(Updated May 13, 2021)
It’s no secret that the past year has been overwhelming. So it’s only natural for the rollout of the new COVID-19 vaccine to come with its own set of new questions. As you contemplate getting vaccinated, we wanted to take a moment to review everything we know about the vaccines to date.
Who can get vaccinated?
As of April 19, 2021, everyone over the age of 16 in the US is eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. On May 10, 2021, the FDA expanded the emergency use authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to include adolescents 12 through 15 years of age, and as of May 12, 2021, the CDC now recommends that this vaccine be used among this population, and providers may begin vaccinating them right away.
Where can I get vaccinated?
The following resources will help you figure out where and how to get vaccinated in your state:
What is it?
Two of the FDA-approved vaccines available are from Moderna and Pfizer, which are both mRNA vaccines. Think of mRNA vaccines as instruction manuals for your immune system to create the antibodies needed to fight off COVID-19. The vaccines are given as two injections three to four weeks apart. The third vaccine that was just approved at the end of February is a single-dose adenovirus-based vaccine from Johnson & Johnson. Unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which store the virus' genetic instructions in single-stranded RNA, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses double-stranded DNA, added to another virus called Adenovirus 26.
How do I know it's safe?
All three vaccines are FDA-approved for emergency use authorization, which means they met the rigorous standards established by the FDA during their clinical trials. Additionally, data has shown that the vaccine’s benefits far outweigh the potential dangers of COVID-19.
What about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine?
Johnson & Johnson briefly paused their vaccine administration due to a rare side effect that involved blood clots and low platelets. This occurred in a small number of individuals under the age of 50 within two weeks of receiving the dose. The FDA lifted the pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, saying its benefits outweighed the risks. However, if you are at increased risks for blood clots, we recommend choosing an alternative vaccine.
Please seek help immediately if you received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and are experiencing any of the following symptoms:
Are there side effects?
As with most vaccines, there is always potential for side effects to occur. While there are no known lasting side effects, initially, after receiving the vaccine, you might experience:
If you have a history of severe allergic reactions, you will be closely monitored for at least 30 minutes after getting the vaccine. All other people should be monitored for at least 15 minutes after getting the vaccine.
Why should I get vaccinated?
Studies have shown that getting vaccinated could reduce your risk of contracting COVID-19 or experiencing a severe case of COVID-19, which can help prevent hospitalizations and even death.
What if I already had COVID-19?
After you contract COVID-19, your body creates antibodies to help you fight the infection. However, these antibodies wear off over time. That's why we recommend getting vaccinated even if you had coronavirus in the past. You can wait up to 90 days after infection to receive your vaccine. While not mandatory, waiting decreases your chances of experiencing more severe side effects.
Do I need to wear a mask after I get the vaccine?
According to the CDC, you can safely gather indoors with other fully vaccinated people without wearing masks. You can also visit one household of unvaccinated people without masks — but only if everyone is low risk. Once fully vaccinated, you don’t need to quarantine after travel. We recommend that you continue to avoid large gatherings and wear masks indoors and in public spaces with unvaccinated individuals at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
You are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the 2nd dose of the Moderna or Pfizer COVID vaccine, or a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
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