This has been a stressful time for many people, but the new vaccine is an exciting step in our fight against COVID-19 and in returning to a more normal way of life. It is natural that people have questions about any new medication or treatment. In the age of social media, it is easy for false information to spread quickly. Here are some facts from Tufts Medical Center’s Infectious Diseases doctors:
Three vaccines have received Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the Food and Drug Administration. Vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer received authorization in December 2020 and a vaccine by Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) received EUA in late February 2021. All three vaccines are offered at Wellforce vaccination sites.
All three vaccines are extremely effective, exceeding all expectations and FDA benchmarks for success. In clinical trials, there were no deaths from COVID-19 among any participants who received vaccine.
All three vaccines involve the use of “instructions” for your cells on how to make the “spike protein” that is unique to the virus that causes COVID-19. The "spike protein" produced by your cells after vaccination makes your immune system “think” your body really has COVID-19 even though it doesn’t. This causes the immune system to produce antibodies that attach to the spike protein on the actual virus causing COVID-19 in case you are exposed and stops infection. The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines do this by introducing a blueprint called mRNA in a specially designed particle. The Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine does this by introducing a recipe called DNA which is carried by an inactivated version of another virus, an adenovirus. The adenovirus cannot multiply in the human body. The mRNA and DNA cannot integrate into the human genetic material.
Yes. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are given to people in two doses, 21 (Pfizer) or 28 (Moderna) days apart. The effectiveness of the vaccines has only been studied in clinical trials after two doses.
The FDA’s 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.
No. You cannot develop COVID-19 disease from any of the vaccines.
Yes, the COVID-19 vaccines available - Pfizer, Moderna and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) - have been thoroughly tested as part of clinical trials. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and a group of vaccine experts from throughout the country carefully reviewed information. The FDA then decided it was safe to make the Moderna and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccines available to persons aged 18 years and older. The Pfizer vaccine can be used in people 16 years and older. The lower age limits differ not because of safety concerns but because of different age cutoffs used in each study.
The FDA’s 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 vaccines met safety and efficacy standards based on the currently available data from more than 70,000 diverse volunteers, and it was felt the benefits of the vaccines far outweighed the risk of any known side effects. More importantly, over 76 million Americans have now been vaccinated, with close monitoring of adverse events by the FDA and the CDC. No worrisome trends regarding safety have been found.
The most commonly reported side effects for all COVID-19 vaccines are soreness at the site of the injection as well as flu-like symptoms, including fatigue, body aches, chills or fevers after the vaccine. For Pfizer and Moderna, side effects were most common after the second dose of the vaccine, and more likely to be experienced by younger people. These symptoms go away within the first few days after receiving the vaccine. The side effects tell us that the body is building protection against the virus.
To date, people who have had allergic reactions to the vaccine have all recovered quickly. The risk of allergic reaction is very small and is similar to the risk of allergic reaction associated with all other medications and vaccines.
Yes. The Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine reports that there is no reason to believe that the vaccine affects the safety of breastmilk. For more information, go to this link.
Yes. We simply ask that you delay your vaccination until you are released from isolation, so that you are no longer contagious to others. Please schedule dose 2 for as soon as possible after your release from isolation and as long as it is at least 21 days after the first dose of Pfizer vaccine or at least 28 days after the first dose of the Moderna vaccine.
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 and that each person has a discussion with their health care professional about their own personal choice. For more information about COVID-19 vaccines and pregnancy, go to this link.
Yes. The CDC and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine report that there is no reason to believe that the vaccine affects the safety of breastmilk. For more information, go to this link.
No, the precautions/allergy statements are different for each vaccine. People who have a known allergy to Polyethylene Glycol (PEG) should not receive the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. People who have a known allergy to polysorbate should not receive the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine. If you have had a severe or immediate allergic reaction to a prior dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, you can receive the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine as your second dose. It’s important to discuss this with your primary care physician.
Other types of allergy histories, such as an immediate allergic reaction to another vaccine or injectable therapy, or a history of anaphylaxis due to any cause are considered by the CDC to be a precaution. People who have these reactions should receive the vaccines, but should be observed for 30 minutes (rather than 15) after each dose of vaccine.
Allergic reactions (including severe allergic reactions) not related to vaccines or injectable therapies (e.g., allergic reactions to food, pet, venom, environmental or latex allergies. or oral medications including the oral equivalents of injectable medications) are not a contraindication or precaution to vaccination with COVID-19 vaccines. For more information, see CDC Vaccines & Immunizations.
The Massachusetts Department of Health is developing a plan to vaccinate everyone in the state who wants to be vaccinated. Doing so will take several months. They have prioritized certain groups including health care workers, first responders, those over 75, etc. To see the state’s latest timeline, go here.
Yes. While we know the vaccine prevents you from getting COVID-19 disease, and protects others from getting COVID-19 from you, in public places we still must follow all of the rules including keeping social distance, wearing masks and following other CDC guidelines to reduce the risk of transmission. Over time and as more people are vaccinated, we expect that restrictions will gradually loosen.
Ending a pandemic requires using all of the tools we have available. Together, the vaccine and these recommendations give us the best chance of protecting ourselves and others from COVID-19 and helping to slow its spread in our communities. Vaccination is the best tool we have for returning to the activities we love and miss.
Yes. Studies show that the vaccines are extremely effective at preventing COVID-19 illness in vaccinated people. Early data also suggest that the vaccines are in fact very effective at preventing asymptomatic infection too (likely between 75 and 90%) and that when vaccinated people do develop infection, the amount of virus carried in their secretions is lower. Overall, this means that vaccines likely protect not just you but others.
The state Department of Public Health has issued guidelines for when individuals can be vaccinated. People in Phase 1 and Phase 2 groups can get a vaccine now. You can find more details about when and where to be vaccinated at https://www.mass.gov/covid-19-vaccine.
Social media can easily and quickly spread information, including false information. It is always important to check the source of information. The CDC has provided excellent and trusted resources for questions about the current COVID-19 vaccines here; information from the FDA in multiple languages can be found here and is also very helpful. Your doctor can also talk to you more about the vaccine. Please visit www.wellforce.org/covidvaccine for videos and other information in multiple languages.
Because the U.S. is still seeing high levels of COVID-19 activity, national and state public health experts continue to encourage Americans to avoid both domestic and foreign travel. There are currently no differences in the federal guidelines for international travel based on vaccine status. However, some U.S. states have adjusted their travel restrictions. Check the guidelines for the state you are visiting. Also check here for the latest travel guidelines from the state of Massachusetts.