A provider vaccinates a patient in their arm.
A provider vaccinates a patient in their arm.
A provider vaccinates a patient in their arm.

COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy: 12 Things You Need to Know

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Updated on November 10, 2021

Since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the first COVID-19 vaccines, more than one hundred million people in the U.S. have been vaccinated. You may be considering what the COVID-19 vaccines mean for you and your family.

Johns Hopkins Medicine views all authorized COVID-19 vaccines as highly effective at preventing serious disease, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19. To support you as you make your decision, here are 12 facts and insights, shared by Sherita Golden, M.D., M.H.S., chief diversity officer at Johns Hopkins Medicine, who specializes in diabetes, heart conditions and patterns of disease in diverse communities.

  1. The COVID-19 vaccine was created quickly, but was carefully tested for safety.

    The development of the COVID-19 vaccines did not cut corners on testing for safety and efficacy. The vaccines were made using processes that have been developed and tested over many years, and which are designed to make — and thoroughly test — vaccines quickly in case of an infectious disease pandemic such as COVID-19. The vaccines themselves were extensively tested by independent scientists, and more than 100 million people in the U.S. have been safely vaccinated.

    An illustration of scientists and researchers with oversized symbols of vaccine research, such as microscopes, vials and syringes.

  2. COVID vaccine side effects are temporary and do not mean you’re sick.

    The vaccines do not contain live coronavirus, and you cannot and will not get COVID-19 from getting vaccinated. After the shots, you might experience a sore arm, a mild fever or body aches, but this doesn’t mean you have COVID-19. These symptoms, if they happen at all, are temporary, usually lasting only a day or two. They signal a natural response as your body’s immune system learns to recognize and fight the coronavirus. On the other hand, getting COVID-19 can make you seriously ill, with symptoms that linger for months or even longer. Learn more about COVID-19 vaccine safety.

    An illustration of a woman holding her arm in mild discomfort.

  3. Getting the COVID-19 vaccine can protect you from getting sick.

    The COVID-19 vaccines work with your immune system so your body will be ready to fight the coronavirus if you are exposed to it — including coronavirus variants such as delta. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, getting the vaccine is a powerful step in taking charge of your health. When given as directed, the FDA-authorized vaccines can prevent severe COVID-19 illness and death.

    An illustration of a young man wearing a mask, giving a thumbs-up after having received his vaccination.

  4. Diversity in COVID-19 vaccine testing helped assess safety and effectiveness.

    COVID-19 affects everyone, so scientists made sure clinical trial participants for the vaccines were diverse. The clinical trials for the first two COVID-19 vaccines included Black (about 10% of participants) and Hispanic (about 20% of participants) people, older age groups (about 25%), and people with conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and heart and respiratory conditions. The U.S. study participants for the one-shot COVID-19 vaccine were 15% Hispanic/Latinx; 13% Black/African American; 6% Asian and 1% Native American.

    An illustration of two researchers wearing masks, examining data.

  5. Do you have allergies? You can probably still get the COVID-19 vaccine.

    The CDC says people with allergies to certain foods, insects, latex and other common allergens can get a COVID-19 vaccine. If you have ever had a severe allergic reaction to a vaccine, be sure to discuss that with your doctor, who can evaluate you and assess your risk. However, if you are severely allergic to any of the coronavirus vaccines’ ingredients, you should not be vaccinated.

    An illustration of a provider vaccinating a young man.

  6. People of color are especially vulnerable to severe COVID-19.

    Generations of health inequities have caused Black and Hispanic/Latin Americans and other communities of color to be overrepresented in severe COVID-19 cases and deaths. People of color are vulnerable to COVID-19 risk factors, and are more likely to be working front-line, essential jobs that cannot be performed from home, increasing their chances of being infected. Getting vaccinated can provide protection for you and those you love.

    An illustration of an African American woman adjusting her son's face mask.

  7. If you’ve already had COVID-19, getting the vaccine will add extra protection.

    A study published in August 2021 indicates that if you had COVID-19 before and are not vaccinated, your risk of getting reinfected is more than two times higher than for those who were infected and got vaccinated.

    While evidence suggests there is some level of immunity for those who previously had COVID, it is not known how long you are protected from getting COVID-19 again. Plus, the level of immunity provided by the vaccines after having COVID-19 is higher than the level of immunity for those who had COVID but were not subsequently vaccinated.

    Getting vaccinated provides greater protection to others since the vaccine helps reduce the spread of COVID-19.

    An illustration of two young men wearing masks, greeting one another by bumping elbows.

  8. Getting vaccinated for COVID-19 helps others in your community.

    Older people and those living with chronic medical conditions such as heart disease and diabetes are more likely to experience severe — even fatal — cases of COVID-19 if they catch it. The more people who receive the coronavirus vaccines, the sooner vulnerable people can feel safe among others. Also, since every COVID-19 infection gives the coronavirus a chance to mutate, being vaccinated helps prevent variants.

    An illustration of a family wearing masks within a glass dome, protected by virus cells outside.

  9. More vaccinations for COVID-19 mean a chance to get back to normal.

    After over a year of coronavirus pandemic closures, cancellations and postponements, everyone is eager to think about returning to work, school, sports, family celebrations and social activities. Though no one is sure when the pandemic will be over, every person who gets protection from the coronavirus by getting a vaccination helps us move closer to normal life.

    An illustration of masked people waiting in line to get vaccinated.

  10. Here’s what we know about pregnancy, breastfeeding and fertility concerns with the COVID-19 vaccines.

    Johns Hopkins Medicine agrees with and strongly supports the recommendations of the CDC and other organizations who recommend that all pregnant or lactating individuals, along with those trying to get pregnant, be vaccinated against COVID-19. Find out more about the vaccine and pregnancy.

    An illustration of a pregnant woman wearing a mask talking with her doctor.

  11. COVID-19 Vaccines: Time is of the essence.

    People hesitate to get vaccinated for COVID-19 for many reasons, from personal views and fears to logistical problems getting to vaccine sites. But waiting too long to be vaccinated allows the coronavirus to continue spreading in the community, with new variants emerging. Severe COVID-19 can be very dangerous: The sooner you get vaccinated, the sooner you are protected.

    An illustration of two doctors next to an oversized calendar; one of them is holding an oversized syringe, and there are vials and bandages sitting nearby.

  12. How can you decide if you should get the COVID-19 vaccine?

    Do your research: Your questions are important, and getting the right answers from reliable sources can add to your peace of mind. Talk to your family doctor and people you know who have been vaccinated and learn all you can about the COVID-19 vaccine so you can make the most informed decision about getting vaccinated.

    An illustration of a masked man holding an umbrella, protecting himself from virus cells floating above him.

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