Vaccine Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)



Vaccine Allocation and Distribution

UPDATED JULY 25, 2022: How is Novavax different from the other COVID-19 vaccines?

The Novavax COVID-19 vaccine was granted Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the FDA on July 13, 2022, and recommended for use by the CDC on July 19, 2022. This makes it the fourth COVID-19 vaccine available in the U.S. It is given as two doses, three weeks apart, and will be available for adults 18 and older. It is used as a primary series and not as a booster dose.

Novavax works differently from Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. It is a protein subunit vaccine, which the CDC describes as a combination of harmless proteins from the COVID-19 virus with another ingredient called an adjuvant that helps the immune system respond to the virus in the future. Protein subunit vaccines have been used in the U.S. for over 30 years, and include vaccines for influenza, whooping cough, tetanus, and hepatitis B.

In studies, Novavax was reported to be 90% effective against symptomatic infection and 100% effective against moderate and severe disease. The most commonly reported side effects were injection-site tenderness and pain, headache, muscle and joint aches, nausea/vomiting, fever, and fatigue. There were rare cases of myocarditis and pericarditis reported in the clinical trial. It is not yet known how well it protects against omicron and its subvariants, since studies were done before these variants had appeared.

For more information, Yale Medicine posts a regularly-updated comparison of the COVID-19 vaccines. Johns Hopkins vaccine expert Dr. William Moss discussed its potential strengths and weaknesses in a recent interview. The CDC also has more about the COVID-19 vaccines.

UPDATED SEPTEMBER 27, 2022: What are the latest vaccination numbers for the County?

The Arizona Department of Health Services updates its statewide COVID-19 vaccine administration data dashboard every Wednesday. Select Pima County on the map to view the latest vaccination information. 

UPDATED SEPTEMBER 2, 2022: Where can I find guidance for COVID-19 boosters?

The CDC recommends COVID-19 booster vaccines for everyone ages 5 years and older. The timing and number of boosters depends upon your age, the vaccine you received for your primary series, and whether or not you are immunocompromised. To help you make decisions for your personal situation, the CDC’s “Find Out When to Get a Booster” tool on its Stay Up to Date with COVID-19 Vaccines page can help. 

On August 31, 2022, the FDA authorized new bivalent Pfizer and Moderna booster vaccines that target the original virus strain plus the omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants. On September 1, 2022, the CDC approved the new Pfizer booster for everyone 12 and older, and the new Moderna booster for everyone 18 and older. You can receive the new bivalent booster if it has been at least two months since you completed your primary series or received a previous booster. The original booster dose used for those 12 and older will be discontinued. Johns Hopkins has more about bivalent COVID-19 boosters, with answers to many common questions.

The FDA offers the latest information on the vaccines, and the CDC provides recommendations, information on boosters and age eligibility. Yale Medicine keeps a regularly-updated comparison of the COVID-19 vaccines. Find a list of places to get a vaccine.

UPDATED FEB. 25: Can veterans sign up via Southern Arizona VA Health Care?

Yes. The Southern Arizona VA Health Care System (SAVAHCS) started vaccinating Veterans 85 and older on Jan. 11. They are currently distributing COVID-19 vaccines to Veterans 65 and older.

Veterans, who are eligible based upon Centers for Disease Control (CDC) risk criteria, are being contacted directly by VA staff to schedule a COVID-19 vaccine appointment. They are also using an automated text and telephone program that connects Veterans to SAVAHCS staff to schedule an appointment.

If a Veteran expresses interest in receiving a COVID 19 vaccine, they can register at the following web link: https://www.va.gov/health-care/covid-19-vaccine/

UPDATED JUNE 21, 2022: Can children get vaccinated for COVID-19?

Yes. The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get vaccinated against COVID-19, and recommends a booster for everyone 5 years and older. Parents can choose between the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. See the latest CDC COVID-19 vaccine recommendations for children and teens. Find a vaccine location here.

