Frequently Asked Questions
Following are some frequently asked questions about the COVID vaccines.
Why should I get the COVID-19 vaccine?
Getting vaccinated protects you and others from COVID-19 which is critically important because for some people it can cause severe illness or death. According to the CDC some of the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine are:
- It will help keep you from getting COVID-19, and it will help keep you from getting seriously ill if exposed to the virus.
- Getting vaccinated yourself may also protect people around you, including those at highest risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
- COVID-19 vaccination will help protect you by creating an immune response without having to experience sickness. Vaccines will work with your immune system so it will be ready to fight the virus if you are exposed.
- COVID-19 vaccination will be an important tool to help stop the pandemic.
- The combination of getting vaccinated and following CDC’s recommendations to protect yourself and others will offer the best protection from COVID-19.
What if I have questions about the vaccine, or issues post-vaccination?
You can reach out to our COVID Vaccine Call Center at 860-679-8888 with any questions or concerns prior to vaccination or post-vaccination.
If you have what you think is a reaction to the vaccine, reach out to your primary care physician for assessment. If an emergency, dial 9-1-1 if you experience severe symptoms, shortness of breath, or severe allergic reaction.
What if I need to reschedule my second dose of vaccine?
Should you need to move your already scheduled second COVID-19 dose vaccination appointment, please log-in to your online MyChart account in advance to cancel your second dose and reschedule by calling the COVID-19 Vaccine Call Center at 860-679-8888. Note, it is ideal that your second dose be received within a 4 day time window of the initial target vaccination date you received. Your second dose should be administered as close to the recommended interval as possible. However, if it is not feasible to adhere to the recommended interval, the second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines may be scheduled for administration up to 6 weeks (42 days) after the first dose. If the second dose is administered beyond these intervals, there is no need to restart the series. Source: cdc.gov.
Once I get the COVID-19 vaccine am I protected from getting COVID-19 infection right away?
No. It takes some time to develop immunity from the vaccination, and the maximum effect is only achieved after you receive both doses of the vaccine. Even after you get vaccinated, you should still take precautions to prevent yourself from getting or spreading COVID-19 infection until more people are vaccinated over the coming months. Continue frequent handwashing, wearing a mask, and safe social distancing.
How much will the vaccine cost or is it free?
Vaccine doses purchased with U.S. taxpayer dollars will be given to the American people at no cost. However, vaccination providers such as UConn Health are able to charge an administration fee for giving the shot to someone. Vaccine providers can get this fee reimbursed by the patient’s public or private insurance company or, for uninsured patients, by the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Provider Relief Fund.
Will the two doses I receive of the COVID-19 vaccine be the same vaccine?
Generally yes. People will typically receive the same product for both the first and second doses of your vaccination. Currently, there is limited information to support either the safety or the effectiveness of using two different vaccine products for the two doses. Please note, however, that the CDC does allow heterologous "mixing and matching" booster dosing. For example, people may choose to get a Pfizer or Moderna booster dose (at least 2 months) after receiving their first dose of Johnson & Johnson/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine. Those who received one of the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer or Moderna) may receive the other vaccine at least 6 months after completing their two-dose primary vaccine series. People may consider the benefits and risks of each product and discuss with their health care provider which vaccine booster is most appropriate for them.
Is there anyone who should not get the COVID-19 vaccine?
The following people should not get the COVID-19 vaccine without discussion with their health care provider:
- People with a history of severe (anaphylaxis) or non-severe allergic reaction (hives, swelling, wheezing) to any ingredient of the mRNA vaccines.
- People with a history of allergic reactions to polyethylene glycol (PEG) or polysorbate.
- People who had a severe (anaphylaxis) or non-severe allergic reaction (hives, swelling, wheezing) to the first dose of either COVID-19 mRNA vaccine.
Individuals who fall in these groups should discuss with their healthcare provider to determine whether they may be eligible for any of the COVID-19 vaccines.
Although not considered contraindications to receiving the COVID-19 vaccines, these may be examples of some other people for which the vaccine should only be given after a discussion of risks versus benefits with their health care providers as they may warrant special considerations or precautions:
- People who have had an immediate allergic reaction to other types of vaccines.
