Updated Nov. 23, 2021

Conversations About COVID-19 Vaccines

Like a lot of people, you may be weighing the pros and cons of getting vaccinated for COVID-19 or you’re talking with friends and family about getting their vaccines. Either way, you probably have a lot of questions about the vaccines.

The following information helps answer some of the questions and concerns we hear most often. For general vaccine information, click the Vaccine Basics tab above.

It isn’t always easy to talk about vaccination with family, but there are ways to have respectful, open conversations.

Talking about COVID-19 vaccination can be a touchy subject. Watch this video with public health nurse Kira Lewis, from Spokane Regional Health District, for pointers.


COVID-19 vaccines have been shown to be safe and effective.

Rigorous testing has demonstrated the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continue to monitor for safety concerns. All available vaccines are effective at preventing severe disease, hospitalization and death caused by COVID-19. If you have questions about the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, see the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) FAQ.


COVID-19 vaccines have been thoroughly tested—just like all other vaccines.

COVID-19 vaccines in use today have been issued emergency use authorizations by the FDA and the Pfizer vaccine, now marketed as Comirnaty, recently received full FDA approval. Just like all other vaccines, they have gone through Phase 1, 2 and 3 clinical trials after being developed and tested for safety with the same rigorous process used for other vaccines. Phase 1 and 2 trials cannot begin until the vaccines are thoroughly tested in the lab. After testing with smaller groups of people during Phases 1 and 2, Phase 3 trials begin with a larger group of people. Before the manufacturer can request an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), all data collected must be reviewed by an independent data safety monitoring board to ensure the vaccine meets FDA criteria. This is followed by additional reviews by the FDA, CDC and other groups.

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No corners were cut when developing COVID-19 vaccines, only red tape.

It was possible to produce COVID-19 vaccines more quickly than usual—without skipping steps in research or safety—for a few reasons.

  • The time in between Phase 1, 2 and 3 trials was shortened. Usually, there is more time between Phase 2 and 3 to allow time for planning and to raise money for production. In this case, everyone involved, including the FDA, worked seven days a week to review data as soon as it was ready and kept planning processes moving.
  • The government paid for manufacturing so that companies would not have to raise money to ramp up vaccine production.

In this way, it was possible to overlap some steps, without skipping any of the normal safety procedures.

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How Can Vaccine and Antibody Studies Move So Quickly and Still Be Safe? | Español

Systems are in place to continue monitoring the vaccines’ safety.

Hundreds of millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been given in the United States, and according to the CDC, serious safety problems have been rare. Safety monitoring systems have found three, very rare types of health problems after vaccination. These are thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS), which is linked to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, severe allergic reactions, which have occurred on very rare occasions with all COVID-19 vaccines, and myocarditis and pericarditis (inflammation of the heart and lining of the heart), which has been associated with the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna).

After your vaccination, you will be asked to wait 15 minutes for monitoring in case you have an allergic reaction so that you can be treated effectively and immediately.

TTS is rare and occurs at a rate of less than two per 1 million vaccinated people, and so far, only in women between 18 and 49 years old. According to the CDC, for women 50 years and older and men at any age, this adverse event is even more rare.

Cases of myocarditis are also extremely rare and have been reported primarily in adolescents and young adults. The CDC and its partners are monitoring these reports and also reviewing data and medical records to learn about what caused the illnesses and to determine if there is a link to vaccination. View the latest information. Most patients who received care responded well to treatment and rest and quickly felt better.

Due to the fact that these reactions are known, treatable and very rare, the CDC and FDA are confident that all three vaccines are safe for the general public to use. Getting vaccinated is a much safer option than the unknown outcomes of COVID-19 infection.

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Safety monitoring—how you can help

  • You can share how you feel after getting vaccinated using v-safe, the CDC’s after-vaccination health checker.
  • Side effects can also be reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System at vaers.hhs.gov.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is safe to use.

Use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was paused due to reports of some people developing a very rare type of blood clot, called TTS, after receiving the vaccine. After a thorough review, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), the CDC and the FDA decided that the vaccine’s use should resume. The CDC and FDA are confident that the vaccine is safe and effective in preventing COVID-19. According to the FDA, the data:

  • Suggest that risk for TTS is very low, with only 15 cases out of about 8 million vaccines given
  • Show that the vaccine’s known and potential benefits outweigh the risks of developing TTS

The FDA and CDC continue to monitor for safety concerns. The pause in the vaccine’s use shows us that vaccine safety measures work. The Western States Scientific Safety Working Group, an independent group of medical researchers and scientists, also reviewed the data and came to the same conclusion before Washington state resumed use of the vaccine.

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mRNA vaccines have been studied for more than 20 years.

mRNA vaccines have been in development and studied since the early 1990s for diseases including flu, Zika virus and rabies. Cancer research has also used mRNA to teach the immune system to target cancer cells. See the COVID-19 Vaccine Timeline to learn more.

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Long-term health problems are extremely unlikely following any vaccination.

Many people have questions about the long-term effects of the COVID-19 vaccines, simply because they’re so new. But there are a couple of things to keep in mind. First, the technology used to develop the vaccines is not new. Both mRNA and viral vector vaccines have been around—and studied—for decades.

Second, long-term health problems following any vaccination are extremely unlikely. According to the CDC, vaccine monitoring has shown us that in the rare event that side effects do occur, they typically show up within six weeks of vaccination. The FDA required that all COVID-19 vaccines be studied for at least eight weeks after the final dose.

