COVID-19 vaccine FAQs

About vaccines

The COVID-19 vaccine teaches your immune system to recognize the coronavirus. When you get the vaccine, your immune system makes antibodies (“fighter cells”) that stay in your blood and protect you in case you are infected with the virus. You get protection against the disease without having to get sick.

When enough people in the community can fight off the coronavirus, it has nowhere to go. This means we can stop the spread quicker and get a little closer to ending this pandemic.

Watch this video on how vaccines work in your body

Yes. COVID-19 vaccination works by teaching your immune system how to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19, and this protects you from getting sick with COVID-19.

Being protected from getting sick is important because even though many people with COVID-19 have only a mild illness, others may get a severe illness, have long-term health effects, or even die. There is no way to know how COVID-19 will affect you, even if you don’t have an increased risk of developing severe complications.

Learn more about how COVID-19 vaccines work.

Yes! COVID-19 vaccines protect against COVID-19 infection – both with and without symptoms.

The clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccines showed that the vaccines are very effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19. (Read more about the clinical trials on our About COVID-19 vaccines webpage.) But the clinical trials didn’t show how effective the vaccines were at preventing asymptomatic infection (people having COVID-19 but now showing symptoms).

But a growing amount of data now shows that the COVID-19 vaccines are also effective at preventing asymptomatic infection.

In one study, regular testing of health care workers, first responders and other essential frontline workers showed the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were 90% effective against COVID-19 infections, regardless of symptom status.

Another US study showed 80% reduction in asymptomatic infection among those who had been vaccinated with Pfizer or Moderna, and an Israeli study showed a 94% reduction in asymptomatic infection with the Pfizer vaccine.

You can read more about the data here and here.

No. None of the authorized and recommended COVID-19 vaccines or COVID-19 vaccines currently in development in the United States contain the live virus that causes COVID-19. This mean that a COVID-19 vaccine cannot make you sick with COVID-19.

The CDC continues to study the COVID variants to better understand how they may impact the effectiveness of the vaccines.

So far, studies suggest the currently authorized vaccines are effective against the variants.

It typically takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity (protection against the virus that causes COVID-19) after vaccination. That means it’s possible a person could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination and still get sick. This is because the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection.

Based on evidence from clinical trials, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was 95% effective at preventing laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 illness in people without evidence of previous infection.

Based on evidence from clinical trials, the Moderna vaccine was 94.1% effective at preventing laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 illness in people who received two doses who had no evidence of being previously infected.

Based on evidence from clinical trials, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was 66% effective at preventing laboratory- confirmed COVID-19 illness in people and 93% effective in preventing hospitalization from COVID-19.

The Johnson & Johnson efficacy rate is lower than other available COVID-19 vaccines, but each vaccine is very effective at preventing hospitalizations and death due to COVID-19.

Yes. People who have had COVID-19 should still get vaccinated. We don’t know enough yet about how long a person is protected after getting sick with COVID-19.

People who currently have COVID-19 should wait to get vaccinated until they feel better and their isolation period is finished. People who recently had COVID-19 may also choose to wait 90 days after their illness passes before getting the vaccine. Data suggests that it may be uncommon to get reinfected with COVID-19 in the 90 days after infection.

No. People who currently have COVID-19 should wait to get vaccinated until they feel better and their isolation period is finished. People who recently had COVID-19 may also choose to wait 90 days after their illness passes before getting the vaccine. Data suggests that it may be uncommon to get reinfected with COVID-19 in the 90 days after infection.

No. Neither the recently authorized and recommended vaccines nor the other COVID-19 vaccines currently in clinical trials in the United States can cause you to test positive on viral tests, which are used to see if you have a current infection.​

If your body develops an immune response—the goal of vaccination—there is a possibility you may test positive on some antibody tests. Antibody tests indicate you had a previous infection and that you may have some level of protection against the virus. Experts are currently looking at how COVID-19 vaccination may affect antibody testing results.

It’s too early to know if COVID-19 vaccines will provide long-term protection. Additional research is needed to answer this question. However, it’s encouraging that available data suggest that most people who recover from COVID-19 develop an immune response that provides at least some period of protection against reinfection – although we’re still learning how strong this protection is, and how long it lasts.

