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Top 10 COVID-19 Vaccine Questions Answered



Before you get your shot, get the facts.

Excited to get your COVID-19 vaccine? Or maybe you have some concerns? Get answers to some of your top questions so you can be ready when it’s your turn.

1. How do the COVID-19 vaccines work?

First off, the COVID-19 vaccines cannot infect you with COVID-19. Instead, the vaccines protect our bodies from the virus that causes COVID-19 without making us sick. Vaccines do this by training our immune systems to recognize the virus before it enters the body so they can create antibodies to fight it. The vaccines in use from Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson (J&J) instruct our cells to make a harmless protein that is unique to the virus so our antibodies will remember how to fight the virus if we are infected in the future.

2. Are the vaccines safe? What if I'm pregnant?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have determined the currently authorized COVID-19 vaccines to be safe and effective. All of the COVID-19 vaccines in use were studied in rigorous clinical trials that were independently reviewed by scientists and medical professionals at the FDA to ensure they’re safe and that they work. Now that people are being vaccinated, the CDC is monitoring for any safety issues that arise.

Although pregnant women were not involved in the clinical trials, the CDC says that people who are pregnant may choose to be vaccinated. They should talk with their doctors, who know their health and the health of their baby-to-be the best, to make an informed decision.

3. What side effects can I expect?

Severe allergic reactions to the vaccine have been exceedingly rare. The most common side effects are pain at the site of the injection, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, and joint pain. These side effects last about a day and are more common after the second dose. Reactions like these to the vaccine are a good sign – they show that your immune system is working.

But it is important to know that everyone’s body reacts differently. While some people might experience several side effects, others may experience none. The vaccine is equally effective for both groups. If you have received the required number of doses (two for the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, one for the recently authorized J&J vaccine), then you are fully vaccinated.

4. How long will the vaccine last? Do I have to take another one later on?

It is not yet known how long immunity lasts after vaccination. It is possible that vaccine boosters may be needed after several months, once a year, or only every few years. More data needs to be collected before we know for sure, but public health authorities are already studying this question.

5. Will the vaccines work against the variants I'm hearing about?

Like all viruses, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has changed and mutated to form new variants. According to the CDC, some variants may spread more easily, leading to more COVID-19 cases.

The CDC reports that antibodies generated by the vaccines do recognize these new variants and offer protection, though how much is still being studied. Vaccine makers are exploring whether they need to adjust their vaccines to work better against new variants or create booster shots. Still, the most important thing you can do is get the vaccine as soon as it is your turn.

6. Do I still need to wear a mask after I get vaccinated?

Yes, you will, as well as follow other precautions like social distancing when in public. The vaccine may keep you from getting very sick, but we don’t know yet whether it prevents a person from spreading the virus. Not until experts have looked at how many people get vaccinated and how the virus is spreading in communities will they adjust their recommendations on mask wearing.

However, the CDC recently published comprehensive guidance for fully vaccinated individuals to help address questions about masks, social gatherings and travel. For example, people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 don't have to quarantine after a virus exposure, as long as they’re within three months of their final dose and don’t show symptoms.

7. Can I just take one dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines? The J&J vaccine requires only one.

Both Pfizer and Moderna require two shots for you to get the best protection against the virus. Experts are not yet sure how much long-term protection just one dose might provide. For the Pfizer vaccine, you would get your second dose 21 days after the first; for Moderna, 28 days.

If you can’t meet these recommended intervals, the CDC says it’s possible to schedule the second dose up to six weeks after the first.

The J&J vaccine was designed to be a one-shot vaccine, so a second shot isn’t necessary.

8. How much will it cost to get the vaccine?

You do not have to pay anything out-of-pocket to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. That means no coinsurance, deductibles or copayments. COVID-19 vaccines will also be made available to uninsured people. You do have to live, work or study in New Jersey to be eligible.

9. How can I sign up for the vaccine in New Jersey?

New Jersey is using a phased approach to COVID-19 vaccination to ensure fair and equitable distribution of the vaccine. Check here to see if you are eligible for a vaccine at this time.

If you are eligible, you have several ways of getting vaccinated:

  1. Pre-register and make an appointment through the NJ Vaccine Scheduling System. Register here.
  2. Make an appointment directly with a vaccination location. View locations here.
  3. Select healthcare facilities are allowing people who work or volunteer there to make a direct appointment.
  4. Veterans who receive care from VA health facilities or live in VA long-term care facilities may be eligible for vaccines through the VA. Learn more here.
  5. Call 1-855-568-0545 (8 am to 8 pm daily). This is the State’s Vaccine Appointment Support line.

10. I can't get an appointment. Why?

Vaccine supplies are still very limited, and demand is very high. Priority is being given to senior citizens, essential workers and people at greatest risk of serious or fatal illness from COVID-19, among others. Right now, appointments to get vaccinated are hard to come by even for those who are in these priority groups. Know that everyone who wants the vaccine in New Jersey will eventually be able to have it.