Is the COVID-19 vaccine necessary?
COVID-19 vaccination is an important tool to prevent severe illness and death. Prevention measures such as wearing masks and social distancing help reduce your chance of being exposed to the virus or spreading it to others, but these measures are not enough. Public health officials and medical experts believe vaccination is an important step in helping to protect children too young to be vaccinated, adults who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons and communities. In addition, the more people who are vaccinated, the better our chance to slow the development of new and potentially more dangerous variants.
Who is eligible for vaccination?
Eligibility to receive the vaccines has expanded considerably since the vaccine was first made available. Today the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone at least 6 months of age get vaccinated against COVID-19, and everyone five years and older should also get a COVID-19 booster, if eligible.
For detailed vaccination guidelines, please visit the CDC’s “Stay Up to Date with Your COVID-19 Vaccines” page.
How do I get the COVID-19 vaccine at one of your facilities?
The COVID-19 vaccine is available by appointment only. As distribution varies from state-to-state, please visit our state specific pages for more detailed information about vaccine distribution in your area.
Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?
The COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective, and are also under the most intense safety monitoring in the U.S.
Between December 14, 2020 and August 9, 2021, more than 351 million doses of the vaccine were administered in the U.S. (source). This now provides provided us with data from more than 165 million people, and monitoring continues.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and FDA confirm that the benefits of the vaccines far outweigh the risk of COVID-19.
Did the COVID-19 vaccines undergo testing in clinical trials?
Yes. More than 110,000 patients have participated in initial clinical trials of the authorized vaccines. Clinical trials are the primary way researchers determine if a new treatment is safe and effective. The FDA utilized data from the clinical trials and determined the vaccines were ready to be authorized for emergency use authorization (EUA). The clinical trials for these vaccines are ongoing and continue to enroll more participants from previously unstudied populations.
How was this vaccine developed so fast when others take years to develop?
Although the development timeline has been faster than vaccines in the past, this does not mean safety measures were skipped. There are many reasons why the COVID-19 vaccines were developed more quickly including:
- Researchers were able to leverage previous coronavirus and vaccine research.
- Scientists were able to use advanced technology, including the type of vaccine (mRNA) developed for COVID-19 by both Pfizer and Moderna, to more quickly develop vaccines. While a new technology, mRNA vaccines have been studied for more than a decade.
- The vaccine development received record financial support which provided vaccine developers with extensive resources.
Scientists from around the world were all focused on the development of a vaccine to combat COVID-19 which provided many potential vaccine candidates.
Did the clinical trials include participants from different races and ethnicities?
More than one-third of the clinical trial volunteers to date are from racial and ethnic minority populations. Recognizing the disproportionate impact of the epidemic on underrepresented racial and ethnic communities, investigators worked with community engagement partners to enroll a diverse pool of participants.
What is Emergency Use Authorization (EUA)?
The FDA can issue an EUA during a public health emergency for vaccines that have been proven safe and effective in large (phase III) clinical trials and when certain criteria have been met.
Have any of the vaccines been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)?
On August 23, 2021, the FDA approved Pfizer’s vaccine for the prevention of COVID-19 in people who are at least 16 years old. This vaccine will be marketed under the name Comirnaty.
The Pfizer vaccine is available under emergency use authorization (EUA) to children age 6 months through 15 years old and as a booster for those 16 and older. The vaccine is given to children under age 12 at a lower dose.
On January 31, 2022, the FDA approved Moderna’s vaccine for the prevention of COVID-19 in people who are at least 18 years old. This vaccine will be marketed under the name Spikevax.
The Novavax and Janssen/J&J vaccines are available under EUA to individuals who are at least 18 years old.
How well does the COVID-19 vaccine work?
Available evidence suggests that the vaccines provide strong protection against severe illness, hospitalization and death in all age groups. Some people who are vaccinated against COVID-19 will still get sick and have a vaccine breakthrough infection because no vaccine is 100% effective.
The vaccine’s effectiveness against variants is being monitored. Scientists are also monitoring how long COVID-19 protection lasts. Public health experts are seeing decreases in the protection COVID-19 vaccines provide over time, especially for certain groups, so the CDC recommends boosters for everyone who is at least five years old, if eligible.
