January 7, 2021

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Q: What’s in the vaccine? How does it work?

A:  Three vaccines have been approved for use and are currently being used to vaccinate healthcare professionals, one developed by Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. Unlike some other vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna vaccines do not use any live virus, but use messenger RNA (mRNA) which is a genetic code that instructs the body to make the COVID-19 spike protein itself.

Q: Can I get COVID-19 from the vaccine?

A: No. There are no live virus particles and it is impossible to contract the virus from the vaccine.

Q: Will the vaccine cause side effects? If so, are they risky? How long might they last?

A:  As with other vaccines, some people will experience minor and temporary side effects, usually after a second dose. Participants have reported pain at the injection site, fatigue, occasional fever, headache, or aching muscles and joints. These side effects fade within 1-2 days.

These side effects are actually common with all vaccines: they are a sign that a vaccine is working and triggering an immune response. If someone is going to have a bad reaction to a vaccine, it is likely to occur in the first six weeks after vaccination.

Q: Has anyone died or become ill after taking the vaccine?

A: Out of the 100s of millions of vaccinations tracked by the CDC, there have been nine deaths caused by or directly attributed to Thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) following J&J/Janssen COVID-19 vaccination. Women ages 30-49 years, especially, should be aware of the increased risk of this rare adverse event.

Q: How effective is the vaccine?

A: Pfizer has a 95 percent rate, Moderna has a 94 percent rate. That means that among people who took the vaccines, there were 94 to 95 percent fewer cases of COVID-19 than among those who did not take the vaccine.

Q: How long does the protection last? Will I need to get a booster shot every year?

A: Booster shots are being recommend for all adults over the age of 12 who received their second vaccine dose more than six months ago.

Q: Can I still get the virus even if I take it?

A: Yes. It typically takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity after vaccination.

While the vaccine provides significant protection, it is not 100% effective. There is a slight chance you may still get infected, but it will most likely be a mild case of the virus as opposed to a severe case.

Q: Does the vaccine work better depending on age, weight or race?

A: Based on the available data, we know the Pfizer vaccines works well regardless of age, weight or race. Data on the Moderna vaccine is expected to be released soon and we anticipate it will show similar results. Trials for both vaccines included over 25,000 people from the communities most impacted by COVID-19, including Black, Latinx, and older people.

Q: I have pre-existing conditions. Will taking the vaccine have harmful effects?

A: We don’t yet know for certain how individuals with different pre-existing conditions will react to the vaccine. But we do know they are at a higher risk for contracting severe cases of COVID-19 without a vaccine. If you have a pre-existing condition, you should consult your doctor on what’s best for you.

Q: I already had COVID-19—do I still need a vaccine?

A: Evidence suggests that natural immunity from COVID-19 may not last very long, but more studies are needed to better understand this. The CDC has not issued a recommendation on whether people who had COVID-19 should get a COVID-19 vaccine.


Q: The vaccines were made so quickly—how do I know they are safe and not rushed?

A: The mRNA vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna were faster to develop because they are not using live virus particles. Instead, the mRNA is easy to make in the laboratory—saving several years for development. mRNA technology has been known to scientists for decades.

These vaccines are carefully studied, tested, and regulated before they can be used. The companies that created the vaccines submit extensive applications to several government agencies and independent bodies of scientific experts, which will only permit the vaccine to be used if the evidence shows it is safe.

Q: Did the clinical trials for both vaccines include people from the groups most affected by COVID-19, especially Black, Latinx, and older people?

A: Yes. While vaccines work the same in people of different races or ethnicities, it is important to make sure vaccines are tested in diverse population groups before they are released.

Q: Who approves the vaccine?

A: In the United States, vaccines are approved – or not – by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before they can be used. The FDA bases its decision on data from clinical trials. The data is reviewed by independent experts who are not part of the government or the pharmaceutical companies, and by career scientists and physicians at the FDA who are not politically appointed and who are experts in vaccine safety and effectiveness.


Q: Can I be forced by anyone to take the vaccine?

A: No.  Taking the vaccine is not mandatory, although certain employers can require their employees to get vaccinated. The public is encouraged to take it to protect themselves and their loved ones, coworkers and neighbors. Mass vaccination is the best way to stop the spread of COVID-19 and return to normalcy once again. Healthcare workers in the US and abroad are already taking the vaccine.

Q: Is the vaccine free? Will my insurance cover it?

A: The vaccine is free. You will not have to pay for the vaccine. The vaccine itself is free for all Americans (CARES Act 2020).


Viruses have a tendency of mutating over time, creating new strains of the virus that can be more contagious, deadlier, or both. Being vaccinated is the number one way to prevent yourself from getting sick or, should you get sick, having a milder case.

Delta Variant

Needs summary—when did it originate and where, differences from the original strain, etc.

The Delta variant was first identified during the summer of 2021, and became the dominant Covid strain throughout the world until the emrerence of the Omicron variant.

The COVID-19 vaccines approved or authorized in the U.S. are highly effective at preventing severe disease and death, including against the Delta variant. But they are not 100% effective, and some fully vaccinated people will become infected (called a breakthrough infection) and experience illness. For all people, the vaccine provides the best protection against serious illness and death.

Omicron Variant

The Omicron variant replaced Delta as the largest cause of COVID-19 infections in New York and other states. As of late December 2021, over 90% of new infections in New York and New Jersey were identified as the Omicron variant according to the CDC.

Omicron likely spreads far more easily than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus. Current vaccines are expected to protect against severe illness, hospitalizations, and deaths due to infection with the Omicron variant. However, breakthrough infections in people who are fully vaccinated are likely to occur.

Importantly, lab tests show that while two doses may not be strong enough to prevent infection, a booster shot of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine produces virus-fighting antibodies capable of tackling omicron.

In addition to getting vaccinated and boosted, experts recommend wearing masks (specifically a N95s or KN95) when indoors, social distancing when possible, and improving ventilation indoors if possible.