COVID-19 vaccine frequently asked questions for patients

Should I get vaccinated for COVID-19?
When can I get the vaccine?
What vaccines are available?
What is a messenger RNA vaccine?
What is a vector vaccine?
Why do I need two COVID-19 shots?
Will the shot hurt or make me sick?
Can I get COVID-19 from the vaccine?
Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?
If I already had COVID-19 and recovered, do I still need to get vaccinated?
Can my child get vaccinated for COVID-19?
Do the COVID-19 vaccines affect fertility?
Can I take it if I’m pregnant or nursing my baby?
Can I get the vaccine if I have food or medication allergies?
Can I take the vaccine if I am allergic to eggs?
Can I take the vaccination if I’m allergic to penicillin?
Is the vaccine safe for people with compromised immune systems?
Do I need to wear a mask when I receive the COVID-19 vaccine?
Are fetal cells used in the production of COVID-19 vaccines?
Where can I find more information about the COVID-19 vaccine?

Should I get vaccinated for COVID-19?

We strongly recommend you get vaccinated if you are 16 or older (patients 12-15 years of age are eligible for the Pfizer vaccine). The vaccine will help protect you from getting COVID-19. If you still get infected after you get vaccinated, the vaccine may prevent serious illness.

When can I get the vaccine?

When a vaccine is authorized or approved in the United States, there may not be enough doses available for all adults. Supplies will increase over time, and all adults should be able to get vaccinated later in 2021. The goal is for everyone to be able to easily receive a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as large quantities are available. Several thousand vaccination providers will be available, including doctors’ offices, retail pharmacies, hospitals and federally qualified health centers. We will share more information about vaccine distribution when we have it. Your state’s public health department web sites offer information on when you can get vaccinated: Your state’s public health department web sites offer information on when you can get vaccinated:

California Department of Public Health

Hawaii State Department of Health

Oregon Health Authority

What vaccines are available?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized COVID-19 vaccines from, Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson (currently paused) for emergency use. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are made with messenger RNA and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a type of vaccine called a viral vector vaccine.

What is a messenger RNA vaccine?

Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines are a new type of vaccine to protect against infectious diseases. They teach our cells how to make a protein—or even just a piece of a protein—that triggers an immune response inside our bodies. That immune response, which produces antibodies, is what protects us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies.

What is a vector vaccine?

Like mRNA vaccines, viral vector vaccines teach your cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response to protect you from the virus. They use a different virus in order to introduce the instructions to make this protein into your cells. The virus used to do this is harmless and cannot cause disease in humans. Viral vector vaccines have been around since the 1970s, and they have been used in other recent disease outbreaks including Ebola and Zika virus.

Why do I need two COVID-19 shots?

Currently authorized vaccines, and most vaccines under development, require two doses. The first shot helps the immune system recognize the virus, and the second shot strengthens the immune response. You need both to get the best protection. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine only requires one dose.

Will the shot hurt or make me sick?

There may be side effects, but they should go away within a few days. Possible side effects include a sore arm, headache, fever or body aches. This does not mean you have COVID-19. Side effects are signs that the vaccine is working to build immunity. If they don’t go away in a week, or you have more serious symptoms, call your doctor.

Can I get COVID-19 from the vaccine?

No. You cannot get COVID-19 from any of the COVID-19 vaccines available in the United States because they do not contain the actual virus that causes the disease.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?

COVID-19 vaccines go through the same rigorous safety assessment as all vaccines before the FDA approves them for use in the United States. This includes large clinical trials and data review by a safety monitoring board.

If I already had COVID-19 and recovered, do I still need to get vaccinated?

Yes. CDC recommends that you get vaccinated even if you have already had COVID-19, because you can catch it more than once. While you may have some short-term antibody protection after recovering from COVID-19, we don’t know how long this protection will last.

Can my child get vaccinated for COVID-19?

Patients 12-15 years of age are eligible for the Pfizer vaccine only. More studies need to be conducted before COVID-19 vaccines are recommended for children under 12.

Do the COVID-19 vaccines affect fertility?

The COVID-19 vaccine does not affect fertility. A myth circulating on social media claims that antibodies targeting the spike protein of the COVID-19 virus after vaccination or infection also target a protein that is involved in placenta formation called syncytin-1, leading to infertility in women. However, there is no evidence to support this and these proteins are not actually very similar. There were pregnancies that occurred in both the vaccine section and placebo section of the clinical trials of the COVID-19 vaccines without any imbalance between the groups, and no one who received the vaccine in the trials has had a poor pregnancy outcome to date. In addition, if this claim was true, natural infection with COVID-19 would also lead to infertility since antibodies against the spike protein are produced after an infection as well.

Can I take it if I’m pregnant or nursing my baby?

The vaccines have not been studied in pregnant or nursing mothers; however, they are expected to be safe. Both the CDC and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend that people who are pregnant or nursing receive the vaccine if they choose. Consider discussing possible risks and benefits with your doctor.

Can I get the vaccine if I have food or medication allergies?

Allergic reactions to the vaccine are possible. Any person with a severe allergy to any part of the vaccine should not receive it. Since many people are not sure which part of a vaccine they are allergic to, CDC recommends caution if you have a severe allergy to any other vaccine or injectable therapy. You may still receive the COVID-19 vaccine if this is the case but may want to discuss with your doctor first. If you have an allergy to foods or other non-injectable drugs, the vaccine is safe to receive.

Can I take the vaccine if I am allergic to eggs?

Yes. Eggs or egg-based ingredients are not used at any point in the production of the Pfizer vaccine. It is safe for people with allergies.

Can I take the vaccination if I’m allergic to penicillin?

Yes. There are no ingredients in the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination that should cause issues in patients with penicillin allergies. The CDC recommends patients with severe allergies to any medicine get monitored for 30 minutes after receiving the vaccine as a precaution.

Is the vaccine safe for people with compromised immune systems?

Yes. The vaccine has not been studied in immunocompromised people yet; however, there is no reason to expect it to be less safe in this population than in the general population. The CDC recommends that immunocompromised people receive the vaccine if they choose. Because vaccines are often less effective in immunocompromised patients, it is especially important for those who are immunocompromised to continue following distancing and masking recommendations even after they are vaccinated.

Do I need to wear a mask when I receive the COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes. CDC recommends that during the pandemic people wear a mask that covers their nose and mouth when in contact with others outside your household, when in healthcare facilities and when receiving any vaccine, including a COVID-19 vaccine. Anyone who has trouble breathing or is unable to remove a mask without assistance should not wear a mask.

Are fetal cells used in the production of COVID-19 vaccines?

Actual fetal cells were not used in any way. Cell lines originally derived from fetal tissue were used in various stages of development or production of some COVID-19 vaccines. The cell lines in question came from cells taken from two elective abortions that occurred in the 1970s and 1980s. Since then the cells have been grown in a lab, and new fetal tissue has not been used at any point since and will not be used going forward. The cells used today are grown 100% in a laboratory and are thousands of generations removed from the fetal cells from which they were originally derived.

One of these fetal cell lines is used in the production of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Fetal cell lines are not used in the production of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

Where can I find more information about the COVID-19 vaccine?

Please visit cdc.gov/coronavirus.