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Here are a few things you should know about the vaccine and what to expect when it is time for you to receive your shot.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Tens of thousands of volunteers -- including many in the Finger Lakes Region – received the vaccines in clinical trials to make sure they are safe and effective. Learn more about diversity in these studies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to ensure the safety of these vaccines through its ongoing vaccine safety and monitoring system.
Millions of Americans have received the vaccine so far, and the results of the CDC’s ongoing safety monitoring efforts are reassuring. According to the CDC, serious side effects are rare, and long-term side effects are unlikely. Read more about the CDC’s findings.
Scientists began researching possible coronavirus vaccines with the SARS outbreak in 2003. That work on SARS, which is similar to COVID-19, formed the foundation for today's vaccines. Work on the breakthrough technology in the COVID-19 vaccines also began many years ago. Full clinical trials ran while the vaccines were being manufactured to save more time. No steps were skipped. Learn more about how the vaccines were developed.
On Dec. 16, the CDC revised its recommendation for the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. Because of the risk of developing rare but serious blood clots from the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the CDC recommends that most Americans should receive either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine instead. This advice comes out of the CDC’s continuous monitoring of the vaccines’ safety and effectiveness. New data showed the Johnson & Johnson shots led to a higher risk than previously known for a blood clotting condition called thrombosis. The CDC says the issue is rare, occurring at a rate of about 1 case in every 100,000 doses given, and that the risk is highest among women age 30 to 49. Symptoms such as shortness of breath, headach, leg pain and abdominal pain occurred within six to 13 days of receiving the vaccine. These rare blood clots are linked to dozens of cases and at least nine deaths in the US in the past year.
In April, the CDC and the FDA had put a temporary pause on the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after six cases of the rare blood clots were reported. After reviewing the available data and finding the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks, they allowed the vaccine into use again. Data continues to be gathered and analyzed.
Although the CDC recommends that people receive the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine remains available for those who cannot receive the mRNA vaccines due to severe allergies, for example, or for those who still prefer the Johnson & Johnson vaccine despite the risks.
If you are considering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, talk with your health care provider about the risk and any other concerns you may have.
Yes, the COVID-19 vaccines reduce your risk of getting COVID-19 and help protect you from severe illness. In addition to clinical trials, studies of how the vaccines work in the real world show that the vaccines work well, and researchers continue to gather and analyze data to monitor their effectiveness, including against new variants of the virus, such as Omicron. Read the latest on vaccine effectiveness.
It’s important to understand that while COVID-19 vaccines are effective against severe disease and death, no vaccine is perfect. Some people who are fully vaccinated will still get COVID-19 (also known as breakthrough infections). Evidence shows that vaccination may make illness less severe for those who still get sick.
The COVID-19 vaccines are effective, but, like any vaccine, they will not prevent illness 100% of the time. This means that a small percentage of people who are fully vaccinated will still get COVID-19 if they are exposed to the virus that causes it. These are called "vaccine breakthrough cases."
Even though breakthrough infections can occur, it’s still important to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Fully vaccinated people who have breakthrough infections are more likely to have mild or no symptoms and are much less likely to be hospitalized or die than people with similar risk factors who are not vaccinated. And studies show that fully vaccinated people can be less likely to spread the virus to others, even if they do get COVID-19.
Studies show that the vaccines’ ability to protect against the COVID-19 virus may decrease over time, making them less able to prevent against infection, particularly against the Delta variant. According to the CDC, this is likely due to a couple of factors: decreasing protection as time passes (also called waning immunity) and the greater infectiousness of the Delta variant.
The recent emergence of the Omicron variant makes booster shots even more important. Scientists around the world are studying vaccine effectiveness related to this variant, which appears to be highly transmissible. According to the CDC, strong immunity will likely prevent serious illness, and the CDC recommends that everyone 18 and older receive a booster either when they are six months after their initial Pfizer or Moderna series or two months after their initial Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
The vaccines continue to be very effective at preventing serious illness, hospitalization and death from more widely circulating variants of COVID-19. Learn more about COVID-19 booster shots and who should receive them.
Yes, the COVID-19 vaccines are recommended for everyone 12 years of age and older, including people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, trying to get pregnant now or might become pregnant in the future, as well as their partners. According to the CDC, evidence shows that the benefits of getting a COVID-19 vaccine outweigh any known or potential risks of vaccination during pregnancy, and pregnant people or those who have been recently pregnant are more likely to become seriously ill from COVID compared to people who are not pregnant. In addition, there is currently no evidence the vaccines cause fertility problems for women or men.