Will the vaccine give me COVID-19?
No. The COVID-19 vaccine does not contain SARS-CoV-2 and will not give you COVID-19. None of the COVID-19 vaccines currently in development in the United States use the live virus that causes COVID-19. You may have symptoms like a fever after you get any vaccine. This is normal and a sign that your immune system is learning how to recognize and fight the virus.
Have recipients experienced adverse events or side effects from the vaccine?
In clinical trials, the vaccine has been found to be well-tolerated. Serious side effects have been very rare. Most adverse events were mild or moderate in severity, and short-lived. Noted adverse effects were injection site redness, pain and swelling, fatigue, fever, chills, headache, nausea, muscle pain and joint pain. Side effects have been similar to the flu vaccine. Side effects were more pronounced following the second shot.
There is a remote chance that the vaccine could cause a severe allergic reaction. A severe allergic reaction would usually occur within a few minutes to one hour after getting a dose of the vaccine. These may not be all of the possible side effects of the vaccine as it is still being studied in clinical trials.
In women younger than 50 years old, there is a rare risk of blood clots with low platelets after vaccination with the J&J/Janssen vaccine.
Some people experience mild, temporary symptoms after vaccination that are a normal part of the body’s natural immune response.
Are side effects of the vaccine worse than COVID-19?
Most people experience few, or only mild, side effects. Side effects have been similar to the flu vaccine, such as soreness around the injection site or a fever. This is normal and a sign that your immune system is learning how to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19 and any symptoms that you experience should be short-lived.
How many shots of the COVID-19 vaccine are needed to be fully vaccinated?
Depending on which brand of COVID-19 vaccine you receive, you may receive a single dose or multiple doses. After being fully vaccinated, booster shots will help you stay up to date.
Is it safe for children to receive the COVID-19 vaccine?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone at least 6 months of age get vaccinated against COVID-19, and everyone five years and older should also get a COVID-19 booster, if eligible.
Why is vaccination recommended for children?
Children and adults who are fully vaccinated have a lower risk of getting COVID-19, and they’re much less likely to be hospitalized due to COVID-19. Children sick from COVID-19 sometimes need to be hospitalized, and in rare situations, complications from COVID-19 can lead to death. Although children with underlying medical conditions are more likely to get severe COVID-19, about 1 in 3 children hospitalized with COVID-19 have no underlying conditions.
Children and teens can experience a variety of new, returning or ongoing health problems after having COVID-19, even if their symptoms were mild.
In addition to protecting children, vaccination helps protect the people around them, especially loved ones such as grandparents who may have a higher risk of serious illness or death.
If I have allergies, can I receive the vaccine?
Those with allergies should not assume they can’t get the vaccine.
If you have a history of severe allergic reactions not related to vaccines or medications (food, pet, venom, environmental or latex) the CDC is recommending that you receive the vaccine.
If you have a history of allergies to oral medications or a family history of severe allergic reactions, the CDC is recommending that you still receive the vaccine.
If you have had an immediate allergic reaction – even if not severe – to vaccine or injectable therapy for another disease, talk to your doctor before considering the COVID-19 vaccine.
If you are allergic to any of the ingredients in the vaccine, you should not get one of the available COVID-19 vaccines.
If I have an underlying medical condition, can I receive the vaccine?
Those with underlying medical conditions are at increased risk for severe illness from the virus that causes COVID-19. The COVID-19 vaccines may be administered to you provided you have not had a severe allergic reaction to any of the ingredients in the vaccine. If you have any concerns, you should connect with your provider before receiving the vaccine.
What if I’m pregnant, thinking of becoming pregnant or breastfeeding?
The CDC recommends that people who are pregnant, thinking of becoming pregnant or breastfeeding get vaccinated. So do the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine. For more information visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/recommendations/pregnancy.html
Is the vaccine helpful to people who have recovered from COVID-19?
Yes, studies show that vaccination provides a strong boost in protection even for people who have already had COVID-19 and recovered [source]. People who have recovered from COVID-19 but do not get vaccinated after their recovery are more likely to get COVID-19 again.
