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Kim Malsam-Rysdon, Secretary of Health

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COVID-19 Vaccine Frequently Asked Questions

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COVID-19 Vaccine Safety FAQs

Why should I get vaccinated for COVID-19?

COVID-19 can cause serious illness or even death. There's no way to know how COVID-19 will affect you. And if you get sick, you could spread the disease to friends, family, and others around you, putting their lives at risk. Getting a COVID-19 vaccine greatly reduces the risk that you'll develop COVID-19.

Are the COVID-19 vaccines safe?

Yes. COVID-19 vaccines available in the U.S. are safe and effective. They were evaluated in tens of thousands of participants in clinical trials. The vaccines met the FDA's rigorous scientific standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality needed to support approval or authorization of a vaccine.

Millions of people in the United States have received COVID-19 vaccines since they were authorized for emergency use by FDA. These vaccines have undergone and will continue to undergo the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history. This monitoring includes using both established and new safety monitoring systems to make sure that COVID-19 vaccines are safe.

Your risk for serious health problems is much lower from the vaccine than your risk if you're unvaccinated and get COVID-19. COVID-19 can leave you with heart and lung damage and other conditions that require long-term treatment. Vaccines are much safer paths to immunity than the disease itself.

How can we know the vaccines are safe and effective if they have only been authorized for emergency use?

The FDA has authorized the use of three vaccines (Pfizer has been granted full FDA approval for those 16 years and older) in response to the public health emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Emergency use authorizations get vaccines distributed faster than the formal FDA approval process without skipping any mandatory safety checks. Large clinical trials demonstrated that the vaccines were safe and effective, and real-world experience has confirmed those findings. Learn more about the FDA's emergency use authorization process.

Will the shot hurt or make me sick?

No. Some people might get sore muscles, feel tired, or have mild fever after getting the vaccine, but most people report only a sore arm where they got the shot. These reactions mean the vaccine is working to help teach your body how to fight COVID-19 if you are exposed. For most people, these side effects will go away on their own in a few days. If you have any concerns, call your doctor or nurse.

Can a COVID-19 vaccine make me sick with COVID-19?

No. None of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines in the United States contain the live virus that causes COVID-19. This means that a COVID-19 vaccine cannot make you sick with COVID-19.

COVID-19 vaccines teach our immune systems how to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19. Sometimes this process can cause symptoms, such as fever. These symptoms are normal and are signs that the body is building protection against the virus that causes COVID-19. Learn more about how COVID-19 vaccines work.

If I am pregnant or planning to become pregnant, can I get a COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes. COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for everyone 12 years of age or older, including people who are trying to get pregnant now or might become pregnant in the future, as well as their partners.

Currently no evidence shows that any vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, cause fertility problems in women or men. Learn more about COVID-19 vaccines and people who would like to have a baby.

Are the COVID-19 vaccines safe for people with certain underlying medical conditions?

People with underlying medical conditions can receive a COVID-19 vaccine as long as they have not had an immediate or severe allergic reaction to a COVID-19 vaccine or to any of the ingredients in the vaccine. Learn more about vaccination considerations for people with underlying medical conditions. Vaccination is an important consideration for adults of any age with certain underlying medical conditions because they are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

COVID-19 Vaccine General FAQs

Is there a test that can detect both flu and COVID-19?

Yes. There are tests that will check for seasonal influenza A and B viruses and SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Testing for these viruses at the same time gives public health officials important information about how flu and COVID-19 are spreading and what prevention steps people should take. These tests also help public health laboratories save time and testing materials, and possibly return test results faster. More information for laboratories is available.

Will a flu vaccine protect me against COVID-19?

Flu vaccines are not designed to protect against COVID-19. Flu vaccination reduces the risk of flu illness, hospitalization, and death in addition to other important benefits.

Likewise, getting a COVID-19 vaccine is the best protection against COVID-19, but those vaccines are not designed to protect against flu. Visit the CDC's Frequently Asked Questions page for information about COVID-19 vaccinations.

Can COVID-19 and flu vaccines be administered at the same time?

