What You Need to Know About the COVID-19 Vaccine

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a stressful and often frightening time for many people, including those working on the frontlines. The COVID-19 vaccines are a safe and effective way to protect against the virus. The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) review of the vaccines was thorough and rigorous, and no steps were skipped in the process to review the safety of the vaccines. The FDA decided that the vaccine met safety and efficacy standards based on the currently available data from more than 43,000 diverse volunteers, and it was felt the benefits of the vaccine outweighed any side effects.

Frequently Asked Questions about the COVID-19 Vaccine

COVID-19 Vaccine for Children

The vaccine’s safety was studied in a clinical trial for children ages 5 through 11 and to date no serious side effects have been reported in those who received the vaccine.

Yes. The vaccine appears to be as effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 infection as in adults.

Side effects were generally mild to moderate in severity. Most common are pain at injection site, fatigue, fever and headache. These are similar to the ones observed in those 12 years of age and older, occurred within two days after vaccination and resolved within one to two days.

No. Booster doses are not permitted for people < 18 years of age.

No. Third doses are not permitted for people <12 years of age.

COVID-19 Booster Dose, Third Dose and Adult Vaccine (for Patients 12+)

Yes. The CDC recommends that even people previously infected with COVID-19 be vaccinated. This is because the immunity from vaccination appears to be more reliable than the immunity from natural infection. You can choose to delay your vaccination until 90 days after your infection, because you can be fairly confident your immunity from the infection will last that long.

Yes. Pregnant individuals are at a higher risk of getting severe COVID-19. For this reason, the CDC, Society for Maternal- Fetal Medicine and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists strongly recommend that pregnant individuals have access to COVID-19 vaccines. A conversation with your obstetrical doctor or nurse might help you make a decision. For more information, visit the CDC website here.

Your initial vaccination offers strong protection against the virus. But for certain people at higher risk of being exposed to or of developing severe COVID-19, a booster shot is recommended. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has expanded eligibility for COVID-19 booster shots.

For individuals who received a Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, the following groups are eligible for a booster shot 6 months or more after the second dose:

No. You do not need a doctor’s note to receive a booster dose. You may be required to attest that you meet eligibility criteria to receive a booster.

We encourage you to bring your original vaccine card or documentation, but it is not a requirement.

The FDA and CDC allows for the use of a booster of a different brand than the original series although the benefits of this approach are not yet clear. In general, you can get the same vaccine brand that you received with your original series (example: Pifzer to Pfizer; Moderna to Moderna; J&J to J&J).

The following groups could benefit from a mix and match approach, if desired. Be sure to discuss any questions you may have with your primary care provider:

  • Females under age 50 may want to consider opting for a Pfizer or Moderna booster, although they may choose to proceed with J&J.
  • Males under age 30 may want to consider opting for a J&J booster although they may choose to proceed with Pfizer or Moderna.
  • Additional dose after a primary series: An additional dose of vaccine is administered when the initial immune response following a primary vaccine series is likely to be insufficient. For example, a third dose of COVID-19 mRNA vaccine for certain immunocompromised patients.
  • Booster dose: Initial immune response to a primary vaccine series is thought to be adequate (For example, in immunocompetent individuals). But an additional dose of vaccine is administered when the initial immune response to a primary series is likely to have waned over time.

Yes. To date, the side effects reported after a booster dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine seem to be similar to what people experienced after receiving doses 1 and 2. Pain at the injection site was the most commonly reported side effect. Most symptoms were mild to moderate and resolved within 3 days.

While the booster dose of the vaccine may provide added protection, it is still recommended that you continue to follow state and local guidance as it relates to wearing a mask, maintaining social distance, hand hygiene, etc.

You can check https://vaxfinder.mass.gov/ to find a vaccine clinic more convenient to you.