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Vaccine FAQ

I can’t remember which vaccine I received for the first dose? What do I do?

If you are 18 years or older you may choose which COVID-19 vaccine you receive as a booster shot. Some people may prefer the vaccine type that they originally received, and others may prefer to get a different booster. CDC’s recommendations now allow for this type of mix and match dosing for booster shots.

How does the COVID-19 vaccine work?

COVID-19 vaccines help our bodies develop immunity to the virus that causes COVID-19 without us actually contracting the virus. For more information on how vaccines work, visit CDC.gov.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?

The COVID-19 vaccine is being held to the same rigorous safety and effectiveness standard as all other types of vaccines in the United States. The only COVID-19 vaccines the FDA will make available for use in the United States (by approval or emergency use authorization) are those that meet these standards.

Are there differences in the vaccines – Pfizer, Moderna and J&J?

Yes, there are differences between the three vaccines from development, required number of doses, and potential side effects. Please visit CDC.gov for more information on each of the vaccines.

How many doses of the vaccine will I need to take?

The number of doses needed depends on which vaccine you receive. To get the most protection:

  • Two Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses should be given 3 weeks (21 days) apart.
  • Two Moderna vaccine doses should be given 1 month (28 days) apart.
  • Johnson & Johnsons Jansen (J&J/Janssen) COVID-19 vaccine requires only one dose.

If you receive a vaccine that requires two doses, you should get your second shot as close to the recommended interval as possible. You should not get the second dose earlier than the recommended interval.

Do I have to take both doses?

Absolutely. The data supports two doses (21-28 days apart, based on which vaccine is administered) as the most effective delivery of the vaccine. It is critically important that anyone who receives the first dose is 100% committed to receiving a second dose.

Am I eligible for a booster?

The FDA and CDC are continually expanding eligibility and evaluating data regarding timeframe for administration of the booster. Please visit CDC.gov for an updated list.

What are the side effects of the vaccine?

Side effects have been mild to moderate and short-lived after receiving the vaccine - similar to other vaccination side effects. An exception may be for those who have had serious allergic reactions to vaccines/medications in the past. However, the most common side effects are:  

  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches/joint pain
  • Fever

Is paralysis a side effect of the COVID-19 Vaccine?

There is no data that links paralysis to being a side effect of the vaccine. There were seven clinical trial participants that experience facial paralysis. However, this quantity is no higher than the number of people who experience facial paralysis in the general population without receiving the vaccine. Any paralysis that occurs after receiving the vaccine should be reported to VAERS.

What should I do if I experience side effects after receiving the vaccine?

If you experience any serious adverse side effect after receiving the vaccine, call 911.  Reporting directly to the CDC through the v-safe app, http://vsafe.cdc.gov, or calling 1-800-822-7967 is also recommended.

Can I take over-the-counter pain medication to ease vaccine symptoms?

It is not recommended to take over-the-counter Acetaminophen or non-steroid anti-inflammatory medication prior to receiving the vaccine. However, they may be taken for treatment of post-vaccination symptoms, if medically appropriate.

Will I contract COVID-19 from the COVID-19 vaccine?

The data says no. Sometimes vaccinations can cause some symptoms, such as fever, but these symptoms are normal and are a sign that the body is building immunity. Vaccine development is complex and fascinating – you can learn more about how COVID-19 vaccines work at CDC.gov.

Can a person who has received the COVID-19 vaccine still spread COVID-19?

Yes, fully vaccinated people can be carriers of the COVID-19 virus. A fully-vaccinated individual should follow safety guidelines provided by the CDC.

Will the COVID-19 vaccines cause a positive test result on COVID-19 viral tests?

No. COVID-19 vaccines won’t cause you to test positive on viral tests, which are used to see if you have a current infection. If your body develops an immune response, which is the goal of vaccination, there is a possibility you may test positive on some antibody tests which are used to indicate if you have had a previous infection. Experts are still looking at how the COVID-19 vaccination may affect antibody testing results, but there is little concern about creating false positives for current infection tests.

What are antibody tests?

Antibody tests check your blood for antibodies, which may tell you if you had a past infection with the virus that causes COVID-19. Antibodies are proteins that help fight off infections and can provide protection against getting that disease again (immunity). Antibodies are disease specific. For example, measles antibodies will protect you from getting measles if you are exposed to it again, but they won’t protect you from getting mumps if you are exposed to mumps.

Antibody tests should not be used to diagnose a current COVID-19 infection, except in instances in which viral testing is delayed. An antibody test may not show if you have a current COVID-19 infection, because it can take 1–3 weeks after infection for your body to make antibodies.

