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Covid-19 Vaccine Frequently Asked Questions

Which COVID-19 vaccines have been FDA-authorized?

FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccines

Pfizer-BioNTech       FDA Fact Sheet: Pfizer for patients and caregivers (includes details on an additional (third) dose and single booster dose)

Moderna                    FDA Fact Sheet: Moderna for patients and caregivers (includes details on an additional (third) dose and single booster dose)

Janssen                       FDA Fact Sheet: Janssen for patients and caregivers (includes details on a single booster dose)

Can I get a COVID-19 booster dose? What is the difference between a third, or additional dose and a booster dose? 
Everyone ages 5 years and older is eligible for a COVID-19 booster shot. There are booster recommendations for all three available COVID-19 vaccines. Booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are free and widely available statewide. Check eligibility and criteria here.

A COVID-19 booster shot is given after the protection provided by the original shot(s) has begun to decrease over time. Typically, you would get a booster after the immunity from the initial dose(s) naturally starts to wane. The booster is designed to help people maintain their level of immunity for longer.

An additional or third dose is administered to people with moderately to severely compromised immune systems. This additional dose is intended to improve immunocompromised people’s response to their initial vaccine series.

Should I receive the same vaccine type I received for my initial vaccine series, or can I receive a different vaccine type (“mix and match”)? In other words, can I decide which booster dose to get?
You should receive the same vaccine type for your booster dose that you received for your initial vaccine series. However, if the same vaccine type used for your initial series is not readily available, or a different COVID-19 vaccine is desired, any FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine can be used for your booster dose, according to FDA and CDC guidance. This includes Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, or Janssen/Johnson & Johnson. CDC’s recommendations now allow for this type of “mix and match” dosing for booster shots.

AVAILABILITY AND ELIGIBILITY

Where can I find a full list of who is eligible for the vaccine?
The New York State Department of Health has recently expanded eligibility for COVID-19 vaccine. To find out if you are eligible, click here.

Will I have to pay to get vaccinated?  How much will the vaccine cost?
FDA-authorized or approved COVID-19 vaccines are distributed for free by states and local communities. You do not need to pay any out-of-pocket costs to get a COVID-19 vaccine — not before, during, or after your appointment.  Learn more here.

Will I have a choice in which COVID-19 vaccine I receive?
Yes. All currently authorized and recommended COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective, and CDC does not recommend one vaccine over another. The most important decision is to get a COVID-19 vaccination as soon as possible. Learn more here.

Is the vaccine approved for use in children?
Yes, to find out age eligibility, click here.

If I’m pregnant, breastfeeding or trying to conceive, can I get vaccinated?
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that all pregnant women be vaccinated against COVID-19. Pregnant women have a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 than non-pregnant women. The vaccines are very effective at preventing COVID-19 infection, severe illness, and death. Pregnant and breastfeeding women and those planning to conceive should discuss the risks and benefits of vaccination with their provider. Read more from The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and NYS. Read more Common Questions about COVID-19 Vaccine and Pregnancy.

PARTICIPATION

If I’m feeling hesitant, why should I get the vaccine?
Vaccines are one of the most effective tools to protect your health and prevent disease. Vaccines work with your body’s natural defenses so your body will be ready to fight the virus, if you are exposed (also called immunity). You should get vaccinated to:
• Lower your chances of getting COVID-19 or experiencing severe disease. The vaccine helps to protect you by creating an antibody response without risking severe illness or spreading the disease to others.
• Protect yourself, your family and your community. You can spread COVID-19 without feeling sick.
• Help stop the pandemic. The more people who get vaccinated, the less opportunity COVID-19 has to spread and cause severe illness. We need to use all the tools we have to stop the pandemic. Even after getting the COVID-19 vaccine, wearing a mask, physical distancing and handwashing will still be important.

Federal, state and local health officials as well as major healthcare professional groups such as the American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists highly encourage everyone who is eligible to get a vaccine.

I recovered from COVID-19. Do I still need to get vaccinated?
According to the CDC, COVID-19 vaccination should be offered to people regardless of whether they’ve already had a COVID-19 infection. View CDC frequently asked questions for more.

How long does protection from a COVID-19 vaccine last?
It is not yet known how long vaccine protection will last. Studies show that protection against the virus may decrease over time. This reduction has led to the CDC recommending a COVID-19 booster.

Can we stop wearing masks and social distancing after getting vaccinated?
In general, you do not need to wear a mask in outdoor settings. However, if you are in an area with high numbers of COVID-19 cases, consider wearing a mask in crowded outdoor settings and when in close contact with others who are not fully vaccinated. Click here for steps you can take to protect yourself and others after you are fully vaccinated.

SAFETY AND EFFICACY

Are the currently available COVID vaccines safe and effective?
Vaccines have very high safety standards and the COVID-19 vaccines are no exception. For current safety and efficacy information about the vaccines, visit the CDC website here: COVID-19 vaccine safety information.

The vaccine was developed so rapidly. How do I know it went through rigorous testing?
Vaccines are approved by the FDA for use only if they have proven safe and effective in a large group of people. COVID-19 vaccine safety monitoring has been the most intense and comprehensive in US history. More information about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines can be found on the CDC frequently asked questions webpage.

