COVID-19 Vaccine FAQ
Now that the COVID-19 vaccine is here, we’re all feeling a little more hopeful and less anxious than we have in a long time… and we’re also wondering about this new vaccine and what it means for our families. To help answer some of your questions, we’ve put together an FAQ that we’ll update regularly as more information becomes available. Our providers are also happy to answer any questions you may have related to this vaccine or vaccines, in general.
Read on to learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine and how your family can get protected in the coming months.
For other questions and answers, see our Coronavirus (COVID-19) FAQ.
Q: Is the COVID-19 vaccine FDA-approved?
A: The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine has received full FDA approval for ages 16 and older. It remains available under emergency use authorization (EUA) for adolescents ages 12 to 15 and as a booster dose for immunocompromised individuals. Two other COVID-19 vaccines have EUAs for use in adults ages 18 and older: Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.
Emergency use authorization means these vaccines can begin distribution in the United States because they meet the FDA’s strict EUA standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality. The vaccines will likely go on to pursue FDA approval after more clinical trials to obtain additional safety and effectiveness data. In the meantime, if any safety concerns arise as the vaccines are administered, the EUA can be changed or revoked.
For the official timeline of vaccine events, see the FDA press releases below:
- 12/11/20: FDA Issues Emergency Use Authorization for First COVID-19 Vaccine (Pfizer)
- 12/18/20: FDA Issues Emergency Use Authorization for Second COVID-19 Vaccine (Moderna)
- 2/27/21: FDA Issues Emergency Use Authorization for Third COVID-19 Vaccine (Johnson & Johnson)
- 4/13/21: FDA/CDC Pauses Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 Vaccine
- 4/23/21: FDA/CDC Lifts Pause on Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 Vaccine, Plus Announces Revisions to J&J Vaccine Fact Sheets Regarding Risk of Thrombosis-Thrombocytopenia Syndrome (TTS)
- 5/10/21: FDA Authorizes Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine for Emergency Use in Adolescents
- 6/25/21: FDA Announces Revisions to Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine Fact Sheets Regarding Risks of Myocarditis and Pericarditis
- 7/13/21: FDA Announces Revisions to Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 Vaccine Fact Sheets Regarding Risk of Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS)
- 8/12/21: FDA Authorizes Additional Vaccine Dose for Certain Immunocompromised Individuals
- 8/23/21: FDA Approves First COVID-19 Vaccine (Pfizer)
Q: Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe and effective?
A: The Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines are all safe and highly effective, even against the Delta variant. While no vaccine offers 100% protection, all three reduce your risk of getting COVID-19, spreading it, and having severe illness if you do get sick. It’s important to remember that breakthrough cases, or fully vaccinated people who get COVID-19, are rare and result in very few hospitalizations or deaths. Unfortunately, unvaccinated individuals do not fare as well and now represent most hospitalized COVID-19 cases and deaths. They’re also more likely to get COVID-19 again if they remain unvaccinated. This shows the vaccines are working!
Q: What are the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine?
A: Like any vaccine, the COVID-19 vaccine may cause soreness at the injection site, fatigue, headache, and fever. Allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis, have also been reported. Additionally, women may develop a rare blood clot after receiving the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. Recipients of the J&J vaccine should be aware of this potential risk and watch for thrombosis-thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) symptoms within three weeks of vaccination: severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath. The CDC and FDA are also monitoring reports of Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) in people who received the J&J vaccine, but nothing has been confirmed yet. With mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna), there is a very rare risk of myocarditis and/or pericarditis (inflammation of the heart) seen mostly in male teens and young adults within a few days of vaccination. Symptoms to watch for include chest pain, shortness of breath, and fast or pounding heart. For the latest information, see the CDC’s page on adverse events reported after COVID-19 vaccination.
Despite these rare potential side effects, the CDC and our providers continue to recommend COVID-19 vaccination for everyone 12 and older, given the greater risk of getting COVID-19 and having severe complications from illness.
We’re keeping a watchful eye on possible safety concerns as the vaccine is administered to people here and abroad. We also want to assure you that the vaccine cannot give you COVID-19. Your body’s immune response to the vaccine may make you feel slightly off for a couple days, but those are symptoms of your body learning to fight the virus (making antibodies), not of infection.
Q: What are the benefits of getting the COVID-19 vaccine?
A: Vaccines are one of the safest, most effective ways to prevent disease. They work so well that many of us will never see the devastating effects of polio or measles firsthand. Like all vaccines, the COVID-19 vaccine will prevent infection or limit the severity of disease should you get it. The benefits of getting immunized also extend beyond the individual recipient. If enough healthy people get immunized, it slows or stops the disease from spreading, protecting those who are too young or unable to be vaccinated due to various health reasons.
