This article was updated on 11/3/21.

Please note: As we continue to learn more about COVID-19, the information in this article may change. You can find our most up-to-date information about coronavirus here.

Now that several coronavirus vaccines are available, you probably have some questions about the vaccines and when you and your family can expect to receive them. To help you, we’ve compiled some FAQs about the COVID-19 vaccines.

Which vaccines are currently available in the United States?

There are currently three COVID-19 vaccines available — one created by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech, one created by Moderna and one created by Johnson & Johnson.

  • The Pfizer vaccine can be administered to people aged 5 years and older.
  • The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are for use in people aged 18 years and older.

How do the vaccines work?

None of the vaccines contain the COVID-19 virus. Instead, they work by using an mRNA or DNA molecule that instructs your cells to make copies of a harmless protein that is on the outer shell of the COVID-19 virus. When your immune system detects this protein, it begins to produce antibodies as if the body has been infected. The antibodies will help your immune system fight off future COVID-19 infections.

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are given in two doses, several weeks apart, while the Johnson & Johnson vaccine only requires one dose.

Learn more from the National Institutes of Health about the COVID-19 vaccines and they will work to protect those who get vaccinated and the people around them.

How long will a vaccine protect me from COVID-19? Will I need to get one every year?

It is unknown how long a COVID-19 vaccine will protect you. Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson will follow their clinical trial participants for at least a year and will be able to provide information about lasting protection in the future.

Do the vaccines have any side effects?

The COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. Millions of people in the United States have received these vaccines under the most intense safety monitoring in U.S. history.

You may have some side effects, which are normal signs that your body is building protection. These side effects may affect your ability to do daily activities, but they should go away in a few days. Some people have no side effects. Read more from the CDC about potential side effects.

The CDC and the FDA continue to monitor potential side effects and/or rare adverse reactions. Learn more about the ongoing safety monitoring of the COVID-19 vaccines

How should I prepare my child to receive the vaccine?

Make sure your child has eaten well and is hydrated prior to receiving the vaccine. The appointment itself should take only about 20 minutes. We encourage parents to discuss health concerns with their primary care physician prior to coming in for the vaccine. Questions about side effects, allergies and other topics are best answered by the child’s pediatrician.

What should parents look for after their child receives the vaccine?

We recommend that parents monitor their children for symptoms of chest pain, shortness of breath and fast or irregular heartbeat that may be consistent with myocarditis, and immediately report those symptoms to their doctor.

Is the vaccine safe for pregnant women?

Yes. The CDC released new data on the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant people and is encouraging all people 5 years and older, including people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, trying to get pregnant now, or might become pregnant in the future to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Is there a chance that a coronavirus vaccine will cause MIS-C?

MIS-C, or Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children, is a condition in which different body parts become inflamed, such as the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, gastrointestinal tract, skin or eyes. One of the reasons clinical trials are important is to make sure that the vaccines do not have any side effects, such as causing MIS-C. While the vaccines have yet to be tested in children, adult clinical trials have not resulted in any cases of MIS-A (Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Adults). In fact, it is possible that by protecting against COVID-19, a vaccine will also protect against MIS-C.

Where can I get a vaccine?

Vaccine availability and distribution varies from state to state. For the most current information on vaccine distribution, contact your local health department:

Should I get vaccinated if I’ve already had COVID-19?

If you have already had COVID-19, you can still benefit from being vaccinated. A vaccine will add to your immunity to the virus and protect you from getting the virus again.

Can I stop wearing a mask when vaccine distribution starts?

The CDC has said that it is okay for fully vaccinated individuals to stop wearing masks indoors and outdoors. You are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving your second vaccine dose. However, this is an individual decision and certain factors, such as spending time around immunocompromised individuals or those at particularly high risk for severe disease, may make someone want to continue mask-wearing in those situations. Additionally, state, local and individual business regulations still apply until otherwise noted. If you are not yet fully vaccinated, you should not stop wearing a mask and should continue to practice safety measures like social distancing and frequent handwashing to minimize the risk of contracting COVID-19. The CDC has been updating its guidelines on mask-wearing as the vaccine rates rise. View the most recent guidelines on the CDC webpage.

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