Is the COVID-19 vaccine necessary?

COVID-19 vaccination is an important tool to help stop the pandemic. Prevention measures such as wearing masks, washing your hands, avoiding crowds and physical distancing help reduce your chance of being exposed to the virus or spreading it to others, but these measures are not enough. Public health officials and medical experts believe vaccination is an important step in helping to prevent or lessen the effects of this illness, including slowing down the development of new and potentially more dangerous variants.

How do I get the COVID-19 vaccine at one of your facilities?

The COVID-19 vaccine is available by appointment only. As distribution varies from state-to-state, please visit our state specific pages for more detailed information about vaccine distribution in your area.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?

The vaccine development has followed a thorough review process. Although the development timeline for COVID-19 vaccines has been considerably shortened compared to other vaccine development timelines, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has emphasized that the same strict quality, safety and efficacy guidelines are being met. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and FDA confirm that the benefits of the vaccines far outweigh the risk of COVID-19.

Did the COVID-19 vaccines undergo testing in clinical trials?

Yes. More than 110,000 patients have participated in initial clinical trials of the authorized vaccines. Clinical trials are the primary way researchers determine if a new treatment is safe and effective. The FDA utilized data from the clinical trials and determined the vaccines were ready to be authorized for emergency use authorization (EUA). The clinical trials for these vaccines are ongoing and continue to enroll more participants from previously unstudied populations.

How was this vaccine developed so fast when others take years to develop?

Although the development timeline has been faster than vaccines in the past, this does not mean safety measures were skipped. There are many reasons why the COVID-19 vaccines were developed more quickly including:

  • Researchers were able to leverage previous coronavirus and vaccine research.
  • Scientists were able to use advanced technology, including the type of vaccine (mRNA) developed for COVID-19 by both Pfizer and Moderna, to more quickly develop vaccines. While a new technology, mRNA vaccines have been studied for more than a decade.
  • The vaccine development received record financial support which provided vaccine developers with extensive resources.

Scientists from around the world were all focused on the development of a vaccine to combat COVID-19 which provided many potential vaccine candidates.

Did the clinical trials include participants from different races and ethnicities?

More than one-third of the clinical trial volunteers to date are from racial and ethnic minority populations. Recognizing the disproportionate impact of the epidemic on underrepresented racial and ethnic communities, investigators worked with community engagement partners to enroll a diverse pool of participants.

What is Emergency Use Authorization (EUA)?

The FDA can issue an EUA during a public health emergency for vaccines that have been proven safe and effective in large (phase III) clinical trials and when certain criteria have been met.

Have any of the vaccines been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)?

On August 23, 2021, the FDA approved Pfizer’s vaccine for the prevention of COVID-19 in people who are at least 16 years old. This vaccine will be marketed under the name Comirnaty.

This vaccine continues to be available under emergency use authorization (EUA) to children age 12 through 15 years old and as a booster for some immune-compromised people.

The Moderna and Janssen/J&J vaccines are also available under EUA to individuals who are at least 18 years old.

How well does the COVID-19 vaccine work?

The vaccines are all highly effective in preventing severe illness and death from COVID-19, including the Delta variant. Protection against confirmed infection and mild to moderate illness seems to be lower for the Beta, Gamma and Delta variants compared to the original strain and Alpha variant. The vaccine’s effectiveness against variants is being monitored.

For vaccinated individuals, the COVID-19 vaccine is:

  • 65–95% effective against symptomatic infection
  • 89% effective against hospitalization

It is more difficult to study effectiveness against asymptomatic infection, but preliminary data suggests the Moderna vaccine is 67% effective and the J&J/Janssen vaccine 74% effective against asymptomatic infection.

Is one of the COVID-19 vaccines better than the others?

The FDA evaluates all vaccines using the same thorough review process regardless of manufacturer. All available vaccines have been shown to be highly effective in preventing severe illness and death from COVID-19, including the Delta variant.

For vaccinated individuals, the COVID-19 vaccine is:

  • 65–95% effective against symptomatic infection
  • 89% effective against hospitalization

Will the vaccine give me COVID-19?

No. The COVID-19 vaccine does not contain SARS-CoV-2 and will not give you COVID-19. None of the COVID-19 vaccines currently in development in the United States use the live virus that causes COVID-19. You may have symptoms like a fever after you get any vaccine. This is normal and a sign that your immune system is learning how to recognize and fight the virus.

Have recipients experienced adverse events or side effects from the vaccine?

Most people experience few, or only mild, side effects. Side effects have been similar to the flu vaccine. There is a remote chance that the vaccine could cause a severe allergic reaction. A severe allergic reaction would usually occur within a few minutes to one hour after getting a dose of the vaccine. You will be asked to stay for 15 minutes following your vaccination appointment to ensure you have no reaction. These may not be all of the possible side effects of the vaccine, as it is still being studied in clinical trials.

Are side effects of the vaccine worse than COVID-19?

Most people experience few, or only mild, side effects. Side effects have been similar to the flu vaccine, such as soreness around the injection site or a fever. This is normal and a sign that your immune system is learning how to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19 and any symptoms that you experience should be short-lived.

How many shots of the COVID-19 vaccine are needed to be fully vaccinated?

Depending on which brand of COVID-19 vaccine you receive, you may receive a single dose or you may need to receive a second dose.

  • The Janssen/Johnson & Johnson (J&J) is a one-dose COVID-19 vaccine.
  • For the Pfizer vaccine, now called Comirnaty, your second shot will be scheduled as close as possible to 21 days after the first shot.
  • For the Moderna vaccine, your second shot will be scheduled as close as possible to 28 days after the first shot.

Is it safe for children to receive the COVID-19 vaccine?

The FDA has authorized the emergency use of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, now called Comirnaty, in individuals 12 years of age and older. The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is only authorized for individuals 18 years of age and older.

Clinical trials continue to expand those recruited to participate. The groups recommended to receive the vaccines could change in the future.

If I have allergies, can I receive the vaccine?

Those with allergies should not assume they can’t get the vaccine.

If you have a history of severe allergic reactions not related to vaccines or medications (food, pet, venom, environmental or latex) the CDC is recommending that you receive the vaccine.

If you have a history of allergies to oral medications or a family history of severe allergic reactions, the CDC is recommending that you still receive the vaccine.

If you have had an immediate allergic reaction – even if not severe – to vaccine or injectable therapy for another disease, talk to your doctor before considering the COVID-19 vaccine.

If you are allergic to any of the ingredients in the vaccine, you should not get one of the available COVID-19 vaccines.

If I have an underlying medical condition, can I receive the vaccine?

Those with underlying medical conditions are at increased risk for severe illness from the virus that causes COVID-19. The COVID-19 vaccines may be administered to you provided you have not had a severe allergic reaction to any of the ingredients in the vaccine. If you have any concerns, you should connect with your provider before receiving the vaccine.

What if I’m pregnant, thinking of becoming pregnant or breastfeeding?

The CDC recommends that people who are pregnant, thinking of becoming pregnant or breastfeeding get vaccinated. So do the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine. For more information visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/recommendations/pregnancy.html

Is the vaccine helpful to people who have recovered from COVID-19?

Yes, studies show that vaccination provides a strong boost in protection even for people who have already had COVID-19 and recovered.

If you have had COVID-19, talk to your doctor about when to get the vaccine.

If I have COVID-19 right now, should I get the vaccine?

Anyone currently infected with COVID-19 should wait to get vaccinated until after their illness has resolved and after they have met the criteria to discontinue isolation.

Can I receive the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time I receive another vaccine?

The CDC has said that COVID-19 vaccines and other vaccines may be administered at the same time. Contact your provider if you have any questions about your particular situation.  

Does receiving the vaccine mean I could spread COVID-19 to others?

None of the COVID-19 vaccines currently in development in the United States use the virus that causes COVID-19, and therefore receiving the vaccine does not give you the ability to spread the virus.

Because it takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity to protect you against the virus that causes COVID-19, 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.

We know not everyone will be able to get vaccinated right away, so even after you get the vaccine it will be important to continue to follow safety guidelines: wear a mask, wash your hands and remain at least six feet away from others.

Can I stop wearing a mask and avoiding close contact with others after I have been vaccinated?

Following established safety precautions that include masking, handwashing and physical distancing is a critical defense in preventing the spread of COVID-19. After receiving the vaccine, those safety measures should continue.

Should I get a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot?

People with moderately to severely weakened immune systems are especially vulnerable to COVID-19. They are at more risk of serious, prolonged illness.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people who have weakened immune systems get a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot. The booster shot is a third dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine at least 28 days after a second dose of the Pfizer, now called Comirnaty, or Moderna vaccine.

Currently, the CDC does not recommend additional doses or booster shots for any other population. Contact your provider if you have any questions about whether an additional dose is appropriate for you.

Is there anything different about the booster dose? Is it a new vaccine?

The booster shots for COVID-19 vaccines are not new vaccines. They are the same vaccines that have been authorized (Moderna and Pfizer/Comirnaty). A booster shot will be a third dose of an existing mRNA vaccine.

Who is eligible for a booster shot of COVID-19 vaccine?

The CDC recommends that people who have weakened immune systems get a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot.

This applies to people with moderately to severely compromised immune systems due to a medical condition or taking medications to suppress the immune system. This includes people who have:

  • Been receiving active cancer treatment for tumors or cancers of the blood.
  • Received an organ transplant and are taking medicine to suppress the immune system.
  • Received CAR-T-cell or hematopoietic stem cell transplant within the last 2 years or are taking medicine to suppress the immune system.
  • Moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (some examples include DiGeorge syndrome and Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome).
  • Advanced or untreated HIV infection.
  • Active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids or other drugs that may suppress your immune system.

Currently, the CDC does not recommend additional doses or booster shots for any other population.

How long after getting my second dose can I get a third dose?

CDC recommends the additional dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine at least 28 days (4 weeks) after a second dose of either Pfizer, now called Comirnaty, or Moderna for currently eligible people (those with weakened immune systems).

Can you mix and match the mRNA vaccines?

For the third dose of an mRNA vaccine, the CDC recommends that the same vaccine product should be used. If it is not available, either mRNA vaccine product can be used. The most important thing is that you get a third dose to provide extra protection.

The first two doses of an mRNA vaccine must be the same brand.

What side effects might come with an additional dose?

So far, reactions reported after the third mRNA dose were similar to the two-dose series. Fatigue and pain at injection site were the most commonly reported side effects, and symptoms were mild to moderate overall.

How does our ministry feel about use of the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine and do we have any moral concerns about its use?

We stand with the Catholic Health Association and their recent statement about COVID-19 vaccines and the use of Janssen/J&J’s newly developed vaccine:

"The Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA) is encouraged that another COVID-19 vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson has met FDA requirements for emergency use authorization.

Because COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, low-income communities, persons with pre-existing health conditions, and racial and ethnic minorities, CHA believes it is essential that any approved COVID-19 vaccine be distributed in a coordinated and equitable manner.

Using the guidelines released by the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life in 2005 and 2017 on the origin of vaccines, and the Vatican's December 21, 2020 Note on the morality of using some anti-Covid-19 vaccines, CHA ethicists, in collaboration with other Catholic bioethicists, find it is morally acceptable to receive Covid-19 vaccines developed by Johnson & Johnson, as well as Pfizer and Moderna. CHA encourages Catholic health organizations to distribute the vaccines developed by these companies.

CHA applauds the work of the scientists who have developed these vaccines and will continue to work to support efforts to educate the public about the importance of getting vaccinated.”