How do the vaccines work?
COVID-19 vaccination works by teaching your immune system how to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19, and this protects you from getting sick with COVID-19. It’s important to note that these vaccines don’t contain the COVID virus. They cannot give you COVID. Rather, they give your immune system a practice run at taking out a small part of the virus, the spike that the virus uses to get into our cells. Again, there is no virus in these vaccines.
mRNA vaccine (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna)
Two of the COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna) authorized for use in the United States use messenger RNA (mRNA). Learn about mRNA vaccines and how they work on the CDC website.
Viral vector vaccine (J&J/Janssen)
A viral vector vaccine uses a harmless version of a different virus, called a “vector,” to deliver information to the body that helps it protect you. The vaccine developed J&J/Janssen is a viral vector vaccine. Learn more about viral vector COVID-19 vaccines on the CDC website.

What if someone misses getting the second dose of the two-dose COVID-19 vaccine?
The CDC recommends getting the second dose as close to the recommended timing of three or four weeks as possible. There is currently limited information on the effectiveness of receiving your second shot later than 6 weeks after the first shot. However, if you receive your second shot at any time after the recommended date, you don’t have to restart your vaccine series. Learn more about COVID-19 vaccines that require 2 shots.

If you get a vaccine do you need a negative COVID test beforehand?
No. The CDC does not recommend COVID-19 screening tests before getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

Is it safe to get a COVID-19 vaccine if I have an underlying medical condition?
Yes. COVID-19 vaccination is especially important for people with underlying health problems like heart disease, cancer, lung disease, diabetes, and obesity. People with these conditions are more likely to get very sick from COVID-19. Please consult with your health care provider if you have specific questions about the COVID-19 vaccine and your health.

Is it better to get natural immunity to COVID-19 rather than immunity from a vaccine?
No. While you may have some short-term antibody protection after recovering from COVID-19, it is unknown how long this protection lasts. A study of COVID-19 infections in Kentucky among people who were previously infected with SAR-CoV-2 shows that unvaccinated people are more than twice as likely to get reinfected than those who were fully vaccinated after initially contracting the virus. COVID-19 vaccines offer better protection than natural immunity alone and vaccines, even after prior infection, help prevent reinfections.

I’ve heard about ‘herd immunity.’ What would it take to get the population to ‘herd immunity’ for COVID-19?
‘Herd immunity’ or community immunity happens when enough people in a population have protection from a disease because they have had the disease or because they are vaccinated. As a result, the virus won’t easily spread among the community. The percentage of people who need to have protection varies by disease. Experts are still learning how many people have to be vaccinated against COVID-19 before the community or population can be considered protected.

SIDE EFFECTS AND ALLERGIC REACTIONS

What side effects might I expect after getting a COVID-19 vaccine?
Click here to learn more about what to expect after getting vaccinated for COVID-19, including normal side effects and tips to reduce pain or discomfort. If you have side effects that bother you or do not go away, you should report them to your vaccination provider or primary care provider. You should also notify the CDC at 1-800-822-7967 because the CDC and FDA continue to monitor the safety of FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccines. In addition, you can use the CDC’s v-safe mobile app, which will help you monitor side effects.
In the event of an emergency, you should call 911 or go to the nearest hospital. 

Breast Imaging and the COVID-19 Vaccine
COVID-19 vaccines (as well as other vaccines) can cause temporary enlarged/swollen lymph nodes in the underarm area (axillary lymphadenopathy) on the same side as where the vaccination was received. This is a normal immune response that will not interfere with breast cancer detection. The Breast Imaging Team at CareMount is following guidance from the Society of Breast Imaging that, if this response is noted, we are recommending a 3 month follow up ultrasound of the affected underarm to document resolution of the lymphadenopathy. When planning a routine breast screening appointment, patients should indicate that they would like an appointment either before receiving their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine or 6 weeks after receiving the second vaccine dose.

Are there measures in place to monitor for adverse reactions at the time I get the vaccine?
The CDC recommends monitoring people at the time they are vaccinated:
• 15 minutes for anyone getting vaccinated and at least 30 minutes for those who have had severe allergic reactions or any type of allergic reaction to a vaccine or injectable therapy. For additional information, visit the CDC Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) or click here for more details on what to expect at the site you will be vaccinated.
CDC: V-safe— is a smartphone-based, after-vaccination health checker for people who receive COVID-19 vaccines. V-safe uses text messaging and web surveys from CDC to check in with vaccine recipients following COVID-19 vaccination. V-safe also provides second vaccine dose reminders if needed, and telephone follow up to anyone who reports medically significant (important) adverse events.

Should I be concerned about allergic reactions to the COVID-19 vaccines?
If you have a history of allergic reactions to vaccines, talk to your healthcare provider before receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. The CDC has learned of reports that some people have experienced severe allergic reactions—also known as anaphylaxis—after getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Learn more about COVID-19 vaccines and allergic reactions.

What do I do if I had a reaction or experienced side-effects to the first shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, should I still get the second?
If you aren’t able to get the second shot of an mRNA vaccine because you had an allergic reaction to the first shot, ask your doctor if you should get a different type of COVID-19 vaccine. Learn about the different types of COVID-19 vaccines.

Will the vaccine make me sterile?
No, the vaccine will not make you sterile. This rumor, along with others, is being spread on the internet to scare people away from the vaccine. There is no evidence to back up these claims.

The above information is sourced from the following sites: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)National Institutes of Health (NIH)US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)NYS Department of HealthPfizerModernaAmerican Cancer Society, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists,  Johnson & JohnsonJohns Hopkins

Helpful resources

Want to learn more? Here are clinical resources to help in understanding COVID-19 vaccines.
• Key things to know about COVID-19 vaccines from the CDC
• Authorized COVID-19 vaccines from the FDA

Updated May 25, 2022