Frequently Asked Questions
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How is the Regular Flu Different from COVID-19?
*William J. Bommer, MD, FACP, FACC,
YourVaccinationGuide.org Chief Medical Advisor
Can I Still Get Vaccinated?
Yes, in the United States, vaccination is available to everyone 6 months and older. Check with your doctor, your health plan, or use Vaccines.gov to find out where you can be vaccinated now.
Where Do You Get the COVID-19 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 look up your local health office by scrolling to the bottom of the page found here. Most vaccination sites require you to make an appointment.
Should You Get a COVID-19 Booster Shot?
Everyone 6 years and older should get 1 update (bivalent) Pfizer-BioNtech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, regardless of whether you’ve received any vaccine.
For children 6-5 years who got Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19
- Aged 6 Months through 4 years and you get 3 COVID-19 vaccine doses, including at least 1 updated COVID-19 dose.
- Aged 5 years and you get at least 1 updated COVID-19 vaccine dose.
For children 6-5 years who got Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19
You need 2 Moderna COVID-19 vaccine doses, including at least 1 updated COVID-19 vaccine dose.
If you got the Novovax or Johnson & Johnson vaccines, they also have doses specific for your age, but do not have the updated bivalent doses available (CDC).
Should You Get the Updated COVID-19 Vaccine?
The CDC recommends the new, updated COVID-19 boosters which are available from Pfizer for people ages five years and older and from Moderna for people ages six years and older if it has been at least two months since your last COVID-19 vaccine dose. The updated boosters are called “bivalent” because they protect against both the original virus and the Omicron variants (BA.4 and BA.5). Bivalent COVID-19 boosters add Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 spike protein components to the current vaccine, helping to restore protection that is waning in the first vaccinations. The updated version targets variants that are more transmissible and immune evading (CDC).
If You are Immunocompromised, Should You Get a 3rd COVID-19 Shot?
Those who are immunocompromised should get 3rd dose at least 28 days after the 2nd dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. You should also receive your first booster at least 3 months after 3rd dose. An mRNA vaccine booster is preferred for people ages 18 years and older, but you may consider J&J/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine in some situations. If you are 18 years or older and moderately or severely immunocompromised, you can choose to receive a 2nd booster (5th dose) of an mRNA vaccine at least 4 months after your first booster (CDC).
What is monkeypox and what should I know to avoid getting it?
Symptoms include fever, chills, swollen lymph nodes, exhaustion, muscle aches and backache, headache, and respiratory symptoms (sore throat, nasal congestion, or cough).
Monkeypox looks like a rash, pimples, or blisters on the face, inside the mouth and other parts of the body like hands, feet, chest, genitals, or anus. During this stage the rash can be painful or itchy. The rash starts as a raised spots then it turns into small blisters filled with fluid. The blisters then turn to scabs and later fall off.
If you have a new or unexplained rash you should consult with your doctor.
Virus can be passed to others through proximity with someone with monkeypox by:
If you believe you have monkeypox, call your health care provider’s office and inform them you would like to be tested for monkeypox. Cover the lesions in bandages and wear a mask to the appointment to limit any chance of spreading. (CDC)
If you test positive for monkeypox, self-isolate. Don’t pop the blisters. Try to keep them clean and dry until the blister falls off on its own and the skin heals completely. (CDC)
Since it is a viral illness, there is no specific treatment. Recovery can last anywhere from two to four weeks. Patients who are more likely to be severely ill, such as people with weakened immune systems, may be able to get an anti-viral treatment called tecovirimat (TPOXX). (CDC)
There is a vaccine for monkeypox called JYNNEOS which requires two doses. You are considered to have the vaccine’s full protection fourteen days after getting the second dose. (CDC).
Will the Vaccines Protect You from the New Strains of COVID-19?
How Many COVID-19 Mutations (Variants) are There?
This is an issue that will change over time. According to the CDC, there are a number of variants currently in the United States.
- B.1.1.7: First identified in the U.S. in December 2020. Initially detected in the UK in December 2020.
- B.1.351: First identified in the U.S. at the end of January 2021. Initially detected in South Africa in December 2020.
- P.1: First detected in the U.S. in January 2021. Initially identified in travelers from Brazil, who were tested during routine screening at an airport in Japan, in early January 2021.
