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COVID-19 Vaccines Explained

With authorized and recommended COVID-19 vaccines now available in the US, we have real hope for stopping the pandemic. There are currently two FDA-authorized vaccines for COVID-19: Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. Below, we answer some common questions about these newly developed vaccines, and what they mean for you and your family.

What ages have the COVID-19 vaccines been approved for?

Pfizer’s vaccine has been authorized for ages 16 and up. Moderna’s vaccine is currently authorized for ages 18 and up.

Why isn’t a COVID-19 vaccine available to kids now?

Children’s immune systems are different from adults’. Their immune responses even vary greatly depending on age. Scientists will need to repeat research for the COVID-19 vaccines specific to children.

When will there be a COVID-19 vaccine for infants, kids and younger teens?

Hopefully, a full pediatric vaccine will be available by late 2021 or early 2022.

Pfizer and Moderna both have vaccine trials including children as young as age 12 underway. If those trials are successful, the data will then go to FDA review, followed by the time it takes for production and distribution. Young ages are usually tested last.

How do the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines work?

mRNA vaccines are a new type of vaccine to protect against infectious diseases. Rather than using a weakened or inactivated germ to trigger an immune response in the body, mRNA vaccines teach our cells how to make a harmless protein—or even just a piece of a protein. Our immune systems recognize that this protein doesn’t belong, and begin building an immune response and producing antibodies. These antibodies protect us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies.

You can visit CDC’s COVID-19 mRNA vaccine webpage to learn more about this process.

What are the benefits of getting vaccinated?

COVID-19 can cause severe medical complications and even death in some individuals. There’s no way of knowing how the virus will affect you. The COVID-19 vaccine offers protection from the illness by creating an antibody response in your body. The vaccines available in the US are highly effective. On the off chance you do still get COVID-19, it will help reduce the severity of your illness and lower the risk of serious complications.

By getting the vaccine, you also help the people around you, particularly people at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

Are COVID-19 vaccines safe?

The vaccines meet rigorous safety criteria and are effective as determined by data from the manufacturers and findings from large clinical trials. Take a look at an overview of safety and efficacy data here.

Can I get COVID-19 from the vaccine?

No, the mRNA vaccines don’t use the live virus that causes COVID-19.

However, it’s important to remember that it takes several weeks, and 2 separate injections of the vaccine, for the body to build up immunity against COVID. This means it’s possible to become infected with COVID-19 just before or shortly after you receive your vaccination.

What are the side effects of the vaccine?

You may feel flu-like symptoms in the first few days after receiving the vaccine. This is normal, and a sign that your body is building protection against COVID.

After getting the vaccine, you may experience:

  • Pain and swelling at site of injection
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Tiredness
  • Headache

Rest, drink plenty of fluids, and talk to your doctor about taking an over-the-counter medicine, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen for any pain and discomfort.

When will I be able to get the vaccine?

COVID-19 vaccine supplies are limited, and each state has its own plan for deciding which groups of people will be vaccinated first. Contact your local health department for the latest information on how and when you can receive a vaccine.

CDC recommends that states allocate initial supplies of the vaccine to healthcare personnel and long-term care facility residents. Phase 2 should include adults 75 and older, and frontline essential workers. This includes firefighters, police and correction officers, food and agricultural workers, postal workers, manufacturing workers, grocery store workers, and public transit workers. Phase 3 includes people aged 65-74 years and individuals with underlying conditions.

The goal is for everyone to have access to the vaccine as soon as enough supplies are available.

We hope this information gives you some peace of mind in regards to vaccination. The CDC offers more Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 Vaccination.