Vaccine Safety

UPDATED DEC. 1: What do we know about myocarditis and vaccines?

Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart muscle, and pericarditis is an inflammation of the outer heart lining. There have been rare cases of myocarditis and pericarditis reported after vaccination with the Moderna and the Pfizer vaccines. These have occurred:
  • Primarily in adolescents and young adult males within a few days following vaccination.
  • Usually within a week of vaccination.
  • More commonly after the second dose.
Most patients who got medical care for myocarditis and pericarditis felt better quickly after rest and medicine, and most people are able to return to normal activities once symptoms improve.
 
Myocarditis and pericarditis can cause:
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feelings of having a fluttering, pounding, or fast-beating heart
If you or your child have any of these symptoms within a week after a COVID-19 vaccine, contact your primary care provider.

You can report all post-vaccination cases of myocarditis or pericarditis, or any health problems after vaccination to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System. Healthcare providers can find additional information and clinical considerations on myocarditis following vaccination. The CDC and health officials continually monitor reports and will continue to share information as it becomes available.
 
The known risks of COVID-19 illness and its related, possibly severe complications including long-term health problems, hospitalization or death far outweigh any potential risk of a rare adverse reaction to the vaccine, including the possible risk of myocarditis or pericarditis. Therefore, the CDC continues to recommend COVID-19 vaccination for everybody 5 years and older.

UPDATED SEPT. 27, 2022: What are the vaccine side effects, and how do I report an adverse reaction?

Side effects from vaccination can vary from person to person. Some people don’t have any, and others may experience symptoms including soreness where you received the shot, headache, fatigue, fever or chills, nausea, and muscle pain, which may affect their ability to do their normal daily activities. These are temporary, and usually go away in a few days. Side effects may be different across age groups, and those after a booster tend to be similar to those after the primary series. Even if you experience no side effects, your body is still building protection against the virus that causes COVID-19. Learn more about COVID-19 vaccine side effects, and how to relieve them. You can use the optional, smartphone-based tool V-safe to report to the CDC how you are feeling after vaccination. Pregnant individuals enrolled in v-safe may also enroll in the V-safe Pregnancy Registry. Learn what the CDC does to monitor and ensure the safety of COVID-19 vaccines.

Adverse events after vaccination, including severe allergic reactions can occur, but are rare. If you develop a severe allergic reaction after your vaccine, call 911 for immediate medical care. You or your healthcare provider can use the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) to report a side effect or adverse event from the vaccine.

UPDATED JAN. 10, 2022: Can the COVID vaccines give me COVID-19 or make me test positive on a viral test?

None of the vaccines used in the U.S. contain the live virus which causes COVID-19, so they cannot give you the illness. Symptoms that may occur after vaccination, such as a fever, are signs that your body is building antibody protection against the virus to help prevent you from becoming severely ill if you are exposed.
 
The vaccines will not make you test positive on the viral tests that take samples from your nose or mouth (the PCR or antigen tests), because these tests look for current infection. People who have had COVID-19 in the past, and those who develop an immune response to vaccination may test positive on an antibody test, because these tests look for some level of antibody protection against the virus.

UPDATED FEB. 9, 2022: If you've recovered from COVID-19, are vaccinations or boosters still recommended?

The safest and most reliable way to build added protection is through vaccination and boosting for all eligible individuals, including those who have had COVID-19.
 
COVID-19 immunity is quite complicated, and health experts are working to understand how natural immunity (from recent infection) and vaccine-induced immunity might work together, and how strong it is and for how long the protection offered by each might persist.
 
Natural immunity from surviving a COVID-19 infection has been shown to greatly reduce the risk of reinfection and hospitalization, especially right after someone recovers. In January 2022, the CDC reported that during the delta surge, persons who survived a previous infection had lower COVID-19 case rates than persons who were vaccinated alone. However, immunity from infection alone is not always reliable; up to 36% of people who recover from COVID-19 may fail to develop protective antibodies. Age and medical conditions can influence how much protection a person might develop.
 