Experts do not yet know what percentage of people need to get vaccinated to achieve herd immunity to COVID-19. Herd immunity means that enough people in a community are protected from getting a disease because they’ve already had the disease or they’ve been vaccinated.

Herd immunity makes it hard for the disease to spread from person to person, and it even protects those who cannot be vaccinated, like newborns. The percentage of people who need to have protection in order to achieve herd immunity varies by disease. The CDC and other experts are studying herd immunity and will provide more information as it is available.

Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines are some of the first COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use. mRNA vaccines are a new type of vaccine used to protect against infectious diseases, but researchers have been studying and working with mRNA vaccines for decades.

The virus that causes COVID-19 has something called “spike proteins” on its surface. mRNA vaccines use a piece of the virus’ genetic material that contains instructions on how to make the spike proteins.

Those instructions are used to teach human cells how to make a piece of the spike protein that will trigger an immune response in the body. That immune response, which produces antibodies, is what protects a person from getting infected if the real virus enters their body.

Once the mRNA delivers those instructions to the human cells, it is broken down by the body and does not become part of the person’s genes, nor does it interact with the person’s DNA in any way.

Learn more about mRNA COVID-19 vaccines on the CDC website.

Viral vector vaccines are another type of COVID-19 vaccine authorized for emergency use. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a viral vector vaccine.

Scientists have studied viral vector vaccines since the 1970s and used the technology safely for vaccines against Zika and Ebola.

COVID-19 viral vector vaccines use a modified version of a different virus (the vector) to fight COVID-19 in your body. The vector virus used in COVID-19 vaccines is harmless; it is not the virus that causes COVID-19.

The virus that causes COVID-19 has a spike protein on its surface. The vector virus in COVID-19 vaccines enters a cell in your body and produces this harmless part of the virus.

Your cell then displays the spike protein on its surface, which helps your body identify the virus. Your immune system will then produce antibodies and activate other immune cells to protect you from the COVID-19.

At the end of the process, our bodies have learned how to protect us against future infection with the virus that causes COVID-19.

Learn more about Viral Vector COVID-19 vaccines on the CDC website.

No. None of the vaccines being administered in the United States were created using fetuses or contain fetal cells.

The Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine was created using the same technology as many other vaccines including chickenpox, rubella and hepatitis A.

One piece of the vaccine is made in lab-grown copies of cells that originally came from elective abortions that took place over 35 years ago. Since then, the cell lines for these vaccines have been maintaining in the lab and no further sources of fetal cells are used to make these vaccines.

The Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission have both stated that receiving a COVID-19 vaccine that required fetal cell lines for production or manufacture is morally acceptable.

Learn more here

No. The COVID-19 vaccines only produce a spike protein from the virus that causes COVID-19 – not whole viral particles – so people who are vaccinated cannot shed (or spread) the virus to other people.

Viral shedding occurs when a person is infected with a live virus. As part of their illness, the virus is reproduced and these whole viral particles can be passed to another person through secretions (like saliva or mucus). When another person comes into contact with these viral particles, they can become infected and develop disease.

The COVID-19 vaccines currently authorized for use only produce one protein – the spike protein found on the surface of the virus. No other proteins from the virus are made, and the whole virus is not able to be produced from these vaccines. That means whole viral particles are never present in the body and, as a result, cannot be shed (or spread) to other people.

Getting vaccinated

There are multiple options for seeking COVID-19 vaccination appointments. Each option includes different processes for scheduling appointments. 

Options include:

Three COVID-19 vaccines have been authorized for emergency use by U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA). All three vaccines have also passed independent review by medical experts in the Scientific Safety Review Workgroup, as part of the Western States Pact. 

Emergency use authorization was granted by the FDA on Dec. 11, 2020 for Pfizer, Dec. 18, 2020 for Moderna and Feb. 27, 2021 for Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen.

For more information, please see each vaccine’s CDC webpage:

No. You do not need to show proof of citizenship to get the vaccine. That means you do not need a social security number or any documents related to your immigration status. Some vaccine providers might ask for a social security number, but you do not have to give one if you are only getting the vaccine. 

Regardless of citizenship or immigration status, all eligible people living or working in Washington should get vaccinated.