- People with known or suspected immunodeficiency or those taking immunosuppressive medications.
- People taking continuous doses of immunosuppressive medications such as cancer chemotherapy or corticosteroids.
- People who have had a COVID-19 infection within the past 90 days and who have received an infusion of the monoclonal antibody therapy to treat the COVID-19 infection.
The CDC recommends that people with a history of severe allergic reactions unrelated to vaccines or injectable medications—such as food, pet, venom, environmental, or latex allergies—get vaccinated. People with a history of allergies to oral medications or a family history of severe allergic reactions may also get vaccinated.
Once I am fully vaccinated, can I still carry or spread the COVID-19 virus?
There is evidence that those individuals who are fully vaccinated may carry/spread the SARS-CoV-2 virus, however, the risk of infection and transmission is much lower compared to individuals who are not fully vaccinated.
Should people who are in quarantine due to COVID-19 exposure receive the COVID-19 vaccine?
Yes, but the vaccination should be deferred until the quarantine period has ended to avoid exposing health care personnel or others during the vaccine visit.
Will COVID negative inpatients be vaccinated at UConn Health? If not immediately, at some point?
The COVID-19 vaccines are available to inpatients at UConn Health.
Can I receive the COVID-19 vaccine while I am pregnant?
Per CDC guidance, COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for people who are pregnant, lactating, trying to get pregnant now, or who might become pregnant in the near future. Any of the currently FDA-approved or FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccines can be administered to people in these groups. A conversation between the patient and their clinical team may assist with decisions about the use of a COVID-19 vaccine. If a person becomes pregnant following the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine that requires two doses for the primary series (i.e., Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna), the second dose should be administered as indicated for the person to have maximum protection.
Can I receive the vaccine while I am breastfeeding?
Based on how these vaccines work in the body, COVID-19 vaccines are thought not to be a risk to lactating people or their breastfeeding babies. Therefore, lactating people can receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Recent reports have shown that breastfeeding people who have received COVID-19 mRNA vaccines have antibodies in their breastmilk, which could help protect their babies. More data are needed to determine what protection these antibodies may provide to the baby.
COVID-19 Vaccine for Children 5 to 11 Years
Is there a difference between the vaccine for ages 5-11 and the one for 12 years old and up?
The vaccine for 5-11 years old contains a smaller dose than the one approved for 12 years old and up. Two doses will still be required 3 weeks apart, and children will not be considered fully protected until two weeks after that second dose.
How does the vaccine work to protect children from COVID-19?
Just like adults, the vaccine provides excellent protection against infection from COVID-19. The vaccine works similarly to the other childhood vaccines we give every day. The vaccine teaches the immune system to recognize and create antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 virus so that the virus cannot replicate and infect your child.
What should a parent expect their child to experience post-vaccination?
The testing in children showed that after the vaccine was given, they had very similar side effects as adults. The most common side effect is pain at the injection site. Other side effects are low-grade fevers, body aches, fatigue, and headaches. On average, these last only a day or two.
What does the latest testing research reviewed by the FDA show about the vaccine’s benefits for younger children?
The testing showed that the vaccine is 91% effective at preventing symptomatic disease in children 5-11 years old.
Is there any child that should not be vaccinated?
There are very few children 5 years or older who should not be vaccinated. Children who currently have COVID-19 should wait until they have recovered and are past their isolation period. Children who had the MIS-C complication of COVID-19 should wait until 90 days after their diagnosis. If you have a question or concern about your child’s health, it is always best to talk to your pediatrician.
About the Pfizer and Moderna Vaccines
How effective are the COVID vaccines?
Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are approximately 95% effective in preventing COVID-19 infection. Efficacy for both vaccines was consistent across all age, race and ethnicity demographics. Both vaccines also significantly reduce the risks of developing severe infection.
How safe are the COVID vaccines?
