Frequently Asked Questions
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General

Are the COVID-19 vaccines safe?

Yes, all the COVID-19 vaccines approved or authorized for emergency use in the United States are safe, effective, and your greatest protection against the virus.

All the vaccines available are very effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19. All our state and federal medical experts agree, and strongly encourage everyone eligible to get their COVID-19 vaccine as soon as they can.

  • The COVID-19 vaccines are held to the same rigorous safety and effectiveness standards as all other types of vaccines in the United States. No corners were cut.
  • Each vaccine had three rounds of clinical trials with tens of thousands of participants with a diverse range of race, age, and other demographics.
  • After the vaccine is authorized, multiple safety systems at the FDA and the CDC constantly monitor for adverse events. If an adverse event is found, it is immediately investigated to determine if it poses a true health issue, and public recommendations are made if necessary.
  • Researchers got a head start on developing a vaccine because the virus that causes COVID-19 is like other existing viruses that have been studied extensively for more than a decade.

Can the COVID-19 vaccine give you COVID?

No, the COVID-19 vaccine cannot give you COVID.

None of the vaccines contain anything that can cause the disease. In fact, the vaccine is your best protection against COVID-19. Vaccines safely increase your body’s natural ability to fight the virus before the virus attacks you. Sometimes that can cause minor symptoms including a sore arm, fever, or chills. But those symptoms only last a day or two and temporary side effects can be a sign that they are working. Remember, millions of New Yorkers, Americans, and people all over the world have received the vaccine already.


Which vaccine should I get? Which is best?

Whether they are given in one shot or two, all vaccines authorized in the United States are safe, effective, and help prevent COVID-19.

They have all proven highly effective in preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and death. NYS DOH recommends taking whichever vaccine is available.

  • The Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires one shot.
  • The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines require two shots. The second shot will come 3 to 4 weeks after the first.
  • If your vaccine requires two shots, you will get a printed card and email to remind you to come back 3 to 4 weeks later for your second dose, which is scheduled at the time of your first dose. For two dose vaccines, it’s important to get both doses.

What are the risks of not getting vaccinated?

The vaccines are extremely effective at preventing serious illness, including hospitalization and death, from COVID-19. Not being vaccinated against COVID-19 puts you at greater risk of these severe outcomes. Another risk of not being vaccinated is the increased likelihood of passing on the virus to others, including family members and people who may have other medical conditions.

  • Hundreds of thousands of Americans have died due to COVID-19. Many more have been hospitalized.
  • Even people who recover from COVID-19 may suffer from long-term symptoms that can be serious and affect your quality of life.
  • According to the CDC, 97% of pregnant people hospitalized for COVID-19 were unvaccinated.
  • Getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent serious outcomes.

Is the vaccine free?

The vaccines are free to everyone, even if you don’t have health insurance.


Who is currently eligible to get the vaccine?

All New Yorkers 5 or older are eligible and encouraged to get a vaccine as soon as they’re able.


What about my personal information?

Your privacy and personal information are always protected

  • Personal information about your vaccination and health are always protected.
  • We do not send any personal information to the CDC or ICE (immigration) when someone gets a vaccine.

Do COVID-19 vaccines work against “variants of concern” of the virus, including the Delta variant? 

All COVID-19 vaccines authorized for emergency use in the United States have proven extremely effective at preventing serious illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19, including against the Delta variant.

The effectiveness of the FDA-approved vaccines remains strong even against newer strains, including against variants of concern such as the Delta variant. People 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.


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

No. While you may have some short-term immunity after recovering from COVID-19, we don’t yet know how long this protection lasts.

Vaccination is the best protection, and it is safe. People who get COVID-19 can have serious illnesses or even die, and others have symptoms that last for months and affect their quality of life. Sometimes this is called “Long Covid”. The vaccine dramatically reduces the chances of these serious consequences.


Where can I sign-up to get the vaccine?

New Yorkers can visit vaccines.gov, text your ZIP code to 438829, or call 1-800-232-0233 to find locations near you.

  • You can also schedule an appointment at a state-run site including any of the state-run mass vaccination sites using New York State’s online Am I Eligible App (https://am-i-eligible.covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov/) or by calling the New York State COVID-19 Vaccination Hotline at 1-833-NYS-4-VAX (1-833-697-4829) open 7AM - 10PM, 7 days week.
  • Both the Am I Eligible App and the NYS COVID-19 Vaccination Hotline are available in Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Haitian Creole, Korean, and Bengali. The hotline has a separate operating system to expedite calls from senior citizens, as well as a callback feature, so people do not have to wait on hold.

MYTH: The COVID-19 Vaccines Can Cause Infertility

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

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

  • 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 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.

Do COVID-19 vaccines cause infertility in women? 

No! There is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine affects fertility or leads to pregnancy loss. The NYS Department of Health agrees with the CDC that those who are trying to get pregnant now or in the future should receive a COVID-19 vaccine. If you are trying to become pregnant, you do not need to avoid pregnancy after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.