Yes. If eligible, both influenza and COVID-19 vaccines can be administered at the same visit, without regard to timing as recommended by CDC and its Advisory Committee on Immunizations Practices (ACIP). If a you're due for both vaccines, providers are encouraged to offer both vaccines at the same visit. Coadministration of all recommended vaccines is important because it increases the probability that people will be fully vaccinated.

Can I get a flu vaccine at the same time I get my COVID-19 booster shot?

Yes, you can get a flu vaccine at the same time you get a COVID-19 vaccine, including a COVID-19 booster shot.

COVID-19 Vaccine Effectiveness FAQs

How do COVID-19 vaccines work?

Vaccines train your immune system to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19. With vaccines, you can build immunity to a disease without getting the disease.

How effective are the COVID-19 vaccines?

All FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and death due to COVID-19, including from the Delta variant. Remember: You're not fully protected from COVID-19 unless you're fully vaccinated.

  • Johnson & Johnson's Janssen vaccine requires one dose.
  • The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines require two doses.

Why should I get vaccinated if I can still get infected with COVID-19?

It's important to understand that infection doesn't necessarily lead to illness. If you're fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and the virus manages to enter your body and begins to multiply—that is, infect you—your immune system will be prepared to quickly recognize the virus and keep it from doing real damage. That's why most people who get infected with COVID-19 despite being vaccinated—so-called breakthrough cases—have no symptoms (asymptomatic) or only mild-to-moderate illness.

Nearly everyone in the United States who is getting severely ill, needing hospitalization, and dying from COVID-19 is unvaccinated.

How long do COVID-19 vaccines last?

We don’t know how long protection lasts for those who are vaccinated. What we do know is that COVID-19 has caused very serious illness and death for a lot of people. If you get COVID-19, you also risk giving it to loved ones and immunocompromised individuals who may get very sick or even die.

People with moderately to severely compromised immune systems should receive an additional dose of mRNA COVID-19 vaccine after the initial 2 doses.

Learn more about population immunity.

Do I need to get a COVID-19 vaccine if I've already had COVID-19?

Yes, you should be vaccinated regardless of whether you already had COVID-19 because:

  • Research has not yet shown how long you are protected from getting COVID-19 again after you've recovered.
  • Vaccination helps protect you even if you’ve already had COVID-19.

Evidence is emerging that people get better protection by being fully vaccinated compared with having had COVID-19. One study showed that unvaccinated people who already had COVID-19 are more than 2 times as likely than fully vaccinated people to get COVID-19 again.

If you were treated for COVID-19 with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma, you should wait 90 days before getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Talk to your doctor if you are unsure what treatments you received or if you have more questions about getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

Will the COVID-19 vaccine prevent me from infecting others?

COVID-19 vaccines reduce the likelihood that you'll develop and be able to spread COVID-19. In rare occasions, some vaccinated people can get COVID-19 from the highly contagious Delta variant and spread it to others. Importantly, only a very small amount of spread happening around the country comes from vaccinated individuals.

Do the vaccines work on the new COVID variants?

COVID-19 vaccines are effective against severe disease and death from variants currently circulating in the United States, including the Delta variant.

COVID-19 Vaccine 3rd dose/booster shots FAQs

What is the difference between a “3rd dose” and a “booster shot”?

The dosages are the same, but the term used is different based on who is receiving it. Boosters are offered to people who received the full course of a vaccine and developed a good response initially, but antibodies waned over time. Third doses are given to people whose immune systems may not have been able to develop a good antibody response to the initial vaccines.

Who can receive a 3rd dose?

The CDC currently recommends individuals who received the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and have a compromised immune system receive a 3rd dose. Immunocompromised status will be left to self-attestation. This group currently includes patients who’ve received or are experiencing:

  • Organ transplants
  • Stem cell transplants within the past two years
  • Active cancer treatment for tumors or blood cancer and are undergoing chemotherapy that affects the immune system
  • Severe primary immunodeficiency
  • Advanced or untreated HIV
  • Active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids or other drugs that may suppress your immune response

I am immunocompromised and have already received my 2nd dose, when should I get my 3rd dose?