The data from both research studies and from the initial phase of vaccinations under the Emergency Use Authorization indicate that both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are very safe. Both vaccines have gone through rigorous, and large Phase III clinical trials with strict standards set forth by the FDA. In total, over 70,000 people participated in the two trials, and about half received the active vaccine. The clinical trial research generated scientific data and other important information that helps the FDA determine each vaccine’s safety and effectiveness for Emergency Use Authorization. As of early January 2021, there have been very few serious safety concerns with either vaccine. The CDC recently reported that for the Pfizer vaccine, only 21 cases of anaphylaxis were reported to their Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System out of nearly 1.9 million doses administered. This is an anaphylaxis risk of only 0.0011%. Only 83 cases of non-anaphylaxis allergic reactions (such as itching, rash, or itching/scratching sensations in the throat) were reported, as well.
How are the vaccine supplies being safeguarded and stored?
While the Moderna vaccine is kept in normal freezers at temperatures of 32 degrees or below, the Pfizer product must be kept in specialized -80 subzero storage freezers. Each subzero freezer being used must be registered with the state and monitored closely with temperature monitoring and regular maintenance. Thanks to UConn Health’s large research enterprise we have one of the largest subzero freezer capacities in the state.
Each person receiving the vaccine at UConn Health, including each UConn Health employee, must register in MyChart to both schedule their vaccination and to ultimately receive it. Also, each COVID-19 vaccine shipment, and each first and second dose administration, is being individually tracked by the State of Connecticut electronically via its CT WiZ online database.
Will a cold or subzero freezing vaccine be administered to me?
No. While the Moderna product is stored in regular freezers and the Pfizer product needs to be stored in -80 temperature subzero freezers, both vaccines are thawed to room temperature before administration and retain their activity for many hours after thawing.
What are the potential side effects from the vaccines?
The reported post-vaccine side effects have been minimal. Like all vaccines, the new COVID-19 mRNA-based vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna can cause side effects, although not everybody gets them. Most people who received the vaccines and who experienced side effects described them as “mild” or “moderate” in intensity and the side effects usually resolved within 1-2 days after vaccination. According to the CDC these symptoms are normal and are a sign that the body is building immunity. In the Phase III clinical trials, the most frequent adverse reactions in participants for both vaccines were:
- pain, redness, warmness, and/or swelling at the injection site
- muscle pain or joint pain
The chances of you experiencing these side effects are higher when you receive your 2nd dose of the vaccine.
How do the new Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines work?
The COVID vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna are new messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine types that work differently. COVID-19 mRNA vaccines give instructions for our cells to make a harmless piece of what is called the “spike protein” which is found on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19. After the protein is made, the mRNA is destroyed. Our bodies’ immune system then recognizes that the protein should not be there and produces antibodies, as well as T-cells and B-cells that will remember how to fight the virus that causes COVID-19 if we are infected in the future. This will protect you from infection by the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19.
Will the vaccine give me COVID-19 or change my DNA?
No. There is no live virus in the vaccine and the vaccine cannot cause COVID-19. The mRNA material in the vaccines do not affect or interact with our DNA in any way. In fact, the mRNA never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA or genetic material resides. The cell breaks down and gets rid of the mRNA soon after it is finished using the instructions to produce the spike protein.
What are the biggest differences, both good and bad, between the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines?
There really are very few differences between these two vaccines. Both the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines had reported effectiveness of approximately 95% in their clinical studies. Both of these vaccines have the same mechanism (mRNA vaccines) and the same reported side effects. The two vaccines were studied in similar numbers of trial participants have been studied, and their characteristics (age ranges, sex, ethnicities, chronic illnesses, etc.) are also somewhat similar. The only real difference between the two vaccines are the storage conditions and the stability of the products.
What cells are targeted by the COVID-19 vaccine?
The mRNA should be capable of entering a wide variety of human cells after injection. However, it’s most likely that the majority of it will get taken up into the muscle cells surrounding the injection site. After the cells manufacture the spike protein, they can present them on their surface/outside the cell to the immune system for antibody development, and T-cell responses.
How long does the COVID-19 vaccine last, do you have to get vaccinated every year?
At this point, we don’t have a definitive answer as the long-term follow-up on the vaccine effectiveness is still ongoing. So far, the information from the clinical studies suggests that immunity generally lasts for at least 3-4 months. There is a very good chance that we will find out it lasts much longer than that, too.
Based on more data in the upcoming 2 years (the total planned duration of follow up of subjects in the clinical study), we will have a better idea of how long immunity lasts and if/when we would need to administer a “booster” dose.
