Skip Navigation

COVID-19 Update

Due to interest in the COVID-19 vaccines, we are experiencing an extremely high call volume. Please understand that our phone lines must be clear for urgent medical care needs. We are unable to accept phone calls to schedule COVID-19 vaccinations at this time. When this changes, we will update this website. Our vaccine supply remains limited. Read all COVID-19 Vaccine Information.

Patient Care Options | Visitor Guidelines | Coronavirus Information | Self-Checker | Get Email Alerts

COVID-19 Vaccination Information for Patients and the Public A male patient receives a COVID-19 vaccination from a healthcare professional.
 

COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution

Blue illustration of a needle and COVID-19 vaccine vial.

Johns Hopkins Medicine Pauses Johnson & Johnson Vaccine

Out of an abundance of caution, Johns Hopkins Medicine will temporarily stop using the J&J vaccine, pending CDC and FDA reviews. (Posted April 13) Read full story.

Vaccine Supply Update

Johns Hopkins Medicine will continue to offer COVID-19 vaccinations to our eligible patients who live in Maryland and Washington, D.C. Our vaccine supply is quite limited compared with local mass vaccination sites. Appointments may not be available immediately at our locations.

COVID-19 Vaccine Availability by Location

 

COVID-19 Vaccine FAQs

Getting the Vaccine From Johns Hopkins Medicine

  • Get the latest information on our vaccine distribution effort in Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Florida. You can also review this infographic to see learn how to get a vaccine from Johns Hopkins Medicine.

    Johns Hopkins Medicine is working with government officials and complying with jurisdictional directives in Maryland, Florida and Washington, D.C., to vaccinate our eligible patients and others. 

    For full details, please read the following:

    As supply is so small across Johns Hopkins Medicine, we encourage our patients and community members to take advantage of any opportunity to schedule a vaccination appointment through other state and local health care organizations and agencies: Maryland | Washington, D.C. | Florida
  • The criteria for vaccine prioritization is determined by guidance from the CDC and from health departments where Johns Hopkins Medicine has care facilities (Maryland, Florida and Washington, D.C.).

    JHM identifies people who match the government and health department eligibility criteria for vaccination. If you match this criteria and have received care at a Johns Hopkins Medicine facility within the last two years, you are automatically on our list to be offered a COVID-19 vaccination. We randomly select individuals from a group of eligible people. The number of people selected is based on the limited supply of vaccine given to us.  We then notify selected individuals by phone, email or text messages to offer them an opportunity to schedule a vaccination appointment.

    Learn more about our vaccine distribution process.

    We are actively supporting our communities by ensuring that Black and Latinx patients have access to enroll in our vaccine programs, and by collaborating with Baltimore City and its health department to send teams into the community to administer COVID-19 vaccines to our most vulnerable eligible residents.

    For our vaccination plans for patients and the public, please go to our COVID-19 Vaccine Information page.

  • At Johns Hopkins Medicine, we ask the following information from individuals who are offered an opportunity to receive a COVID-19 vaccine at one of our vaccination clinics:

    • The last four digits of your Social Security number. This is asked when you activate your MyChart account, a secure platform Johns Hopkins Medicine is using to schedule COVID-19 vaccination appointments. We’ll use this information to match your medical record in our system. This information is voluntary, and you do not need to complete this field if it makes you feel uncomfortable. We can verify your identity using other information. If you have any questions about the MyChart activation process, please call our help desk at 1-800-318-4246.
    • Your health insurance information. For patients with health insurance coverage, we bill your health insurance company for the costs associated with our staff members’ time administering the vaccine. Whether you have insurance or not, Johns Hopkins Medicine will not bill you personally for any costs associated with the COVID-19 vaccine or its administration.
  • There is no cost for the vaccine itself. Johns Hopkins Medicine will not bill you for any costs associated with the COVID-19 vaccine or its administration. For patients with health insurance coverage, we will bill their health insurance company for the costs associated with our staff members’ time administering the vaccine.

    Whether you have health insurance or whether you do not, you will not receive a bill from Johns Hopkins Medicine if you get the vaccine from us.
  • Per Gov. Larry Hogan, on Feb. 1, 2021, the state of Maryland expanded COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to allow hospitals to administer the vaccine to Maryland residents with who are currently receiving hospital-based treatment, including in hospital outpatient centers, and diagnosed with any of the following severe immunocompromising medical conditions:

    • Patients with cancer and in active treatment
    • Patients with end stage renal disease requiring hemodialysis
    • Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), especially those who are oxygen-dependent or are steroid-dependent
    • Recipients of solid organ transplant
    • Patients with sickle cell disease
    • Patients with diabetes (type 1 or type 2)

    As supply allows, we will administer the COVID-19 vaccine to our patients who meet this criteria.

    Vaccine supply continues to be extremely limited.

    To the extent that we have supply, we continue to offer the COVID-19 vaccine to our patients who live in the state and are 65 or older, as well as others outlined in Phases 1A-C, per Gov. Hogan. A patient is anyone who has received care from a Johns Hopkins Medicine provider within the last two years at any of our facilities, including outpatient clinics.

