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If you are 18 years or older you may choose which COVID-19 vaccine you receive as a booster shot. Some people may prefer the vaccine type that they originally received, and others may prefer to get a different booster. CDC’s recommendations now allow for this type of mix and match dosing for booster shots.

If you originally received the Pfizer vaccine, teens ages 16-17 can receive a booster, and adults 18 and over should get a booster at least 5 months after completing your primary COVID-19 vaccination series. If you originally received the Moderna vaccine, adults 18 and over should get a booster at least 5 months after completing your primary COVID-19 vaccination series. If you received the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine, adults 18 and over should get a booster at least 2 months after completing your primary COVID-19 vaccination series.

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Vaccine FAQs

Is It Safe?

The FDA has granted full approval for the Pfizer vaccine for ages 16 and older. Read more here.

Moderna and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccines have been given Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the FDA. Before the FDA grants EUA, the safety and efficacy of the vaccines is reviewed by panels of independent experts retained by the companies, by FDA scientific staff, and by an independent panel of experts convened by the FDA.

Please also keep in mind that COVID-19 can be a fatal or debilitating disease, even in young, healthy people. The risks from contracting the virus are greater than the possible risks from receiving the vaccine.

What if I Am Pregnant or Breastfeeding?

Please visit our COVID-19 and pregnancy page for the most up-to-date guidance and information.

Can I Get COVID-19 From the Vaccine?

It is not possible to get COVID-19 from vaccines. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use only protein while other vaccines being studied use inactivated virus. None of these can cause COVID-19.

How Many Doses Will I Need?

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses. An initial vaccination and then a second shot either three or four weeks later. The Pfizer vaccine requires a second dose 21 days later and the Moderna vaccine requires a second dose 28 days later. The different vaccine products are not interchangeable. The second dose must be completed with the same vaccine brand as the first dose. Both doses are important to ensure full protection.

The Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine is a one-dose vaccine.

Boosters are recommended for:

  • Individuals who are ages 65 and over or those between the ages of 50-64 with underlying medical conditions should receive a booster.
  • Individuals ages 18-49 with underlying medical conditions may receive a booster.
  • Individuals at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of occupational or institutional setting may receive a booster. (i.e. healthcare workers, prison workers, grocery store workers, teachers)

What if I Miss My Second Dose?

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are not completely effective unless you receive the second dose. Use to find a location near you to schedule your second dose.

What Are the Side Effects?

Pfizer has reported that some Phase III clinical trial participants experienced mild-to-moderate side effects with its investigational COVID-19 vaccine candidate. Scientists anticipate that the shots may cause mild flu-like side effects - including sore arms, muscle aches, and fever. Therefore, we are recommending that you take ibuprofen or acetaminophen (if you can safely take them) before you get the vaccine. This will help to significantly alleviate the side effects. Study participants did not take pain relievers before their vaccines.

Please seek medical attention immediately if you experience severe side effects.

Can a Person With COVID-19 Get the Vaccine?

No. 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 discontinuing isolation; those without symptoms should also wait until they meet the criteria before getting vaccinated. This guidance also applies to people who get COVID-19 before getting their second dose of vaccine.

People who have had a known COVID-19 exposure should not seek vaccination until their quarantine period has ended to avoid potentially exposing healthcare personnel and others during the vaccination visit. This recommendation also applies to people with a known COVID-19 exposure who have received their first dose of an mRNA vaccine but not their second.

If I’ve Had COVID-19, Do I Need the Vaccine?

Yes. While individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 do produce antibodies, the antibody levels and how long they last are not known. If you have had COVID, you need to wait 14 days before getting vaccinated.

Will People Who Have Gotten Sick With COVID-19 Still Benefit From Getting Vaccinated?

Due to the severe health risks associated with COVID-19, and the fact that re-infection with COVID-19 is possible, people may be advised to get a COVID-19 vaccine even if they have been sick with COVID-19 previously. 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 an infection, called natural immunity, varies from person to person, and the evidence suggests natural immunity may not last very long in some people.

Will It Keep Me From Getting COVID-19?