To help you learn more about COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy and breastfeeding:
- Tara Gellasch, MD, OBGYN, Chief Medical Officer at Rochester Regional Health, provides answers to some common questions.
- Lorelei Thornberg, MD, OBGYN, a high-risk pregnancy expert at UR Medicine, addresses common concerns in a series of videos.
- Local experts answer questions about pregnancy and COVID-19 in this online Women’s Health Forum, hosted by Common Ground Health.
Yes. Clinical trials for both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines included people of color. Participants in the phase 2 and 3 clinical trials of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine were 26.2% Hispanic/Latino, 9.8% African American, 4.4% Asian, and <3% other races /ethnicities. Participants in the Moderna clinical trials were 20% Hispanic /Latino, 9.7% African American, 4.7% Asian, and <3% other races/ethnicities. According to the independent Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, the vaccines showed consistent high efficacy (≥92%) across age, sex, race, and ethnicity categories, as well as among individuals who had underlying medical conditions and those with evidence of previous COVID-19 infection.
The National Medical Association, one of the largest national organizations representing Black physicians and their patients, and the National Hispanic Medical Association support the FDA recommendations to approve the COVID-19 vaccines.
The COVID-19 vaccines are recommended for adults of any age with certain underlying medical conditions. Adults with these conditions are at increased risk of severe COVID-19 illness. The CDC has compiled some additional information for people with autoimmune disease and other underlying conditions. As always, talk through your questions and concerns with your doctor.
The CDC recommends that certain individuals with underlying medical conditions receive a booster shot of the Pfizer vaccine.
The CDC also recommends that individuals who are moderately to severely immunocompromised receive an additional dose of either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine.
Getting your child vaccinated against COVID-19 can help protect your child and your family. Although fewer children than adults have become sick from COVID-19, they can still become infected by the virus, get sick from it and spread it to others.
It is possible to get COVID-19 more than once, and we still do not know how long a person is protected by natural immunity after they have recovered from COVID-19.
You can be vaccinated after having a COVID-19 infection once you have recovered and are out of quarantine. However, if you received monoclonal antibodies as treatment for your COVID-19 illness, you must wait 90 days after recovering to receive the vaccine. This recommendation comes from the Centers for Disease Control. Monoclonal antibodies are proteins made in a laboratory that mimic your body’s immune response. Waiting for 90 days will help ensure the monoclonal antibodies are out of your system and that your body can develop a strong response to the vaccine.
Common side effects can include fever, fatigue, headaches, muscle and joint pain, or chills, lasting about 12 to 24 hours. Having these side effects does not mean you are sick with COVID-19. Rather, they are a sign that the vaccine is doing its job: training your body to build immunity against the COVID-19 virus.
The vaccines do not contain any part of the COVID-19 virus and cannot cause that infection. Learn more about what side effects to expect and get helpful tips on how to reduce pain and discomfort after your shots.
Serious side effects (also called adverse events) after COVID-19 vaccination are rare. They can include serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) and other conditions. Learn more and how the CDC monitors the safety of these vaccines.
No. The vaccines are not able to alter a person's genetic makeup (DNA). The mRNA in the COVID-19 vaccines never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA is kept. Learn more about how mRNA works in the COVID-19 vaccines. The adenovector vaccines, like the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, also do not change a person's genetic makeup, and the adenovirus cannot make copies of itself or make you sick.
No. Unlike other kinds of vaccines, the COVID-19 vaccines do not contain the actual virus (living or dead), so it is impossible for them to infect you with COVID. Learn more about how the COVID-19 vaccines work.
No. Tests to diagnose COVID-19, such as PCR or antigen tests done by nasal swabs or saliva samples, are checking for the presence of the virus, not immunity. Because the COVID-19 vaccines do not contain the virus, they will not affect those tests.
Tests to see if you have had COVID-19 at some point in the past, such as antibody tests, are done through blood samples. Because vaccines are designed to stimulate your body's immune system, there is a possibility you may test positive on an antibody test. Experts are currently looking at how COVID-19 vaccination may affect antibody testing results.
Yes, the COVID-19 vaccines are free. No one has to pay for a vaccination, and no one can be denied a vaccination, regardless of ability to pay. Vaccination providers may charge an administration fee for giving someone the shot, but the fee will be reimbursed by the patient's public or private insurance company. Uninsured patients do not have to pay any fee. No one can be denied a vaccine if they are unable to pay the vaccine administration fee. If an individual believes they are the victim of an unlawful activity, such incurring financial costs when assessing a COVID vaccine, they can report it to the NYS Attorney General.
Also, beware of vaccine scams and fraud. If anyone is promising you the vaccine in exchange for money, you should NOT pay them. If you suspect fraud, you can contact New York state authorities by calling 1-833-VAX-SCAM (1-833-829-7226) or emailing STOPVAXFRAUD@health.ny.gov.
No. Proof of immigration status is not required to receive a vaccine. In addition, New York will not transmit any data that could be used to identify the immigration status of any individual. This includes, but is not limited to, name and address. Any data shared will be done so in accordance with New York's robust laws protecting immigration status, and include only aggregated demographic data and dates of vaccine administration and doses. The CDC also agreed that use and access to any data shared from New York will not be shared with any other agency or entity for purposes not related to public health.
According to the CDC, you can get a COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines, including a flu shot, at the same visit. Experience with other vaccines has shown that the way our bodies develop protection, known as an immune response, and possible side effects after getting vaccinated are generally the same when given alone or with other vaccines.
The CDC recommends wearing a mask indoors in public to maximize protection from the Delta variant and prevent possibly spreading it to others if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission. You may also want to wear a mask if you are immunocompromised or at increased risk for severe disease from COVID-19, or if they have someone in their household who is immunocompromised, at increased risk of severe disease or not fully vaccinated.
You will be considered fully vaccinated two weeks after a single-dose vaccine like Johnson & Johnson/Janssen or two weeks after your second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines. Learn more about what you can do once you’ve been fully vaccinated.
As more parts of our community open up, you may be asked to show proof that you have received your COVID-19 vaccine. You can either show the white vaccination card you received when you got your vaccine, or you can download New York State’s Excelsior Pass, a free, secure and voluntary way to show that you have been vaccinated.
The Excelsior Pass is like a mobile boarding pass that you can keep on your smartphone or print out. Your Pass is generated based on data provided by your vaccine provider to the secure New York State and New York City immunization and COVID-19 testing databases. Check out these FAQs to learn more.
Still have questions about the COVID-19 vaccines?
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New Kinds of Vaccines
Vaccines train the body's immune system to protect us from infections and disease. Until now, many vaccines used a weakened or inactivated germ to stimulate an immune response. The COVID-19 vaccines work by getting your immune system to recognize a key feature of the coronavirus called the spike protein. The current vaccines take different approaches to this:
- mRNA Vaccines: The Prizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines use a molecule called messenger RNA (mRNA) — not the COVID-19 virus — to deliver genetic instructions to build the virus's characteristic spike protein and trigger an immune response that protects us from being infected. Learn How the COVID-19 mRNA Vaccines Work.
Adenovector Vaccines: The Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses DNA to deliver the genetic instructions to build the virus's characteristic spike protein. The DNA is added to another virus, called an adenovirus, that is pulled into your body's cells where the gene for the spike protein is read and copied into mRNA. The mRNA then helps to trigger an immune response that protects us from being infected by the COVID-19 virus. Adenoviruses commonly cause cold-like symptoms, but in this vaccine, the adenovirus has been changed so that it cannot make you sick. Learn how the Johnson & Johnson vaccine works.
COVID-19 has killed more than 560,000 people in the U.S.
That’s why a panel of experts have decided the benefits of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine outweigh the risks – especially for certain groups. Local researchers explain why you can trust J & J.
Because these vaccines do not use the virus that causes COVID-19, they cannot make you sick with COVID-19. These vaccines also do not affect or interact with our DNA in any way.
Our Region's Role
Researchers, doctors and volunteers in the Finger Lakes region have played an important part in testing potential COVID-19 vaccines. Since mid-2020, health systems including the University of Rochester Medical Center and Rochester Regional Health, as well as independent research centers such as Rochester Clinical Research and Finger Lakes Clinical Research, have been offering COVID vaccine trials. These trials included the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine that was approved by the FDA in December.
Locally, researchers have emphasized the importance of diversity among the clinical trial participants. Read about some of their efforts:
- Pandemic spurs quest to enroll more Black Americans in vaccine trials, Reuters, Jan. 28, 2021
- Diversity Crucial to Success of COVID-19 Vaccine Trials, Minority Reporter, Oct. 22, 2020
- Wade Norwood on the COVID-19 Vaccine: My Journey Has Moved Me to Say Yes, Minority Reporter, Jan. 15, 2021
- Connections: Discussing coronavirus vaccine trials, WXXI News, Aug. 19, 2020
Hundreds of Finger Lakes area residents have participated in these clinical trials and continue to volunteer for ongoing studies of other vaccine candidates. We are grateful for their participation and commitment to finding vaccines to fight COVID-19 infection.