  • Individuals who are currently eligible for vaccination based on their occupations should first check with their employers to see if vaccination arrangements have already been made. If not, they should contact the local health department in the localities where they work.

  • Not at this time. We can only offer the vaccine to people who received a notification from Johns Hopkins Medicine to schedule their vaccination appointment. The number of people requesting vaccination from Johns Hopkins Medicine is more than the vaccines supplied by the state. Johns Hopkins Medicine conducts a daily, computer randomized lottery of eligible individuals to receive a vaccination appointment. The number of appointments is based on our available vaccine supply. We wish we had more vaccine to give.

    We encourage everyone who is eligible to receive the vaccine to take advantage of any and all available vaccine options. Visit the state of Maryland’s vaccination website to identify other locations where you and your loved one may be able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. If you or your family members are offered the COVID-19 vaccine at another vaccination site, please take it. You should not wait to get the vaccine from Johns Hopkins Medicine if you are offered an opportunity elsewhere.

  • Getting a mammogram too soon after your second dose of the coronavirus vaccine could result in a false positive and a callback due to temporarily swollen lymph nodes.

    The Johns Hopkins Division of Breast Imaging supports the recommendation from the Society of Breast Imaging: When possible, and if it does not delay care your doctor recommends, you should schedule screening mammograms before your first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine or four to six weeks after the second dose.

    Breast imaging radiologists have noticed that underarm lymph nodes can become temporarily enlarged after a person is vaccinated for COVID-19. This is a normal reaction to the vaccine in some people. Four to six weeks after your vaccine(s), your lymph nodes are expected to return to their normal size.

    If you go ahead with getting your mammogram within six weeks of your COVID-19 vaccination and larger-than-usual lymph nodes show up on the test, you will get a callback for more tests. The doctor may follow up with an ultrasound of the lymph nodes under your arm and request that you come in again one to three months after that to be sure the lymph nodes return to their normal size.

    If you get a mammogram within the first six weeks after your COVID-19 vaccinations and your mammogram is negative for signs of breast cancer and does not show any enlargement of the lymph nodes, your results would be considered reliable that there are no signs of breast cancer.

    Learn more about the COVID-19 vaccines and mammogram results.

  • If you are hospitalized at Johns Hopkins Medicine and miss your vaccine appointment, you or your care partner should contact the vaccination location and try to re-schedule your appointment.

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you can receive the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine up to six weeks (42 days) after the first dose. We do not advocate delaying the second dose if it can be helped, but the data from clinical trials support this range.

    If you are hospitalized for longer than the 42-day window, your hospital care team will help you understand your vaccination options.
  • Unfortunately, there have been cases of people posing as representatives from drug companies and offering people coronavirus vaccines and then asking for their Social Security number or credit card information.

    Here are some things you can do to check whether the organization contacting you is legitimate:

    1. Ask the person contacting you to identify themselves. They should be an employee of your state or city health department, or a hospital or medical care provider whom you know.
    2. Do not give out your financial information. The COVID-19 vaccine is being offered without charge across the nation. Legitimate vaccine providers will not ask you for any form of payment or financial information. You may be asked to verify your identity, such as by providing the last four digits of your Social Security number. You should not need to provide your full Social Security number.
  • No, you are not likely to have a choice of which vaccine you receive. Vaccine allocation and distribution is determined by the federal, state and local public health authorities. Vaccination sites often have little or no advance notice regarding which type of vaccine they will be able to offer on any given day.  We encourage anyone who wants to be vaccinated to pursue any legitimate and authorized opportunities, and to take whichever vaccine is offered to them.

 
 

Getting the Vaccine

    • The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are given as two shots in the upper arm muscle, three or four weeks apart.* (*The number of times vaccines made by other companies are given and the way they are given vary.)
    • Typically, it takes about two weeks after the second shot for sufficient immunity to kick in.
    • Even after the vaccination, you might be able to transmit the coronavirus to others so infection prevention measures are still very important.
    • Based on clinical trials, the first two vaccines were shown to be extremely effective at preventing COVID-19: Pfizer (95%) and Moderna (94.1%).*
    • The trials so far show the vaccines are equally effective across age,** gender, race and ethnicity subgroups.
    • The clinical trials were conducted with a diverse group of participants, including people of Asian, Black, Hispanic/Latinx and Native American descent.***
    *As additional clinical trials are completed, we will know more about the efficacy of other vaccines. **The Pfizer vaccine was found to be over 94% effective in adults over the age of 65. ***Among the Pfizer participants, 5% were Asian, 10% were Black, 26% were Hispanic/Latinx and 1% were Native American. Among the Moderna participants, 4% were Asian, 10% were Black, 20% were Hispanic/Latinx and 3% were of other descent.
  • Some studies have suggested that taking medications such as Tylenol or Advil before getting a vaccination might reduce your body’s ability to mount an immune response to the vaccine. It’s unclear if these findings have any clinical significance, though, and other studies did not find any effect of anti-inflammatory medications on the immune reaction to vaccines. If you regularly take aspirin or other over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol), ibuprofen (e.g., Motrin, Advil) or naproxen (e.g., Aleve) for other medical conditions, please continue to do so as directed by your physician or as needed. Otherwise, it’s probably best to not take over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen that reduce fever or inflammation before receiving a vaccine. If you are uncomfortable or have symptoms after vaccination, that is the time to take an over-the-counter medication to help you feel better.

