Below are several questions we think you may have about the COVID-19 vaccine and their answers. This information is meant to help you and your family make an informed decision about whether or not you get vaccinated. It is not a blanket endorsement for vaccination! Remember, the choice is yours! You control what happens to your body.
Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) Vaccine
Out of an abundance of caution, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have paused the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine due to rare blood clots in six cases involving women, out of more than 7.2 million shots given. Call your doctor if you have concerns or if you have these symptoms within 3 weeks of getting the vaccine: headache, stomach pain, leg pain, shortness of breath (trouble breathing). For more information, read the joint press release from the CDC and FDA. Click here.
What is a vaccine and how does it work?
In simple terms, a vaccine is a suspension of weakened or dead virus or pieces of the virus, that is used to protect people against the disease caused by that virus. Vaccines help your immune system recognize and destroy the virus when your body is exposed to these viruses from other people. Over the last hundred years, vaccines have been developed to combat smallpox, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis, and more.
Why is a vaccine necessary?
A vaccine is one of the tools available to stop a pandemic. They boost your immune system so if you are exposed to the virus, you can fight it. Other steps, like wearing a mask, washing your hands and physically distancing, help reduce your chances of being exposed to or spreading the virus.
What are clinical trials?
Clinical trials are an important part of determining vaccine safety and effectiveness. The purpose of clinical trials is to generate scientific and safety data for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to review and base their recommendations on. The trials determined the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines. The Pfizer, Moderna and now Johnson & Johnson vaccines have all received emergency use approval from the FDA to distribute in the United States.
Who was tested in the COVID-19 clinical trials?
Pfizer’s clinical trial enrolled 44,000+ participants globally with 42% of them having racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds. Moderna enrolled 30,000 trial participants from, including 6,000 Hispanic and 3,000 Black participants.
What is an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA)?
An Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) allows the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve a vaccine or medication in response to a public health emergency. An EUA may be granted for therapies that “may be effective,” or with a lower level of evidence than would otherwise be required for full FDA approval. The FDA reviewed two to three months of safety and efficacy data before issuing an EUA for the COVID-19 vaccines. In December 2020, the FDA authorized Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines for emergency use in the United States.
If I decide to get vaccinated, which COVID-19 vaccine should I take?
Currently, the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are available in the United States. The data suggests that all three vaccines reduce deaths, hospitalizations, symptoms and transmission. If you decide to get vaccinated, it is recommended that you take whichever vaccine you can get first.
When will the COVID-19 vaccines have full FDA approval?
It is not known yet when the vaccines will have full FDA approval.
It took four years to develop the mumps vaccine, how can the COVID-19 vaccine be safe and thoroughly tested so quickly?
There were many factors that helped the COVID-19 vaccines get developed so rapidly. Significant resources were invested to fund the basic research and clinical trials, greatly speeding up the timeline. Instead of developing new trial sites, scientists joined existing ones; thus, saving time. Additionally, the amount of infection in the communities allowed scientists to quickly compare vaccinated to unvaccinated populations and conclusively show the vaccine worked. Last, but not least, the large number of brave volunteers willing to try the “novel” vaccines during the clinical trials helped accelerate the process.
There are new coronavirus strains or variants. Will any of the vaccines still be effective?
According to medical experts, including current and former U.S. Surgeon Generals, there is no reason to believe that the vaccines that have been developed will not be effective against new virus strains as well.
Will vaccinations become mandatory?
There are no plans at the state levels to mandate vaccinations.
Are the vaccines safe?
The vaccines in trial have been tested in tens of thousands of people and have passed safety requirements. None of the current vaccines have reported any serious adverse effects during their initial clinical trial phases.
Vaccine safety monitoring systems are in place to collect side effects data. If an unexpected adverse event is seen, experts quickly study it further to assess whether it is a true safety concern. Experts then decide whether changes are needed in U.S. vaccine recommendations. This monitoring is critical to help ensure that the benefits continue to outweigh the risks for people who receive vaccines.
What are the side effects of the vaccines?
While not seen in all people who get vaccinated, common side effects can include injection site soreness, diarrhea, fever, muscle aches and chills. Most vaccine-related side effects last one to two days. Side effects may be more frequent in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which require two shots, after the second shot and less frequent among older adults. Additionally, the current vaccines have not identified any specific safety concerns among people based on age, race, ethnicity or underlying medical conditions. Most side effects are signs that your body is recognizing the vaccine and mounting a response, so you can stay healthy.
As for long-term side effects of the vaccines, they are unknown. The long-term side effects of vaccines are rare. Vaccine studies are ongoing, and they will continue to be monitored and watched for adverse side effects.
Are the vaccines a two-part vaccine?
Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses separated by at least three or four weeks depending on which vaccine you receive. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires one shot. At this time, it is not known whether follow-up or annual vaccinations will be required for COVID-19 like they are for the flu.
Does getting the COVID-19 vaccine guarantee that I will not get the virus?
Like any vaccine, there is no guarantee that you will not get the virus, but early indications are that the current vaccines are effective in protecting against severe COVID-19, death and hospitalization. If you are vaccinated and still become infected, it is believed you are likely to have mild if any disease.
Can I get COVID-19 from the vaccine?
No. You cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccine. That’s because the vaccine does not use live virus and therefore cannot cause COVID-19.
Can I get COVID-19 after the first dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine?
The first dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines only offer some protection from getting the virus; thus, the recommendation is to receive two doses to be protected.
If I get vaccinated, do I need to continue to wear a mask, wash my hands, and watch my distance?
