COVID-19 Vaccine Frequently Asked Questions

Updated: March. 9, 2021

Looking for more information on the status of the COVID-19 vaccine? Sign up for our e-newsletter to stay up to date on the latest information.

We continually update this page with the best information we have at the time. Please check regularly for updates by:

Q: When can I get the COVID-19 vaccine?

A: State and federal health departments continue to update who is eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, based largely on who is at most risk from COVID-19. Adventist Health Portland is supporting public vaccination sites but does not have vaccines available in our clinics for patients or the public at this time.

As vaccine doses are manufactured, more and more groups of the general public will have access to the vaccine. Keep checking here for updates. If you are an established Adventist Health Portland patient, watch your email, texts and MyChart for updates about when you are eligible to receive the vaccine.

There is no reason to call your clinic at this time. We do not maintain waiting lists. If you believe you are eligible at this time, please contact your county health department or the Oregon Health Authority.

Additional vaccine news and information:

Q: Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe despite its fast development?

A: COVID-19 mRNA vaccines have gone through the same rigorous safety assessment as all vaccines before they are authorized or approved for use in the United States by the FDA. This includes large clinical trials and data review by a safety monitoring board.

Clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccines must first show they are safe and effective before any vaccine can be authorized or approved for use. The known and potential benefits of a COVID-19 vaccine must outweigh the known and potential risks of the vaccine for use under an Emergency Use Authorization.

Even after a vaccine is authorized for approval or use, the FDA and CDC use vaccine safety monitoring systems to ensure the benefits continue to outweigh the risks for people who receive vaccines.

Q: Are there side effects to these vaccines?

A: Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines can cause side effects, including:

  • Pain at the injection site
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Sore muscles

These side effects are typically minor and can be improved by taking acetaminophen (Tylenol) if you experience them. The CDC does not recommend taking anything before receiving the vaccine to prevent side effects. Symptoms are often worse after the second shot. Side effects are a sign the immune system is working.

Q: Can I get COVID-19 from the vaccine?

A: No. You cannot get COVID-19 from the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines because the virus is not used to produce them. The symptoms you may experience after the shot is due to your body’s immune response — a sign the vaccine is working.

Q: What is a mRNA vaccine?

A: 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.

Here are some other facts about mRNA:

  • mRNA from the vaccine never enters the nucleus of the cell and does not affect or interact with a person’s DNA.
  • Like all vaccines, COVID-19 mRNA vaccines have been rigorously tested for safety before being authorized for use in the United States.
  • mRNA technology is new, but not unknown. It’s been studied for more than a decade.
  • mRNA vaccines do not contain a live or weakened virus. They do not carry a risk of causing disease in the vaccinated person.

Q: Why is it important to get the COVID-19 vaccine?

A: The health and safety of our patients, visitors, staff and providers are the highest priority for Adventist Health. The COVID-19 pandemic has lasted much longer than we hoped. As COVID-19 cases surge, we must do our very best to ensure that our communities are protected from COVID-19.

Health care settings in general, and long-term care settings in particular, can be high-risk locations for COVID-19 exposure and transmission. That’s why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is prioritizing health care workers as one of the first groups to have access to the vaccine.

Q: How many doses of the vaccine are required?

A: The Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines require two doses. Two shots are generally needed to provide the best protection against COVID-19, and the shots are given either 21 or 28 days apart. The first shot primes the immune system, helping it to recognize the virus, and the second shot strengthens the immune response. It is very important to get the second shot as immunity is not maximized until it is received.

Q: Do both doses of the vaccine have to be from the same manufacturer?

A: Yes. If your first dose is a Pfizer vaccine, your second dose must be a Pfizer vaccine. If your first dose is a Moderna vaccine, then your second dose must be a Moderna vaccine.

Q: Do I have to take the COVID-19 vaccine?

A: There are no COVID-19 vaccine mandates at this time. Adventist Health Portland is not requiring the COVID-19 vaccine for our staff and providers, unless it becomes required by law. With or without the vaccine, appropriate masking and distancing are keystones to reducing transmission. If you decide not to take it initially, you can always request it at a later time.

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

A: 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 may still receive the vaccine if they choose. Consider discussing possible risks and benefits with your doctor.

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

A: 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 noninjectable drugs, the vaccine is safe to receive.

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

A: Yes. Eggs or egg-based ingredients are not used in any point in the production of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines.

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

A: Yes. There are no ingredients in the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccinations that should cause issues in patients with penicillin allergies. The CDC recommends patients with any severe allergies get monitored for 15 to 30 minutes after receiving the vaccine as a precaution.

Q: Is the vaccine safe for immunocompromised people?

A: 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 says immunocompromised people may receive the vaccine if they choose. Vaccines are often less effective in immunocompromised patients, so if you are immunocompromised it is especially important to continue following distancing and masking recommendations even after you are vaccinated.

Q: Is there anything that can neutralize the vaccine injection quickly in case of a serious reaction?

A: No. So far, the data has not shown any serious adverse reactions other than a few reported cases of anaphylaxis in individuals already known to have high reactivity to vaccines and other products. We recommend these types of individuals consider not taking the vaccine. There are no neutralizing chemicals to date, but we continue to monitor safety and watch for published research.

Q: Is physical distancing and masking still necessary if I get vaccinated?

A: Yes. Full protection from the vaccine is not reached until seven to 14 days after the second dose. Even after that, please continue social distancing and masking when around other people for now. We know the vaccine is very effective at preventing us from getting sick from COVID-19, but we do not yet know how effective it is at preventing asymptomatic infection or spread of the virus to other people.

Q: If I’ve had COVID already, do I still need the vaccine?

A: If you’ve already had COVID-19, there may be benefit from taking the vaccine. It is still recommended by expert authorities. We do not yet know for sure how long any natural immunity will last. If we have a limited supply temporarily and you’ve had the infection within the last 90 days, you may be asked to wait until later (only because reinfection during the first 90 days is rare).

Q: Will all clinics get the vaccine?

A: Not necessarily. It depends on which vaccines become available and when. One of the vaccines requires special handling (ultra-cold freezer) and not all facilities have the right storage equipment. We will continue to update as we know more.

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

A: Please visit cdc.gov/coronavirus.