  • You alone make the decision about whether to get a COVID-19 vaccine. We encourage you to talk to your primary care doctor and review our resources provided here, as well as resources from other health care organizations. At Johns Hopkins Medicine, we will continue to provide science-based, unbiased information so you can make an informed decision.

    Considering the impact on lives, the large number of hospitalizations and deaths, and high number of people with remaining long-term health issues after they recover from COVID-19, we believe the risks of vaccination are small compared with the large individual and societal benefit of getting the vaccination and preventing cases of COVID-19. 

  • If you have received the first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccination, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that the second shot should take place three weeks after the first one.

    If your first coronavirus vaccine was from Moderna, the CDC says your second shot should be given to you four weeks after the first one.

    If something happens that prevents you from getting the second dose of either COVID-19 vaccine on time, you can still receive it up to six weeks (42 days) after the first dose. We are not advocating for people to delay getting their second dose, but the data from clinical trials support this range. There are currently limited data on the efficacy of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines administered beyond this window. According to the CDC, however, if the second dose is administered beyond these intervals, there is no need to restart the series.

  • You should not get the second vaccine dose earlier than the recommended times. But, if you’ve already received your second shot, and it was early by 4 days, or less than the recommended time window, your vaccinations are OK, and you do not need to repeat the vaccination series

  • The Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna mRNA COVID-19 vaccines are not interchangeable with each other or with other COVID-19 vaccine products. Each vaccine is manufactured differently — even those that use similar underlying technology, such as Pfizer and Moderna. Once you’re given one type of vaccine, the second vaccine dose should be the same type, from the same manufacturer as the first vaccine dose.

    Shortly after your first vaccination, your record will show which type you received, so you can schedule your second shot with the same brand and at the proper time interval between doses.

    These recommendations may change as further information becomes available or as other vaccine types are authorized for use. In rare cases, such as in the event of an allergic reaction, an exception may be made to allow for the second dose from a different manufacturer.

  • There could be differences in availability from one place to another. Availability might depend on how much vaccine is produced and how it needs to be transported and stored. For instance, some vaccines must be kept frozen at very low temperatures in order to be effective. Every effort will be made to distribute the vaccine fairly.

  • Because it will take a while to make and distribute enough of the COVID-19 vaccine to give it to everyone who wants it, the CDC recommends which groups of people should receive priority. The CDC has been working closely with state health departments and partners to develop these recommendations. At the federal level, efforts are underway to ensure adequate supplies in the coming months for everyone who wants a vaccine.

    If you are a Johns Hopkins Medicine patient, visit our COVID-19 Vaccine Information and Updates page for all current information on getting vaccinated. Your state’s health department website can also provide updates on vaccine distribution in your area.
 

COVID-19 Vaccine Safety

  • Yes, research to date indicates the vaccines for COVID-19 have a very good safety profile. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted emergency use authorization (EUA) for two COVID-19 vaccines. Both have been tested in large clinical trials. Data from the manufactures show that the known and potential harms of becoming infected with the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID 19) outweigh the potential safety risks of the vaccines.

    Even though the coronavirus vaccines were developed more quickly than other vaccines in the past, they have been carefully tested and continue to be monitored. The U.S. vaccine safety system works to make sure that all vaccines are as safe as possible. Safety has been a top priority as federal agencies work with vaccine manufacturers to develop and authorize a COVID-19 vaccine. Here are some key areas of COVID-19 vaccine development, review and authorization:

    • Careful testing. All vaccines go through clinical trials to test safety and effectiveness. For the COVID-19 vaccine, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) set up rigorous standards for vaccine developers to meet. This infographic from the National Institutes of Health shows the four phases a vaccine must go through before it is released to the public.
    • Authorization for emergency use. Vaccines that meet FDA safety and effectiveness standards can be made available in the United States by approval or by emergency use authorization (EUA). An EUA provides temporary authorization of a vaccine or medication under emergency situations, such as the coronavirus pandemic.
    • Continuous monitoring for problems and side effects. Once a vaccine is authorized for use, monitoring continues, with systems in place to track problems or side effects that were not detected during the clinical trials. For the COVID-19 vaccine, the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are expanding their vaccine monitoring. If there are problems with the vaccine, they are most likely to emerge early in the testing process when they can be identified and addressed.

    You can learn more from the CDC about the safety steps in place for the COVID-19 vaccine.

  • So far, none of the vaccine trials have reported any serious safety concerns. Trials for the first two vaccines — from Pfizer and Moderna — have had fully independent safety monitoring boards, and safety data are continuously reviewed by the FDA and expert panels.

    Learn more about the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines.