The federal government will pay for the full cost of the vaccine. You should not be charged out of pocket costs or receive a bill from your provider for the COVID-19 vaccine. This applies to people who have private insurance, Medicaid, Medicare, or are uninsured.

If you have public or private health insurance, your vaccine provider may bill them to get reimbursed for the vaccine administration fee. If you do not have insurance, the federal government offers a program that will pay the provider to administer your vaccination.

You should not be charged out of pocket costs or receive a bill from your provider for the COVID-19 vaccine administration fee.

Please see the new fact sheet Getting Vaccinated for COVID-19 (PDF).

The Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is a single-dose vaccine.

The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines require two shots to get the most protection:

  • Pfizer-BioNTech doses should be given 3 weeks (21 days) apart
  • Moderna doses should be given 1 month (28 days) apart

You should get your second shot as close to the recommended 3-week or 1-month interval as possible.

Additional COVID-19 vaccines are in Phase 3 clinical trials. Learn more about the different COVID-19 vaccines.

The facility where you received your first dose should schedule you for the second dose. Facilities are allocated second doses of vaccine three or four weeks after the first-dose allocation.

If you are unable to get a second dose at the facility where you received your first dose, you can try obtaining a second dose at another location. Visit the COVID-19 vaccine webpage for appointment options.

You will need to get a second dose of the same brand of vaccine three (Pfizer) or four (Moderna) weeks after the first dose.

You should receive your second dose as close to the recommended interval as possible. However, the second dose may be scheduled for administration up to 6 weeks (42 days) after the first dose.

It typically takes two weeks for the body to build immunity (protection against the virus that causes COVID-19) after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine or after the second vaccine dose of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna.

Yes, in most cases. Even after you get vaccinated, you should continue to wear face coverings when around people you don’t live with, stay at least 6 feet from others, avoid gatherings and wash your hands frequently.

Many people in our state will need to wait months to get the vaccine, and masks and other prevention measures are still recommended to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 to people who are not yet vaccinated.

In some situations, recommendations for fully vaccinated people may be different. Visit the CDC’s webpage When you’ve been fully vaccinated for the latest information.

You may have mild, short-term side effects after getting the COVID-19 vaccine. This is normal and means your body is building protection against the virus. Some people have no side effects, but the vaccine is still building protection.

Common side effects can include:

  • Soreness or redness where you got the shot
  • Headache
  • Tiredness
  • A low fever (less than 100.4)

Side effects usually go away on their own within a few days.

If you received the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, you should still get the second dose even if you have side effects after the first dose, unless a vaccination provider or your doctor tells you not to. For many people, the side effects are more noticeable after the second dose. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires only one dose.

You cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccine. The Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines do not contain live virus.

Washington is not currently considering any mandates for the COVID-19 vaccine, but some employers could require it.

Vaccine distribution 

Each week, the federal government allocates vaccine to Washington state for the following week. The Washington State Department of Health is responsible for deciding who will receive the available vaccine.

Local health care facilities, pharmacies and vaccination sites request the amount of vaccine they would like to receive each week. The state looks at those requests and the amount of vaccine coming from the federal government and decides how to divide up the vaccine. Local health departments are also able to provide input on which sites are a priority for receiving vaccine. The requests are always greater than the amount of vaccine available.

Local health care facilities, pharmacies and vaccination sites find out a few days later how much vaccine they can expect or if their order will not be filled. The vaccine arrives a couple days after that.

The state considers a variety of factors when deciding where vaccine goes, including: proportional population of those eligible in the county, data from providers, providers’ current vaccine inventory and documented throughput (how much they can administer), equity, and access at all provider types (hospitals, pharmacies, mass vaccination sites and clinics).

Washington state vaccine allocation phases differ from the recommendations outlined by the other states, including Oregon. The Washington State Department of Health has prioritized the groups of people to be vaccinated in Phases 1a and 1b. Information about future phases will be released later.

Health care providers interested in receiving COVID-19 vaccine must enroll in the COVID-19 Vaccination Program through the Washington State Department of Health.

Clark, Cowlitz and Skamania counties are working with an incident management team to develop plans for opening vaccination sites throughout Southwest Washington. Plans include fixed-location and mobile vaccination sites. These sites will be critical to ensuring high-risk populations in Southwest Washington have access to COVID-19 vaccination.