Some data suggest the combination of natural immunity plus vaccine immunity may lead to very robust protective responses, even against variants. The CDC reported that people who had both a prior infection and were vaccinated had the highest protection. Other studies found that people who had both COVID-19 infection and were vaccinated were half as likely to report getting debilitating long-COVID, compared to people who were unvaccinated when they got infected. Johns Hopkins researchers found that people who got vaccinated after infection had antibodies that remained higher and lasted longer than in those who had the vaccine alone. 
 
Read more from the CDC about the benefits of vaccination, or find a vaccine, or explore infection-induced and vaccine-induced immunity in more depth.

UPDATED APRIL, 18 2022: If I'm vaccinated, should I quarantine or test after close contact with someone infected with COVID-19?

Quarantine keeps people who had close contact with someone with COVID-19 apart from others to help prevent spread of the virus. You do not need to quarantine after close contact with someone who has COVID-19 if your COVID-19 vaccines are up-to-date, or if you tested positive for the virus within the last 90 days.
 
Anybody who develops COVID-19 symptoms (regardless of vaccination or prior infection status) should get tested immediately and isolate from others.
 
If your vaccines are up-to-date, you should get tested at least 5 days after your last close contact, and wear a mask around others for 10 days. If you test positive or have symptoms, you should isolate from other people. If you had a positive viral test for COVID-19 in the past 90 days, recovered and are symptom-free, you do not need to get tested, but should still wear a mask around others for 10 days after your last close contact.
 
Anyone who is unvaccinated or not up-to-date on their COVID-19 vaccines should quarantine following close contact with someone who has COVID-19.
 
The CDC has more information about quarantine and isolation, plus an online tool to help you figure out how long you need to quarantine, isolate, or take additional steps to prevent spreading COVID-19.

UPDATED SEPT. 27, 2022: Should I get the vaccine if I am pregnant or breastfeeding?

COVID-19 vaccines and boosters continue to be recommended for those who are currently pregnant, trying to become pregnant, or may become pregnant in the future, as well as for those who are breastfeeding. People who are pregnant or recently were, are at higher risk of having severe illness from COVID-19. Infection during your pregnancy can also cause complications such as having a premature or stillborn baby. Vaccination is safe and effective, and helps keep you as healthy as possible during your pregnancy, which benefits both you and your baby.
 
The CDC has more about COVID-19 vaccines for those who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and you can also see the most current recommendations from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. If you would like to speak with someone, MotherToBaby is a free, confidential service offering experts who can answer your questions in English or Spanish via telephone or chat. Your healthcare provider can also offer additional guidance.

UPDATED FEB. 17, 2022: Can people with a history of allergic reactions get a COVID-19 vaccine?

People with allergic reactions to things not related to vaccines or injectable medications (such as allergies to pets, latex, foods, venom, or things in the environment) are still able to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Those who have had allergic reactions to other vaccines, or to components in the COVID-19 vaccines should talk to their healthcare provider before being vaccinated. Learn more about COVID-19 vaccines for people with allergies.

UPDATED SEPTEMBER 2, 2022: What is the vaccine and booster guidance for immunocompromised people?

Yes, they should. People with moderately to severely weakened immune systems (immunocompromised) may be more likely to get severely ill or to be sick for a longer time if they get COVID-19. Certain medicines, medical conditions, or treatments for medical conditions may cause someone to become immunocompromised. These may include cancer treatments, organ transplants, advanced or untreated HIV, primary immunodeficiency diseases, and immune-suppressing medicines.
 
