COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

Answers to common questions about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Safety and Effectiveness


Is the vaccine safe and effective?

Yes. All COVID-19 vaccines in the United States are authorized for emergency use or approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and have been thoroughly tested and found to be safe and effective in preventing severe COVID-19. After a COVID-19 vaccine is authorized by the FDA, many vaccine safety monitoring systems watch for adverse events (possible side effects). This ongoing monitoring can pick up on adverse events that may not have been seen in clinical trials. If an unexpected adverse event is seen, experts quickly study it further to see if it is a true safety concern. Experts then decide whether changes are needed in US vaccine recommendations.

Millions of people in the United States have received COVID-19 vaccines under the most intense safety monitoring in U.S. history. 


Will the vaccine give me COVID?

No. None of the approved vaccines are made up of materials that can cause disease. For example, the first vaccines authorized for emergency use by the FDA use a small, harmless part of the virus’s genetic material called ‘mRNA’. This is not the virus. mRNA vaccines teach your body to create virus proteins. Your immune system develops antibodies against these proteins that will help you fight the virus that causes COVID-19 if you are exposed to it. That is called an immune response.


Are COVID vaccines safe for children?  

Yes. Currently, the FDA has determined that the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID vaccines meet the standards for effectiveness and safety needed for emergency use authorization for use by children ages 6 months and older. 

Are COVID-19 vaccines safe for pregnant people or people thinking of becoming pregnant?

Yes. COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective for people who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant. 

If you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, you should talk to your health care provider about your risk of getting COVID-19 and your risk of severe illness if you do get sick. A vaccine may protect you from severe illness, which could help both you and your unborn baby.

Both the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) strongly recommend that pregnant people receive the COVID-19 vaccine if they do not have a medical reason not to be vaccinated.

Pregnant people with COVID-19 have an increased risk of severe illness and of serious pregnancy complications.


If you get a vaccine do you need a negative COVID test beforehand? 

No. The CDC does not recommend COVID-19 screening tests before getting a COVID-19 vaccine.


Is it safe to get a COVID-19 vaccine if I have an underlying medical condition?

Yes. COVID-19 vaccination is especially important for people with underlying health problems like heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, and obesity. People with these conditions are more likely to get very sick from COVID-19. Please consult with your health care provider if you have specific questions about the COVID vaccine and your health.


If I already had COVID-19 and recovered, do I still need to get vaccinated? 

Yes. CDC recommends that you get vaccinated even if you have already had COVID-19, because you can catch it more than once. While you may have some short-term antibody protection after recovering from COVID-19, we don’t know how long this protection will last.


Will the vaccine make me sick or will I have side effects?

You may not notice any changes in how you feel after getting the shot. But it’s also possible to feel a little “under the weather.” This can happen after any vaccine. It is the body’s immune response to getting vaccinated and a sign that the vaccine is starting to work.

After the COVID-19 vaccine, you may have:

• A sore arm where you got the shot

• A headache

• Chills

• Fever

• Tiredness

Over the counter pain relievers and fever reducers may help.

You should feel better in a day or two. If you still don't feel well after two or three days, talk to your health care provider.

Do COVID-19 vaccines work against “variants of concern” of the virus? 

All COVID-19 vaccines authorized or approved for emergency use in the United States have proven extremely effective at preventing serious illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19. The effectiveness of the FDA-approved and -authorized vaccines remains strong even against newer strains, including against variants of concern.

On August 31, 2022, the FDA and ACIP approved a Bivalent vaccine for both Pfizer bioNtech and Moderna, to better protect against the Omicron variant. Individuals who have completed a primary series or a booster dose in the past 2 months and are ages 12 and older, are eligible for the bivalent booster.

Those who are unvaccinated have the greatest risk of becoming seriously ill, which is why the New York State Department of Health urges all eligible New Yorkers to get vaccinated as soon as they are able.


Can I get an allergic reaction from the COVID-19 vaccine?

People can have allergic reactions to any medication or biological product such as a vaccine. Most allergic reactions occur shortly after a vaccine is administered, which is why the CDC recommends that persons with a history of anaphylaxis (due to any cause) are observed for 30 minutes after vaccination, while all other persons are observed for 15 minutes after vaccination. All vaccination sites must be equipped to ensure appropriate medical treatment is available in the event of an unlikely allergic reaction. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends anyone with an allergy to "any component" of the vaccine not get the vaccine.


Is it better to get natural immunity to COVID-19 rather than immunity from a vaccine?

No. While you may have some short-term antibody protection after recovering from COVID-19, we don’t know how long this protection lasts. Vaccination is the best protection, and it is safe. People who get COVID-19 can have serious illnesses, and some have debilitating symptoms that persist for months.


How long will vaccine immunity last?

Researchers do not yet know how long immunity lasts after vaccination. That’s why continuing prevention practices like wearing a mask, washing your hands regularly and social distancing will still be important.

I tested positive for COVID antibodies. Do I still need the vaccine?

Yes. The CDC recommends that you get vaccinated even if you have already had COVID-19, because you can be infected more than once. While you may have some short-term antibody protection after recovering from COVID-19, we don’t know how long this protection will last. Vaccination is the best protection, and it is safe. People who get COVID-19 may have serious illnesses, and some have debilitating symptoms that persist for months. 


Should I get my antibodies checked after getting my COVID-19 vaccination?


On May 19, 2021, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a safety warning to the public stating that results from COVID-19 antibody tests should not be used to  measure the level of protection from COVID-19 at any time, especially after COVID-19 vaccination. Currently authorized SARS-CoV-2 antibody tests are not approved to measure immunity or protection from COVID-19 infection.

