COVID-19 Vaccine Frequently Asked Questions
Do the COVID-19 vaccines protect against the COVID-19 variants?
The COVID-19 vaccines were developed based on the S protein before it contained the mutations identified in the variants. While research suggests that COVID-19 vaccines have lower efficacy against the variants, the vaccines still appear to provide protection against severe COVID-19. Further research is needed. In addition, vaccine manufacturers are also creating booster shots to improve protection against variants.
Can a COVID-19 vaccine give you COVID-19?
No. The COVID-19 vaccines currently being developed in the U.S. don’t use the live virus that causes COVID-19. Keep in mind that it will take a few weeks for your body to build immunity after getting a COVID-19 vaccination. As a result, it’s possible that you could become infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or after being vaccinated.
What are the possible side effects of a COVID-19 vaccine?
A COVID-19 vaccine can cause mild side effects after the first or second dose, including:
- Pain, redness or swelling where the shot was given
- Muscle pain
- Joint pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Feeling unwell
- Swollen lymph nodes
You’ll likely be monitored for 15 minutes after getting a COVID-19 vaccine to see if you have an immediate reaction. Most side effects happen within the first three days after vaccination and typically last only one to two days. A COVID-19 vaccine may cause side effects similar to signs and symptoms of COVID-19. If you’ve been exposed to COVID-19 and you develop symptoms more than three days after getting vaccinated or the symptoms last more than two days, self-isolate and get tested.
Can I get a COVID-19 vaccine if I have an existing health condition?
Yes, if you have an existing health condition you can get a COVID-19 vaccine — as long as you haven’t had an allergic reaction to a COVID-19 vaccine or any of its ingredients. But there is limited information about the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines in people who have weakened immune systems or autoimmune conditions.
Can pregnant or breastfeeding women get the COVID-19 vaccine?
There is no research on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant or breastfeeding women. However, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding and part of a group recommended to get a COVID-19 vaccine, you may choose to get the vaccine. Talk to your health care provider about the risks and benefits.
Should I get the COVID-19 vaccine even if I’ve already had COVID-19?
Getting COVID-19 might offer some natural protection or immunity from reinfection with the virus that causes COVID-19. But it’s not clear how long this protection lasts. Because reinfection is possible and COVID-19 can cause severe medical complications, it’s recommended that people who have already had COVID-19 get a COVID-19 vaccine. If you’ve had COVID-19, you might delay vaccination until 90 days after your diagnosis. Reinfection with the virus that causes COVID-19 is uncommon in the 90 days after you are first infected.
Can I stop taking safety precautions after getting a COVID-19 vaccine?
After getting a COVID-19 vaccine, the CDC recommends that it’s OK for fully vaccinated people to:
- Visit other fully vaccinated people indoors — without wearing masks or avoiding close contact
- Visit unvaccinated people from one household who are at low risk for severe illness from COVID-19 — indoors and without wearing masks or avoiding close contact
You are considered fully vaccinated 2 weeks after you get a second dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. However, vaccinated people should continue to take safety precautions, such as wearing a mask and avoiding close contact (within about 6 feet, or 2 meters) with others, when they are:
- In public
- Visiting people who are unvaccinated and at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19
- Visiting people who have an unvaccinated household member at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19
- Visiting unvaccinated people from many households
Keep in mind that if you’re fully vaccinated from COVID-19, your risk of getting COVID-19 might be low. But if you become infected, you might spread the COVID-19 virus to others even if you don’t have any signs or symptoms of COVID-19.
Will the vaccine work if I’ve already had COVID-19 or tested positive for the coronavirus?
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that people who have already had COVID-19 or tested positive may still benefit from getting the COVID-19 vaccination. There is not enough information currently available to say if or for how long people are protected from getting COVID-19 after they have had it (natural immunity). Early evidence suggests natural immunity from COVID-19 may not last very long, but more studies are needed to better understand this.
If I get a coronavirus vaccination, do I still have to wear a mask? Physical distance?
Yes. It may take time for everyone who wants a COVID-19 vaccination to get one. A vaccine that is 95% effective means that about 1 out of 20 people who get it may not have protection from getting the illness. Also, while the vaccine may prevent you from getting sick, it is unknown at this time if you can still carry and transmit the virus to others. That is why, until more is understood about how well the vaccine works, continuing with precautions such as mask-wearing and physical distancing will be important. More information can be found at the Mayo Clinic: COVID-19 Vaccines Get the Facts.