Updated March 5, 2021
Learn more about and pre-register for the COVID-19 vaccine.
Who in Missouri is able to receive the vaccine next?
Members of the general public who are eligible to receive the vaccine during Missouri’s second phase of vaccination include individuals age 65 and older and any adults with underlying health conditions that put them at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19, as identified by the state health departments. These include such conditions as cancer, chronic kidney disease, COPD, or intellectual and/or developmental disabilities such as Down syndrome, heart conditions, a weakened immune system due to organ transplant, severe obesity, pregnancy, sickle cell disease and Type 2 diabetes. After this group, people working in specific job categories will be offered vaccine.
See more details from the Missouri Department of Public Health.
Who in Illinois currently is eligible to receive the vaccine?
Illinois is currently vaccinating individuals over 65, first responders and other essential workers including, but not limited to, grocery store employees and public transit workers. This is in addition to the first tier of eligibility, which included health care workers, and staff and residents of long term care and other group residence settings.
See the Illinois Department of Health website for more details and the most current eligibility listings.
Why is the vaccine available now to larger groups of the population?
Under the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), states had to set priorities on how to distribute the limited supplies of vaccine and established priority groups for vaccination, based on risks of COVID-19 exposure and severe illness. The first group deemed to be at highest risk was health care personnel with patient contact, and long-term care residents and staff. Those vaccinations began in December and are nearing completion for those who want to be vaccinated. Missouri has now moved to the next group, which is much larger. It includes emergency responders, those age 65 and older and adults younger than age 65 with underlying health conditions that put them at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19, as identified by the state health departments. Neither of the current vaccines is authorized for children under 16. In Illinois, the next priority group is individuals age 65 and older and those in essential frontline jobs that carry significant risks of exposure, such as teachers, grocery store employees, public transit workers and others, followed by adults with underlying conditions.
Find out more about Missouri and Illinois prioritization processes and see which tier you may be in on their respective websites.
Read more about the vaccine prioritization process.
How do I get a vaccine?
Due to high demand across the U.S. and with only two vaccines approved for use right now, COVID-19 vaccine continues to be in limited supply. Even though state governments have approved moving forward into the next priority groups after health care personnel and long-term care residents and staff, we are limited by the availability of vaccine. The manufacturers are producing it as quickly as they can to keep the pipeline flowing. Since there isn’t enough vaccine yet to vaccinate everyone who is eligible, health departments and health providers are setting up websites where you can pre-register to be ready as soon as vaccine becomes available and you are eligible, based on the criteria set by your state of residence. You can pre-register with BJC/Washington University. When vaccine is available for your priority group, you will then be contacted to make an appointment.
Is BJC providing vaccines to the general public?
BJC has opened two public vaccination clinics — on the academic medical campus and the Christian Hospital campus — with the potential for more in the near future. These clinics will be scheduled by appointment only, following pre-registration through the BJC website, based on eligibility and availability of vaccine. Scheduling allows us to better manage supply, and also control capacity at each location to maintain safe physical distance.
Where can I register to be vaccinated?
BJC and Washington University School of Medicine have established a process to pre-register to receive a vaccine. Visit this link to add your name to the list and to learn more about the process. The most efficient process to pre-register for the COVID-19 vaccine is on the BJC HealthCare website. For those without internet or email access, there is a phone number that can be used as an alternate. That number is 314-273-1252. Due to high demand, wait times on this line can be lengthy so it is recommended to use the website when possible.
Do I need to be a BJC patient to receive a vaccination from BJC?
You do not need to be a current patient of BJC HealthCare or Washington University School of Medicine to register for and receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccines will be scheduled through our patient portal, MyChart, so if you are not currently a patient, please indicate that when you pre-register. We will follow up with guidance on accessing MyChart. This will enable a smoother process when it’s time to schedule your vaccine.
Do I need to set up a MyChart account to be eligible to receive the vaccine through BJC?
You do not need to have a BJC doctor or be in the BJC network to receive a vaccine. We do use MyChart, our scheduling portal, to make appointments. That’s why we want to make sure you’re set up now so you can schedule when we have availability. If you are having difficulty setting up a MyChart account, please call the MyChart help desk at 314-273-1966 and they will walk you through the process.
When I try to set up a MyChart account, why is it asking for verification of private information?
MyChart is a secure portal to store patient information including medical records, test results and upcoming visits. It’s also how we schedule appointments. Because this site contains private information, we have a security process to validate your identity when you set up your account. Using the information you provide, the tool is able to recognize you and confirm your identity using security questions that only you would know — such as the name of your bank or monthly car payment. It won’t ask for your account number, but it may ask where you have an account. This is a routine process in setting up a secure MyChart account.
Can I pre-register on multiple sites?
Several pre-reregistration websites have been set up by counties and other health systems. You may pre-register on multiple sites, and we recommend that you accept the first opportunity provided to receive a vaccine.
How will I be contacted to schedule a vaccination through BJC/Washington University School of Medicine?
Fill out this pre-registration form, and we will contact you when you are eligible and as appointments become available.
Do BJC HealthCare and Washington University School of Medicine recommend that I get the vaccine if I have the opportunity?
BJC HealthCare and Washington University School of Medicine strongly encourage vaccination for anyone who is eligible when supply is available. Talk to your provider if you have questions regarding your personal health situation.
Get more information on the CDC website.
When will I be able to get a vaccine?
Your ability to get the vaccine depends on the production of the vaccine and when it is distributed to the states and then to the local vaccine administrators such as BJC and Washington University. We generally receive weekly shipments, depending on how much is available. Since states and health care providers are not yet receiving enough vaccine to meet demand, vaccinations will be scheduled over time during the coming months, following federal and state public health guidelines.
What are the approved tiers of vaccination? How do I know which tier I’m in?
Decisions about who will receive the vaccine and when are made by U.S. and state public health agencies, with a goal of providing the vaccine first to those believed to be at highest risk of exposure and severe illness. For more information and to see which tier you may be in, visit:
Missouri Department of Public Health
Illinois Department of Public Health
Where will I go to receive my vaccine?
You will receive details about the vaccination clinics, including available locations and options for time slots, when you are contacted to schedule your vaccination.
Can I show up at a hospital or vaccine site, or do I have to have an appointment?
Appointments are required in order to plan appropriate supplies and distribution of vaccine across multiple clinic sites. This also helps prevent doses of the vaccine from going unused and encourages safe social distancing at the vaccination sites.
Is it true that BJC will vaccinate people who show up at the end of the day without an appointment, to avoid throwing away unused vaccine?
No, this is not true. Vaccinations at BJC locations are by appointment only and vaccines are supplied and prepared daily as needed to accommodate those who are eligible to be vaccinated and who have appointments. No vaccine is discarded or thrown away at the end of the day. Those who show up at the end of the day without an appointment cannot be accommodated and will instead be asked to pre-register for a future appointment.
Pre-register at a BJC location.
Should I schedule with my doctor’s office?
Individual physician offices are not likely to be a source of vaccine at this time. The two vaccines that are currently available require special storage and/or special handling and training that aren’t as widely available in an office setting.
I do not personally meet eligibility criteria, but I care for someone/live with someone who does. Can I get vaccinated as part of their tier?
The state of Missouri is currently vaccinating people in Tiers 1 and 2 of the Phase 1B eligibility group. Illinois is officially in the 1A tier. If you are not personally in the open tier, you may still register for a vaccine and you will be contacted when your eligibility window opens.
Can I bring a spouse, family member or guest to my appointment?
BJC HealthCare will play an important role in providing COVID-19 vaccines to the public. To fulfill this critical community need, we require enough vaccine and supplies to administer the vaccine to all those who have made appointments. Due to scarce and unpredictable supply, it most likely will not be possible to vaccinate others who do not have appointments, regardless of their eligibility status. Anybody interested in receiving a vaccine — including those who are currently eligible for vaccination — may pre-register to receive the vaccine on our website and we will follow up to schedule their appointment when supply allows. Every effort will be made to send scheduling links out at the same time to those who meet the criteria and share a household, based on the home address you provide during your pre-registration. Eventually this should allow spouses and partners to schedule their vaccinations together, whenever possible.
