Here are answers to commonly asked questions about the COVID-19 vaccine. Responses are based on Centers for Disease Control and Infection (CDC) and Pennsylvania Department of Health guidance, as well as our experiences administering the vaccine here at Einstein Healthcare Network.
Why should I get the vaccine?
To protect yourself, your loved ones and your community from the virus. All available data indicates that the vaccines are safe and effective. We can end this pandemic through mass vaccinations and continued safety precautions such as social distancing and wearing face masks.
Who should NOT get the vaccine?
Only those who have an allergy to the vaccine or any of the components. The ingredients include Lipids, polyethylene glycol, dimyristoyl glycerol, cholesterol, 1,2-distearoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine, tromethamine, tromethamine hydrochloride, acetic acid, sodium acetate, and sucrose.
How long is the vaccine effective?
Studies on the full duration of protection are still underway. To date, we've seen good protection starting about 7-10 days after the first dose and then up to 95% effectiveness after the second dose. You will have the full effect of the vaccine two weeks after the second dose. The full duration of protection is still not clear and studies are ongoing to determine if booster doses will be needed.
If I receive the vaccine, how likely am I to become infected with COVID-19?
Your risk is 20 times less than someone not vaccinated.
Does getting vaccinated protect you from becoming a spreader of the virus if you come into contact with someone who has it?
It is not currently known if the vaccine will prevent someone from spreading the virus.
What are the main side effects of receiving the vaccine?
Side effects are more common after the second dose and include muscle aches and pains, headaches and possibly fever. In most situations, these side effects may last for roughly a day. There have been rare severe allergic reactions that occur within 15 minutes of the vaccine. We are prepared to treat any adverse reactions at our vaccine sites. Longer-term side effects are unknown at this point.
Can I take Tylenol or Advil with vaccination?
The CDC has recommended avoiding taking these medications before the vaccine, but if you develop symptoms you can take them afterward. Taking medication for symptoms of the vaccine should not affect immunity.
Do I still have to do social distancing and wear a mask after receiving the vaccine?
It's extremely important to maintain all safety procedures even after receiving the vaccine. We will all need to continue wearing masks/PPE, social distancing, and monitoring for symptoms.
If I’m vaccinated do I still need to quarantine?
The CDC and Pennsylvania Department of Health released updated guidelines in February that allow people who have been vaccinated to skip quarantine after an exposure to someone with COVID-19 if they meet specific criteria. The person must have completed their full vaccine series (more than 2 weeks from date of last dose), be within 3 months of completing their vaccine series, and be asymptomatic. Importantly, the Pennsylvania Secretary of Health's Order on Travel Restrictions remains in effect. Vaccination is not an exemption from the Pennsylvania requirement for testing or quarantine after travel.
Are the vaccines from the different companies interchangeable?
No. You must get the same vaccine for both doses. The recommended timing for the second dose of Pfizer is 21 days after the first dose. For Moderna it's 28 days. Only in extenuating circumstance does the CDC allow for the vaccines to be interchanged, but that is not the routine practice.
How effective are the current vaccines against the new strains/variants?
Pfizer and Moderna are both actively conducting studies on these new variants. Preliminary data suggests the UK variant is still susceptible to the vaccines. There is some concern that the South Africa strain may be less affected by the vaccines, but that information is still preliminary. Moderna is already working on an updated vaccine.
Should I get vaccinated if…
… I’m recovering from COVID-19? If so, how soon?
Yes! The CDC recommends deferring getting vaccinated until you've recovered from COVID and met all criteria for discontinuing isolation. This recommendation applies:
If you’ve become infected with COVID before receiving any vaccine doses
If you’ve become infected after the first dose but before getting the second dose
Current evidence suggests that reinfection is uncommon in the 90 days after initial infection. Therefore, you may delay vaccination until near the end of this period, if you desire.
… I’m pregnant, breastfeeding or trying to conceive?
The Society of Maternal Fetal Medicine has recommended that if you're pregnant and/or breastfeeding, you should be offered the vaccine after a shared decision-making discussion with your obstetrician. We will require a note from your obstetrician before vaccination. And at this time there's no information advising against receiving the vaccine if you're trying to conceive.
… I have other medical issues, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, a compromised immune system, etc.?
The CDC suggests that adults of any age with certain underlying medical conditions are at increased risk of severe illness from contracting the virus. As long as you haven't had a severe or immediate allergic reaction to any of the ingredients in the vaccine, you should receive it. The ingredients include Lipids, polyethylene glycol, dimyristoyl glycerol, cholesterol, 1,2-distearoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine, tromethamine, tromethamine hydrochloride, acetic acid, sodium acetate, and sucrose.
... I’ve had a COVID-19 exposure close to the time of my scheduled second dose?
If I'm supposed to quarantine, should I postpone my second dose? Will doing so negatively impact its effectiveness? You should be out of quarantine before getting the first or second dose. The current guidance from the CDC is that the vaccine series does not need to be restarted if you need to delay your second dose.
See the latest on how and where to get the vaccine