Yes. At this time, it is recommended that even if you get vaccinated, you should continue to wear a mask (even two masks), wash your hands, physically distance at least six feet apart and avoid large gatherings (especially indoors) likely until most people are immune to COVID-19 and cases in the community have decreased significantly.
If I refuse the vaccine now, can I change my mind later once it is FDA-approved?
If I’ve already had COVID-19, do I need to get vaccinated?
You should consider getting vaccinated because some people who have had the virus are getting reinfected. Also, it is unclear how long immunity lasts after having COVID-19 and it may vary from person to person.
If I decide to get vaccinated, what information will I need to provide?
What you need to provide will vary for each vaccinator. Just like a regular doctor’s appointment, you should call ahead to ask what you will need to provide. Examples may include a driver’s license and insurance provider information, if applicable.
How will my information be used?
Your healthcare information will be safe. It cannot and should not be used in unethical ways. Limited personal information is reported from your local vaccination site to state and federal government.
Is it safe to get my child vaccinated?
The initial clinical trials did not include children. Thus currently, there is no vaccine for children under 16 because more studies need to be completed.
Is it safe for pregnant women to get vaccinated?
Pregnant women were not included in the clinical trials. Thus, it cannot be said for sure how the vaccine will perform in pregnant women. Several studies have shown that pregnant women who get COVID-19 are more likely to have a more severe case of it. They should talk with their healthcare provider and consider the following in deciding whether to get vaccinated:
- The likelihood of exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19
- Risks of COVID-19 to them and potential risks to their fetuses
- What is known about the vaccine: how well it works to develop protection in the body, known side effects of the vaccine, and lack of data during pregnancy
Are schools requiring students to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, similar to mumps and measles? Will restrictions be placed on my child if we refuse to vaccinate?
At this time, students are not required to get the COVID-19 vaccine. It may be some time before one is approved and becomes available for children.
How effective is the vaccine?
During clinical trials, all three vaccines, Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, reduced the fatality rate of COVID-19 and the hospitalization rate both by 100%.
How long after getting vaccinated will it take for the vaccine to start working?
The COVID-19 vaccines provide some protection a couple of weeks after you are fully vaccinated. This means for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, after your second shot. It is very important to take the second shot within the recommended time period for maximum vaccine effectiveness. Johnson & Johnson requires one shot, so two weeks after getting vaccinated provides protection.
If I get vaccinated, how long will the vaccine protect me from COVID-19?
It is not yet known how long immunity will last with a vaccine. The length of protection is still being studied.
Will the most vulnerable get vaccinated first?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has endorsed a plan to prioritize the nation’s 21 million health care workers and 3 million residents of long-term care facilities. States have the final say over which groups are first in line for any vaccine the federal government sends them, but they are expected to go along with the CDC recommendation. After health care workers and those at long-term care facilities get vaccinated, the people who will likely get vaccinated next are the 87 essential million workers — such as teachers, police officers, fire fighters, prison officers and grocery store workers. They will be followed by 100 million adults with certain high-risk medical conditions and people who are 75 years old or older.
When will the vaccines be available to the general public?
Each state has been asked to prepare plans to receive, store, distribute and prioritize the vaccine. The States of Missouri and Illinois do not yet have a schedule for the general public to get vaccinated. However, the most vulnerable and critical populations are being given priority for getting the vaccine. These populations include: healthcare workers; residents and staff who work in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes; essential workers such as first responders, teachers and education staff and childcare workers; and high-risk people ages 18 and older.
When the vaccine becomes available to the general public, where will I be able to get vaccinated?
As more vaccine is distributed by the federal government, several thousand vaccination providers will be available, including but not limited to doctors’ offices, retail pharmacies, hospitals, and Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs).
Is the vaccination free?
All people, including those without insurance, will be able to get the vaccination for free. No person can be billed for the COVID-19 vaccine. If applicable in your situation, vaccination providers may charge an administration fee to insurance, Medicaid or Medicare.
Employment And Vaccination
Do I have to get a COVID-19 vaccine to work?
There is no federal or state mandate to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the vaccine to all Americans age 16 and older.
Can my employer require that I receive a COVID-19 vaccine before returning to work?
It is up to each employer of a private company to determine whether they want to require their employees to get vaccinated.
What happens if I refuse to get vaccinated?
There are no legal repercussions (such as fines, sanctions or punishments) for refusing the vaccine. If you do not get vaccinated, you will not be protected against the virus that causes COVID-19. Additionally, you will be at risk of transmitting this deadly virus to co-workers and loved ones.
Could I get fired for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine?
Yes, private companies could fire you for not getting a COVID-19 vaccine, as some of them are considering getting vaccinated as part of conditions of employment. Most companies do not yet have policies in place. Some employees may be exempt from getting vaccinated due to health or religious reasons.
Influenza (Flu) And COVID-19
If I am allergic to the seasonal flu vaccine, should I get the COVID-19 vaccine?
You should talk to your medical provider to help you determine the risk. It will depend on what exactly you are allergic to and whether that is a component of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Will the flu vaccine protect me from getting coronavirus?
Influenza (flu) and COVID-19 belong to two different virus families, so one vaccine is not interchangeable for another. It is important that you also consider getting the flu vaccine this year.
Do I need to get both the flu vaccine and the COVID-19 vaccine?
A seasonal flu vaccine will not protect you from COVID-19. Being infected with both the flu and COVID-19 at the same time could lead to a more severe illness, which is why it is more important now than ever to consider getting the flu vaccine and the COVID-19 vaccine.
Information provided by:
- Missouri – https://covidvaccine.mo.gov/
- Illinois – https://www.dph.illinois.gov/covid19/vaccination-plan
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/index.html
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – https://www.fda.gov/emergency-preparedness-and-response/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19/covid-19-vaccines
- St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force