Can You Get the Vaccine Now?
Yes, in the United States, vaccination is available to everyone 12 and older. Check with your doctor, your health plan or use Vaccines.gov to find out where you can be vaccinated now.
Can Children Get Vaccinated for COVID-19?
Yes, Pfizer’s vaccine is approved for use for those 12 and over. The other available vaccines are for those 18 and over. Clinical trials are underway for children under 12 years. Watch for updates in available vaccines for children. Once they are approved, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and the Vaccines for Children program will provide coverage.
WHERE DO YOU GET THE VACCINE?
The CDC refers people to the Vaccine Finder. All locations may not be listed. Be sure to ask your health plan or provider what might be closest. Pharmacies near you may also have vaccinations available (CDC). You can use this link to look up your local health office for more information. Most vaccination sites require you to make an appointment.
What Happens When You get Vaccinated?
The vaccination is a simple shot in the arm. Reactions are rare, but you could feel an ache where your received the shot or light flu symptoms. You can visit the CDC for more information about possible side effects. For more about the COVID-19 vaccines click here.
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two shots. You will receive a vaccination card that tells you when you are due for your second shot. Be sure to make your appointment.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is one dose. Continue to wear a face mask, socially distance, and follow all safety protocols as your state and the CDC instruct (CDC).
Do You Get One Shot or Two?
If you are getting the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, you must take two doses (two shots) of the vaccine approximately 21-28 days apart. When you get the first vaccination, make a date to come back for the second shot. If you get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, there is only one shot.
WILL YOU BE IMMUNE ONCE YOU GET THE VACCINE?
You will not immediately be immune after being vaccinated. It takes at least two weeks after the second dose of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines and two weeks after the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine before you are protected. Even after being fully vaccinated, you could get COVID-19 because the vaccines are not 100% effective. To learn more about the vaccines available, visit the COVID-19 Vaccine page on this website or visit the CDC.
DO YOU NEED TO WEAR A MASK AND SOCIAL DISTANCE AFTER GETTING VACCINATED?
Two weeks after receiving both doses of Pfizer or Moderna or the single dose of Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you are considered fully vaccinated. Your chances of getting COVID-19 are now very low. Continue precautions such as wearing a mask in public places or when you are with unvaccinated people from more than one household. The CDC has made recommendations that allow fully vaccinated people to relax these restrictions in private and outdoors. Visit the CDC for those recommendations.
WILL THE VACCINES PROTECT YOU FROM THE NEW STRAINS OF COVID-19?
The vaccines will protect from a range of variants, including the Delta variant. If effectiveness at some point becomes too low, it will be possible to adjust the vaccine to protect against the variants. Therefore, changes or mutations in the virus should not make vaccines completely ineffective (WHO).
The Vaccines Approved for Emergency Use in the U.S.
The first two COVID-19 vaccines available through Emergency Use Authorization (EUA, see below), to help us fight COVID-19 are mRNA Vaccines. The specific codes that make its “spike” protein (which is what enables the virus to infect people) were isolated and copied as mRNA fragments, which is what cells use as instructions for making proteins. Those fragments are packaged into special molecules, then injected into the patient.
Within the patient, the mRNA fragments enter the body’s factories. The factory “reads” the mRNA instructions and makes copies of the spike protein. Spike protein copies are partial and cannot, by themselves, cause harm, but they will trigger the body to make antibodies against the spike portion of the virus. Those antibodies protect patients from a COVID-19 infection (Forbes).
The third vaccine is a viral vector vaccine. A viral vector vaccine uses a virus (unable to cause harm in people or one modified so it can’t) to deliver the instructions to factories in the body to make a harmless part of the COVID-19 spike. That triggers an immune response in our body which teaches it how to respond if the body is exposed to the real COVID-19 virus (CDC).
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Pfizer / BioNTech Vaccine
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine (Pfizer) was the first to be authorized in the U.S. Data from their Phase 3 study of nearly 44,000 people (42% having diverse background) has shown their vaccine candidate to be 95% effective in helping to prevent COVID-19. This was consistent across age, race and ethnicity demographics. In adults over 65 years of age, effectiveness was over 94%.
