommended for you. During your vaccination appointment, you’ll receive a fact sheet to read that tells you about the specific COVID-19 vaccine you are being offered. If you choose to get vaccinated, you will also get a vaccination record card. After getting vaccinated, expect that you may have some side effects. You should also enroll in v-safe to help you report how you’re feeling after vaccination, and to get reminders about your important second dose. Even after you are vaccinated, it’s still important to use protective measures to prevent infection with the virus that causes COVID-19.
How many doses of COVID-19 vaccine will I need?
Nearly all COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. require two doses to be considered fully vaccinated. The first shot starts building protection, but a second dose is needed to get the best protection the vaccine can offer. After you get both doses of COVID-19 vaccine, it takes your body about 2 weeks to build immunity. It is possible you could catch COVID-19 disease before your body has built immunity from the vaccine.
How effective are COVID-19 vaccines?
Early data suggests the vaccines are highly effective at protecting against COVID-19. Experts continue to conduct more studies about the effect of COVID-19 vaccination on the severity of illness from COVID-19, as well its effect on spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. Learn more about COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness and types of COVID-19 vaccines.
How do we know if COVID-19 vaccines are safe?
COVID-19 vaccines were tested in large clinical trials to make sure they meet safety standards. No safety step was skipped. Every COVID-19 vaccine went through the same careful and detailed stages of testing in people that other vaccines do: Phase 1 (small group of volunteers), Phase 2 (hundreds of volunteers), and Phase 3 (tens of thousands of volunteers and a placebo group). Volunteers in these trials were chosen to include people of different ages, races, and ethnicities, as well as those with pre-existing medical conditions, to see how the vaccines protect a variety of people. COVID-19 vaccines will be given only after their safety has been carefully reviewed and approved by scientific and regulatory agencies and committees that are independent from the vaccine companies. These include the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), and a panel of top health experts in California, known as the Scientific Safety Review Workgroup. After a vaccine is authorized or approved for use, there are many vaccine safety systems in place that will watch for possible problems and recognize them rapidly. If a safety issue is detected, experts act right away to understand if the issue is related to the COVID-19 vaccine and determine the best course of action.
What about side effects?
Most people do not have serious problems after being vaccinated. However, your arm may be sore, red, or warm to the touch. People also report fever, chills, tiredness, or headache after getting vaccinated. These symptoms usually go away in a couple of days and are a sign that your immune system is doing exactly what it is supposed to do. It is working and building up protection to disease.
Can pregnant or breastfeeding women be vaccinated against COVID-19?
Yes, you may be vaccinated. Pregnant women have a higher risk for complications from COVID-19 disease. There are no study results available yet on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant women. However, experts believe that the vaccines are unlikely to pose a risk to the woman or the fetus. Pregnant women can talk with a doctor about their risk of COVID-19 disease and how they might benefit from vaccination.
Are eggs involved in the making of the COVID vaccines?
Unlike some other vaccines, the COVID-19 vaccines viewed as frontrunners do not use eggs to make them.
What happens if you don't take the second dose?
Protection is assumed to be less. In data that Moderna submitted to the FDA before its Dec. 17 review for its request for emergency use authorization, for instance, its analysis suggested that the first dose provides protection from getting COVID-19, but the data did not allow for a “firm conclusion," the FDA says. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are believed to be around 50% effective after just one dose.
Are the vaccines free?
Yes, for patients, but the health care providers will bill insurance companies, Medicaid and Medicare, or tap federal funds for the uninsured.
If a vaccine needs two doses, can you switch to another vaccine for the second one?
Experts advise staying with the same vaccine for both. That's true even for the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, which use the same general approach yet are different.
After I get vaccinated, do I still have to wear a mask?
Yes. Even after vaccination increases, preventive behaviors will still be needed. The ability to reduce transmission will require not just high vaccine uptake, but ongoing social distancing and masks.