Current data show that both the Pfizer vaccine and Moderna vaccines are 95 percent effective in preventing the person from getting COVID-19. The studies did not test everyone to see how many people in the vaccinated group got infected compared with the placebo group. Instead, the scientists compared how many in the vaccinated group and the placebo group went on to develop the disease. The companies will continue to test people in the studies for antibodies to the COVID-19 virus, which would include people who did not show any symptoms of their infection, so they can get a better sense of whether the vaccines protect against not only getting sick, but also against infection.

What Are the Odds I Will Still Catch COVID-19?

According to the CDC, we will not know how long immunity lasts until we have more data on how well the vaccine works. Both natural immunity and vaccine-induced immunity are important aspects of COVID-19 that experts are trying to learn more about. The CDC will keep the public informed as new evidence becomes available.

How Long Until I Am Protected?

It normally takes about two to three weeks after your second dose for cellular immunity to develop and several weeks for a full antibody response.

Will COVID-19 Vaccines Cause Me to Test COVID-19 Positive?

No. These vaccines will not 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. Antibody tests indicate you had a previous infection or vaccination and that you may have some level of protection against the virus. Experts are currently looking at how COVID-19 vaccination may affect antibody testing results.

Will This Be an Annual Shot?

Scientists are still studying this and will determine this once the vaccine is distributed and more data is available.

How Does the Vaccine Work?

Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines use novel messenger-RNA, or mRNA, technology, which uses genetic material to cause the body to create a protein from the virus. The immune system then recognizes the virus and attacks it. This would be the first mRNA product to be approved by the FDA. The study has enrolled 43,538 volunteers. About 42 percent of global participants and 30 percent of U.S. participants have racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds. In Pfizer and BioNTech’s late-stage clinical trial, 50 percent of the volunteers got the vaccine, while the other half got a placebo of saltwater. Then they waited to see who would get sick. Only 170 volunteers out of 44,000 have so far gotten sick with COVID-19. An independent board of experts looked at the placebo and vaccine participants and reported that the vaccine is 95 percent effective.

Does the Vaccine Use a Live Virus?

I have a health condition that prevents me from getting vaccines with live viruses. Do you know if the COVID-19 vaccine uses a live virus?

Both Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines are mRNA vaccines, and AstraZeneca’s and Johnson & Johnson’s are non-replicating vectored vaccines. None of the early vaccines being tested are live weakened versions of the virus. When vaccines are licensed, part of the information that will be provided will include who should or should not get each vaccine. At that time, we recommend talking with your healthcare provider to determine which vaccine will be the best one for you to get, given your medical history.

Will the Flu Shot Protect Me From COVID-19?

A flu vaccine will not protect you from getting COVID-19, but it can prevent you from getting influenza (flu) at the same time as COVID-19. This can keep you from having a more severe illness. While it is not possible to say with certainty what will happen in the winter, the CDC believes it’s likely that flu viruses and the virus that causes COVID-19 will both spread during that time. You should encourage all your friends and family to get flu shots, just like we have at Mary Washington Healthcare.

What Is a Vaccine?

According to the CDC, a vaccine stimulates your immune system to produce antibodies and cellular immunity to combat that specific disease, like it would if you were exposed to the disease. After getting vaccinated, you develop immunity to that disease without having to get the disease first. Therefore, vaccines are necessary-they prevent disease by letting you develop immunity in a safe and controlled way.

What Is an EUA?

What is an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) and what does it mean for COVID vaccines?

The FDA granted EUA for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in late 2020. On August 23, 2021, the FDA granted full approval for Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine for ages 16 and older. The Pfizer vaccine for ages 12-15 still falls under EUA.

In an emergency, like a pandemic, the FDA can make a judgment that it is worth releasing something for use even without the typical timeline for a new vaccine or drug. If there’s evidence that strongly suggests that patients have benefited from the vaccine in clinical trials, the agency can issue an EUA to make it available. Current data from both manufacturers strongly indicate that both vaccines are safe and effective. These vaccines will continue to be studied, as is true with all vaccines.

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