Immunocompromised people may build a much smaller amount of protection from the vaccines than someone with a normal immune system would. To help get them closer to a normal level of protection, the CDC recommends that immunocompromised people 18 and older who got the Pfizer or Moderna mRNA vaccines get a third vaccine dose of Pfizer or Moderna at least 28 days after their second dose. They also have the option to receive a single booster dose with any of the available vaccines at least 6 months after completing their third dose. This means that some immunocompromised individuals receiving the mRNA vaccines may receive a total of four vaccine doses.
People who are moderately to severely immunocompromised (have a weakened immune system) are at greater risk for severe illness and death from COVID-19, and may not develop the level of protection needed from vaccination. The CDC recommends additional doses for these individuals. The CDC’s COVID-19 Booster Tool can help determine when to get boosters to stay up to date with vaccination. 

At the end of August, 2022, the FDA authorized new bivalent Pfizer and Moderna booster vaccines that target the original virus strain plus the omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants. On September 1, 2022, the CDC approved this new Pfizer booster for everyone 12 and older, and this new Moderna booster for everyone 18 and older. People can receive the new bivalent booster if it has been at least two months since completion of the primary vaccine series or receipt of a previous booster. The original booster dose used for those 12 and older will be discontinued.  

Some people may be eligible for Evusheld, a medication given to help prevent those who are immunocompromised from getting COVID-19. Yale Medicine offers a comparison of the vaccines, including specific information for immunocompromised people. 

UPDATED FEB. 17, 2022: Do the COVID-19 vaccines cause infertility?

There is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccines cause a loss of fertility in women or men. COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for people who are trying to get pregnant now or might become pregnant in the future, as well as their partners. Many people have successfully become pregnant after COVID-19 vaccination. The v-safe pregnancy registry reported almost 5,000 people had a positive pregnancy test after having received a first dose of vaccine.
 
The COVID-19 vaccines continue to be the most carefully and closely studied vaccines in history, with extensive, ongoing safety monitoring systems. Learn more about COVID-19 Vaccines for People Who Would Like to Have a Baby.

After Vaccination

UPDATED DEC. 27: What do I do if I lost my vaccine card?

The Pima County Health Department does not make replacement COVID-19 vaccine cards. If you lost your vaccination card, the Pima County Health Department recommends the following:
  • First, contact your vaccination provider directly to access your vaccination records. If this is not possible, and you were vaccinated in Arizona, contact the state through its online Immunization Record Request Form and return the completed form via email, fax or mail (all listed at the link). For more information, email the Arizona Immunization Program Office at ASIISHelpDesk@azdhs.gov or call 602-364-3630. 
  • You can also create an online portal at https://myirmobile.com/, which partners with the Arizona Department of Health Services to allow you to review your immunization history, get reminders for future immunizations, and print your own official records.
  • If you were vaccinated in a state other than Arizona, contact that state’s immunization information system.
  • If you were vaccinated outside of the U.S. and do not have proof of COVID-19 vaccination, talk to your healthcare provider about your options and whether you need to be vaccinated again in the U.S. (The CDC offers additional guidance regarding vaccination/re-vaccination and boosters for those who received their vaccination outside of the U.S.).
Read more from the CDC on getting your COVID-19 vaccination record card. The National Resource Center for Refugees, Immigrants, and Migrants provides additional information for these populations needing resources on verifying vaccine status and vaccination cards.

UPDATED APRIL 18, 2022: Is it possible to get COVID-19 even if I'm up to date on my vaccines?

The goal of COVID-19 vaccination is to protect against serious illness, hospitalization and death from the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and the current vaccines are extremely effective at protecting against this. People who are vaccinated and boosted may still get COVID-19, but they usually experience milder symptoms. Some vaccinated people may not have any symptoms. You can still spread COVID-19 to others in these cases, so it’s important to know what to do if you get sick or test positive.
 
People who are older, or who are immunocompromised, or who have certain medical conditions may have a greater risk of getting infected despite being vaccinated. Talk to your healthcare provider about additional protective steps you might need to take if you are in one of these groups.
 
Learn more about staying up-to-date with your COVID-19 vaccinations, and where to get a COVID-19 vaccine or booster.

General Questions

What does the vaccine cost?

The vaccine is free for everybody, regardless of insurance status. For those that have insurance, a small administration fee may be billed.

UPDATED APRIL 18, 2022: Is there a wait time for receiving a COVID-19 vaccine or a booster after having had COVID-19?

People who have had a COVID-19 infection should wait to be vaccinated with their primary series or boosters until they have recovered from the acute illness (if they had symptoms) and they have met the guidelines for ending isolation.

UPDATED SEPT. 27, 2022: Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine/booster with other vaccines?

Yes, you can get your COVID-19 vaccine or booster with your other routine vaccines, such as your flu shot. You don’t need to space them out or wait a certain amount of time between receiving a COVID-19 vaccine and another shot.

The exception is for the monkeypox vaccine. People (especially adolescents and young males) who received a monkeypox (orthopox) vaccine may wish to wait four weeks before getting a Moderna, Novavax, or Pfizer vaccine, because the myocarditis and pericarditis incidence after JYNNEOS vaccination is unknown. However, if you’ve already received a COVID-19 vaccine and are now at risk of monkeypox due to an exposure, you shouldn’t wait to get the monkeypox vaccine.

UPDATED APRIL 18, 2022: If I received monoclonal antibody products to treat or prevent COVID-19, may I get vaccinated?

If you have previously received monoclonal antibody (mAB) products to treat a COVID-19 infection, or to prevent it (post-exposure and pre-exposure prophylaxis), you may get vaccinated anytime afterwards.
 
People who were already vaccinated and who qualify to receive the mAB Evusheld, should wait to get this product for at least two weeks after vaccination. For more about mAB, visit the Pima County Health Department’s COVID-19 treatment page.

UPDATED DEC. 29: Can my employer require me to get vaccinated?

Yes. The federal Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) laws allow employers to require all employees physically entering the workplace to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, subject to the reasonable accommodation provisions of Title VII and the ADA and other EEO considerations. Learn more about this from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

UPDATED SEPTEMBER 2, 2022: How many vaccines have been approved?

Two of the three COVID-19 vaccines authorized in the U.S. have received full Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. Full approval is granted only after the FDA has compiled and reviewed enough evidence to prove a vaccine is safe and effective, and that it can be manufactured reliably, safely, and with consistent quality.
 
Pfizer’s vaccine gained full approval for ages 12 and older on July 8, 2022. It has Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for ages 6 months to 11 years. Moderna’s vaccine gained full FDA approval for ages 18 and older in January, 2022. The Novavax COVID-19 vaccine was granted EUA for adults 18 and older by the FDA on July 13, 2022, and later approved and recommended for use by the FDA and CDC for adolescents aged 12 - 17 on August 22, 2022. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine remains under EUA for those 18 and older.
 
On August 31, 2022, the FDA authorized new bivalent Pfizer and Moderna booster vaccines that target the original virus strain plus the omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants. On September 1, 2022, the CDC approved the new Pfizer booster for everyone 12 and older, and the new Moderna booster for everyone 18 and older. You can receive the new bivalent booster if it has been at least two months since you completed your primary series or received a previous booster. The original booster dose used for those 12 and older will be discontinued. Johns Hopkins has more about bivalent COVID-19 boosters, with answers to many common questions.

The FDA offers the latest information on the vaccines, and the CDC provides recommendations, information on boosters and age eligibility. Yale Medicine keeps a regularly-updated comparison of the COVID-19 vaccines. Find a list of places to get a vaccine.


UPDATED DEC. 29: Do I need to delay my mammogram after getting the vaccine?

COVID-19 vaccines can sometimes cause a temporary swelling in the lymph nodes, often under the arm in which you received the shot. This is more common after additional doses or boosters. This is part of a normal immune response, and a sign your body is building protection, but it may cause a mammogram to look abnormal, or to indicate cancer when none exists. Some health experts recommend getting your mammogram before being vaccinated, or waiting four to six weeks after vaccination. Your healthcare provider can advise you best. Anyone with a suspicious lump should talk to their healthcare provider.


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