How many doses are needed and why?
The Janssen COVID-19 vaccine only requires one shot. Spikevax/Moderna and Comirnaty/Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines require two shots. For these two, the first shot starts building protection, but everyone must come back a few weeks later for the second one to get the most protection the vaccine can offer.
The FDA-approved interval between the first and second shot is 1 month for Spikevax/Moderna and 21 days for Comirnaty/Pfizer. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance allows 8 weeks between the first and second shot in people over 12 years of age and especially males 12-39 years of age. The longer dosing interval can help to increase the shot’s efficacy and to decrease the risk of myocarditis, a rare, serious side effect. People who are immunocompromised, adults over 65 years, and others who need rapid protection due to increased concern about community transmission should continue getting the vaccines at the FDA-approved interval.
Who should get the third dose of the vaccine?
Moderately to severely immunocompromised people 5 years of age and older who received two doses of Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines should get a third dose of the same vaccine. This includes people who have:
- Been receiving active cancer treatment for tumors or cancers of the blood
- Received an organ transplant and are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
- Received a stem cell transplant within the last 2 years or are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
- Moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (such as DiGeorge syndrome, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome)
- Advanced or untreated HIV infection
- Active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids or other drugs that may suppress your immune response.
Talk to your healthcare provider about your medical condition, and whether getting an additional dose is appropriate for you.
The current recommendation does not apply to the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine. There is not enough data at this time to determine whether a second dose of the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine will improve protection for immunocompromised patients who received this vaccine.
Who should get the booster dose?
A first COVID-19 vaccine booster dose may be given at least 2 months after completion of the single-dose Janssen vaccine, or 5 months after completion of the Comirnaty/Pfizer or Spikevax/Moderna primary series. For boosters, the Janssen and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines can be administered to individuals 18 years of age and older while the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine can be administered to individuals 12 years of age and older.
While it is still recommended to get either the one Janssen dose or the same mRNA vaccine for both doses in the initial series, it is okay to switch to get any of the vaccines (Moderna, Pfizer, or Janssen) for the booster regardless of what vaccine was given first. The Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine boosters are preferred in most situations.
A second booster dose is now available under the FDA emergency use authorization for the following groups:
- Individuals 50 years of age and older can receive either the Pfizer-BioNTech or the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at least 4 months after the first booster dose of any COVID-19 vaccine.
- Immunocompromised individuals 12 years of age and older can receive Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine at least 4 months after the first booster dose of any COVID-19 vaccine.
- Immunocompromised individuals 18 years of age and older can receive Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine at least 4 months after the first booster dose of any COVID-19 vaccine.
Are COVID-19 vaccines safe?
COVID-19 vaccines were tested in large clinical trials to make sure they meet safety standards. Many people were recruited to participate in these trials to see how the vaccines offer protection to people of different ages, races, and ethnicities, as well as those with different medical conditions.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) carefully reviews all safety data from the clinical trials and authorizes emergency vaccine use only when the expected benefits outweigh the potential risks.
Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine with other vaccines?
Yes, you can get the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as your other scheduled vaccines.
Can I get COVID-19 from the vaccine?
No, the COVID-19 vaccine does not contain the live virus that causes COVID-19. This means that a COVID-19 vaccine cannot make you sick with COVID-19. The vaccine teaches our immune system to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19. Your body may take several weeks to build immunity after getting the COVID-19 vaccine. That means it is possible a person could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination. This is because the vaccine did not have enough time to build protection. You are considered “fully vaccinated” and therefore protected about 2 weeks after your last vaccine (after the 2nd Moderna or Pfizer BioNTech vaccine or after the 1st Janssen vaccine).
What are the possible side effects?
People may have mild side effects from the vaccine. Most do not have serious problems after being vaccinated. Your arm may be sore, red, or warm to the touch. These symptoms usually go away on their own within a week. Some people report getting a headache, chills, or a fever after getting a vaccine. These side effects are a sign that your immune system is doing exactly what it is supposed to do. It is working and building up protection against disease.
The risk of a rare blood clotting disorder called thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) has been reported following vaccination with the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine. Nearly all of those affected have been women ages 18 to 49 years old, with the condition happening at a rate of 7 for every 1 million vaccinated women in this age group. This condition is very rare, and the CDC and FDA have since recommended that the use of the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine resume effective because the benefits outweigh the risks.
Myocarditis, a serious adverse side effect, has been reported in some people receiving the second dose of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. The highest risk of myocarditis is in males ages 12-29 years. Because myocarditis is rare, the benefits of the vaccines outweigh the risks according to Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and CDC. Waiting 8 weeks between the first and second shot can help decrease the risk of myocarditis.
Is the vaccine safe for my child?
Currently, the Pfizer vaccine is the only vaccine approved for children 5 years and older. Studies in children and adolescents have shown the COVID-19 vaccines to be both safe and effective under the most intensive safety monitoring. Like adults, your child may have some side effects, which are normal signs that their body is building protection. These side effects may affect your child’s ability to do daily activities but should go away in a few days. If you or your child experiences chest pain, shortness of breath, or feelings of having a fast-beating, fluttering, or pounding heartbeat, within a few days of receiving the second dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, you should seek medical attention right away. There are very rare reports of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (inflammation of the lining outside the heart) after the second dose of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccination. The problem occurs more often in male adolescents and young adults but is mainly mild and resolves quickly. Whereas patients infected with the COVID-19 had 16 times the risk for myocarditis as patients without the disease.
Why should my child get vaccinated against COVID-19?
COVID-19 vaccines can help protect your child from getting COVID-19. Although COVID-19 in children is sometimes milder than in adults, some kids can develop severe lung infections, become very sick and require hospitalization. In addition, children can still be infected and spread the virus that causes COVID-19. Vaccinating your child can help protect your child, family, and community. It can also help keep your child in school and participate in the things your child enjoys. COVID-19 vaccines are currently authorized for children 5–17 years of age.
Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine if I am pregnant or considering becoming pregnant?
Yes, CDC and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend all pregnant people or people who are thinking about becoming pregnant and those breastfeeding to get vaccinated. You may want to talk to your doctor to help you decide whether to get vaccinated. There is currently no evidence that COVID-19 vaccination causes any problems with pregnancy or fertility problems.
Will I have to pay to get the vaccine?
No, there is no cost to get the COVID-19 vaccine, regardless of insurance status. However, there are some COVID-19 scams where people have used telemarketing calls, text messages, social media platforms, and door-to-door visits to get patient information or to ask for payment. COVID-19 vaccines are free for everyone.
If I get vaccinated, can I go back to life as normal?
Not right away. It will still be important for those who received the vaccine to continue to wear masks, wash hands and practice social distancing to prevent the spread of infection. As more people get the vaccine and become immune to the virus, it will eventually become possible to stop wearing masks and practice social distancing.
You are considered fully vaccinated 2 weeks after your second dose of the Pfizer BioNTech or Moderna vaccine or 2 weeks after your single dose of the Janssen vaccine.