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Vaccine FAQ

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. Different types of vaccines work in different ways to offer protection, but all types help the body create a supply of “memory” T-lymphocytes as well as B-lymphocytes that will remember how to fight that virus in the future. For more information on how vaccines work, visit

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 vaccine Pfizer vs Moderna?

Both vaccines were developed using an mRNA platform. A method that has been developed since the SARs and MERs epidemics years ago. They are not live viral vaccines. The major difference between the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine is the cold chain storage. Pfizer requires extreme cold and potency is questionable if out of the cold beyond twelve hours. With respect to the safety profile of the Pfizer vaccine, the profile was found to be favorable.

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

There are two doses required for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine. The first shot starts building protection. A second shot, a few weeks later, is needed to get the most protection the vaccine has to offer.

Do I have to take both doses?

Absolutely. The data supports two doses (21 days apart) 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.

What are the side effects of the vaccine?

No serious or life-threatening side effects have been reported with either of the vaccines in initial studies. All 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,, 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. COVID-19 vaccines currently in development do not use the live virus that causes COVID-19 but instead use inactive portions of the virus to help teach our immune systems how to recognize and fight the virus. 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

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

No. Vaccines currently in clinical trials in the United States 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 passive antibody therapy?

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.

At this time, experts do not know how long someone is protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19. The immunity someone gains from having had an infection, called natural immunity, varies from person to person, and unfortunately, some early evidence suggests natural immunity may not last very long.

We won’t know how long immunity lasts until we have experience with the vaccine and more data on how well it works. Both natural immunity and vaccine-induced immunity are important aspects of COVID-19 that experts are continuing to research, and CDC will keep the public informed as new evidence becomes available.

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

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 that are in the UK and now the US? 

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. Currently, there is no evidence that these variants cause more severe illness or increased risk of death.

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.

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. 

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