The intent is to position sites in locations where residents have not been able to easily access vaccine and among communities and populations disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Such as communities of color and critical workers in congregate settings.

The current process does rely heavily on using online scheduling systems. Clark County Public Health can help people (by phone) fill out the webform to be referred to a local health care facility. Call 888.225.4625, 8 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday for assistance.

The Washington State Department of Health COVID-19 hotline can also help people who do not have internet access. Call 800.525.0127.

We encourage people who need help using online scheduling forms to try asking a friend or family member to help. And we encourage people who feel comfortable using online scheduling to reach out to friends and family members who may need help and offer to assist them in scheduling an appointment.

Vaccine safety

All the COVID-19 vaccines being used have gone through rigorous studies to ensure they are as safe as possible. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the vaccines for emergency use and found no serious safety concerns. Independent experts confirmed the vaccines met high safety and efficacy standards. Systems that allow CDC to watch for safety issues are in place across the entire country.

Watch a video describing the emergency use authorization.

Clinical trials for all vaccines must first show they meet rigorous criteria for safety and effectiveness before any vaccine, including COVID-19 vaccines, can be authorized or approved for use. The known and potential benefits of a COVID-19 vaccine must outweigh the known and potential risks of the vaccine. Learn more about how federal partners are ensuring the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in the United States.

The process to approve and monitor vaccines has been around for decades. The same process used to develop vaccines for other illnesses, such as measles, mumps and whooping cough, is being used to develop the COVID-19 vaccine.

Since we’re in a pandemic, developing a new vaccine can go faster than normal. No steps are skipped, but some steps happen at the same time, such as applications, trials and manufacturing. COVID-19 vaccines still go through several clinical trials, enrolling tens of thousands of volunteers, to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines.  

Medical experts review the results of the trials. If the data from the trials show the vaccine is safe and effective, the vaccine gets approved for distribution to the public.

Check out this video for more information.

After a vaccine is authorized or approved for use, many vaccine safety monitoring systems watch for possible side effects. As with other vaccines, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will continue to monitor COVID-19 vaccine safety. The CDC created an additional tool, v-safe, to monitor safety and more easily collect information about side effects.

V-safe is a smartphone-based tool that uses text messaging and web surveys to provide personalized health check-ins after a person receives a COVID-19 vaccination. People using v-safe can quickly tell the CDC if they’re experiencing any side effects after getting a COVID-19 vaccine. V-safe also sends reminders when it’s time to get the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Learn more about ensuring the safety of COVID-19 vaccines and the v-safe tool on the CDC website.

On Tuesday, April 13, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended a pause on administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine pending review of six reported cases of rare and severe blood clots in combination with low levels of blood platelets in people who received J&J vaccine. This decision was made in an abundance of caution.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) met on April 23 to review the cases and voted to reaffirm its recommendation of the J&J COVID-19 vaccine for people 18 years and older. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is available for use in Washington, as of April 24.

The reported adverse events appear to be extremely rare – six cases among the more than 6.8 million doses of J&J vaccine administered in the U.S. Still, COVID-19 vaccine safety is a top priority.

The response by the CDC and FDA demonstrate how well the robust vaccine safety monitoring systems work. The potential safety concern was identified quickly and vaccines were paused to allow for further investigation.

These six cases all occurred in women between the ages of 18 and 48, and symptoms occurred 6-13 days after vaccination.

People who have received the J&J vaccine who develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain or shortness of breath within 3 weeks of vaccination should contact their health care provider.

Read the statement from the CDC and FDA here. Read the statement from the CDC and FDA here. Learn more about the pause on the Department of Health website.

The two COVID-19 vaccines currently available in the United States do not contain eggs, preservatives, or latex. For a full list of ingredients, please see each vaccine’s Fact Sheet for Recipients and Caregivers:

In Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine Trials (U.S. Trial Data):

  • 10% of participants identified as Black/African American
  • 13% of participants identified as Hispanic/Latinx 
  • 6% identified as Asian  
  • 1.3% identified as Native American
  • 69.7% identified as White 

In Moderna Vaccine Clinical Trials (U.S. Trial Data):

  • 10% of participants identified as Black/African American20% identified as Hispanic/Latinx
  • 4% identified as Asian
  • 3% identified as “of other descent”
  • 63% identified as White

In Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Clinical Trials (Global Trial Data):

  • 17% of participants identified as Black/African American
  • 3.5% identified as Asian
  • 8.4% identified as American Indian or Alaska Native
  • 0.25% identified as Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander
  • 8.6% identified with multiple races, or race was unknown or not reported
  • 62% identified as White
  • In addition, about 45% of all participants identified as Hispanic/Latino.