- B.1.427 and B.1.429: First identified in California in February 2021 and were classified as variants of COVID-19 in March 2021.
- B.1.617.2 (Delta Variant): First detected in India in February 2021 but has since surfaced in more than 70 countries, including the United States (Healthline).
- Omicron (B.1.1.529, BA.1, BA.1.1, BA.2, BA.3, BA.4 and BA.5 lineages).
You can visit the CDC Variant Tracker to learn more about the variants in the United States.
These variants are being monitored by the CDC. To date, the vaccines continue to be effective against them.
What Happens When You Get Vaccinated?
A vaccination is a simple injection (shot) in the arm. (Note, a nasal spray is available to healthy people 2 to 49 years old for the flu vaccine.)
After you get a vaccination, you may have minor reactions such as a sore arm or low-grade fever. These symptoms should go away within a few days at most. Remember, vaccines are continually monitored for safety, and like any medication, vaccines can cause side effects which are usually minor. However, a decision not to immunize also involves risks and could put you and your loved ones and others who come into contact with you at risk of contracting a potentially deadly disease (CDC).
Is There a Treatment for COVID-19?
In December 2021, the FDA gave Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to Pfizer for Paxlovid. It is a pill taken orally. Paxlovid is the first treatment for COVID-19 to receive any type of authorization in the U.S. It is authorized to treat mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in adults and pediatric patients (12 years of age and older weighing about 88 pounds) who are at high risk for progression to severe COVID-19, including hospitalization or death. Paxlovid is available by prescription only and should be used as soon as possible after diagnosis and within five days of symptom onset. Paxlovid is NOT a substitute for vaccination (FDA). The CDC recommends everyone be vaccinated fully.
If You Have Already Had COVID-19 and Recovered, Do You Still Need to Get Vaccinated?
“Yes, you should be vaccinated regardless of whether you already had COVID-19” (CDC).
Will You Be Immune After Being Vaccinated?
You will not immediately be immune after being vaccinated. It takes at least two weeks after vaccination before you receive the full protection of those dose(s). You could still get COVID-19 because the vaccines are not 100% effective.
How Do You Talk to Loved Ones Who Are Vaccination Hesitant?
- Listen, be respectful, and ask polite questions to help you understand their concerns.
- Do not tell them they are wrong, suggest there may be new or additional information to consider.
- There are many credible healthcare sources available through the CDC, YourVaccinationGuide.org, or your local healthcare professional. It’s best to find the one that they trust the most.
- Share other upsides that may be important to them such as continuing to be able to hug a grandchild, being able to hold a celebration, the ability to return to work and school, etc.
- Emphasize that:
- The vaccines are safe and free.
- Their chance of dying from or being hospitalized with COVID-19 drops significantly with the vaccine.
- They are protecting themselves and the people around them. Is someone they love over 65, under 6 months or in poor health? These groups are at risk.
- As more people are vaccinated, schools and businesses can continue to safely stay opened.
Can People with Chronic Health Conditions Get the COVID-19 Vaccine?
Yes, people with chronic conditions can get the vaccine (CDC). It is important, however, to talk to your doctor to find out if you should get the vaccine particularly if you have a compromised immune system or had an earlier reaction to a vaccine. Check with your doctor regarding the specific vaccine you are scheduled to receive. Visit the California Chronic Care Coalition for more information related to chronic disease or My Patient Rights if you have trouble accessing care.
Were the COVID-19 Vaccines Tested on People with Chronic Conditions?
In the Moderna vaccine trial, 22.3 percent of participants had at least one high-risk condition, which included lung disease, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, liver disease, or HIV infection. Four percent (4%) of participants had two or more high-risk conditions (CDC). The Pfizer vaccine trial included people with obesity (35.1%), diabetes (8.4%), and pulmonary disease (7.8%). “The J&J vaccine was also tested in more people who were 60 years or older and in those who had [chronic] conditions such as heart disease, obesity, and diabetes” (Duke Health).
Can Children Get Vaccinated for COVID-19?
Yes, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are approved to use for those 6 months to 18 years though they may have different dosages (CDC). The other available vaccines are for those 18 and over. Watch for updates in available vaccines for children.
What is Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C)?
CDC is investigating multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, a rare but serious complication associated with COVID-19 (CDC).
Should You Be Concerned About Side Effects of the mRNA Vaccine Causing Heart Issues (Myocarditis) in Your Children?
In rare instances, cases of inflammation of the heart—called myocarditis and pericarditis–have been reported after mRNA COVID-19 vaccination, appearing primarily in adolescents and young adults. The CDC is still investigating these reports.
Most cases have been reported:
- in male adolescents and young adults age 16 years or older
- after getting the second dose of one of the two mRNA COVID-19 vaccines
- within several days after COVID-19 vaccination, typically
Symptoms of myocarditis and pericarditis:
- chest pain
- shortness of breath
- feelings of having a fast-beating, fluttering, or pounding heart.
Seek medical care if you or your child are experiencing any of these symptoms. Symptoms may appear within a week after having the COVID-19 vaccination (CDC). Patients can usually return to their normal daily activities after their symptoms improve. They should speak with their doctor about returning to exercise or sports. The CDC continues to recommend COVID-19 vaccination for everyone 5 years of age and older, given the risk of COVID-19 illness and related, possibly severe, complications (CDC).
Are the Vaccines Made from Chicken Eggs?
The COVID-19 vaccines do not contain material from chicken eggs. For 70 years, growing viruses in chicken eggs was the way many vaccines were created. Several flu vaccine makers still use this process. In 2019, all the flu vaccines approved in the U.S. were cell-based, not egg-based, but we recommend that you continue to ask every time you get a vaccine if you are concerned or have been told not to take egg-based vaccines (CDC).
How Do You Know if You Have Antibodies and What Does it Mean?
Antibodies are proteins your body makes to fight illness. If you have antibodies for COVID-19 you have been exposed to the virus.
A serology (antibody) test determines if you have those antibodies. The CDC is not currently recommending these tests (CDC).
What Does the Term "Long Haulers" Mean?
“Approximately 80% of those with COVID-19 end up having a mild reaction and most of those cases resolve in about two weeks. For people who have a severe response to the virus, it can take between three and six weeks to recover”(Cleveland Clinic). Long Haulers (or long COVID) have symptoms or related effects months later. Anyone can end up a Long Hauler.
How Accurate is the Testing for COVID-19?
There are two types of tests related to COVID-19 — a diagnostic test and an antibody test.
Diagnostic tests can show if you have an infection now. There are two types of diagnostic tests: a molecular test, which detects the virus’s genetic material, and an antigen test, which detects specific proteins from the virus.
There is only one type of antibody test, which looks for antibodies made by your body’s immune system in response to a specific virus. Antibodies can help fight infections. They can take several days or weeks to develop after you have an infection and may stay in your blood for several weeks or more after recovery. Antibody tests don’t tell if you have COVID-19 now, unlike a diagnostic test would, just if you had it at one time. The CDC is not currently recommending antibody tests (CDC).
More information can be found on the FDA website.
What is Herd Immunity?
“Herd immunity occurs when a large portion of a community (the herd) becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. As a result, the whole community becomes protected — not just those who are immune.
What percentage of a community needs to be immune in order to achieve herd immunity? It varies from disease to disease. The more contagious a disease is, the greater the proportion of the population that needs to be immune to the disease to stop its spread. For example, the measles is a highly contagious illness. It’s estimated that 94% of the population must be immune to interrupt the chain of transmission” (Mayo Clinic).
If You Have Allergies, Should You Get the Vaccine?
Generally, seasonal allergies do not prevent you from getting a COVID-19 vaccine and in no way suggest that the vaccine would lead to an adverse reaction. However, if you have had a severe allergic reaction or an immediate allergic reaction—even if it was not severe—to any ingredient in a vaccine you should not get the COVID-19 vaccine without a discussion with your doctor.
If you aren’t able to get one type of COVID-19 vaccine because you are allergic to an ingredient in that vaccine, ask your doctor if you should get a different type of COVID-19 vaccine. Learn about the different types of COVID-19 vaccines. Learn more about COVID-19 vaccines for people with allergies.
Can the Vaccine Cause People to Develop COVID-19?
No, the COVID-19 vaccines do not use the live virus and cannot give you the virus. It is possible that those vaccinated could still get COVID-19 because the vaccines are not 100% effective, but the vaccine will not give it to you.