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 12 years and older.
  • The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are for use in people aged 18 years and older.

NOTE: The CDC and FDA released guidance on April 13, 2021, recommending the temporary pause of the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine while they investigated several reports of a rare but severe side effect. On April 23, 2021, the CDC and FDA recommended that use of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine could resume in the United States, after a temporary pause.

When will children younger than 12 be eligible for the vaccine?

Pfizer has received FDA Emergency Use Authorization to administer their vaccine to children 12 years and older. Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are still studying their vaccines on children younger than 18 years of age.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is urging federal agencies to support timely, but safe, development of COVID-19 vaccines for children, to help understand any potential unique immune responses and/or safety concerns in children.

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. Please note: The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released guidance on April 13, 2021 recommending the temporary pause of the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine while they investigate several reports of a rare but severe side effect.

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 Pfizer and Moderna vaccines cause predictable common side effects (fever, fatigue, muscle pain) that are seen as a result of the body creating an immune response to the vaccine. In very rare cases, there have been reports of severe allergic reaction, which is why we observe all patients for at least 15 minutes after vaccine administration. There have been no other serious safety concerns from their vaccines. All study participants have been followed for at least 2 months after getting vaccinated to look for side effects and will continue to be followed for 1-2 years in total.

The CDC and FDA released guidance on April 13, 2021 recommending the temporary pause of the use of the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine while they investigated several reports of a rare but severe side effect. On April 23, 2021, the CDC and FDA recommended that use of Johnson & Johnson/Janssen’s COVID-19 vaccine could resume in the United States, after a temporary pause.

Is there any data on the vaccines in pregnant women?

There is currently no data on the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines for pregnant or breastfeeding women.

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?

No. You should not stop wearing a mask, especially since coronavirus infection levels are currently rising all over the world. Even when the vaccines become widely available, many experts say that safety measures like social distancing, handwashing and mask wearing will still be necessary until the threat has subsided. The CDC updated their guidelines on mask wearing on April 19. View the most recent guidelines on the CDC webpage.

Updated 5/13/21

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