COVID-19 Vaccine Fact Sheet

January 7, 2021

Evidence has shown that the new COVID-19 vaccine will provide significant protection against the deadly disease.  Two vaccines that are now being provided to healthcare workers will soon be available to the general  public: one from Pfizer and one from Moderna. Both use messenger RNA (mRNA) which is a piece of genetic code manufactured in a lab. Thus unlike some other vaccines, mRNA technology does not use any live virus particles.


Is the vaccine safe and effective?

Yes. Both vaccines have a very high level of effectiveness: Pfizer has a 95 percent rate and Moderna has a 94 percent rate once two take both shots. To be effective, both vaccines require two shots, given a few weeks apart. The period of immunity they provide is not known at this time and booster shots may be required.

As with other vaccines, some people who get a COVID-19 vaccine will experience minor and temporary side effects, more often after a second dose. They  include injection site pain, fatigue, and occasional fever, headache, or aching muscles and joints. These side effects fade within 1-2 days. No long-term effects have been detected thus far. These side effects are actually common with all vaccines: they are a sign that a vaccine is working and triggering an immune response.

While the vaccine provides significant protection, it is not 100% effective. There is a slight chance that vaccinated individuals can still get infected with a mild case of the virus. Those who have taken the vaccine can also still spread the virus to others and thus it is critical that everyone continue to wear masks and keep up social distancing and other public health protocols for the foreseeable future.

II. DEVELOPMENT AND APPROVAL What’s in the vaccine?

The two vaccines both use messenger RNA (mRNA) technology. They do not use any live virus particles, as some other vaccines do, such as the measles vaccine and the smallpox vaccine, which has eradicated smallpox in the world. This means individuals will not be exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19. Instead, the messenger RNA—a piece of genetic code—instructs cells to make the COVID-19 spike protein themselves. The immune system creates the antibodies that fight COVID-19, providing a significant level of immunity.

How was it developed? Was it developed too quickly?

mRNA is easy to make in the laboratory, and this technology has been known for years. Thus, manufacturers saved years in development and were able to speed up the creation of the vaccine.

Over 73,000 people from the U.S. and around the world received injections during clinical trials. This number includes over 25,000 people from the communities most impacted by COVID-19, including Black, Latinx, and older people.

How does a vaccine get approved?

Vaccines must be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before distribution. The FDA uses the data from clinical trials to make its decision to approve or not approve a vaccine. Independent experts and career scientists determine the vaccine’s safety based on the extent of side effects. If the clinical trial data shows enough evidence of efficacy and safety, the FDA will approve the vaccine.

III. VACCINE DISTRIBUTION When will I be able to take it? Is it mandatory?

Healthcare workers are first in line to take the vaccine and hundreds of thousands of them have taken it so far.  In New York, once health care workers have been vaccinated, as part of Phase 1A, the next step is Phase 1B, which comprises essential workers and New Yorkers aged 75 and up.

The vaccination is not mandatory. But the general public is highly encouraged to take it. Getting vaccinated is the pathway back to normal life and millions around the world are getting it.  The vaccination will finally allow us to beat this pandemic which has caused a year of devastation across the globe.