  • You cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccine. The COVID-19 vaccines created by Pfizer and Moderna do not have any virus or other infectious material in them. They are designed to cause your body to make copies of a harmless piece of the coronavirus, so you will not get COVID-19 from the vaccine. Side effects such as fever and soreness at the injection site have been reported, particularly after the second injection (both of these vaccines require a second injection three to four weeks later), but the reported COVID-19 vaccine side effects in the trials are not as severe or dangerous as having a bad case of COVID-19 illness.

  • Yes, based upon currently available information, we believe the COVID-19 vaccines are safe for the people covered under the initially limited FDA authorization. Here is why:

    Our experts have followed developments of the vaccines very closely and we believe that proper procedures are being followed. Review this infographic from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) about how a new vaccine is developed, approved and manufactured.

    We monitor those who are testing the vaccines and the regulatory agencies that will evaluate the vaccines for authorization or approval. Several points give us confidence that the proper procedures have been followed:

    • The FDA has been very clear about the conditions under which it would issue an emergency use authorization (EUA) or full approval for any COVID-19 vaccine candidate intended for public use. The FDA process is well established. Considerations are peer-reviewed by external expert panels. The FDA leadership has reaffirmed its commitment that scientific data drove and will continue to drive its deliberations and any decisions to grant emergency use authorization or approval.
    • Many manufacturers working on the vaccine have pledged to put public safety first and to be transparent in conveying their data to the public.
    • The National Academies of Sciences provided guidance on conditions required for appropriate vetting of vaccine candidates.
    Learn more general information by reading Is the COVID-19 Vaccine Safe?
  • Out of an abundance of caution, Johns Hopkins Medicine will temporarily stop using the J&J vaccine, pending CDC and FDA reviews. (Posted April 13) Read full story.

  • Out of an abundance of caution, Johns Hopkins Medicine will temporarily stop using the J&J vaccine, pending CDC and FDA reviews. (Posted April 13) Read full story.

 

COVID-19 Vaccines for Diverse Groups

  • The FDA and other reviewers closely consider diverse populations included in the trials for safety purposes. The clinical trials for the first two COVID-19 vaccines included underrepresented minorities (about 25% of participants), older age groups (about 25%), and people with conditions such as obesity, diabetes and heart and respiratory conditions.

    Note: The trials did not include pregnant women or children under 12. Trials with these groups are in progress or are scheduled to begin soon.

  • The CDC has provided recommendations on the priority groups to receive vaccines. The first group to receive authorized COVID-19 vaccines were front-line health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities. The CDC also places people age 65 and older, those with underlying health conditions and certain essential workers in priority groups.

    Review the CDC’s guidelines for who gets vaccinated first when supplies are limited.
 

COVID-19 Vaccine Side Effects and Reactions

  • Some people notice pain or swelling where they got the vaccine. You may also get fever, muscle aches, fatigue, headaches or a combination of these symptoms.

    Side effects may last about a day or two. These are signs that your immune system is responding and preparing to fight the coronavirus if you catch it. If symptoms persist, you should call your doctor.

    Learn more about what to expect when getting the COVID-19 vaccine,

  • As of January 21, 2021, more than 2 million people reported their symptoms at least once on the CDC’s v-safe after-vaccine health checker after they received either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. Up to 70% of those people reported pain in their arm. About one-third felt more tired than usual, and a little less than a third reported a headache. Chills or fever were noted by about 11% of people in the study, with 10.4% reporting joint pain, and 8.9%, nausea. 

  • No, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are similar in terms of the side effects that you might experience.

  • Both the Pfizer and the Moderna COVID-19 vaccinations involve two injections separated by several weeks. If you previously had COVID-19, the first injection may cause more noticeable side effects than it does for people without a history of COVID-19. If you have not previously had COVID-19, you may notice more side effects after the second dose of the vaccination series than for the first dose.

  • According to the CDC, anyone who has a severe allergy (e.g., anaphylaxis) to any of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine ingredients should not receive this vaccine.

    The CDC says people with allergies to certain foods, insects, latex and other common allergens can safely receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Those with a history of severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to injectables or other vaccines should discuss the vaccination with their doctor, who can evaluate  and assess their risk.

How the Vaccines Work

  • Vaccines help people develop immunity to a virus or other germ. A vaccine introduces a less harmful part of that germ — or something created to look or behave like it — into a person’s body. The body’s immune system develops antibodies that fight that particular germ and keep the person from getting sick from it. Later, if the person encounters that germ again, their immune system can “recognize” it and “remember” how to fight it off.

    Learn more from our COVID-19 Vaccines Infographic.

  • The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has spikes of protein on each viral particle. These spikes help the viruses attach to cells and cause disease. Some of the coronavirus vaccines in development are designed to help the body “recognize” these spike proteins and fight the coronavirus that has them.

    An effective vaccine will protect someone who receives it by lowering the chance of getting COVID-19 if the person encounters the coronavirus. More important is whether the vaccine prevents serious illness, hospitalization and death. At this time, all three vaccines are highly efficacious at preventing serious illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19. Widespread vaccination means the coronavirus will not infect as many people. This will limit spread through communities and will restrict the virus’s opportunity to continue to mutate into new variants.

