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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 5 to 11? Click here for detailed answers.

Frequently Asked Questions

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ASL Video Resources: Minnesota Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control

Are the vaccines safe? Have they been thoroughly tested?

The COVID-19 vaccines are safe, much safer than getting sick with COVID-19. 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. 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.

Yes, you will need to wait at least a few days to be vaccinated if you have had COVID. How long you have to wait depends on whether or not you have symptoms and whether or not you received certain treatments for COVID-19:

  • If you do not have symptoms: People with COVID-19 who do not have symptoms should wait the few days until they meet the criteria for ending isolation before getting vaccinated. This guidance also applies to people who get COVID-19 after their first dose of an mRNA vaccine (such as Moderna or Pfizer) but before their second dose. Waiting to get your vaccine will help protect health care providers and others you may see during a vaccine visit.
  • If you have symptoms: People with COVID-19 who have symptoms should wait to be vaccinated until they have recovered from their illness and have met the criteria for ending isolation. Waiting to get your vaccine will help protect health care providers and others you may see during a vaccine visit.
  • If you had symptoms and were treated with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma: People who were sick with COVID-19 and given treatments called monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma should wait 30 to 90 days before they get their vaccine. Vaccine experts recommend waiting after these treatments to help make sure that they don't affect how your body responds to the vaccine. Talk with your doctor about when you should get your vaccine after you recover.

People who have had a known COVID-19 exposure should wait until they have finished their quarantine before getting their vaccine. Waiting will help prevent exposing health care providers and others to the virus during a vaccination visit.

This recommendation also applies to people with a known COVID-19 exposure who have received their first dose of an mRNA vaccine (such as Moderna or Pfizer) but not their second.

Yes, the COVID-19 vaccines are recommended for everyone 5 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:

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.

Do the vaccines work?

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. Researchers continue to gather and analyze data about the vaccines to make sure they work well 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). However, evidence shows when people who are fully vaccinated get COVID-19, they are less likely to get seriously ill than those who are not vaccinated and get COVID-19. They are less likely to be hospitalized and die than people who are not vaccinated.

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.

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.

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.

What are the vaccines’ side effects?

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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.

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.

Learn more about getting your flu shot during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What about the vaccines for children and teens?

At this time, only the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is authorized for children ages 5 to 17. For all age groups, this vaccine requires two doses. The second dose is given three weeks after the first dose.

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.

Currently, vaccination is recommended for everyone age 12 years and older. The only COVID-19 vaccine approved right now for children 12 and older is the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

Yes, the COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective in children and adolescents. Only the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine has been authorized for children ages 5 to 11 and for adolescents ages 12 to 17.

The vaccine has been studied in clinical trials — including here in the Finger Lakes Region — that focused on children ages 5 to 11 years old. According to the US Food and Drug Administration, approximately 3,100 children ages 5 to 11 received the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in clinical trials and no serious side effects have been detected in the ongoing study. These clinical trials also found that children ages 5 to 11 had immune responses comparable to those of people ages 16 to 25. In addition, the vaccine was found to be 90.7% effective in preventing COVID-19 in children ages 5 to 11.

The CDC and FDA are continuing to monitor the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines in real-world conditions, as well as in clinical trials.

Read about one family’s experience participating in COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials.

Read more about how the COVID-19 vaccines work in this information for parents from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The only COVID-19 vaccine authorized for children ages 5 to 11 is the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. For children, this vaccine is given at a lower dose (10 micrograms) than the vaccine for individuals 12 and older (30 micrograms). Like the vaccine for adolescents and adults, it is given in two doses three weeks apart.

The side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine in children are similar to those in adults. They are generally mild to moderate and include soreness in the arm where the injection was given, redness and swelling, fatigue, headache, muscle and/or joint pain, chills, fever, swollen lymph nodes, nausea, and decreased appetite. In clinical trials, more children reported side effects after the second dose than after the first. Most side effects occurred within two days after vaccination and went away within one to two days.

Cases of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (inflammation of the heart’s outer lining) have been reported among adolescents and young adults who have received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. There were no cases of myocarditis or pericarditis among the 5- to 11-year-old study population. Reports of these conditions are rare, and the FDA and CDC have determined that the benefits of COVID-19 vaccination outweigh the known and potential risks of not being vaccinated. Learn more about these conditions.

No, your child cannot get COVID-19 from the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine or any other COVID-19 vaccine.

No. The vaccines cannot alter a person’s genetic makeup (DNA). The mRNA in the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine 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.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), there is currently no evidence that shows that any vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, cause fertility problems (problems trying to get pregnant) in women or men. COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for everyone 5 years of age or older, including people who are trying to get pregnant now or might become pregnant in the future, as well as their partners. Learn more about COVID-19 vaccination and fertility.

Yes, it is recommended that anyone who has been sick with COVID also get a COVID-19 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.

Your child may get a COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines — including the flu vaccine — at the same visit or without waiting 14 days between vaccines. According to the CDC, experience with other vaccines has shown that the way our bodies develop protection (also called immune response) after getting vaccinated and possible side effects of vaccines are generally the same when given alone or with other vaccines.

How can I prove that I’ve been vaccinated?

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?

Talk with a 211 representative today; simply call, text, or chat 7-days a week.


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.