You should get your 3rd dose at least 28 days after your 2nd dose. You should attempt to receive the same vaccine for your 3rd dose as you received for your 1st and 2nd doses. Contact your healthcare provider to schedule a 3rd dose.

Who is eligible for a COVID-19 Booster after 6 months? Pfizer recipients who are: 65 years and older, Long-term care residents and staff, 18+ who have underlying medical conditions including asthma, diabetes, obesity, and 18+ who work and/or live in high-risk settings, including heathcare workers, teachers, grocery store workers.

Who is eligible for a booster shot?

The CDC recommends

  • people 65 years and older and residents in long-term care settings should receive a booster shot of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine at least 6 months after their Pfizer-BioNTech primary series;

  • people aged 50 to 64 with certain underlying medical conditions should receive a booster shot of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine at least 6 months after their Pfizer-BioNTech primary series;

  • people 18 to 49 who are at high risk for severe COVID-19 due to certain underlying medical conditions may receive a booster shot of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine at least 6 months after their Pfizer-BioNTech primary series, based on their individual benefits and risks; and 

  • people aged 18-64 years who are at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of occupational or institutional setting may receive a booster shot of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine at least 6 months after their Pfizer-BioNTech primary series, based on their individual benefits and risks.

When can I get a COVID-19 vaccine booster if I am NOT in one of the recommended groups?

Additional populations may be recommended to receive a booster shot as more data becomes available. The COVID-19 vaccines approved and authorized in the United States continue to be effective at reducing risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and death. However, the virus that causes COVID-19 constantly evolves. Experts are looking at all available data to understand how well the vaccines are working for different populations. This includes looking at how new variants, like Delta, affect vaccine effectiveness.

I was vaccinated with the Johnson and Johnson/Janssen vaccine, do I need a booster or 2nd dose?

Federal health officials have not recommended an additional dose after the initial dose of the Johnson and Johnson/Janssen vaccine. The FDA and CDC are working to provide guidance.

What should people who received Moderna or Johnson & Johnson's Janssen vaccine do?

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and CDC's recommendations are bound by what the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) authorization allows. At this time, the Pfizer-BioNTech booster authorization only applies to people whose primary series was Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. People in the recommended groups who got the Moderna or J&J/Janssen vaccine will likely need a booster shot. More data on the effectiveness and safety of Moderna and J&J/Janssen booster shots are expected in the coming weeks. With those data in hand, CDC will keep the public informed with a timely plan for Moderna and J&J/Janssen booster shots.

Can I receive a 3rd dose/booster vaccine at a different location than where I received my original doses?

Yes.

What are the risks to getting a booster?

For many who have completed their primary series with Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the benefits of getting a booster shot outweigh the known and potential risks. So far, reactions reported after the third Pfizer-BioNTech shot were similar to that of the 2-shot primary series. Fatigue and pain at the injection site were the most commonly reported side effects, and overall, most side effects were mild to moderate. However, as with the 2-shot primary series, serious side effects are rare, but may occur.

Does this change the definition of "fully vaccinated" for those eligible for booster shots?

People are still considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose in a 2-shot series, such as the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, or two weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as the J&J/Janssen vaccine. This definition applies to all people, including those who receive an additional dose as recommended for moderate to severely immunocompromised people and those who receive a booster shot.

COVID-19 Vaccine General FAQs

When can I get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Vaccines are here now and everyone age 12 and older can get them. You have three ways to find vaccines near you:

How much will the COVID-19 vaccine cost?

The federal government is providing the vaccine free of charge to all people living in the United States.

Do I need to wear a mask and avoid close contact with others after I am fully vaccinated?

After you are fully vaccinated for COVID-19, take these steps to protect yourself and others:

How can I get a replacement COVID-19 vaccination card?

The SD DOH does not issue cards. You will need to go back to the place you received your vaccine to request a card. Clinics/Hospitals/Pharmacies may be able to re-issue cards based on their own policies.

How do I get a copy of my immunization record?

You can request a copy from your clinic, access your patient portal (if available), or call the SD DOH at 605-773-3737.

COVID-19 Vaccine General FAQs

Reviewed 10-14-2021

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