It's totally normal to have questions about the COVID-19 vaccines. We asked to hear from you on social media, and you sent us your inquiries. We’ve farmed them out to our experts and compiled their responses here.
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I'm in my 20s and have no health problems. Infection rates are going down in my city, so why should I get a COVID vaccine?
As more and more people are vaccinated, the virus will have fewer people to infect, and community transmission will go down. Every person that gets vaccinated brings us one step closer to ending the pandemic.
Not getting vaccinated puts you at much higher risk of severe COVID-19, which can make you seriously sick for a long period of time and possibly cause lasting damage—even if you’re young and healthy. We still don’t know why COVID causes such severe disease in some people, so it’s impossible to predict whether you’ll have a mild or serious case if you are exposed.
There’s also the added convenience of being vaccinated! You don’t have to quarantine if you’ve been exposed to someone who you later found out was infected with COVID-19. And, if you end up traveling someplace that requires a vaccine, that will already be taken care of. Plus, at the end of the day, you will be protected against the disease, so you won’t have to worry about getting other people sick or causing them to need to quarantine by accident.
How do I get a COVID-19 vaccine? Is it complicated?
When vaccines first rolled out in the U.S., there were limitations on eligibility and supply that made accessing appointments difficult for many people. Now, however, anyone over the age of 12 can choose from a variety of convenient options to get vaccinated.
Some options to find a vaccination site near you in the U.S.:
Go to Vaccines.gov, enter your ZIP code, and a search radius up to 50 miles.
Text your ZIP code to 438829 or call 1-800-232-0233 to find locations near you.
Call or email your doctor’s office to ask if they are providing vaccines and, if not, if they have suggestions for where you can go.
Once you’ve found a convenient site, you can make an appointment. Many sites are now offering open hours for walk-ins as well.
Keep in mind:
COVID-19 vaccines are free, even if you are uninsured. If you receive a bill, speak to the person or facility that sent it. If they don’t cancel it, contact 1-800-HHS-TIPS or visit tips.hhs.gov to file a complaint.
No social security number or government ID is necessary to get a vaccine. A facility may ask for this information to help confirm that you are uninsured, but you can still get vaccinated even if you can’t provide these items.
Everyone age 12 and up is eligible, regardless of immigration status. Vaccination will not affect your status or be shared with immigration agencies.
Why aren’t the vaccines under emergency use authorization fully approved by the FDA yet?
Both Pfizer and Moderna have submitted applications for approval, and the FDA is in the review process. The agency has not provided a timeline for review, but it is anticipated to take from several weeks to a couple of months.
In the meantime, the FDA has granted emergency use authorization for these and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. All of the vaccines had to meet certain conditions for safety and efficacy in order to receive this authorization.
Given the side effects, is it worth it to get a COVID vaccine?
The side effects from COVID vaccines can be uncomfortable for some people, but they usually last only a day or two and cause no lasting damage—unlike COVID infection, which can last for weeks and potentially months or years with long-term damage to the lungs, heart, and other organs.
It’s still unknown why some people get so severely ill from COVID and others don’t, but we do know that vaccines are safe and effective.
Why do COVID vaccines cause more of a reaction than flu or HPV vaccines?
Every vaccine has its own reactogenicity based on what it is made from, and each person’s immune system has its own particular reaction to vaccines.
COVID-19 vaccines might be, on average, more reactive than certain vaccines but less reactive than others. For example, it is less reactogenic than the smallpox and yellow fever vaccines.
The flu vaccine is very well tolerated—much more than many other vaccines. COVID vaccines are a little more like the shingles vaccine, which can also cause some side effects.
With COVID vaccines, common side effects like fever, sore arm, and muscle ache are typical signs that our bodies are reacting to the vaccine and a good signal that our immune system is beefing itself up.
I’ve been hearing a lot about myocarditis. Am I at risk for this if I get a vaccine?
The CDC is monitoring rare reports of myocarditis, or heart inflammation, in some teenagers. So far, the cases have been reported as mild and have resolved with medicine and rest. It’s a situation that is being monitored and not a situation to be unduly concerned about.
What is concerning: Myocarditis occurs in much higher percentages with COVID infection—even in mild or asymptomatic infections. Your risks of having myocarditis are greater from getting COVID than they are from getting vaccinated.
I have health conditions that make me hesitant about getting the vaccine. I’m worried that if I get the vaccine, my conditions will get worse within the upcoming months or years.
There is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines can worsen underlying conditions. On the contrary, those who have underlying conditions are likely to benefit the most from the vaccine.
SOURCE: Amesh Adalja
When will we know if we need booster shots for COVID?
A booster dose for COVID-19 vaccines acts as a reminder to our immune system some time after initial vaccination. It’s the same shot that is given if there’s evidence of waning immunity.
A second-generation COVID vaccine is a modification to the original vaccine. These are targeted toward some of the variants that we may see causing breakthrough infections and more severe infections in people who are fully immunized.
We don’t know yet how long immunity from the original vaccines lasts, though there is some preliminary data showing lasting immunity after six months among participants of the phase 3 clinical trials for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. In the longer term, experts will look for a rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations, severe disease, and deaths among fully vaccinated people as a red flag that boosters may be needed. Mild or asymptomatic illness is really not important in terms of considering breakthrough infections.
We also don’t know when we might need second-generation COVID vaccines. The virus will mutate as it continues to circulate, but there is encouraging news: We have data showing high efficacy against severe COVID and hospitalization from variants among fully vaccinated people.
SOURCES: Bill Moss and Anna Durbin
How protective are the current vaccines against the delta variant? Do we need to increase masking and social distancing?
The vaccines are incredibly good at preventing people from becoming ill with and getting clinical COVID-19 from the delta variant. If they do become infected, and maybe even have symptoms or mild symptoms, they’re less likely to transmit it.
If you’re fully vaccinated and living in a place where case numbers continue to fall because there’s high vaccination coverage, I personally would feel safe going maskless in those circumstances.
If you’re living in a place where there’s a lot of COVID circulating, adding a mask in crowded indoor spaces is just an added layer of protection.
SOURCE: Jennifer Nuzzo
What are the current recommendations for getting vaccinated while pregnant or breastfeeding?
COVID-19 vaccines for pregnant and breastfeeding people are authorized by the FDA. Currently, there are no known safety concerns regarding COVID-19 vaccines and pregnant or breastfeeding people.
Unvaccinated pregnant people who become infected with COVID-19, however, are at higher risk of becoming severely ill, having complications, or even dying compared to people who are not pregnant.
Therefore, pregnant people are encouraged to talk with their medical providers about receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.
Three of my female friends report very late (~4 weeks) periods that are also heavier than usual. Can you tell me what that’s all about?
It’s possible that vaccines could indirectly affect the severity of menstrual cycles. Aches and pains post-vaccination could compound normal menstrual pains, and it’s possible that general stress could also play a role. This was not a side effect reported in any of the clinical trials from the vaccine manufacturers, however.
I got my first dose and then missed my second dose appointment. It’s now been six weeks. Is it too late to get a second shot? Do I even need one?
It’s very important to get both doses of two-dose vaccines like Pfizer and Moderna, especially for protection against variants. The first dose of the vaccine “primes” your immune system, and the second dose gives it a boost to help protect you.
There is no reason to restart your series if you’re past the scheduled second dose. The second dose will still give you the needed immunity when you receive it—in fact, some argue that delayed second doses increase immunity.