Consider getting vaccinated three months after your symptoms started (if you had no symptoms, three months after testing positive for COVID-19).
If I have COVID-19 right now, should I get the vaccine?
Anyone currently infected with COVID-19 should wait to get vaccinated until after their illness has resolved and after they have met the criteria to discontinue isolation.
Can I receive the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time I receive another vaccine?
The CDC has said that COVID-19 vaccines and other vaccines may be administered at the same time. Contact your provider if you have any questions about your particular situation.
Does receiving the vaccine mean I could spread COVID-19 to others?
None of the COVID-19 vaccines currently in development in the United States use the virus that causes COVID-19, and therefore receiving the vaccine does not give you the ability to spread the virus.
Because it takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity to protect you against the virus that causes COVID-19, it’s possible a person could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination and still get sick. This is because the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection.
We know not everyone will be able to get vaccinated right away, so even after you get the vaccine it will be important to continue to follow safety guidelines: wear a mask, wash your hands and remain at least six feet away from others.
Can I stop wearing a mask and avoiding close contact with others after I have been vaccinated?
The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) recommends that anyone ages 2 years or older should continue wearing a mask when in indoor public spaces if the community has high levels of COVID-19. These individuals should also wear a mask in indoor public spaces if they are not up to date on vaccination boosters.
Is there anything different about the booster dose? Is it a new vaccine?
The booster shots for COVID-19 vaccines are not new vaccines. A booster shot refers to an additional dose of an existing COVID-19 vaccine.
Who is eligible for a booster shot of COVID-19 vaccine?
People ages 5 and older are eligible for a booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine based on when they completed their initial series.
When to receive a booster depends on a person’s age, time since the last dose and whether the individual is considered immunocompromised. Please visit the CDC’s vaccine booster recommendations page for detailed guidance.
People are considered immunocompromised when they have moderately to severely compromised immune systems due to a medical condition or taking medications to suppress the immune system. This includes people who have:
• Been receiving active cancer treatment for tumors or cancers of the blood
• Received an organ transplant and are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
• Received CAR-T-cell or hematopoietic stem cell transplant within the last 2 years or are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
• Moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (some examples include DiGeorge syndrome and Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome)
• Advanced or untreated HIV infection
• Active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids or other drugs that may suppress your immune system
Can you mix and match the COVID-19 vaccines?
The CDC does not recommend mixing vaccines for your primary dose series.
Adults may choose a different vaccine for a booster than they received for their primary series. However, children should receive the same booster as they received for their primary series.
What side effects might come with an additional dose?
So far, reactions reported booster shots were similar those experienced after the initial series. Fatigue, fever, headache and pain at injection site were the most commonly reported side effects, and symptoms were mild to moderate overall.
What are the benefits of receiving an additional dose of a COVID-19 vaccine?
It may prevent serious or life-threatening COVID-19. People with weakened immune systems may not have had a strong enough immune response after their initial dose(s). Immunocompromised people who have low or no protection after their initial series may have a better response after an additional dose.
For people with average immune systems, a booster dose has been proven to increase their protection against getting COVID-19 or getting seriously ill from COVID-19.
How does our ministry feel about use of the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine and do we have any moral concerns about its use?
We stand with the Catholic Health Association and their recent statement about COVID-19 vaccines and the use of Janssen/J&J’s newly developed vaccine:
"The Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA) is encouraged that another COVID-19 vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson has met FDA requirements for emergency use authorization.
Because COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, low-income communities, persons with pre-existing health conditions, and racial and ethnic minorities, CHA believes it is essential that any approved COVID-19 vaccine be distributed in a coordinated and equitable manner.
Using the guidelines released by the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life in 2005 and 2017 on the origin of vaccines, and the Vatican's December 21, 2020 Note on the morality of using some anti-Covid-19 vaccines, CHA ethicists, in collaboration with other Catholic bioethicists, find it is morally acceptable to receive Covid-19 vaccines developed by Johnson & Johnson, as well as Pfizer and Moderna. CHA encourages Catholic health organizations to distribute the vaccines developed by these companies.
CHA applauds the work of the scientists who have developed these vaccines and will continue to work to support efforts to educate the public about the importance of getting vaccinated.”