Can COVID-19 vaccines cause infertility in men?

Claims that the COVID-19 vaccine causes infertility in men are also unfounded and untrue. There is no evidence to suggest that the COVID-19 vaccine causes any type of fertility issue, for men or women.

The Society for Male Reproduction (SMR) and the Society for the Study of Male Reproduction (SSMR) both recommend that the COVID-19 vaccines be offered to men desiring fertility. While some men in vaccine clinical trials experienced fever as a side effect following the vaccine, according to SMR and SSMR, if a man experiences fever as a result of the COVID-19 vaccine, “he may experience a temporary decline in sperm production, but that would be similar to or less than if the individual experienced fever from developing COVID-19 or for other reasons.” This has no connection to future fertility for men.

According to the CDC and nation’s best health and medical experts, if you are trying to get pregnant now or in the future, would-be parents—including both men and women—should receive a COVID-19 vaccine.


Is it safe for me to get the COVID-19 vaccine if I want to have a baby one day?

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 (issues trying to get pregnant) in women or men. 


Can being near someone who received the COVID-19 vaccine change my menstrual cycle?

No! Your menstrual cycle cannot be affected by being near someone who received a COVID-19 vaccine.

Many things can affect menstrual cycles, including stress, changes in your schedule, problems with sleep, and changes in diet or exercise. Infections may also affect menstrual cycles.

Source, CDC: Myths and Facts about COVID-19 Vaccines | CDC

MYTH: The COVID-19 Vaccines Were Dangerously Rushed

How was the vaccine developed so quickly?

The global scientific community worked together to make combatting the virus and developing a vaccine a priority. 

Many factors combined to allow the COVID-19 vaccine to be developed quickly and safely:

  • Researchers got a head start on developing a vaccine because the virus that causes COVID-19 is  like other existing viruses that have been studied extensively in the past decade.
  • Research about the new virus was shared almost immediately with scientists all over the world, which allowed work to begin on a vaccine right away.
  • Some researchers were able to run phase one and two trials at the same time.
  • The studies on COVID-19 included a larger number of people than other recent vaccine trials, meaning there were a larger number of people in the trials over a shorter time period
  • The federal government allowed manufacturing of the most promising vaccines to begin while the studies were ongoing. That means that when it is authorized it can be offered to the public almost immediately.

It’s important to note that all vaccine developers are required to go through each stage of the development process and meet all safety and efficacy (how well something works) standards. Learn about the many steps in the typical vaccine testing and approval process.


Is the vaccine safe and effective?

Yes. A careful scientific approval process and many millions of vaccine doses administered worldwide have proven the safety of the vaccines. 

All three vaccines authorized for emergency use or approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) 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.

In New York State, an added level of review was established to ensure COVID vaccine safety. Following Emergency Use Authorization by the FDA, experts on New York State's independent COVID-19 Vaccine Clinical Advisory Task Force thoroughly review vaccine research before recommending any vaccine to New Yorkers.

Millions of people in the United States and New York State have received COVID-19 vaccines under the most intense safety monitoring in U.S. history. As of August 23, 2021, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine received full FDA approval for the prevention of COVID-19 disease in individuals age 16 and older. The FDA-licensed vaccine will now be marketed under the name Comirnaty. The vaccine continues to be available under emergency use authorization (EUA) for individuals 12 through 15 years of age and for the administration of a 3rd dose in eligible immunocompromised individuals.


Should the public have confidence in the process for a COVID-19 vaccine to get authorized or approved?

Absolutely. All the vaccines we use each day, have followed a similarly rigorous scientific approval process.  

The FDA and the CDC have a long history in evaluating the safety and effectiveness of vaccines before they are authorized or approved for use by the public. There is transparency every step of the way. When key committees at the FDA and CDC meet to consider authorizing or approving a drug, or recommending a drug, these meetings are open to the public and available online via live webcast. Similarly, applications by drug companies for FDA authorization or approval, as well as underlying clinical trial data, are also publicly available.

In New York State, an independent Clinical Advisory Task Force was formed to provide an additional layer of review before recommending New Yorkers get a COVID-19 vaccine or vaccine booster. The Clinical Advisory Task Force is comprised of leading scientists, doctors, and health experts. Our best, most dedicated federal and State health experts and medical scientists agree that the vaccine is safe, effective, and our greatest protection against this dangerous virus.


Are there any fully approved vaccines for COVID-19?

Yes. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is fully approved by the FDA.

On August 23, 2021, the FDA announced the full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for the prevention of COVID-19 disease in individuals aged 16 and older. The FDA-licensed vaccine will be marketed under the name Comirnaty, but nothing about its ingredients have changed. Pfizer-BioNTech was first to apply for and receive authorization for emergency use of its vaccine for individuals age 12 through 15. Moderna and Janssen/Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines are also authorized for emergency use.


Is the approval or authorization of COVID-19 vaccines a political process?