  • In the past, vaccines have taken many years to develop. However, the relatively quick development of this vaccine does not mean safety measures were skipped. There are several reasons why the COVID-19 vaccines were developed faster than other vaccines:

    • The mRNA technology used to develop the COVID-19 vaccines has been years in development to prepare for outbreaks of infectious viruses. Thus, the manufacturing process was ready very early in the pandemic.
    • China shared genetic information about the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus when it was available, which gave vaccine developers an early start at finding a vaccine.
    • The testing processes for the vaccines didn’t skip any steps, but the vaccine developers conducted some stages of the process simultaneously to gather as much data as quickly as possible.
    • Governments gave money to vaccine developers in advance, so the companies had resources they needed.
    • Some types of COVID-19 vaccines were created using messenger RNA (mRNA), a new technology that allows a faster approach than the traditional way vaccines are made.
    • Social media enabled companies to reach out to and enroll study volunteers, and plenty of people wanted to help, so there were enough research participants to test the COVID-19 vaccines.
    • Because the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus is so contagious and widespread, many volunteers who got the vaccine were exposed to the virus, and with so many exposures, the trials took a shorter time to see if the vaccine worked.
    Companies began manufacturing vaccines ahead of their authorization or approval so some supplies would be ready if authorization occurred.
  • The first two coronavirus vaccines authorized by the FDA come from two different companies: Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna. The two vaccines are equivalent in protecting against COVID-19: Both Pfizer and Moderna report that their vaccines showed approximately 95% efficacy at preventing symptoms of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, including severe disease.

    There are differences in how the two vaccines are handled:

    • The Pfizer vaccine needs to be stored and shipped at -94° F while the Moderna vaccine can be kept at -4° F.
    • Both COVID-19 vaccines require two separate shots: a priming shot followed by a booster. The booster vaccine in the Pfizer version is given three weeks after the first. For the Moderna vaccine, the booster is given four weeks after the first.
  • The first two COVID-19 vaccines were created using a new technique called messenger RNA, or mRNA. The method has been in development for years before the pandemic, and the arrival of the new coronavirus provided vaccine manufacturers a chance to use it.

    Vaccines against viruses work by sending a message to the body to be on the lookout for a certain virus, such as SARS-CoV-2. Traditional approaches have used dead or weakened versions of the virus itself, which the body learns to identify and develop immunity to. Making new vaccines this way can take years.

    The mRNA approach works differently. When a virus such as SARS-CoV-2 enters the body, it sets in motion a means of producing copies of itself like a photocopy machine. The copies of the virus invade other cells. The mRNA coronavirus vaccines cause the body to produce copies of just one part of the coronavirus: the spike proteins on its surface that give the virus its telltale appearance. The spike protein helps the virus attach to cells and make people sick, but by itself, cannot cause COVID-19.

    The new mRNA vaccines for the coronavirus contain “instructions” for how to make copies of the spike protein. The mRNA is synthetically made in a lab (meaning it is not taken from the virus directly). It is manufactured to be injected and to find its way into cells. In the cell, mRNA instructs the cell to make copies of the coronavirus’s spike proteins. When the cell releases these proteins, the immune system identifies them as foreign and destroys them, but not before making antibodies to detect and react to the protein and the virus that causes COVID-19. Then, later, if a live, complete coronavirus enters the person’s body, the immune system “remembers” the spike protein and attacks the coronavirus so it cannot reproduce and make someone sick with COVID-19.

    Vaccines created with mRNA may be even better at protecting people from disease than those made with dead or weakened viruses.
  • No, the mRNA in the COVID-19 vaccines does not enter the nucleus of your cells, where the DNA is, so it does not affect your DNA or change your genes.

  • The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a viral vector vaccine. This is another difference between this shot and the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which use messenger RNA (mRNA) technology.

    Viral vector vaccines take a harmless virus, known as a vector,  — which cannot cause disease or replicate — and load it with information that informs cells how to manufacture a look-alike, harmless part of the coronavirus. That part, the spike protein, cannot infect a person or cause COVID-19 illness by itself.

    Once a person gets the shot, their cells receive the “directions” from the vector, telling them how to create copies of the spike protein. The cells then go to work and make them. As the spike proteins accumulate in the body, the immune system is alerted to their presence and creates antibodies and an immune reaction to fight them. After about four weeks, there is enough protection to fight off the coronavirus that has the spike protein, and prevent severe illness.

    Viral vector vaccines have been created and used against infections since the 1970s. They have also been used in gene therapy to treat cancer. In addition, they have been used in studies for HIV and influenza. Some of the vaccines developed to fight the Ebola virus used this technology.

Protection and Immunity

  • The vaccine doesn’t work right away. You are not considered appropriately protected after the first shot. It takes up to two weeks after the second shot for your immune system to fully respond to a vaccine and provide protection against an infectious disease.

  • This is a question researchers are eager to answer. People who are infected with the coronavirus show a decline in antibodies within a few months, but their immunity may last significantly longer than that. (A few people appear to have caught COVID-19 twice, but this is unusual). Data from the vaccine trials indicate strong immunity at least months after vaccination, indicating possible long-term immunity.

    As the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus has begun to change (mutate), studies are exploring how these changes affect the virus’s characteristics, including its ability to spread between people. A substantial mutation might have an impact on the effectiveness of the vaccines, and vaccine manufacturers are preparing to make adjustments where necessary.

  • People who have gotten sick with COVID-19 may still benefit from getting vaccinated. Due to the severe health risks associated with COVID-19 and the fact that re-infection with COVID-19 is possible, people may be advised to get a COVID-19 vaccine even if they have been sick with COVID-19 before.

    There is not enough information currently available to say if or for how long people are protected from getting COVID-19 after they have had it (natural immunity). Early evidence suggests natural immunity from COVID-19 may not last very long, but more studies are needed to better understand this.
  • A few people who have had COVID-19 have apparently had a second, often milder case of the disease, and researchers are exploring what this means in terms of how long immunity from the coronavirus lasts. Vaccine developers are looking at ways to boost the effectiveness of a vaccine so that it provides longer immune protection than a natural infection with the coronavirus.

  • There is new evidence from laboratory studies that some immune responses driven by current vaccines could be less effective against some of the new strains.

    Whether that means that people who have gotten the COVID-19 vaccines could get sick with the new variants is not yet known. The immune response involves many components, and a reduction in one does not mean that the vaccines will not offer protection.

    People who have received the vaccines should watch for changes in guidance from the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], and continue with coronavirus safety precautions to reduce the risk of infection, such as mask wearing, physical distancing and hand hygiene.

    We deal with mutations every year for flu virus, and will keep an eye on this coronavirus and track. If there would ever be a major mutation, the vaccine development process can accommodate changes, if necessary, but we’re not yet at the point when we need to consider that.

    Find out more about new variants of coronavirus.

  • Yes, it is possible. Getting the COVID-19 vaccination helps prevent you from getting sick if you encounter the coronavirus that causes the disease. However, less is known about whether you can still unknowingly carry the coronavirus in your body and transmit it to other people, even after you complete your vaccination. If you are carrying the virus, you could infect another person if he or she does not have immunity after surviving COVID-19 or after being vaccinated for it. Until more research confirms how getting vaccinated affects your risk of spreading the coronavirus, wear a face mask, maintain physical distancing, and wash or sanitize your hands frequently when you are around anyone.

Masking and COVID-19 Precautions

Will I still have to wear a mask and continue COVID-19 safety precautions if I get the vaccine?

Yes. It may take time for everyone who wants a COVID-19 vaccination to get one. A vaccine that is 95% effective means that a small number of people who get one of the vaccines will not become immune.

Also, while the vaccine may prevent you from getting sick, it is unknown at this time if you can still carry and transmit the virus to others. That is why, until more is understood about how well the vaccine works, continuing with precautions such as mask-wearing and physical distancing will be important.

Vaccine and Kids

  • The Food and Drug Administration has authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for distribution to individuals ages 16 years and older.

    No COVID-19 vaccine has been authorized for children under 16. At least one trial including participants between age 12 and 18 with their parents’ permission is in progress. But it may be late 2021 or even 2022 before there is enough evidence on the timing, safety, effectiveness and practical aspects of vaccinating children for the coronavirus, especially children under age 12.

    Learn more about COVID-19 vaccine and children.

  • This may take time to happen. First, the FDA and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) must determine that testing results show the vaccines are safe and effective in children. Some of the vaccine manufacturers have already begun recruiting for clinical trials and testing children 12 and older. Later, the manufacturers will evaluate safety and efficacy in younger age groups, and data from those studies will direct experts’ recommendations on COVID-19 vaccine use in younger children.

  • The answer to this question is unknown: Scientists are working hard to determine if getting vaccinated for the coronavirus keeps you from spreading COVID-19 to others, including children. For now, experts recommend you should assume you can spread the coronavirus to other people, even after you have been vaccinated. The CDC recommends that people who get the COVID-19 vaccine continue to wear masks and practice physical distancing when around people from outside their own household until more research is complete.

  • Yes, it is possible for a child infected with the coronavirus to transmit COVID-19 to another person. Data from some studies suggest that young children may be less likely than older children and adults to spread the coronavirus to others, but it can still happen.

  • According to a report published by the CDC, going back to in-person school is not a major COVID-19 risk factor for children if they maintain prevention measures such as wearing masks and physical distancing. Attending parties, playdates and in-person family gatherings such as weddings and funerals is associated with a higher risk of children testing positive for the coronavirus.

  • There’s a very good chance it will. The COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer each provide about a 95% chance of protecting you from developing symptoms from COVID-19 after completion of the two-dose series. The vaccine appears to be very effective in preventing severe illness from COVID-19. Learn more about the safety and effectiveness of the coronavirus vaccines.

  • After so many months with children’s education and normal life interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, this is an important question. It will take time to answer, since children are not expected to be given COVID-19 vaccinations for many months.

    It is expected that when enough people are protected from the coronavirus, the risk of infection for your child — and the population in general — will begin to decline, even before vaccines are available for children. Vaccines, along with mask-wearing, physical distancing and other precautions will help ensure your child’s gradual return to school, sports and other group activities in the future.

Vaccine and Pregnancy

  • No, getting the COVID-19 vaccine will not affect your fertility. Women actively trying to conceive may be vaccinated with the current COVID-19 vaccines — there is no reason to delay pregnancy after completing the vaccine series.

    Confusion around this issue arose when a false report surfaced on social media, saying that the spike protein on this coronavirus was the same as another spike protein called syncitin-1 that is involved in the growth and attachment of the placenta during pregnancy. The false report said that getting the COVID-19 vaccine would cause a woman’s body to fight this different spike protein and affect her fertility. The two spike proteins are completely different, and getting the COVID-19 vaccine will not affect the fertility of women who are seeking to become pregnant, including through in vitro fertilization methods. During the Pfizer vaccine tests, 23 women volunteers involved in the study became pregnant, and the only one in the trial who suffered a pregnancy loss had not received the actual vaccine, but a placebo.

  • Yes, COVID-19 vaccines currently authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should not be withheld from pregnant individuals who choose to receive the vaccine. We strongly recommend that women talk with their doctor to discuss all factors about the vaccine and their pregnancy.

    • Symptomatic pregnant individuals who contract COVID-19 are at more risk of severe illness, complications and death than non-pregnant women. Many pregnant women have medical conditions that put them at further increased risk.
    • Another factor to consider is the level of activity of the pandemic in your community.
    • It is important to know that no study to date has specifically evaluated the coronavirus vaccine in pregnant and lactating women, though there have been a few pregnant women who were inadvertently enrolled in the vaccine trials. Preliminary developmental and reproductive toxicity studies do not indicate any adverse effects on reproduction or fetal development.
    • Thus, there are not any known safety concerns, but more data will be available in the weeks and months ahead from additional studies.

    While there are many unanswered questions about the vaccines for pregnant women, Johns Hopkins Medicine agrees with and supports the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM). As national recommendations evolve, we will continue to update what you need to know about the COVID-19 vaccine and pregnancy.

  • Based upon available data, it appears safe to get the COVID-19 vaccine if you are nursing a baby. Although the vaccines have not been studied in nursing mothers, lactating women should be offered the COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccines do not contain live virus, so being vaccinated does not pose a risk to the baby. If you are vaccinated for the coronavirus, there is no need to delay or discontinue breastfeeding.

Myth Busters

  • FACT: The COVID-19 vaccine will not affect fertility. The truth is that the COVID-19 vaccine encourages the body to create copies of the spike protein found on the coronavirus’s surface. This “teaches” the body’s immune system to fight the virus that has that specific spike protein on it.

    Confusion arose when a false report surfaced on social media, saying that the spike protein on this coronavirus was the same as another spike protein called syncitin-1 that is involved in the growth and attachment of the placenta during pregnancy. The false report said that getting the COVID-19 vaccine would cause a woman’s body to fight this different spike protein and affect her fertility. The two spike proteins are completely different and distinct, and getting the COVID-19 vaccine will not affect the fertility of women who are seeking to become pregnant, including through in vitro fertilization methods. During the Pfizer vaccine tests, 23 women volunteers involved in the study became pregnant, and the only one who suffered a pregnancy loss had not received the actual vaccine, but a placebo.

    Getting COVID-19, on the other hand, can have potentially serious impact on pregnancy and the mother’s health. Learn more about coronavirus and pregnancy. Johns Hopkins Medicine encourages women to reach out to their medical providers to discuss other questions they have about COVID-19 as it relates to fertility or pregnancy.
  • FACT: People who have gotten sick with COVID-19 may still benefit from getting vaccinated. Due to the severe health risks associated with COVID-19 and the fact that re-infection with COVID-19 is possible, people may be advised to get a COVID-19 vaccine even if they have been sick with COVID-19 before.

    There is not enough information currently available to say if or for how long people are protected from getting COVID-19 after they have had it (natural immunity). Early evidence suggests natural immunity from COVID-19 may not last very long, but more studies are needed to better understand this. Several subjects in the Pfizer trial who were previously infected got vaccinated without ill effects. Some scientists believe the vaccine offers better protection for coronavirus than natural infection.
  • FACT: Studies found that the two initial vaccines are both about 95% effective — and reported no serious or life-threatening side effects. There are many reasons why the COVID-19 vaccines could be developed so quickly. Here are just a few:

    • The COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna were created with a method that has been in development for years, so the companies could start the vaccine development process early in the pandemic.
    • China isolated and shared genetic information about COVID-19 promptly, so scientists could start working on vaccines.
    • The vaccine developers didn’t skip any testing steps, but conducted some of the steps on an overlapping schedule to gather data faster.
    • Vaccine projects had plenty of resources, as governments invested in research and/or paid for vaccines in advance.
    • Some types of COVID-19 vaccines were created using messenger RNA (mRNA), which allows a faster approach than the traditional way that vaccines are made.
    • Social media helped companies find and engage study volunteers, and many were willing to help with COVID-19 vaccine research.
    • Because COVID-19 is so contagious and widespread, it did not take long to see if the vaccine worked for the study volunteers who were vaccinated.
    Companies began making vaccines early in the process — even before FDA authorization — so some supplies were ready when authorization occurred.
  • FACT: Individuals who get the COVID-19 vaccination still need to practice infection prevention precautions. Keep your mask on, and continue staying at least 6 feet from people outside your household, until further notice. Vaccines do not stop the coronavirus from entering your body; they only prevent you from developing moderate to severe COVID-19. It’s not yet clear if people vaccinated for COVID-19 can still carry and transmit the virus, even when they themselves don’t get sick.
  • FACT: The vaccine for COVID-19 cannot and will not give you COVID-19. The two authorized mRNA vaccines instruct your cells to reproduce a protein that is part of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, which helps your body recognize and fight the virus, if it comes along. The COVID-19 vaccine does not contain the SARS-Co-2 virus, so you cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccine. The protein that helps your immune system recognize and fight the virus does not cause infection of any sort.
  • FACT: The COVID-19 vaccine can have side effects, but the vast majority are very short term —not serious or dangerous. The vaccine developers report that some people experience pain where they were injected; body aches; headaches or fever, lasting for a day or two. These are signs that the vaccine is working to stimulate your immune system. If symptoms persist beyond two days, you should call your doctor.

    If you have allergies — especially severe ones that require you to carry an EpiPen — discuss the COVID-19 vaccine with your doctor, who can assess your risk and provide more information about if and how you can get vaccinated safely.
  • FACT: The two COVID-19 vaccines available to us are designed to help your body’s immune system fight the coronavirus. The messenger RNA from two of the first types of COVID-19 vaccines does enter cells, but not the nucleus of the cells where DNA resides. The mRNA does its job to cause the cell to make protein to stimulate the immune system, and then it quickly breaks down — without affecting your DNA.
  • FACT: The mRNA technology behind the new coronavirus vaccines has been in development for almost two decades. Vaccine makers created the technology to help them respond quickly to a new pandemic illness, such as COVID-19.
  • FACT: The first two COVID-19 vaccines to be authorized by the FDA contain mRNA and other, normal vaccine ingredients, such as fats (which protect the mRNA), salts, as well as a small amount of sugar. These COVID-19 vaccines were not developed using fetal tissue, and they do not contain any material, such as implants, microchips or tracking devices.
  • FACT: The thousands of viruses that cause various diseases are very different. Many change (mutate) year by year, making it difficult to develop one vaccine that works for a long period of time.

    Developing vaccines for some disease-causing viruses is tough. For example, the virus that causes HIV can hide and make itself undetectable by the human immune system, which makes creating a vaccine for it extremely difficult.

    The common cold can be caused by any one of hundreds of different viruses, so a vaccine for just one of them would not be very effective.

Specific Conditions

  • Yes, based on information currently available, the COVID-19 vaccine is safe for people with epilepsy, says neurologist Khalil Husari. Although the data are limited, he explains, so far there is no evidence that patients with epilepsy are at a higher risk of adverse complications after getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

    Read more about coronavirus, the COVID-19 vaccine and epilepsy.

  • The COVID-19 vaccine is recommended for all solid organ transplant candidates and recipients provided they do not have a severe allergy to any of the ingredients in the vaccine. Likewise, families and household members of those having a transplant should get vaccinated against the coronavirus as soon as CDC and local guidelines, as well as vaccine quantity, allow.

    Because transplantation involves immunosuppression, which can make the vaccine ineffective, those awaiting transplants should, ideally, get a complete COVID-19 vaccination regimen before their transplant. However, the vaccine series should be completed two weeks before the transplant is scheduled. If a patient does not get vaccinated before the procedure, the vaccine should be delayed for one to six months after surgery or for as long as his or her doctor recommends.

  • People living with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can get the COVID-19 vaccine once you are eligible to do so, as long as you do not have a severe allergy to any of the ingredients in the vaccine. It is OK to receive the COVID-19 vaccine while you are taking immunosuppressant medications to treat IBD. Available data suggest that the timing of when you take your IBD medication does not affect when you can receive your COVID-19 vaccination.

    Further research is needed to determine the effectiveness of the vaccine in immunocompromised patients. Therefore, you should continue to keep yourself protected by following CDC COVID-19 prevention guidelines, such as mask-wearing, physical distancing and hand hygiene.

  • Those with autoimmune conditions can receive the COVID-19 vaccine once they are eligible to do so unless they have a severe allergy to any of the vaccine’s ingredients.

  • This depends on the type of surgery and the timing of the procedure. It is best to ask your surgeon and follow his or her advice. The surgeon might recommend that you wait a few days after your COVID-19 vaccination to have the surgery. Some people have side effects following vaccination, and the surgeon may want to be able to tell if a mild fever or other changes to your health that you experience are associated with your surgical procedure or are a normal response to getting the COVID-19 vaccination.

  • The vaccines currently available are effective in protecting you from getting sick, but not 100%. Some people who were vaccinated might have mild or moderate illness if they catch the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. In addition, depending on the timing of your vaccination, your body may not have had enough time to build up protection, which takes about two weeks from your final shot. People have caught the coronavirus between their two vaccinations. Ensuring you are not sick with COVID-19 is essential to providing you with proper care when you are undergoing surgery.

   
back to top button