Things to Know
This vaccine requires two doses, delivered by injection, three to four weeks apart. It is approved for those 12 years old and over. If you have an existing condition or have had a reaction to a vaccine, please consult your doctor. The vaccine does not contain eggs, latex or preservatives (CDC).
According to the FDA, the most commonly reported side effects were pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, and fever. More people experienced these effects after the second dose than after the first dose, and they lasted several days.
Early results from the Moderna clinical trials show their vaccine is “94.1% effective with more than 30,000 participants in the U.S. in the trial.” Its success was consistent across age, race and ethnicity, and gender demographics. The Cove study (Phase 3 trial) included those over 65, with chronic health conditions, and “individuals who self-identify as people of color” (Moderna).
Things to Know
The Moderna vaccine requires two doses, one month (28 days) apart. It is recommended for people aged 18 years and older. The vaccine does not contain eggs, preservatives or latex. You should not get the vaccine if you have had a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) or an immediate allergic reaction—even if it was not severe—to the first dose or any ingredient in an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine (such as polyethylene glycol) (CDC).
Moderna is a mRNA vaccine. According to a Moderna news release, “no serious adverse events were noted in the trial." Reactions to the vaccine include potential pain, redness, and swelling in the arm and tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever and nausea in the rest of the body (CDC).
Johnson & Johnson Vaccine
The Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine is the third vaccine approved for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the FDA. In clinical trials it was reported this vaccine prevented hospitalization and death (J&J).
"The J&J vaccine was tested in more people who identified as Hispanic/Latino and Black or African American. It was also tested in more people who were 60 years or older and in those who had conditions such as heart disease, obesity, and diabetes" (Duke Health).
Things to Know
This vaccine is a viral vector vaccine. It is easier to store than the mRNA vaccines and requires only one dose. The vaccine is approved for people 18 years old and older. If you have previously had a reaction to a vaccine or to any ingredient in the vaccine, you should not get the J&J vaccine (J&J/CDC).
The most common side effects include injection site pain, headache, fatigue, muscle ache and nausea. These usually happen 1-2 days after being vaccinated. The symptoms are reportedly mild to moderately severe (FDA). However, according to the CDC, "women younger than 50 years old especially should be aware of the rare risk of blood clots with low platelets after vaccination, and that other COVID-19 vaccines are available where this risk has not been seen. If you received a J&J/Janssen vaccine, here is what you need to know. Read the CDC/FDA statement" (CDC).
Oxford / AstraZeneca Vaccine
Researchers report the AstraZeneca vaccine is up to 90% effective when the first dose is less than full dose, and the second dose given as a full dose. The vaccine is in stage three trials according to the company news release.
Novavax has a vaccine candidate in phase three trial on three continents. This vaccine is a protein-based vaccine using only the COVID-19 spike to trigger an immune response.
For more information about what is in process with the FDA click here.
The COVID-19 Vaccine Approval Process
Operation Warp Speed identified the most promising potential vaccines and provided government support to lessen the time required to receive FDA approval and prepare for production and delivery of the vaccine. The vaccine manufacturers worked with the U.S. government on safety needs throughout the process. While the COVID-19 vaccine trial process has been thorough, it has been faster than normal largely because the three trial phases and manufacturing and delivery preparation have been done in an overlapping sequence. Also, mRNA vaccines — the first two vaccines created and submitted to the FDA by Pfizer and Moderna — are generally faster to create, test, and market.
The FDA has a Vaccine Advisory Committee that reviews all scientific data once a vaccine has been submitted and makes a recommendation to approve a vaccine or not. In the case of the COVID-19 vaccines, they were first recommended for Emergency Use Authorization.
Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) FDA Approval
An EUA makes a vaccine or medication available to the public faster than the traditional approval process, but full FDA approval still hinges on data that shows the vaccine is safe and effective. Since EUA is more limited than full approval, drug makers are expected to submit the vaccine for full approval later.
Once the FDA accepts a positive recommendation and the vaccine is approved for limited emergency use, the company can distribute it.
Through Operation Warp Speed, the federal government made investments in the manufacturing end of the vaccine development process, enabling faster distribution of the vaccine. The Department of Defense set up and put into action a plan to deliver the vaccine nationwide, with states determining where vaccines would be provided and in what priority.