Should I receive the vaccine after receiving monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma?

Currently, there is not data on the safety and efficacy of the vaccine in a person who have received monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma. Vaccination should be deferred for at least 90 days, as a precautionary measure to avoid potential interference of the antibody therapy with vaccine-induced immune responses. This recommendation applies to persons who receive passive antibody therapy before receiving any vaccine doses as well as those who receive passive antibody therapy after the first dose but before the second dose, in which case the second dose would be deferred for at least 90 days following receipt of the antibody therapy.

How do I get a viral COVID-19 test?

A viral test checks fluid or blood samples to find out if you are currently infected with COVID-19. The time it takes to process these tests can vary, so results may not be available for a few days. Patients can visit state or local health department websites for the latest information on testing, or you can call your healthcare provider.

I’ve already had COVID-19, should I still get the vaccine?

Yes. Re-infection with COVID-19 is possible, so people are advised to get a COVID-19 vaccine even if they have had COVID-19 before. However, it is recommended you wait 14 days from last positive test.

I haven’t had COVID-19, but I’ve been recently exposed. Should I receive the vaccine?

If you have knowingly been exposed to COVID-19, you should not seek vaccination until your quarantine period has ended to avoid potentially exposing individuals during a vaccination appointment. 

Does the vaccine help prevent getting sick with COVID-19?

Yes, that is the vaccine’s core purpose. While many people with COVID-19 only experience mild illness, some suffer from severe illness or may even die. There is no way to know how COVID-19 will affect you, even if you are not at increased risk of complications. If you get sick, you also may spread the disease to friends, family, and others around you while you are sick. COVID-19 vaccination helps protect you by creating an antibody response without having to experience sickness. Learn more about how COVID-19 vaccines work at CDC.gov.

Do I need to wear a mask and avoid close contact with others if I have received two doses of the vaccine?

Yes. While experts learn more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide under real-life conditions, it will be important for everyone to continue using all the tools available to use to help stop this pandemic, like covering your mouth and nose with a mask, washing hands often, and staying at least 6 feet away from others. Other factors, including how many people get vaccinated and how the virus is spreading in communities, will also affect this decision.

What do we know about the COVID-19 variants? 

Information about the current variants is rapidly emerging. Scientists are working to learn more about how easily it might spread and whether they could cause more severe illness.

Do COVID-19 variants alter the COVID-19 Vaccine effectiveness? 

There is no evidence that the variants are changing the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines. Most experts believe this is unlikely to occur because of the nature of the immune response to the virus.

I have an autoimmune condition, should I take the COVID-19 vaccine?

If you do not have allergic reactions to other vaccines, you may receive the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Should I wait to take the COVID-19 vaccine after I have received the flu vaccine?

The data shows that the two vaccines do not counter react each other. You can receive both vaccines at the same time and not affect the effectiveness for either. 

I’m on birth control. Do I need to use a specific type of vaccine?

People using hormonal birth control can receive any FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccine. There are no recommendations to stop taking hormonal birth control (birth control pills, implant, patch, ring, or shot) before or after receiving the COVID-19 Vaccine. 

Is the vaccine safe if I am pregnant?

Yes, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists strongly recommends all pregnant women who do not have a medical contraindication receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Should I plan my mammogram or breast exam around the COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes. All vaccines can potentially cause swollen lymph nodes in some women. When your radiologist sees a swollen lymph node during a mammogram, that can be a cause for concern and warrants a follow-up exam. Experts are trying to avoid false positives and unnecessary anxiety. They suggest either scheduling a mammogram before a vaccine, or 4 to 6 weeks afterwards. 

Is it safe for my child to get a COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes. Studies show that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. Like adults, children (ages 5 - 17) may have some side effects after COVID-19 vaccination. These side effects may affect their ability to do daily activities, but they should go away in a few days.

Why should my child get vaccinated?

COVID-19 vaccination can help protect your child from getting COVID-19. Getting your child vaccinated helps to protect your child and your family. Vaccination is now recommended for everyone 5 years and older. Currently, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine is the only one available to children 5 years and older.

Should my child receive a vaccine booster?

Everyone ages 18 years and older should get a booster dose of either Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna (COVID-19 vaccines) 5 months after the last dose in their primary series. Teens 12-17 years old should get a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine booster 5 months after the last dose in their primary series.

For more information on COVID-19 and COVID-19 vaccines, please speak to your primary care physician or visit CDC.gov.