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Vaccine Frequently Asked Questions

About Authorized COVID-19 Vaccines

Which vaccine should I get?

The widely accepted medical recommendation is that the best vaccine to receive is the vaccine that is first available for you.

Each of three vaccines currently available offer outstanding protection against COVID-19. Each has been scientifically proven to be safe for diverse populations.

Is one vaccine more effective than the other?

It is impossible to compare efficacy rates of the vaccines, and it is important to remember that they all offer outstanding protection. Each has been scientifically proven to be safe and effective in preventing severe cases and hospitalization.

Some reports have noted the overall, worldwide efficacy of the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine was lower than the rate reported for clinical trials of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. However, this is misleading: It is important to remember that vaccines were tested in different times and places. The Johnson & Johnson clinical trials took place when cases and hospitalizations were rising worldwide, along with troubling new variants.

What is the difference between the three vaccines?

While each takes a slightly different approach, they all are safe and effective.

The first two vaccines to be authorized for use, by Pfizer and Moderna, use mRNA technology to teach the body’s immune system to build defenses against the coronavirus. These vaccines require a booster shot several weeks after the initial injection. The vaccines also have special ultra-cold storage requirements.

The vaccine by Janssen (a division of Johnson and Johnson) uses a harmless adenovirus (such as the virus we refer to as the “common cold”) to deliver genetic instructions to teach the body to protect against the coronavirus. This is a single-shot vaccine with conventional storage requirements, making it easier to distribute.

Will taking the vaccine give me COVID-19?

No. None of the vaccines authorized for use can give you COVID-19. They do not contain the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

How much will the vaccine cost?

The vaccine itself is funded with federal tax dollars. A small fee is charged to administer the shot, but this fee should be covered by public or private insurance, or by a government relief fund for the uninsured. Cost will not be a barrier to vaccination.

I heard that these vaccines use some new technology. Isn’t that dangerous?

The first two COVID-19 vaccines authorized for emergency use in the United States were developed using “messenger RNA,” or mRNA, to teach the body to fight off the coronavirus. Although this is a breakthrough for vaccine development, the technology has been around for decades and it has been clinically tested in the treatment of a wide range of infections. Doctors and researchers believe mRNA has the potential to fight other diseases, like cancer.

The third vaccine authorized, by Janssen (a division of Johnson & Johnson), uses a safe and proven approach that has been studied since the 1970s. It uses a harmless virus to deliver instructions to teach the body to protect against the coronavirus.

Won’t these mRNA vaccines change my DNA?

No, because, as the federal Centers for Disease Control notes, mRNA never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA is kept. And in the case of the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine, this type of “viral vector vaccine” does not interact with DNA in any way.

Find out more about how mRNA vaccines work.

Find out more about how viral vector vaccines work.


Vaccine Eligibility & Distribution

When can I get the vaccine?

You can view the current phase of distribution and scheduling details at Metro Health here. For a full list of the phases and who is included, visit Vaccinate West Michigan.

Who should get the vaccine?

The vaccines are recommended, with very few exceptions, for all adults. They have been found to be safe and effective regardless of age, race, gender or weight.

The Pfizer vaccine has been authorized for patients 16 and older. The vaccines by Moderna and Janssen (a division of Johnson & Johnson) were authorized for patients 18 and older. The difference in age ranges reflects only the different parameters set for the clinical trials of each vaccine. All vaccines are being reviewed in expanded clinical trials to include younger patients.

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should discuss their options with their healthcare provider before getting the vaccine, as these groups were not included in any of the early clinical trials. You should not get the vaccine if you had a severe allergic reaction after a previous dose, or if you are severely allergic to any ingredient of the vaccine.

See the ingredients for the Pfizer vaccine, the Moderna vaccine and the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine. General information about vaccines and allergies can be reviewed here.

Where will the vaccine be administered?

As new vaccines become available and production increases, Metro Health – University of Michigan Health is giving patients more options to get their vaccine. Current locations include:

Metro Health Hospital

Metro Health Jenison

Metro Health Community Clinic

More locations will be added as supplies allow. Location options are reviewed during the scheduling process.

How is it administered?

The COVID-19 vaccine is delivered with an injection in the arm. Similar to a flu shot, the process takes just a few minutes. Depending on which vaccine you receive, you may need a booster shot several weeks later. You will receive information about scheduling the second dose, if necessary, when you schedule your vaccination.Header text

Will I know which vaccine I am receiving?

Yes, every patient will be informed which vaccine they are receiving.

Are some doses ending up in the trash because of the short shelf life?

No. Metro Health – University of Michigan Health has taken steps to ensure no vaccine goes to waste, by maximizing the efficient use of every dose.

