COVID-19 Vaccine Information

We are currently able to schedule vaccine appointments for any patient over the age of 18. Appointments are available at all sites. To make an appointment, 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 vaccine boosters and why are they being recommended?

A booster is an extra dose of vaccine to make sure the body’s immune system remembers how to fight against a disease long after the initial vaccination. Over the summer of 2021, a new strain of COVID-19 called the Delta variant emerged. The Delta variant spreads much more easily, and some people who were fully vaccinated did become ill with COVID-19. This is called a “breakthrough infection”. In most of these cases, people with breakthrough infections had received their initial vaccinations longer ago or were at higher risk of infection. Although most breakthrough infections are mild, any infection can spread COVID-19 to others. The initial vaccinations still do a great job protecting against severe illness from COVID-19, but booster vaccines several months after initial vaccination dramatically reduce the risk of these breakthrough infections. 

Who can get a booster dose?

Vaccine booster shots are now available for everyone age 18 and older based on time since they completed their initial vaccination. Currently, the CDC says some people should get booster doses and others may choose to receive booster doses. 

Who should receive a booster?

  • Any single-dose Janssen vaccine recipient should receive a booster 2 months after their vaccine. 
  • Moderna and Pfizer recipients should receive a booster six months after completing their initial vaccinations if they are 50+ years of age or if they live in a long-term care facility.  

Who may receive a booster?

  • Persons between the ages of 18-49 who initially received Moderna or Pfizer may receive a booster six months after completing their initial vaccinations based on individual benefits and risks.
Are boosters made differently than the original vaccines?

No, boosters are not made differently than the original vaccine. However, the Moderna booster is half of the dose of the original Moderna vaccine.

Do boosters have to match the original vaccine a person received?

No, they do not. If it is more convenient or if desired for another reason, a person may receive a different product as a booster.

What is the difference between a third dose and a booster?

People with immune systems that are less strong can benefit from an extra dose of Moderna or Pfizer vaccine to teach their immune systems to recognize and fight against COVID-19.  Unlike boosters, third doses act to help create an initial immune response to COVID-19 rather than to act as a reminder about COVID-19 for a healthy immune system. For people with a weaker immune system, this extra dose is given as soon as 28 days after the second dose rather than 6 months after the second dose in the case of boosters.

Who should get a third dose at this time?

The FDA has authorized a third dose of Moderna and Pfizer vaccines against COVID-19 for people with severely compromised immune systems. The extra dose must be given more than 28 days after the second dose was received. Persons who are immunocompromised who received a Johnson & Johnson vaccination initially should, like all Johnson & Johnson recipients, receive a booster at least 2 months after their initial vaccination.

The FDA has defined severely immunocompromised as, “solid organ transplant recipients or those who are diagnosed with conditions that are considered to have an equivalent level of immunocompromise.” The CDC lists the following conditions as severely immunocompromising:

  • Advanced or untreated HIV infection
  • Active treatment for solid tumors and blood cancers
  • Solid-organ transplant patients taking immunosuppressive therapy
  • Persons who have had a stem cell transplant within past 2 years or who are taking immunosuppressive therapy
  • Moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency
  • Active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids (i.e., ≥20mg prednisone or equivalent per day), immunosuppressive chemotherapy, and other immunosuppressive medications and biologics
  • Additional considerations: chronic medical conditions may be associated with varying degrees of decreased immune function. Please reach out to your clinical team should you have further questions.

Virtual and Telephone visits are available for Callen-Lorde Patients to discuss individual level of immunocompromise and determine eligibility for this new recommendation. Please call 212.271.7200 to discuss.

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.

How were the vaccines developed? How do they work?

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.

Are the vaccines effective?

Vaccination is estimated to be 86% effective at preventing hospitalization from the Delta variant of COVID-19 and over 90% effective at preventing death from the Delta variant of 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 Delta infections by 66%. 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 cases 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 test for COVID-19 between 3 and 5 days after exposure and monitor for symptoms for two weeks after exposure.

How long will protection last after being vaccinated?

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 6 months after their vaccination, and likely for significantly longer.

Do the vaccines protect against viral variants, like the Alpha and Delta variants?

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.

Should I still get vaccinated if I’ve already had COVID-19?

Yes. The vaccine protects you against getting COVID-19 again.

Can I get vaccinated if I’m currently sick with COVID-19?

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.

Will I have a positive antibody test after the vaccine?

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.

What are the most common side effects from the vaccines?

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.

Are the vaccines safe?

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
What about the rare adverse events?

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.

What if I have allergies?

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.

What if I have had dermal fillers? (Silicone, Restalyne, Juvederm, etc.)

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

Will the vaccine affect my ability to get pregnant?

No. The vaccine does not affect ability to become pregnant.

What types of living environments increase risk of exposure to COVID-19?

Shelters, group homes, and correctional facilities are some of the living environments that pose increased risk of spread of COVID-19.

What types of employment increase the risk of exposure to COVID-19?
  • Health care workers and persons who work in healthcare settings like hospitals, long term care facilities, home care, and clinics
  • First responders (firefighters, police)
  • Education (teachers, school bus drivers, daycare workers)
  • Food and agriculture workers including restaurant and bar workers
  • Manufacturing workers
  • Corrections workers
  • U.S. Postal Service and delivery workers
  • Public transit workers and taxi drivers
  • Grocery store workers
What is Excelsior Pass and how can I get one?

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: 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.

I lost/damaged my vaccination card from Callen-Lorde. What should I do?

Please note that Callen-Lorde does not replace COVID vaccination cards but will issue an official CIR or EHR immunization record. Please visit My Vaccine Record to search for and download a copy of your immunizations. You can use your mobile phone number, email address, or IDNYC number to search for your immunization record in the application.