While some laboratories offer COVID-19 antibody tests, these tests are designed to measure immunity from infection but not from vaccination. Commercially-available COVID-19 antibody tests look for antibodies that are different from those made by current vaccines, so you won’t get a true picture of your protection. 

The CDC recommends that people who have had only 1 dose of a 2-dose COVID-19 vaccine series complete the series regardless of results of antibody testing. Likewise, people who are up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines do not need any additional doses of COVID-19 vaccine due to negative or low results of antibody tests. 


What is in the COVID-19 vaccines?

The ingredients in Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine are listed on page 2 here.

The ingredients in Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine are listed on page 2 here.

The ingredients in Janssen/Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine are listed on page 3 here.

Did the clinical trials include people with comorbidities including diabetes or hypertension?

Yes. Clinical trials for both vaccines included participants identified as having at least one condition that put them at increased risk of severe complications of COVID-19 including:

  • Chronic lung disease (e.g., emphysema and chronic bronchitis, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, and cystic fibrosis) or moderate to severe asthma
  • Significant cardiac disease (e.g., heart failure, coronary artery disease, congenital heart disease, cardiomyopathies, and pulmonary hypertension)
  • Obesity (body mass index ≥ 30 kg/m2)
  • Diabetes (Type 1, Type 2 or gestational)
  • Liver disease
  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infection (not included in the efficacy evaluation)
Do COVID-19 vaccines contain animal-based ingredients? 

No. The Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen COVID-19 vaccines contain no human or animal products, preservatives or adjuvants and utilize no ingredients of human or animal origin.


When should I get the vaccine? 

New Yorkers should get vaccinated with both their primary series and recommended booster doses as soon as they are eligible to do so.

I'm homebound. How can I get the vaccine?

New York State is committed to ensuring that no New Yorker is left behind as we distribute the vaccine.  Not everyone is able to travel to one of the many sites that are offering COVID-19 vaccines. New York State, in partnership with counties, established local points of contact to expand access to vaccines through an in-home vaccination program for those who are homebound due to physical limitations, cognitive impairment, other chronic conditions, a lack of transportation, and/or visual impairments, and who do not have access to supports that may help them physically go to an existing vaccination provider. If this applies to you, please find your local point of contact

What vaccines are available?

In the US there are three vaccines available.

Pfizer/BioNTech: As of August 23, 2021, the vaccine has been fully approved by the FDA for individuals age 16 and older. The vaccine continues to be available under emergency use authorization (EUA) for individuals 5 through 15 years of age and for the administration of an additional third dose in eligible immunocompromised individuals. On June 15, 2022, the FDA approved three doses of the vaccine for children age 6 months to 4 years old. A bivalent booster dose was authorized by the FDA on August 31, 2022 for persons 12 years and older.

Moderna: As of January 31, 2022, the vaccine has been fully approved by the FDA for individuals 18 years of age and older. As of June 15, 2022, children 6 months – 5 years of age were made eligible for two shots of the Moderna vaccine, given one month apart. Boosters for children who have received Moderna COVID-19 vaccine as their primary series are not eligible for a booster dose at this time. On August 31, 2022 the FDA authorized a bivalent booster dose for persons 18 years and older.

Novavax: This vaccine is available under emergency use authorization (EUA) for individuals 12 years of age and older.

Janssen/Johnson & Johnson (J&J): The vaccine is no longer available in the U.S. All remaining U.S. government stock of Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine expired May 7, 2023. 


Is the vaccine free?

Yes. The COVID-19 vaccines are free and available at no cost. 


Eligibility and Scheduling

What age group is eligible to receive the vaccine?

All individuals 6 months of age and older that reside in the United States are eligible to receive the vaccine. For individuals under the age of 18, the consent of a parent or legal guardian is required.

Where do I find the COVID-19 Vaccine?

COVID-19 vaccines — including booster doses and pediatric doses for 6 months and older — are free and widely available statewide through pediatricians, doctors, healthcare providers, pharmacies, local health departments, Federally Qualified Health Centers, rural health clinics and other locations across New York State. Visit or text your zip code to 438829 or call 1-800-232-0233 to find locations near you.


On the forms I fill out prior to receiving the vaccine, will there be a non-binary gender option?

Forms generated and maintained by New York State and used at state and local health department vaccine administration sites will include a non-binary gender option.​

If I am undocumented will my personal information be shared? 

New York will not transmit any data that could be used to identify the immigration status of any individual. This includes, but is not limited to, name and address. Any data shared will be done so in accordance with New York's robust laws protecting immigration status, and include only aggregated demographic data and dates of vaccine administration and doses. The CDC also agreed that use and access to any data shared from New York will not be shared with any other agency or entity for purposes not related to public health.


Can I bring someone to join me on site during my vaccination appointment?

Yes. You can bring someone to accompany you if you need assistance or if you need someone for the purpose of vaccine consent, for example for a minor under the age of 18.


Why am I being asked to bring insurance information? Does that mean I’ll be charged for the vaccine?

No, there will never be a cost for you to get the vaccine, whether you have insurance or not. It is free. You may be asked to bring insurance information for administration reasons, but this is NOT because you will be charged for the vaccine.


Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine on the same day I get a flu shot?

Yes. The CDC recommends that COVID-19 vaccines may be given on the same day as, or at any time before or after, other vaccines.
Ask your local vaccine clinic or pharmacy which vaccines they have in stock.