What is the vaccine recommendation for individuals with a history of anaphylaxis?
The following people should NOT get the COVID-19 vaccine:
- People with a history of severe (anaphylaxis) or non-severe allergic reaction (hives, swelling, wheezing) to any ingredient of the mRNA vaccines.
- People with a history of allergic reactions to polyethylene glycol (PEG) or polysorbate.
- People who had a severe (anaphylaxis) or non-severe allergic reaction (hives, swelling, wheezing) to their 1st dose of either COVID-19 vaccine.
The CDC recommends that if you have had an immediate allergic reaction—even if it was not severe—to a vaccine or injectable therapy for another disease, ask your doctor if you should get a COVID-19 vaccine. Your doctor will help you decide if it is safe for you to get vaccinated.
The CDC recommends that people with a history of severe allergic reactions not related to vaccines or injectable medications—such as food, pet, venom, environmental, or latex allergies—get vaccinated. People with a history of allergies to oral medications or a family history of severe allergic reactions may also get vaccinated.
What is the COVID-19 vaccine recommendation for individuals with immunocompromising and autoimmune conditions?
Persons with immunocompromising conditions and/or autoimmune conditions may be at higher risk for severe COVID-19 infection. There is limited data on safety and efficacy of the vaccine in these groups, however, per CDC guidance these individuals can receive the COVID-19 vaccine unless otherwise contraindicated.
If a person has multiple sclerosis, how will this vaccination affect them?
We are not aware of specific data presented yet about whether any study participants had MS. However, people with MS were not excluded from participating in the trials. At this time, per CDC guidance, individuals with MS can receive the COVID-19 vaccine unless otherwise contraindicated.
Have any serious side effects been reported like transverse myelitis or Guillian-Barre syndrome?
No, those two adverse effects have not been reported with either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. Cases of Bell’s palsy were reported following vaccination in participants in both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines clinical trials. However, the FDA does not consider these to be above the frequency expected in the general population and has not concluded that these cases were causally related to vaccination. The CDC does not consider a history of these illnesses to be a contraindication to receiving the Pfizer or Moderna mRNA vaccines.
What is the recommendation for individuals who will receive the COVID-19 vaccine and another vaccine, such as the flu shot?
COVID-19 vaccines and other vaccines may now be administered without regard to timing. This includes simultaneous administration of COVID-19 vaccines and other vaccines on the same day, as well as coadministration within 14 days. When deciding whether to coadminister another vaccine(s) with COVID-19 vaccines, providers should consider whether the patient is behind or at risk of becoming behind on recommended vaccines, their risk of vaccine-preventable disease (e.g., during an outbreak or occupational exposures), and the reactogenicity profile of the vaccines. If multiple vaccines are administered at a single visit, administer each injection in a different injection site.
Can recipients of the COVID-19 monoclonal antibodies receive the COVID-19 vaccine?
Vaccination should be deferred for at least 90 days after receiving a COVID-19 monoclonal antibody to avoid interference of the treatment with vaccine-induced immune responses.
Can I take any fever/pain reducing medications if I develop a fever after the COVID-19 vaccine; or should I take anti-fever medications to prevent developing a fever after receiving the vaccine?
Anti-fever and pain-relieving medications can be taken after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Taking these medications prior to your vaccination for the purpose of preventing fever or other symptoms is not recommended.
Are there any non-mRNA COVID-19 vaccines in development that may be coming out in the next few months?
Yes, there are some vaccines that just contain the “spike protein” from SARS-CoV-2 virus. There are also some vaccines that use another harmless virus to deliver the materials that our immune system will react to and then develop immunity. The one closest to possibly becoming available is the Astra-Zeneca/Oxford vaccine. The only single-dose COVID-19 vaccine in development and currently being tested in clinical trial is made by Johnson & Johnson. It is estimated that clinical trials for that vaccine will be completed in early 2021.
About the One-Dose Vaccine of Johnson & Johnson/Janssen
When did the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine become available?
In very late February 2021, following an Advisory Committee’s recommendation, the FDA granted emergency authorization use to the new, one-dose COVID-19 vaccine made by Johnson & Johnson/Janssen. The first week in March it became available in Connecticut and the nation for vaccine administration.
Why was the J&J/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine authorized?
The data that was presented to the FDA strongly supports that the one-dose vaccine is safe and effective. It provides an important and significant level of protection against developing COVID-19 infection, and especially more severe COVID-19 infections.
What are the key benefits of the availability of this one-dose vaccine?
The addition of an effective single-dose vaccination will help us more quickly increase the total numbers of people who are protected from becoming infected with COVID-19, and also will help to significantly limit the ability of the virus to continue to spread throughout communities.
How does the single-shot vaccine work and differ from the Pfizer and Moderna two-dose vaccine type?
The J&J/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine is administered as a one-time intramuscular dose. Based on the data presented to the FDA, the protective effects of the vaccine start to become apparent approximately 14 days after the dose is administered. The J&J/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine works in a slightly different way than the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines which are mRNA vaccines that currently are administered as a two-dose vaccination series several weeks apart. The J&J/Janssen vaccine (“Ad26.COV2.S”) uses a human adenovirus (a common cold virus) that first has been modified so that it cannot replicate. It also has been modified to contain genetic material from the SARS-CoV-2 virus that the adenovirus will use to make a stabilized form of the SARS-CoV-2 “spike protein.” This is the same protein that is made as a result of the mRNA vaccines of Pfizer and Moderna. The science and methods behind using adenoviruses to deliver a vaccine target have been used for decades. Once the J&J/Janssen one-dose vaccine is administered, the virus enters the cells in our body. However, once the virus is in the cell, it cannot replicate (grow) to cause any kind of symptomatic infection. The virus then makes the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, which is then presented on the outside of our cells. Our immune system then recognizes the spike protein, and then develops antibodies and immune T-cell responses to the spike protein.
How effective is the one-dose vaccine?
The J&J/Janssen vaccine was found to be about 67% effective overall at preventing moderate-to-severe/critical COVID-19 infections measured starting 14 days after the dose. The effectiveness was a little bit higher in study subjects from the United States (about 74% effective). It also was very effective at preventing severe/critical infections (85% effectiveness at 28 days post-dose in all study locations). These data suggest that it may be a bit less effective at preventing COVID-19 infection compared to the two mRNA vaccines. However, the level of overall effectiveness is still very high. It is highly-effective at preventing severe disease, this effectiveness starts 14 days after a single dose, and it is easier to store/deliver the J&J/Janssen vaccine to vaccination sites. The vaccine only needs to be refrigerated and not frozen.
What are the possible side-effects of the J&J/Janssen vaccine?
The J&J/Janssen vaccine was very well-tolerated based on the research study data that was presented to the FDA. The vaccine does not contain any preservatives, so people who may have had allergic reactions to preservatives found in other vaccines should be able to receive this vaccine safely. All of the vaccine-related reactogenicity effects are what we would expect from nearly all vaccines; they also are similar to those reported so far with both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. Hypersensitivity reaction was rare, and there were no reported cases of anaphylaxis. Most effects were described as “mild” or “moderate” in severity, and older adults tended to have lower rates of effects versus younger adults. People commonly reported pain at the injection site (~50%). Erythema (redness) and swelling also occurred, but these were much less common (< 10%). Fatigue, headache, muscle aches, and/or nausea were reported by ~20-40% of people who received the vaccine, but these effects were also noted in ~10-20% of people who received the placebo injection. About 10% of people who received the vaccine developed a fever. All of these effects typically only lasted for about 1 day.
What is the most recent recommendation regarding the J&J/Janssen vaccine?
On December 16, 2021, based on recommendations from the ACIP the CDC issued the following recommendation, “mRNA vaccines (Pfizer/Moderna) are preferred over the J&J/Janssen vaccine for the prevention of COVID-19 for those 18 years of age or over.” The J&J/Janssen vaccine is available and may be appropriate for those who cannot receive an mRNA vaccine or may choose to receive the J&J vaccine based on medical conditions. We recommend that those who wish to receive the J&J/Janssen vaccine discuss this with their health care provider before requesting this vaccine.
For more frequently asked questions about the COVID-19 vaccine, visit the CT.gov website.