Other benefits include low-risk travel, less travel restrictions and requirements, and no need to quarantine after an exposure (if no symptoms develop).
If you are fully vaccinated and experience any COVID-19 symptoms, please mask up and get tested.
Q: When will my family be able to get the vaccine?
A: Your whole family, ages 12 to 64, can get vaccinated at Metropolitan Pediatrics. Call 1-833-PDX-KIDS to schedule, or book your visit online.
Note: Metropolitan Pediatrics is unable to provide vaccines for individuals covered by Medicare or Kaiser HMO.
As of May 13, 2021, the CDC has updated its guidance to allow COVID-19 vaccines to be administered at the same time as other routine vaccines. This is very exciting news for pediatrics and makes scheduling easier on all of us.
We’re still waiting to hear when younger kids will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. Right now, it looks closer to the end of 2021 or early next year. We’ll know more soon!
To help save lives and end this pandemic, we encourage everyone to get vaccinated when they have the opportunity. We look forward to helping our community get protected!
Q: Now that the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine has FDA approval, can my child who is younger than 12 years old receive the vaccine?
A: The vaccine is not approved for children under age 12, and the providers at Metropolitan Pediatrics are not able order the vaccine for children under age 12. The clinical trials for the COVID-19 vaccine in children ages 11 years old and younger are underway, and we need to see the data from those studies before we give this vaccine to younger children. The American Academy of Pediatrics is asking that approval come as soon as possible.
We understand that this wait is very challenging, and we are anxious to be able to vaccinate our younger patients. We are able to provide the COVID vaccine through an agreement with the CDC. This agreement strictly prohibits our providers from providing the vaccine outside of the areas authorized by the EUA from the FDA.
Q: Who should get a COVID-19 booster shot? Why?
A: We know that protection from COVID-19 vaccines decreases over time. We also know that people with weakened immune systems may not develop as much protection from vaccines in the first place AND they’re at higher risk for severe COVID-19 illness. For these reasons, a booster shot is now recommended for people who are moderately to severely immunocompromised. The booster shot is a third dose of mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna) given at least 28 days after the second dose.
You are eligible for a booster shot now if you 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 a stem cell transplant within the last 2 years or are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
- Moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (such as DiGeorge syndrome, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome)
- Advanced or untreated HIV infection
- Active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids or other drugs that may suppress your immune response
Metropolitan Pediatrics patients who qualify for a booster shot should call and speak with their primary care provider (PCP). Our providers will review each case to make sure a booster shot is necessary, and then help you arrange an appointment. If you are not a Metropolitan Pediatrics patient, we encourage you to contact your PCP to move forward with getting a booster dose.
Booster shots are on the horizon for all fully vaccinated individuals. We’ll know more soon following FDA authorization.
Q: How do mRNA vaccines work?
A: mRNA vaccines are a new type of vaccine, but the research behind them has been going on for decades. Unlike traditional vaccines that introduce a weakened or inactivated germ to our bodies, mRNA vaccines teach our cells how to make a protein. In the case of the COVID-19 vaccine, our bodies will be given instructions to make the spike protein on the surface of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Our bodies will then develop an immune response to this foreign protein, making antibodies that will protect us if we ever encounter the actual virus.
mRNA vaccines do not contain the live virus that causes COVID-19, so it is impossible to get sick from the vaccine. They also do not affect or interact with our DNA in any way because mRNA never enters the nucleus of a cell, where DNA is kept.
Q: Do I still have to wear a mask after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine?
A: Yes. To help slow the spread of the Delta variant, Oregon has reinstated a mask mandate for everyone ages 5+ in both indoor public settings and outdoors where you can’t maintain physical distance. Additionally, masks are required on public transportation for everyone ages 2+. Masking is an added layer of protection for vaccinated folks. Although rare, breakthrough cases (when fully vaccinated people get COVID-19) are possible.
Some places may have additional masking requirements. Learn more about Oregon’s mask requirements in airports, healthcare settings, K-12 schools, and other places where the rules may be different.
Oregon Health Authority also recommends wearing face masks at private get-togethers involving two or more households.
Q: Should I get the COVID-19 vaccine while pregnant or breastfeeding?
A: The CDC recommends the COVID-19 vaccine for everyone 12 and older, including people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, trying to get pregnant, or might become pregnant. There is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine affects female or male fertility. In fact, the growing data shows that pregnant people are at higher risk for severe COVID-19 illness and pregnancy complications, so the benefits of getting vaccinated far outweigh the known potential risks.
Read more about the CDC’s strong recommendation that pregnant and breastfeeding people get vaccinated, and the safety data supporting their recommendation: