COVID-19 Vaccine Information
We are now scheduling Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccine appointments for any patient over the age of 18. Appointments are available at all sites. To make an appointment, you can schedule online or call 212.271.7200.
Below is a list of frequently asked questions to empower informed decisions about the vaccines for COVID-19. For additional questions or information, please speak with your healthcare provider.What are the vaccines?
Today, there are three vaccines approved for use in the United States: Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson (also known as Janssen), though there may be more that come on the market. Moderna and Pfizer each require two shots, and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine only requires one. At this time, Callen-Lorde is offering the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccine to any patient over the age of 18. You can schedule an appointment online or call 212.271.7200.
All three vaccines were built on technology that has been studied for decades, and scientists from across the world worked together to quickly develop safe and effective vaccines.
The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines use a technique called “mRNA” or “messenger RNA” that teach your body how to build spike proteins like the one found on the outside of the virus that causes COVID-19. Once the vaccine is injected, your cells produce copies of the spike protein and your immune system learns how to defend against COVID-19. Scientists have been working on making mRNA vaccines for over 30 years, but because mRNA is very delicate it has taken awhile. These are the first commercially available mRNA vaccines.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses a “viral vector” technique with a different type of virus, an adenovirus, that has been modified to carry a code for making the spike protein. Once this is introduced into the body, the body’s cells decode the viral vector’s instructions and makes mRNA that tells the body to make spike protein. After that, the body’s immune system makes defenses against COVID-19. This technology is commonly used for vaccines and the viral vector used in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has successfully been used in an Ebola vaccine several years ago. Several international COVID-19 vaccines, such as Sputnik V and AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccines also use viral vector technology.
All the vaccines available in the US are over 99% effective at preventing death and over 97% effective at preventing hospitalization from COVID-19. This is the most important reason to consider getting vaccinated. Scientists have also found that vaccination dramatically reduces the risk of mild, moderate, and asymptomatic infections significantly (likely between 65-90%). This helps prevent the spread of COVID-19 in communities. However, it is still possible for vaccinated people to get mild, moderate, or asymptomatic COVID-19. These are known as “breakthough infections”. People with breakthrough infections can still pass the disease to others, so vaccinated people who feel unwell should still be tested for COVID-19 and quarantine if they test positive. Vaccinated people who were exposed to COVID-19 but feel fine should monitor for symptoms for two weeks after exposure but do not need to isolate or test for COVID-19 unless they begin to feel sick.
We don’t know yet how long the vaccines will offer protection against COVID-19, but the data we have so far suggests that people have good protection at least 8 months after their vaccination, and likely for significantly longer.
As with other vaccines, it is possible that extra “booster” shots may be required after the initial series to make sure the immune system remembers how to fight COVID-19. These may initially only be recommended for particular groups, like people over age 65, or people with moderately to severely weakened immune systems. At time of publication, booster doses are not recommended for any group in the US. People who have weakened immune systems are encouraged to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and may want to continue other forms of protection like wearing masks and practicing physical distancing even when it is not required.
Because the virus that causes COVID-19 continues to change, there is the possibility that it will eventually outsmart the current vaccines and that slightly different vaccines could be needed in the future. However, right now, all three vaccines are doing well protecting against these different strains of the virus.
Yes, all three vaccinations currently available in the US seem to offer good protection against all of the circulating domestic COVID-19 variants of concern, including Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta. Each of these variants is a strain of COVID-19 that has changed over time to allow the virus to spread more easily, make people more sick, or get through defenses. The Delta variant is currently the dominant strain in the US and is the most contagious variant so far. It is important to have a complete vaccination series to defend against Delta. Fortunately, within two weeks of completing a vaccination series, all vaccines available domestically offer good protection against Delta.
Yes. The vaccine protects you against getting COVID-19 again.
No, people who currently have COVID-19 infections and anyone with a moderate to severe illness (such as a fever over 100°F) should wait until they are feeling better and have completed quarantine before getting vaccinated. This prevents them from infecting other people at their vaccination site. Furthermore, it takes two weeks after vaccination to have good protection—a vaccine will not help if you are already infected. People who are sick with COVID-19 should reach out to their medical provider, preferably by telephone or telehealth rather than in-person, for treatment.
It is possible, but in general, antibody tests are not recommended as they are not an indicator of whether or not you are protected from COVID-19.
The most common side effects are soreness at the injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, nausea, chills, joint pain, redness or swelling on the arm where the injection was given, and fever. While side effects may be uncomfortable and inconvenient, they are a normal immune response as your body learns how to recognize and defend against COVID-19. These side effects usually don’t last more than 24-48 hours, and many people may not have any side effects from vaccination at all.
Yes! The vaccines have been tested carefully and over 162 million Americans have been fully vaccinated (at time of publication). You cannot catch COVID-19 or a cold from any of the vaccines because they do not contain a live virus. However, this does not mean you may not experience side effects. Although dangerous complications like allergic reactions can happen, people are watched for at least 15 minutes after vaccination to make sure they are safe. Dangerous reactions are very rare, and are estimated to occur in less than 1 per 100,000 vaccinations.
The vaccines are safe for…
- People living with HIV
- People with cancer receiving treatment
- People with kidney disease
- People with lung disease
- People with a neurological disease
- People with heart disease and hypertension
- People with liver disease
- People who are pregnant
- People with sickle cell disease
- People who have had organ transplants
- People who have a history of stroke
- People with a substance use disorder
- People who smoke
- People with more than one of the above conditions
The vaccines are very safe, but rarely, people can have dangerous health problems within a few weeks of vaccination. While these are serious concerns, all of the COVID-19 vaccines prevent illness and death from COVID-19 and the benefits of protection against the common and devastating effects of COVID-19 outweigh the risk of a rare event after vaccination. These rare reactions occur in less than 1 per 100,000 vaccinations.
Anaphylactic allergic reaction is a dangerous condition that can happen with any food or medicine, including any of the three COVID-19 vaccines. However, none of the available vaccines have ingredients people are often allergic to. When anaphylaxis happens, it usually starts within minutes of being exposed to the allergen. Signs of anaphylaxis include trouble breathing, sensation of the throat closing, itchy rash all over the body, swelling of lips and face, dizziness, confusion, and loss of consciousness. Getting emergency attention right away is important if someone has an anaphylactic reaction.
Inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis) and inflammation of the sac around the heart (pericarditis) have only been observed after the mRNA vaccines (Moderna and Pfizer). Myocarditis and pericarditis are closely related conditions and most often occur after vaccination in people under the age of 30. When these rare conditions occur, it is usually several days after vaccination. Signs and symptoms of myocarditis and pericarditis include a fast heart beat or heart palpitations, trouble breathing, extreme tiredness, and chest pain. Most cases are mild and respond to treatment and rest, but getting medical attention is important if someone develops these symptoms.
A very rare condition with dangerous blood clots combined with low platelets, known as thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS), has occurred in a small number of people who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. This condition led to the pause of Johnson & Johnson vaccine in April, but after gathering more data, the CDC, FDA, and New York State concluded that the benefits of offering this vaccination outweighs the risks. Signs of TTS include chest pain, severe headache, vision changes, shortness of breath, leg swelling, abdominal pain, bruising, and red bumps on the skin (petechiae) within 3 weeks of vaccination. Anyone who develops these conditions after the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should get emergency attention right away.
Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is another rare condition that has occurred after vaccination with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. GBS is caused by the body’s immune system attacking the body’s nerves. This causes weakness or tingling sensations, especially in the legs or arms and spreading upwards, difficulty walking, difficulty with facial movements, including speaking, chewing, or swallowing, double vision or inability to move eyes, and difficulty with bladder control or bowel function. GBS has been observed to occur up to 6 weeks after the receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Treatments are available and most people who are affected will regain nerve function. However, If these symptoms occur, getting emergency attention is important.
If you have had a severe allergic reaction to a vaccine before, you should talk to your healthcare provider before getting a vaccine for COVID-19. However, the vaccines for COVID-19 do not contain other common allergens like eggs, latex, or gelatin.
Temporary swelling at the site of filler injections is rare but has been reported with the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines (not with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine). People with a history of filler injections are still recommended to get whichever vaccine they can as soon as they are eligible. If swelling happens they should reach out to their medical provider
No. The vaccine does not affect ability to become pregnant.
The vaccines seem to be very safe in pregnancy—over 135,000 pregnant people in the US have been vaccinated and enrolled in a reporting system for any complications. Of these, vaccinated people had no more issues in pregnancy than unvaccinated people. Data also indicates safety in lactation.
- Age over 65
- Cancer or history of cancer
- Chronic kidney disease
- Chronic lung disease (like moderate or severe asthma and COPD)
- Dementia and other forms of neurological disease like ALS
- Down syndrome
- Heart disease including high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, and heart muscle abnormalities (cardiomyopathies)
- HIV and other immunocompromising conditions (including taking daily oral steroids)
- Liver disease like fatty liver disease and cirrhosis of the liver
- Obesity (BMI over 30)
- Sickle cell disease and thalassemia
- History of organ transplant or stem cell transplant
- History of stroke
- Substance use disorder
- Tobacco use or history of tobacco use.
Excelsior Pass is a New York State-based safety screening tool that can offer proof of vaccination or recent negative COVID-19 test as an app or printout with a QR code that can be scanned to verify the information. Two weeks after completing a vaccination series individuals vaccinated in New York State can access Excelsior Pass here: https://epass.ny.gov/home. If there is an issue with accessing an Excelsior Pass for a fully vaccinated person, they should reach out to the site where they received their vaccination.