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Thankfully, most people who are infected with COVID-19 appear to make a full recovery, although potential long-term effects of the virus are unknown. However, COVID-19 infection can cause serious, life-threatening disease, and there is no way to predict who will need hospitalization and who will not survive.
We are learning that some people who have COVID-19 never fully recover and experience debilitating symptoms like heart arrhythmias, nervous system dysfunction, and severe fatigue long after their original infection has “resolved.” Fortunately, the vaccines available in the United States are both safe and highly effective at preventing severe illness and stopping the spread of COVID-19 to others.
All COVID-19 vaccines currently available in the United States are highly effective at preventing COVID-19.
Pfizer and Moderna have approximately 95% effectiveness in preventing COVID-19. The J&J vaccine was found to be 66% effective in preventing COVID-19 within 2 weeks of vaccination but 100% effective in decreasing severe illness and/or hospitalizations.
Research is ongoing and data is not yet available on the duration of protection that the vaccines will provide, though Pfizer recently stated that it is likely people will need a 3rd booster dose at 12 months. COVID-19 variants will likely play a big role in determining the duration of protection and the need for another booster dose.
Vaccines have proven to be greatly effective in eliminating or significantly decreasing the impact of many diseases. Vaccines protect most individuals from getting infected, or from serious consequences like hospitalization and death if they do get infected.
This protection will help us get back to doing the things we love to do, like celebrating holidays with friends and family and playing sports. If enough people are vaccinated and we have achieved “Herd Immunity,” the COVID-19 virus will lose its ability to efficiently infect new people and develop variants.
Because vaccination for the COVID-19 is still relatively new, and most people are not yet fully vaccinated, we still don’t know the answer to this question. Because it may be possible to spread the virus after being fully vaccinated, it is important to continue taking appropriate precautions like wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, and avoiding large gatherings even if fully vaccinated. The CDC is gradually relaxing its guidance for people who are vaccinated and we do know that the vaccine is very effective at preventing disease in the person who is vaccinated, but more needs to be learned about whether vaccinated people can still infect others.
Here is a link to the vaccine ingredients for the three currently authorized COVID-19 vaccines in the United States.
Side effects are normal signs that the body is building protection. Common side effects from vaccination are pain, redness, swelling on the arm where the shot was given, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever, and nausea. Some people have no side effects. For some individuals, side effects after the second dose (for vaccines that require two doses) may be more intense than the ones they experienced after the first shot. These side effects may affect your ability to do daily activities, but they should go away in a few days. Patients should seek medical care if their symptoms last longer than that.
It is not recommended to take over-the-counter medicine – such as ibuprofen, aspirin, or acetaminophen – before vaccination for the purpose of trying to prevent vaccine-related side effects.
Patients should talk to their doctor or to their vaccination provider about any questions they may have about medications they are taking.
A rare, but serious, side effect was recently identified in a small number of women of reproductive age related to Johnson and Johnson vaccine. Given the availability of two other vaccines, the FDA and CDC have encouraged women younger than 50 years of age to be aware of the rare risk of blood clots with low platelets after vaccination with J&J vaccine.
For more information about potential side effects, go to the Vaccine Side Effects page on the US Health and Human Services (HHS) website, or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website for:
Vaccination for the COVID-19 is still relatively new, and most people are not yet fully vaccinated, so we still don’t know if people who are vaccinated can be asymptomatic carriers and possibly infect others. Because it may be possible to spread the virus after being fully vaccinated, it is important to continue taking appropriate precautions like wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, and avoiding large gatherings even if fully vaccinated.
The CDC is gradually relaxing its guidance for people who are vaccinated, and we do know that the vaccine is very effective at preventing disease in the person who is vaccinated, but more needs to be learned regarding risk of transmission.
Yes! Pfizer vaccine is currently authorized for teenagers ages 16-17.
Pfizer has recently submitted safety and efficacy data to the FDA from its clinical trials in adolescents in adolescents ages 12-15 and publicly available reports show excellent safety of the vaccine in this age group as well. The FDA is expected to consider expanding authorization for use of Pfizer vaccine in this age group within the next month.
Moderna and J&J clinical trials in teens, adolescents, and younger children are currently underway.
Based on how the COVID-19 vaccines work in the body, experts believe they are safe for people who are pregnant or lactating. Two considerations:
Because women who were pregnant at enrollment in clinical trials were excluded from the trials, there is limited data on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines specifically for pregnant or lactating women Additional studies in this population are underway or planned, and the vaccine manufacturers are following outcomes in women who became pregnant during the clinical trials.
YES! If you are trying to become pregnant now or want to get pregnant in the future, you may receive a COVID-19 vaccine. There is currently no evidence that COVID-19 vaccination increases infertility or the risk of miscarriage. In addition, there is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccination causes any problems during pregnancy, including problems with the development of the placenta. Like all vaccines, scientists are studying COVID-19 vaccines carefully for side effects now and will continue to study them for many years.
In April, a rare, but serious, side effect was identified in a small number of women of reproductive age-related to Johnson and Johnson vaccine. Given the availability of two other vaccines, the FDA and CDC have encouraged women younger than 50 years of age to be aware of the rare risk of blood clots with low platelets after vaccination with J&J vaccine.
Patient care is very nuanced, so the FDA advises telling your vaccination provider about ALL your medical conditions, including if you:
If you have been previously infected with COVID-19, vaccination is recommended; however, the CDC advises waiting 90 days after treatment for COVID-19 symptoms with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma. If you are currently in quarantine due to potential exposure to COVID-19, please wait 14 days after your exposure to get vaccinated to ensure that you do not have COVID-19.
For more information, refer to the Pfizer EUA Factsheet; Moderna EUA Factsheet; Johnson and Johnson EUA Factsheet; and CDC COVID-19 Vaccination FAQ.