No. The FDA and CDC approval processes are independent from the influence of partisan politics.

It’s understandable that people may question whether politics influence decisions about the COVID-19 vaccines because of the involvement of federal agencies. However, all New Yorkers should know that the FDA, CDC, and New York State’s health experts including the Clinical Advisory Task Force are not political: they are only focused on the public health and safety of the vaccines.

While the FDA and CDC are both federal agencies, they have established processes for evaluating potential drug and vaccine candidates that are protected from political interference. All vaccines authorized or approved by the FDA must meet the agency’s high standards for approval or for emergency use authorization. There have been many instances throughout the pandemic during which guidelines proposed by the FDA or the CDC have been opposed by presidential administrations. This demonstrates the independence of these agencies and their strict commitment to public health and scientific integrity. Finally, meetings of key advisory committees at the FDA and CDC are open to the public, and documents and data are made publicly available so that there is transparency and accountability throughout the process.


How does the FDA ensure the quality of COVID-19 vaccines and other medical products authorized for emergency use in the United States?

The FDA is made up of scientific experts who care deeply about the safety of medicines and vaccines. They are passionate scientists, not politicians.

The FDA takes its responsibility for helping to ensure the quality of manufacturing of vaccines and other medical products very seriously. The agency oversees and ensures that products being produced in different facilities meet the high-quality standards that Americans have come to expect. Even when companies use contract manufacturing organizations, they must ensure that the quality standards of the FDA are met. All products distributed by manufacturers must be authorized by the FDA to meet quality standards before distribution under an emergency use authorization. The FDA works diligently with companies to help bring needed medical products to Americans in a timely manner during public health emergencies.


What does it mean to be an FDA-approved drug?

FDA approval of a drug means that the agency has determined, based on substantial evidence, that the drug is effective for its intended use, and that the benefits of the drug outweigh its risks when used according to the product’s approved labeling. The drug approval process takes place within a structured framework that includes collecting clinical data and submitting an application to the FDA. Learn more about the FDA’s Drug Review Process.

MYTH: The COVID-19 Vaccines Have Dangerous Side Effects

Should I be worried about the vaccine’s side effects?

It is normal for your body to have an immune response after being vaccinated. This can be a sign that the vaccine is working and doing its job. But the vaccine is working even if you don’t 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. 

After the COVID-19 vaccine, you may have:

  • A sore arm where you got the shot
  • A headache
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Tiredness

These side effects are not dangerous and are just a sign of your immune system doing its job. They are easily treatable with over-the-counter pain medicine and fever reducers, and usually only last for a short period of time. If you or your child still don’t feel well after two or three days, reach out to your health care provider.


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

People can be allergic to any medication, including vaccines. Allergic reactions to COVID-19 vaccines are rare and they are treatable.           

  • For comparison, allergic reactions to penicillin are far more common.
  • Most allergic reactions occur shortly after a vaccine is administered. If you get vaccinated, you will be observed for 15 minutes or longer, just in case.
  • Tell your vaccinator if you have a concern about a specific allergy you have.

MYTH: The COVID-19 Vaccines Can Change Your DNA

Can the COVID-19 vaccine give you COVID?

The COVID-19 vaccine cannot give you COVID.

None of the vaccines contain anything that can cause the disease. In fact, the vaccine is your best protection against COVID-19. Vaccines safely increase your body’s natural ability to fight the virus before the virus attacks you. Sometime that can cause minor symptoms including a sore arm, fever, or chills. But those symptoms only last a day or two and temporary side effects can be a sign that they are working. Remember, millions of New Yorkers, Americans, and people all over the world have received the vaccine already.


How is my personal information protected after I am vaccinated?

Your privacy and personal information are always protected. New York State does not send any personal information to the CDC or ICE when vaccinations are given.


How can I be sure that the COVID-19 vaccines do not change my DNA?

The COVID-19 vaccines do not change or interact with your DNA in any way.

Both mRNA (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna) and viral vector (Janssen/Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 vaccines deliver instructions to our cells. However, the instructions never enter the nucleus of the cell, where DNA is located.

They tell our cells to start building protection against the virus that causes COVID-19. The vaccine itself breaks down and falls apart in the body right away.


What happens inside my body when I get a vaccine like COVID-19?

Vaccines teach our cells how to make a protein. This protein, or piece of the protein, will trigger an immune response in your body.

The body uses this information to create a response to keep you safe from the virus. The vaccine itself then breaks down and falls apart in the body right away.


How do I know the vaccine is not harming my body?

Vaccines are instructions for your body’s cells that teach your body to make an immune response.

Vaccines cannot interact with -- or do anything to -- the DNA of your cells. Human cells break down and get rid of the vaccine ingredients soon after they use the instructions. The vaccine itself breaks down and falls apart in the body right away.

This is what makes vaccines safe.


Do COVID-19 vaccines contain animal-based ingredients?

No, there are no animal-based ingredients in any of the COVID-19 vaccines available in the United States.

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