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Frequently Asked Questions About the COVID-19 Vaccine

Find important information about the COVID-19 vaccine, an important step in conquering the pandemic and getting back to the things — and people — we love.

Getting Vaccinated Against COVID-19

How does the COVID-19 vaccine work?

The COVID-19 vaccine gives your body a preview of the signature spike shape of the coronavirus so that your immune system learns to identify and stop it. The first shot primes your immune system to recognize the coronavirus. The second, given 21 to 28 days later (depending on the manufacturer), strengthens your immune response to the coronavirus. 

What happens after I get the COVID-19 vaccine? 

After receiving both doses, your cells are able to recognize the spike protein of the coronavirus and build the antibodies and an immune response. This will stop the coronavirus from multiplying inside your body and making you sick.

Do I need a COVID-19 booster shot? 

The CDC is currently recommending a third dose of the vaccine for severely immunocompromised individuals who previously received two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. Talk to your primary care provider about whether a third dose, or "booster" is necessary for you. 

The Safety & Efficacy of the COVID-19 Vaccine

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?  

The clinical trials that precede the approval of all COVID-19 vaccines are large studies that make sure the vaccine is safe and effective. Volunteers report back any side effects or illnesses. These volunteers will continue to be monitored over the next two years to ensure there are no long-term side effects or safety concerns.

The Iowa Clinic is currently participating in a COVID-19 vaccine study, where you can learn more about how these studies work

Are there any side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine?  

Just like any other vaccine, you may experience some mild side effects after each dose. But that’s a good sign! It means your body is building an immune reaction to protect you in the future. These common side effects typically last no longer than a day:

  • Pain or redness at the site of injection
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Achy joints or muscles
  • Low-grade fever

You can take acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen to reduce these side effects until they subside.

If I’m pregnant (or planning to become pregnant), can I get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes, you may choose to get vaccinated if you are expecting. Experts agree that the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine outweigh the potential risk. Observational data shows that pregnant people who get COVID-19 have an increased risk of severe illness, which may impact the pregnancy.

However, there is only limited data on the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Studies that include those who are pregnant or breastfeeding are planned. 

It’s recommended that you discuss your options with your OB/GYN or other provider. You can also check the CDC’s latest info on considerations for pregnant and breastfeeding women.

If I’ve had previous allergic reactions to a flu vaccine, should I get the COVID-19 vaccine?

If you have a history of reactions to previous vaccines, talk to your primary care provider before getting a vaccination for COVID-19.

What if I don’t get vaccinated? Who’s at risk?

Getting vaccinated for COVID-19 is a choice. While vaccines are an effective tool to help stop the pandemic, they are one of many. Whether or not you decide to get the COVID-19 vaccine, you should still follow other recommended precautions like social distancing, avoiding large crowds, washing your hands regularly and wearing a mask.

All of these tools are important because it’s still too early to tell whether getting the COVID-19 vaccine prevents the symptoms from forming or fully stops your body from spreading the coronavirus. This is why by choosing not to get vaccinated, you’re putting yourself at the greatest risk of getting COVID-19 — even as those around you get the vaccine.

Busting Myths Surrounding the COVID-19 Vaccine

I’ve already had COVID-19. Do I need to get the COVID-19 vaccine or am I immune?

It’s currently recommended that you get the COVID-19 vaccine even if you’d had it before. While some level of immunity has been observed, it’s still not known how long it lasts after you’ve had COVID-19 and how much it varies person to person. It’s also believed that it’s possible to get infected again.

Due to these risks as well as the severe health risks caused by COVID-19 once you have it, there is still a great benefit to getting vaccinated.

If I follow guidelines (social distancing, wearing a mask, washing hand, etc.), do I still need to get vaccinated?

Yes, vaccines are the most effective tool to prevent COVID-19 and a proven method for eradicating diseases of all kinds. The other guidelines help stop the spread, but the COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective — more so than many other vaccines, including the seasonal flu. 

Getting vaccinated offers one more layer of protection for yourself as well as one more person to help reach herd immunity in the larger community and end the pandemic. 

Is the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for everyone?

No, at this time the COVID-19 vaccine isn’t mandated by the government or any public health officials. Thanks to the benefits of vaccination, there may be reasons that vaccines are required when it’s available to the general public. For example, states or airlines may mandate the COVID-19 vaccine before travels or employers may require it before employees can return to work in the office.

Can I get the coronavirus from the COVID-19 vaccine?

No, it is not possible to get COVID-19 from the vaccine. 

While many other vaccines carry inactive or weakened viruses, the COVID-19 vaccines don’t even contain the coronavirus. Instead, they use messenger RNA, or mRNA, which are like genetic instructions taken from the coronavirus and delivered to your immune system.

Will I have to pay for the COVID-19 vaccine?

Vaccines purchased and distributed with U.S. taxpayer dollars may come at no cost to you. Some providers may choose to charge a fee for giving you the shot. Check with your primary care provider about costs — and with your insurance company about coverage for those costs — before getting vaccinated.

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