Because all vaccinations at Metro Health are by appointment, our team prepares only the appropriate number of doses to keep pace with the schedule. Until then, the vials stay in storage.

Do vaccine vials contain extra doses? What do you do with those?

We are following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration to maximize the doses from each vial. Although initial reports indicated the vials from Pfizer contained enough for five doses, updated guidance from the FDA notes that the vials will provide up to six doses.

Our pharmacists and vaccination experts are trained to provide the precise amount for every dose.


Safety, Side Effects & Other Concerns

What are the side effects?

The most commonly reported side effects, which typically lasted several days, are pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, and fever.  These symptoms, which may be more likely and noticeable after the second dose, are typically mild and temporary. They are indications that the vaccine is working.

The most serious side effect, an allergic reaction called anaphylaxis, is extremely rare.

What is the risk of an allergic reaction?

The CDC, which is closely tracking the rate of allergic reactions to vaccines, reports that they are extremely rare.

There were 21 cases of anaphylaxis after administration of a reported 1.9 million first doses of the Pfizer vaccine, equivalent to about 11.1 cases per million. Following more than 4 million first doses of the Moderna vaccine, 10 cases of anaphylaxis were reported (2.5 cases per million). The safety of the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be tracked in a similar way.

Although the vaccines do not contain eggs, latex or preservatives, those who have allergies to eggs or other substances should remain after vaccination for 30 minutes for observation.

You should not get the vaccine if you had a severe allergic reaction after a previous dose, or if you are severely allergic to any ingredient of the vaccine. See the ingredients for the Pfizer vaccine, the Moderna vaccine and the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

General information about vaccines and allergies can be reviewed here.

Can I get the vaccine if I’ve had COVID-19 or think I may have had COVID-19 in the past?

Yes, you can choose to receive the vaccine if you’ve had COVID-19 previously. There is not enough information currently available to say if or for how long after infection someone is protected from getting COVID-19 again; this is called natural immunity. Early evidence suggests natural immunity from COVID-19 may not last very long, but more studies are needed to better understand this.

The CDC advises that previously infected people should delay vaccination until they are fully recovered. Talk with your doctor if you have questions about receiving the vaccine.

Should I get the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as another vaccine?

The CDC recommends a gap of at least 14 days before or after getting any other vaccine, including for flu or shingles. CDC officials note they continue to review the safety of simultaneous vaccinations and may update this recommendation.

If a COVID-19 vaccine is inadvertently given within 14 days of another vaccine, you do not need to restart the COVID-19 vaccine series. Stay on schedule for your second dose.

Can the vaccines cause infertility or miscarriage?

No cases of infertility or miscarriage have been linked to the vaccines. A disinformation campaign has been circulating online, claiming that antibodies interfere with placental proteins and prevent pregnancy. This is not plausible, because no viral infections (which trigger antibody production) have been linked to infertility. The CDC has stated that pregnant or lactating patients can receive the vaccine if they are eligible, following a discussion about the relative risks.

Do the authorized vaccines contain fetal tissue?

The Janssen (a division of Johnson & Johnson) vaccine has drawn attention because the manufacturing process used cells derived from fetal tissue. These cloned cells were used to grow the harmless adenovirus that the vaccine uses to deliver genetic instructions to teach the body to protect against the coronavirus. The vaccine itself contains none of the cells.

The other two vaccines currently authorized, by Pfizer and Moderna, were tested on fetal cell lines. However, cells were not used in development or production of those vaccines.

In all cases, these cells are clones or “immortalized” copies of decades-old fetal cells. Immortalized cell lines are established by culturing fetal cells in such a way that they continue growing and multiplying indefinitely. While immortalized cell lines began with fetal cells, they no longer contain fetal body parts, and no fetal tissue remains. No cells remain from the original fetal tissue.


After Vaccination

Will masks still be required if you receive the vaccine?

If you get a vaccine, you should still protect yourself and others by wearing a mask and social distancing. Although the vaccines have been proven effective to prevent serious illness from COVID-19, scientists have not yet determined if the vaccine prevents the spread of the virus to other people. 

Until we have a better information and achieve widespread immunity, you should still practice social distancing, wear a face mask, and wash your hands often and well. 

Will I need to get a COVID-19 vaccine every year?

At this time, we do not know. Studies on the long-term effectiveness of the vaccine will continue and more information will be released as it becomes available.

Will scientists continue tracking the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine?

Federal oversight does not end once the vaccines are approved. Local healthcare workers, who were among the first to get the vaccine, are using an after-vaccine health checker to provide additional data to a national database. Anyone who gets the vaccine may also use the vaccine reporting system – VAERS – to report side effects.

The CDC also recently released its V-safe smartphone tool, which allows users to tell the CDC about any side effects after getting the COVID-19 vaccine.