Are BJC’s vaccine clinics ADA compliant?
Yes, and wheelchairs are available at each location if needed.
Is transportation assistance provided?
Transportation assistance is not available; however, there will be BJC vaccination locations near Metro bus stops and MetroLink stations.
Will I need two vaccinations? If so, when will I schedule my second dose?
The first vaccines will require two doses separated by three to four weeks, depending upon which vaccine you receive. Appointments will either be scheduled in person when you receive your first dose or potentially online when you schedule your first dose.
Will I go to the same location for both doses of the vaccine?
Yes, return to the same location for your second dose. Vaccine distribution for dose two is based on quantity of first doses administered so you should get both vaccines with the same organization. This helps manage critical supply levels, ensures equity within our registration process and maintains consistency of records and reporting. Also, it is important to get the same vaccine (Pfizer vs. Moderna), which might not be possible if you receive the vaccine with two different organizations. Remember, if you cannot get your second dose in the 21-24 day window, within six weeks (42 days) is acceptable.
Will I receive both doses of the vaccine from the same vaccine manufacturer?
Is there a chance that there won’t be a supply of vaccines when it’s time for my second dose?
The availability of second doses will depend on ongoing national supply. At this time, we have no concerns about insufficient supply of second doses.
Will there be enough vaccine for everyone?
We expect to continue receiving regular vaccine shipments so we can eventually offer vaccines to all who wish to receive them. The exact supply and timing are unknown at this time.
I’m not sure I want to get the vaccine. Should I still sign up?
Submitting a pre-registration does not obligate you to receive the vaccine. You may register to ensure you are on the list and make a decision about whether to schedule a vaccine when you receive notification that your scheduling window is available.
Do I need to be vaccinated in the state where I live?
It is recommended you get vaccinated in your state of residence. However, exceptions can be made for employees who live in a different state than they work, based on vaccine availability, if their place of work distributes the vaccine.
Is BJC planning large community events to provide vaccinations? Will they be by appointment or first-come, first-served?
BJC expects to partner with public health officials to offer vaccine to the general public. Those plans are currently being developed.
What will happen when I arrive for my appointment?
Consistent with safety guidance around preventing infection, you are required to wear a mask at all times while at a vaccination clinic. You are also asked to limit attendance to those receiving vaccines, to minimize crowding and encourage safe distancing. However, one person will be able to accompany you if you require assistance. After you receive your vaccine, you will need to remain on-site for 15 minutes to allow clinicians to monitor any reactions and take necessary steps. If you have a medical history of severe allergic reactions to vaccines, we will ask you to remain on-site for observation for 30 minutes as a precaution.
What proof do I need to bring to show that I’m in a specific tier? Do I need my ID, a doctor’s note, etc.?
The email that will be sent to you when you are able to schedule a vaccination appointment will advise you regarding the identification to bring, such as a driver’s license or other official ID and your insurance card if you have one. You do not need to bring a doctor’s note.
More about the Vaccines
I was recently vaccinated for something other than COVID-19. When can I receive the COVID-19 vaccine?
It is not recommended to get another vaccine 14 days before or after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Ideally you would wait until 14 days after receiving another vaccine.
I receive allergy shots; can I receive the COVID vaccine the same week or do I need to wait a couple weeks?
It is acceptable to get the COVID-19 vaccine while receiving allergy shots. Ideally it is not recommended to receive the allergy shot and COVID-19 vaccine on the same day to prevent confusion about any reactions. Waiting for at least 24 hours after an allergy shot before COVID-19 vaccine should be fine.
I recently had an infusion (Bamlamivimab, Casirivimib, Imdevimab-COVID specific drug, or abciximab, adalimuma-Humira, basiliximab, etc.-Not COVID specific). When can I take the COVID-19 vaccine?
The recommendation for delaying COVID-19 vaccination after monoclonal antibody infusion is specific to patients who have received COVID-specific monoclonal antibody treatment — i.e., bamlamivimab, Casirivimab and imdevimab.
People receiving other monoclonal antibody treatments can receive the vaccine.
We do not yet know how effective vaccines are in someone who has previously received an antibody treatment for a COVID-19 infection, or whether the antibody treatment could interfere with your body's own immune response to a vaccine. Once you have had COVID-19, you are very unlikely to be reinfected for three months afterward. So, if you receive an antibody treatment, you should delay receiving a vaccine for three months as a precaution.
See CDC: Interim Clinical Considerations for Use of mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines Currently Authorized in the United States.
Will a negative COVID-19 test be required before receiving the vaccine?
No. As with most vaccines, you should not receive the COVID-19 vaccine if you are currently ill with a fever or have COVID-19 symptoms.
Is it OK to take Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Advil (ibuprofen) before and/or after receiving the COVID-19?
It is not recommended to pre-medicate with acetaminophen or ibuprofen before receiving your vaccine. Most people who get the vaccine will do fine without any treatment and will not have side effects. If you do develop body aches, headache, arm soreness or fever after receiving the vaccine, it is OK to take acetaminophen or ibuprofen to help with those symptoms.
Which vaccines are available?
There are only two vaccines authorized by the FDA for use at this time. One is made by Pfizer-BioNTech and the other by Moderna. The vaccines are similar in how they work and how effective they are, and both require two doses three to four weeks apart. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine requires ultra-cold storage freezers that are not widely available in all health care settings. So, this means that the Pfizer vaccine is distributed only to vaccine distributors such as BJC that can store the vaccine. Based on review by the FDA and CDC, both vaccines are equally safe and effective against COVID-19, so there is no reason to be concerned about which manufacturer produced the vaccine you receive.
Is BJC receiving both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccine?
Yes, BJC is receiving Pfizer vaccine in Missouri and both Pfizer and Moderna vaccine in Illinois. Based on review by the FDA and CDC, both vaccines are equally safe and effective against COVID-19, so there is no reason to be concerned about which manufacturer produced the vaccine you receive.
Can I select which vaccine I receive?
BJC will be administering the vaccine it receives from public health departments and is not able to allow recipients to select the vaccine manufacturer. Based on review by the FDA and CDC, both vaccines are equally safe and effective against COVID-19, so there is no reason to be concerned about which manufacturer produced the vaccine you receive.
How much does the vaccine cost?
The vaccine is free, but some places may charge an administration fee to your insurance company, Medicare or Medicaid, so you should bring your insurance card with you when you receive your vaccine. BJC will not be charging an administration fee. If you don’t have insurance or cannot afford the administration fee, it will be waived and you can receive the vaccine free of charge.
Will BJC eventually be administering COVID-19 vaccinations to the public like they do with flu shots?
BJC expects to support local public health departments in vaccinating the public. Those plans are still in development.
Is BJC vaccinating corporate partners or large groups/organizations?
At this time, we do not have sufficient vaccine supply from the state to assist with vaccinating an organization in its entirety. We recommend contacting the local health department for assistance. In addition, we encourage individual members of an organization to please submit a pre-registration form to be notified when a scheduling opportunity is available.
Will the COVID-19 vaccine be offered every year, like the flu shot?
At this time, we do not know whether annual vaccinations will be required for COVID-19, as they are for influenza.
How long after receiving the first or second dose of the vaccine will I develop immunity to the virus?
We anticipate full protection will be 10-14 days from completion of the vaccine series (both doses), though there may be some protection after the first dose. We do not have complete information yet on these COVID-19 vaccines but expect the time frame for full protection to be similar to other vaccines, such as the influenza vaccine.
Should I receive an antibody test after I’m vaccinated to confirm the vaccine was effective?
An antibody test is not necessary. Most currently available antibody tests look for an antibody generated after an actual COVID-19 infection, not the specific antibody generated by the vaccine. These antibody tests following a COVID-19 vaccine would likely be negative, even though the vaccine worked.
If I do not experience any side effects from the vaccine, does this mean it did not work?
The majority of people who receive the vaccine will not experience side effects, and the lack of side effects does not mean the vaccine isn’t working. Studies have indicated that both COVID-19 vaccines are about 95 percent effective.
How long will the vaccine be effective?
This is not yet entirely clear. Studies have measured antibodies that persist for at least several months after vaccination. Antibodies are an important part of the immune system but not the only way disease is prevented. An important part of the FDA’s decision about whether to authorize a COVID-19 vaccine was whether it is safe and effective. How long a vaccine is likely to provide protection will likely require more study.
I recently had contact with a person who has lab-confirmed COVID-19. When can I be vaccinated?
If you have been exposed to a known COVID-19-positive individual, you should wait to receive the COVID-19 vaccine until at least 14 days after your last date of exposure. The purpose of waiting is to avoid any confusion between a possible vaccine reaction, such as a mild fever, with actual COVID-19 illness. The vaccine will not provide protection quickly enough to protect you against infection from an exposure that occurred within the past 14 days of receiving the vaccine.
Can I still receive the COVID-19 vaccine if I’m taking antibiotics? Steroids?
Yes, you can receive the COVID-19 vaccine if you are taking antibiotics or steroids. If you are on antibiotics and have moderate to severe symptoms of sickness, you may need to wait until your symptoms improve before being vaccinated. This precaution is to avoid confusion between your current illness and possible side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine. If you are taking steroids, you may want to wait a week or two after completing steroids to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, as steroids could make the vaccine response less robust.
I recently tested positive for COVID; should I be vaccinated?
Persons who have tested positive for COVID-19 are considered highly unlikely to get reinfection with COVID-19 for at least 90 days; you can choose to safely delay vaccination and still be protected. It may be easier to access vaccine through our current process but anticipate that vaccine will be available as you near the end of your 90 days if you choose to wait.
Persons who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 14 days should defer vaccination until they are outside of the isolation period and are recovered (this is usually 10 days from symptom onset, have no fever for at least 24 hours AND improvement in other symptoms).
I just tested positive and have a COVID-19 vaccine scheduled tomorrow; should I get the vaccine?
Persons who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 14 days should defer vaccination until they are outside of the isolation period and are recovered (this is usually 10 days from symptom onset, have no fever for at least 24 hours AND improvement in other symptoms). The purpose for waiting is to avoid exposing others while possibly still contagious. In addition, waiting until recovered will avoid diagnostic confusion between the underlying COVID-19 illness and possible adverse effects of vaccination or superimposing adverse effects of the vaccine on the underlying illness.
In addition, persons who have tested positive for COVID-19 are considered highly unlikely to get reinfection with COVID-19 for at least 90 days; you can safely delay vaccination and still be protected. You can reschedule your vaccine later and will not lose your opportunity to receive the vaccine.
What if I test positive for COVID-19 after receiving my first vaccine, but before receiving my second dose?
You should delay your second shot until you recover and are out of isolation (usually 10 days from first symptoms, no fever for at least 24 hours and improvement in other symptoms). Try to get your second dose as close as possible to the recommended time. The purpose for waiting is to avoid exposing others while possibly still contagious. Even if your second dose is delayed by a few days to weeks after the target date while you recover, there is no recommendation to restart the vaccine series.
Why does BJC appear to be behind in its vaccination process?
BJC is vaccinating as quickly and safely as supply allows. As the region’s largest employer, we first vaccinated a substantial number of health care providers throughout the region from the priority tier 1A. Regarding the general public, BJC has been responsible for a significant portion of Missouri’s vaccine distribution so far. At this time, more than 300,000 people have pre-registered to be vaccinated with us and we have begun public vaccinations at multiple clinics. BJC will distribute as much vaccine as we are allocated by the state.
Where can I get more information about the vaccines?
Online resources are available and this list will continue to be updated. Visit:
How do I know the vaccine is safe?
The COVID-19 vaccines are being held to the same safety standards as all vaccines. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) monitor all U.S. vaccines for safety and provide data and insight continuously to government health agencies, public health partners and the public. Based on clinical trial data, the FDA has determined the vaccine is safe for distribution and use.
These vaccines received Emergency Use Authorization. What does that mean?
An Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) is a process the federal government can use during an emergency such as a pandemic to authorize use of a vaccine, drug or medical device that is not yet licensed or that is licensed for a different purpose. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have both received EUA from the FDA.
Learn more about vaccine safety
What if the vaccine is found to cause further complications?
Based on clinical trial data, the FDA has determined the vaccine is safe for distribution. However, as part of its process, the FDA will continue to monitor for possible side effects.
Learn more about vaccine safety
Can/should I get the vaccine if I’m pregnant or may become pregnant?
When making a decision, pregnant women and their health care providers should consider the level of COVID-19 community transmission and each person’s personal risk of contracting COVID-19.
Additional information and answers to questions about COVID-19 vaccination and pregnancy.
Learn more about the CDC’s recommendations for vaccinating pregnant women.
If I get the vaccine, can I be around pregnant women or could I unknowingly expose them to COVID-19?
The vaccine does not contain any live virus and cannot cause infection with COVID-19. Getting the vaccine will not increase your risk of transmitting COVID-19. However, it is recommended that everyone continue to use masks and distance from others not in your household even after receiving the vaccine. We know the vaccine protects against symptomatic COVID-19 infection and severe illness from COVID-19, but we don't know yet whether it prevents low level, asymptomatic infections that could still be transmitted to others.
The development of the vaccines was accelerated and the long-term effects are unknown, right?
The rapid timeline to availability of these vaccines is not due to any shortcuts in development or safety testing of the vaccines. Scientists have been working on coronavirus vaccines for decades, after SARS-1 emerged and in response to MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome). Neither of these viruses turned out to spread as quickly as SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, so those vaccines were never brought to market at the time.
The funding provided by the federal government allowed vaccine developers to pursue all the usual vaccine development studies and safety testing at the same time, instead of one phase at a time — and also allowed them to manufacture doses before the vaccine was approved. This support moved the process along more quickly, without any shortcuts in the development, effectiveness and safety testing process. While there are only a few months of experience with these vaccines, there have not been significant safety events noted with the Pfizer or the Moderna vaccines. Severe allergic reactions have occurred in only about one out of 100,000 people vaccinated, and those have occurred primarily in people who were known to have severe allergies. Most side effects of vaccines appear in the days immediately following vaccination. Delayed effects occurring months after vaccination are not usually seen.
What are the side effects?
At this time, the most common reported side effects have been fever, headache, fatigue, and body or muscle aches in the days immediately following vaccination. It is possible these side effects will be more prominent than what it is experienced after a flu shot. Per early reports, these effects are more common after the second dose.
Should I report side effects from the vaccine, if there are any?
Recipients of the vaccine will have an opportunity to report side effects using a mobile app called v-safe. This app uses text messaging to initiate web-based monitoring. Any clinically important event reported by a participant is sent to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) for follow-up.
Learn more about the v-safe app.
When the manufacturers mention 95% effectiveness, what does this mean? Does that mean a 95% chance of being COVID-19-immune or that you will experience 95% less symptoms if you contract COVID-19?
Vaccine effectiveness is a mathematical calculation that compares the risk for developing disease (COVID-19) among a group of people who received the vaccine compared to the risk for developing the disease among a control group who did not receive the vaccine. A vaccine efficacy of 95% indicates a 95% reduction in disease among those who were vaccinated, or a 95% reduction from the number of cases you would expect among those who were not vaccinated. The vaccine showed similar results across all age groups of adults.
I have had significant allergies in the past. Should I get the vaccine?
That depends. If you have had an allergic reaction to any ingredient in vaccines, the CDC does not recommend that you receive this vaccine. The CDC and manufacturers’ guidance states that people who have had a severe allergic reaction after an injectable medication, not known to be related to an ingredient in the vaccine, may still choose to receive the vaccine to be protected against COVID-19. Their post-vaccination observation period will be extended to 30 minutes. All vaccination sites are prepared to manage allergic reactions. Please discuss your specific situation with your provider.
If I am allergic to the seasonal flu vaccine, should I get the COVID-19 vaccine?
Probably. The COVID vaccines do not include any egg proteins, preservatives or antibiotics that can be found in some vaccine formulations. Your doctor may be able to help assess this risk, which will depend on what exactly you are allergic to and whether that is a component of the COVID-19 vaccine.
I have a severe latex allergy. Can the COVID-19 vaccine be given safely to me?
The CDC has confirmed that neither the Pfizer vaccine nor the Moderna vaccine contains latex.
Can I catch COVID-19 from the vaccine?
No. The vaccines do NOT use live virus and therefore cannot cause COVID-19.
How do these new vaccines work?
The two vaccines that have received EUA approval — from Pfizer and Moderna — use a technology called messenger RNA, or mRNA. mRNA vaccines carry genetic material that teaches our cells how to make a harmless piece of protein that is found on the surface of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. After the protein piece is made, the cell breaks down the instructions (the mRNA) and gets rid of them. Cells display this piece of protein on their surface. Our immune systems recognize that the protein doesn’t belong there and begin building an immune response and making antibodies, which are what protect us when the real SARS-CoV-2 virus enters our bodies. mRNA vaccines do not contain any live virus that causes COVID-19. They CANNOT give someone COVID-19. The mRNA DOES NOT enter the cell nucleus, so it does not affect or interact with our DNA in any way.
From the CDC: How mRNA works
Once I’m vaccinated, can I still spread COVID-19 to others?
We know the vaccine protects against symptomatic COVID-19 and against severe disease with COVID-19. It is unknown whether it is possible for someone who has been vaccinated to still acquire and spread COVID-19 to others. This is one reason it will be essential to continue wearing a mask, avoid crowds, physically distance and wash your hands even after vaccination until this becomes clearer.
Do I still need to wear a mask and practice physical distancing if I’ve been vaccinated?
Yes. It’s important to continue practicing these safety measures until broad public immunity is achieved.
Should I wear two masks to protect myself?
When it comes to masking, think of quality first. Wear a mask that:
- Has two or more layers
- Completely covers your nose and mouth
- Fits snugly against your nose and the sides of your face
- Does not have gaps where air can leak out
- The CDC provides recommendations about how to choose a mask that fits properly and ways to improve the fit and filtration of your mask.
What are the quarantine recommendations for people who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 and then exposed to someone with COVID-19?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) relaxed its quarantine recommendations following a COVID-19 exposure for people who have received both doses of their COVID-19 vaccine series. If you have been exposed to somebody with COVID-19, but have received both doses of vaccine within the last 90 days, quarantine is no longer necessary due to your level of protection from the vaccine. While the vaccine’s efficacy in preventing severe illness for those vaccinated is documented, it is not yet fully understood how well it prevents you from transmitting COVID-19 to others. It is still critically important to continue safety practices to protect those around you — wearing masks, practicing physical and social distance, avoiding crowds and frequent hand washing.
Is there an age recommendation for children to receive the vaccine?
Currently, there is not a COVID-19 vaccine available for children under 16 because children were not part of the clinical trials to date. More information about safety and whether children and teenagers can be vaccinated will be available in coming months. The Moderna vaccine is only approved for people over the age of 18. The Pfizer vaccine is approved for people age 16 and older.
Is this vaccine safe for people who have an autoimmune disease and are on medication for treatment?
Probably. We do not yet know what personal health factors would make it unsafe for you to receive this vaccine. People should discuss with their providers their risk of acquiring COVID-19, their risk of poor outcomes if they do get COVID-19, the impact of COVID-19 infection on their underlying conditions, and consider vaccination in light of those conversations.
Do I need a vaccine if I’ve already had COVID-19?
Yes. It’s unclear how long immunity lasts after COVID-19 infection and it may vary from individual to individual. It is likely that vaccination will ensure more consistent immunity across the population of recipients.