COVID-19 Common Frequently Asked Questions

ARE THE VACCINES SAFE?

In the United States, COVID vaccines are currently being approved under emergency use authorizations (EUA) from the FDA before they can be distributed. The EUA is supported by a Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) declaration that circumstances exist to justify the emergency use of drugs and biological products during the COVID-19 pandemic.

To gain EUA approval, the vaccine manufacturers must present data from clinical trials showing that the vaccine is effective and safe based on all data collected to date.

The FDA approved the Pfizer vaccine on December 11, 2020, and the Moderna vaccine on December 18, 2020. The data from the clinical trials for these two vaccines support their safety.

Since its release in England, Canada and here in the US, the Pfizer vaccine has already been given to tens of thousands of individuals and that experience so far confirms the safety. There are robust plans in place to continue to monitor safety as those vaccines are rolled out across the world.

WILL THE VACCINE MAKE ME SICK?

When you are exposed to a virus, like the viruses that cause the common cold or influenza, your immune system responds. The symptoms you experience, like body aches, congestion, fever, etc., are caused by your immune’s systems response to the virus. Similarly, when you get a vaccine, the goal is to boost your immune system, and when that happens, you get some symptoms of the illness.

According to the FDA, the most common side effects from the Pfizer vaccine are pain, redness or swelling at the injection site, fatigue, headache, chills, muscle pain and joint pain. These symptoms typically last a day or two. This FDA Fact Sheet on the Pfizer vaccine has more information just click here. 

Fatigue, headaches and muscle pain are the most common side effects from Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, along with some rare symptoms like intractable nausea or vomiting and facial swelling that are likely triggered by the shots, according to new data released by the Food and Drug Administration. For the FDA Fact sheet and more information on the Moderna vaccine, click here.

Among all those who have gotten the vaccine so far, three individuals experienced severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) within 15 minutes of getting the vaccine. The three were given appropriate medical treatment and recovered. The cause of this is being investigated. Although extremely rare, vaccination providers are prepared to address such emergencies.

DOES THE VACCINE GIVE YOU COVID?

No. The vaccine does NOT give you COVID-19. It protects you from getting COVID-19. It can cause you to not feel well for a day or two.

DO I NEED THE VACCINE IF I ALREADY HAD COVID?

People who had COVID-19 have at least three months of protection from reinfection, so if you have recently recovered from COVID-19, you can likely wait to get it. Frontline workers who have not had COVID-19 in the past 3 months may be given priority for the vaccine. However, eventually even those who had COVID-19 should still get the vaccine.

WHO SHOULD GET THE VACCINE?

Right now – the Pfizer vaccine is approved for ages 16 and older and the Moderna vaccine is approved for ages 18 and older. People with a history of an allergic reaction to a component of the vaccine or had anaphylaxis after the first dose should not get the vaccine. A number of organizations, including the CDC, have put out guidance for people who are pregnant and lactating. Please refer to resources from those organizations for more details.

HOW IS THE VACCINE DISTRIBUTED?

The vaccine will be distributed in accordance with the Pennsylvania Department of Health phases for vaccine distribution.  A full description of each phase and a list of those included in each phase can be found in the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s COVID-19 Interim Vaccination Plan which can be found on the state's COVID-19 Vaccine Information Page or by clicking here.