This is a myth circulated online by non-scientific sources. There is no evidence to support this. See the FDA COVID-19 Vaccines webpage for facts about the two vaccines. Once additional vaccines are approved, the FDA will share their information as well.

No. Wait at least 14 days after you get your COVID-19 vaccine before getting any other vaccine, including a flu or shingles vaccine.

If you get another vaccine first, wait at least 14 days before getting your COVID-19 vaccine.

If a COVID-19 vaccine is inadvertently given within 14 days of another vaccine, you do not need to restart the COVID-19 vaccine series; you should still complete the series on schedule. When more data are available on the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines administered simultaneously with other vaccines, CDC may update this recommendation.

If you're pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning to become pregnant, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) strongly recommends you talk with your health care provider about whether the vaccine is right for you, based on your risk of exposure to COVID-19.

While the data on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines for people who are pregnant is limited, experts believe COVID-19 vaccines are unlikely to pose a risk for pregnant women, based on how the vaccines work in the body. Additionally, the viral vector technology used in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been used in other vaccines given to women in all trimesters of pregnancy, including a large-scale Ebola vaccination trial. No adverse pregnancy-related outcomes, including adverse outcomes that affected the infant, were associated with vaccination in the trials.

COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials that include pregnant women are underway, and the CDC is monitoring information on women who get vaccinated while pregnant.

To make sure that more information is gathered regarding the safety of these vaccines when administered during pregnancy, pregnant people are encouraged to enroll in v-safe, CDC’s new smartphone-based tool being used to check-in on people’s health after they receive a COVID-19 vaccine. If pregnant people report health events through v-safe after vaccination, someone from CDC may call to check on them and get more information. Additionally, pregnant people enrolled in v-safe will be contacted by CDC and asked to participate in a pregnancy registry that will monitor them through pregnancy and the first 3 months of infancy.

Learn more about COVID-19 vaccination considerations for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

People with underlying medical conditions can receive COVID-19 vaccines. Anyone who has had an immediate or severe allergic reaction to a COVID-19 vaccine or to any of the ingredients in the vaccine should discuss vaccination with their health care provider. 

Learn more about vaccination considerations for persons 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 the virus that causes COVID-19.

Serious problems from vaccination can happen, but they are extremely rare. Everyone is monitored for allergic reactions by medical personnel for 15 to 30 minutes after being receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.  Some people have experienced severe allergic reactions—also known as anaphylaxis—after getting a COVID-19 vaccine, but it remains extremely rare.

Learn more about COVID-19 vaccines and allergies.

The vaccine should not be given to people with a known history of severe allergic reaction, such as anaphylaxis, to a previous dose of an mRNA vaccine or to any ingredient of the Pfizer-BioNTech,  Moderna or Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines.

People who have had a severe allergic reaction to other vaccines or injectable therapies may still be able to receive the vaccine. However, providers should do a risk assessment and counsel them about potential risks. If the patient decides to get the vaccine, the provider should observe them for 30 minutes to monitor for any immediate reactions.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention monitors all vaccines for safety and continues to monitor the COVID-19 vaccine. Adverse outcomes can be reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, or VAERS system. It is important to note that anybody can report to VAERS. VAERS data cannot be used to determine if a vaccine caused or contributed to an adverse event or illness.

The CDC created an additional tool, v-safe, to monitor safety and more easily collect information about side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine. V-safe is a smartphone-based tool that uses text messaging and web surveys to provide personalized health check-ins after a person receives a COVID-19 vaccination. People using v-safe can quickly tell the CDC if they’re experiencing any side effects after getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

Learn more about ensuring the safety of COVID-19 vaccines and the v-safe tool on the CDC website.

Please call the Clark County Public Health call center, 888.225.4625, 8 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday.