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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.

Questions about COVID Vaccines for 12-15 year olds? Click here for detailed answers.

  1. You cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccine.

    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.

  2. Even if you have already been sick with COVID, you should still get the vaccine.

    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.

  3. The vaccine will not make you test positive on COVID-19 tests.

    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.

  4. The vaccine is free.

    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.

  5. Immigration status is not a barrier to vaccination.

    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.

  6. Temporary side effects are normal after you get your vaccine.

    They are a sign that the vaccine is doing its job: training your body to build immunity against the COVID-19 virus. These 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. 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.

  7. You no longer need to wear a mask or practice social distancing after you are 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.

  8. You can use your Vaccination Card or the Excelsior Pass as proof of vaccination.

    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.

Safety

The vaccines have been thoroughly tested.

Tens of thousands of volunteers -- including many in the Finger Lakes Region -- were injected with the vaccines in clinical trials to make sure they are safe and effective. Learn more about diversity in these studies. Millions of Americans received the vaccine so far. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to ensure the safety of these vaccines through its ongoing vaccine safety and monitoring system.

Years of research have gone into these vaccines.

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

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ASL Deaf Health Talk: COVID-19 Vaccine Discussion with Q&A

The COVID-19 vaccines have been through rigorous studies to ensure they are as safe as possible. They have been authorized for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Tens of thousands of volunteers have participated in the clinical trials. The vaccines were found to be safe for people with underlying health conditions. The safety of the vaccines continues to be monitored. Learn more about how the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is ensuring the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines.

Currently, only the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine can be given to those 12 and older. The vaccine was first tested in people age 16 and older. Additional studies found the vaccine to be safe in children age 12 to 15, with side effects comparable to those seen in study participants age 16 to 25. Fever was a slightly more common side effect in the 12- to 15-year-olds. Experts from Rochester Regional Health and the University of Rochester Medical Center answer some common questions about the vaccine’s safety, effectiveness and importance in these younger teens.

The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccines are for use in those 18 and older.

Yes. In clinical trials, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was 95% effective and the Moderna vaccine was 94.1% effective at preventing COVID-19. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was 66% effective at preventing COVID-19, but importantly, it as found to be 85% effective at preventing serious COVID-19 illness and 100% effective at preventing hospitalization and death from COVID-19. The effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines is comparable to other common vaccines, such as polio, measles and the flu.

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.

The most common side effects from the vaccines include muscle aches, fever, fatigue and other mild flu-like symptoms. These are signs that the immune system is doing exactly what it is supposed to do: it is building up protection to the disease. These side effects generally go away in a day or two. Rarely, individuals may have an allergic reaction to the vaccines. That's why all vaccinations are administered by health professionals who are prepared for such reactions.

The Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine carries a warning about a very rare, but severe, type of blood clot. The likelihood of the blood clotting disorder resulting from the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is extremely rare. The risk varies by age and gender. There have been fewer than 1 case per million for men and for women who are 50 years or older; the risk is estimated to be about 7 cases per million for women age 18 to 49. If you questions about the J&J vaccine or other vaccines, talk to your doctor.

Researchers say the current vaccines still provide protection against the new strains of COVID-19— including the Delta variant, now the dominant strain in the US.

Public health officials still recommend getting the current vaccines, and research is showing that the vaccines are still effective against new variants like Delta.

These new strains, also called variants, are slightly different from the virus that has been making people sick in the United States since spring 2020. They are a concern because they can pass more easily from one person to another, making more people sick at a faster pace than before.

When viruses make new copies of themselves, a process called replication, the new copies sometimes have mistakes in their genetic code. Those mistakes — changes that are called as mutations — can sometimes help the virus survive better. In the new strains, for example, the mutations help the virus spread faster.

The Delta variant, in particular, poses a serious risk for people who are not vaccinated and for those who have had only one dose of a two-dose vaccine such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.

In fact, researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center and Rochester Regional Health are working together on a clinical trial to see if a third dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine can help boost immunity even more to help protect against the circulating and emerging variants of the COVID-19 virus.

During a press briefing earlier this year, White House advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said that these new strains of the COVID-19 virus make it all the more important to be vaccinated. Not only can the vaccine help protect you from infection, but it can also help slow the virus's ability to mutate, or change. The virus can only mutate when it can make copies of itself, and it can only do that when it has infected cells. The vaccines help prevent that infection.

This is still an open question. Because this is a new virus and these are new vaccines, we don’t yet know how long immunity will last and whether additional doses will be needed. In June, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, the federal group that makes recommendations about vaccines, said there wasn’t yet enough data to support recommending booster shots for the COVID-19 vaccine. The FDA and CDC issued a joint statement, explaining that they continue to study whether or when a booster shot may be necessary.

Experts from Rochester Regional Health and the University of Rochester Medical Center agree that booster shots are not yet necessary. Read their perspective on boosters and the Delta variant. Learn more about the research they are doing on COVID vaccine booster shots and how you can help.

Data continue to show that the COVID-19 vaccines are extremely effective in protecting individuals from catching and spreading the virus. In addition, new data suggests that vaccines are effective against variants of the virus. Booster doses may be needed if immunity in vaccinated individuals begins to wane, if fully vaccinated individuals are at risk of serious breakthrough infections, or if fully vaccinated people experience decreased protection from variants or other complications.

Right now, the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones is to get vaccinated, which will reduce your own risk and help protect your community against the chance that the coronavirus will mutate into dangerous variants.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration added a warning to the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine about an increased risk of a rare condition called Guillain-Barré syndrome, a neurological disorder in which the body’s immune system damages nerve cells, causing muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis. Most people who develop this syndrome recover fully.

The FDA says that the chances of developing this condition after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are low and that the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the potential risks.

Broadly, Guillain-Barré syndrome is estimated to affect about one in every 100,000 people each year. It often occurs within a few weeks of a respiratory or gastrointestinal viral infection, though in rare cases, it can also follow surgery or vaccination.

There have been about 100 preliminary reports of Guillain-Barré syndrome in individuals who have received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Of these reports, 95 were serious and required hospitalization, the FDA said. There was one death associated with the vaccine and Guillain-Barré, but it is not clear that this condition caused the death. These cases were identified through ongoing federal monitoring of the COVID-19 vaccines. More than 12.8 million doses of the vaccine have been given in the United States so far.

The Johnson & Johnson/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine became available for use again on April 23, after a thorough safety review by a CDC panel. Use of the vaccine had been paused for 10 days after reports of a rare and severe type of blood clot in individuals after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. During its review, the CDC panel determined that the benefits of administering the vaccine greatly outweigh the very small degree of risk associated with its use, particularly now that the risk and treatment protocols are better understood. The risk of blood clotting is much higher for people who contract COVID than it is for people who receive the J&J vaccine.

The CDC panel recommended that a warning label be added to the vaccine packaging noting the very rare blood clotting disorder risk.

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. Learn more about the safety of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine from local experts at Rochester Regional Health and UR Medicine.

If you have questions about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, please talk with your health care provider.

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.

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.

People who are pregnant are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 compared to people who are not pregnant. Getting a COVID-19 vaccine can help protect against severe COVID-19 illness. While experts believe that the COVID-19 vaccines are unlikely to pose a risk to pregnant people, limited data on the safety of COVID vaccines for people who are pregnant is available. Studies in people who are pregnant are underway or planned. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you may choose to be vaccinated.

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.

Talk to your doctor about what is right for you.

According to the CDC, people who have autoimmune disorders may receive the vaccines, but no data are available yet on the safety of the mRNA vaccines for them. The CDC has compiled some considerations for people with autoimmune disease and other underlying conditions who are deciding whether to receive the vaccine. Discuss your questions and concerns with your doctor.

Science

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:

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.

Learn How the COVID-19 mRNA Vaccines Work

Our Region's Role

Angela Branche, MD, an Infectious Disease specialist at the University of Rochester Medical Center, and Ann Falsey, MD, an Infectious Disease specialist at Rochester Regional Health, work together to lead clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccines in the Finger Lakes region.

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:

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.