Since those periods of observation, several months have elapsed and millions of people have received the vaccines and long-term side effects remain unlikely. As was observed with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the CDC and FDA are continuing to monitor for safety issues so that swift action can be taken if any concerns arise.

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The vaccines will not cause you to become infected with COVID-19 nor can they affect your DNA.

None of the vaccines can cause you to become infected with COVID-19. They can only prevent infection. None of the vaccines contain live SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. None of the vaccines can change your DNA. The vaccines either contain mRNA or an adenovirus that cannot replicate. Both vaccines use these tools to teach your body’s natural protection, your immune system, to defend itself from SARS-CoV-2. See the vaccination FAQ for more information about how groundbreaking research has delivered safe, effective COVID-19 vaccines.

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There is no evidence to suggest that any of the vaccines cause infertility or interfere with pregnancy.

At this time, there is no evidence to suggest that the COVID-19 vaccines, or any vaccines, cause fertility problems or other reproductive issues.

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The Johnson & Johnson vaccine does not contain fetal tissue.

Vector vaccines, including the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, use copies of cells that came from an original source cell to grow the modified adenovirus included in the vaccine. These copied cells are called a cell line. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses cell lines copied from cells that originally came from elective abortions that happened over 35 years ago. The cell line is grown and maintained in a lab and no further sources of fetal cells are used. Once the cells have been used to grow the virus, they die and their debris are removed. No copied cells or fetal cells are included in the vaccine.

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Getting vaccinated only takes about 30 minutes, and you may be covered for time off to get it done.

Your vaccination appointment should take about 30 minutes, including 15 minutes for observation for potential allergic reactions.

If you are concerned about taking time off from work, talk with your employer. Due to tax credits provided by the American Rescue Plan, they may be able to give you time off to get your vaccine and to recover. If your employer is interested in hosting a vaccination event to reduce time off, they can contact Spokane Regional Health District at COVIDVaccine@srhd.org

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The vaccines may cause side effects for about 24-48 hours.

Not everyone experiences symptoms after vaccination, but those who do may experience pain, redness or swelling at the injection site and tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever and/or nausea. Talk with your employer about planning for this and scheduling time off if you need to or consider scheduling your vaccination before a day off. Plenty of appointments are available in Spokane County at clinics and pharmacies.


COVID-19 vaccines are free.

The federal government covers the cost of the vaccine and the administration fee for first, second and third doses as well as booster doses. An administration fee is the fee healthcare providers charge to give the vaccine. They are not allowed to charge a patient for the vaccine itself. You should also not be charged for an office visit if you receive the vaccine only. For more information about what to do if you get a bill for a COVID-19 vaccine, visit the Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner’s website.

In addition, if you do not have insurance, you will not be charged for the administration of the vaccine or the vaccine itself. The federal government can reimburse providers and pharmacies.


We are still learning how long immunity to COVID-19 lasts after getting the vaccine.

While we’re still learning about how long protection from COVID-19 lasts, we do know that the vaccines are working very well to prevent severe illness, hospitalization and death. We also know that the vaccines are still effective against the highly contagious Delta variant although evidence suggests there may be reduced protection against mild and moderate disease. For that reason, the CDC and its independent advisory committee, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) are now recommending booster doses. All individuals who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should receive a booster shot two or more months after their first vaccination. Individuals who received an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna) at least six months ago should get a booster if they are age 50 and older or are 18 or older and living in a long-term care facility. Individuals ages 18-49 may receive a booster dose if they choose to. Getting vaccinated now is still the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Learn more about booster doses


Even though breakthrough cases can and do occur, this does not mean the vaccines do not work.

COVID-19 vaccines have been shown to be effective. Just like with other vaccines, a percentage of fully vaccinated people will get COVID-19 if they are exposed to the virus that causes it. These are vaccine breakthrough cases. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, no vaccine prevents illness 100% of the time. Second, there may also be cases where a person was infected just before or after they were fully vaccinated. In the case of the COVID-19 vaccines, research has begun to show that protection provided by the vaccines lessens over time. The increased infectiousness of the Delta variant is also believed to be a contributing factor. It can take two weeks for the body to build protection. Generally, those who contract COVID-19 after being fully vaccinated experience minimal to moderate symptoms and do not require hospitalization.

Available evidence demonstrates that the COVID-19 vaccines continue to be effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19.


Content adapted from materials produced by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Washington State Department of Health.


Sources

“COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Shots?” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last modified Nov. 19, 2021, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/booster-shot.html.

“Emergency Use Authorization for Vaccines Explained,” U.S. Food & Drug Administration, last modified November 20, 2020, https://www.fda.gov/vaccines-blood-biologics/vaccines/emergency-use-authorization-vaccines-explained.

“How Can Vaccine and Antibody Studies Move So Quickly and Still Be Safe?” Washington State Department of Health, January 15, 2021, video, 3:49, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UXaJmIr1l8k.

“Long-term Side Effects of COVID-19 Vaccine? What We Know,” Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, last modified February 4, 2021, https://www.chop.edu/news/long-term-side-effects-covid-19-vaccine.

Boyle, Patrick. “mRNA Technology Promises to Revolutionize Future Vaccines and Treatments for Cancer, Infectious Diseases,” Association of American Medical Colleges, last modified March 29, 2021, https://www.aamc.org/news-insights/mrna-technology-promises-revolutionize-future-vaccines-and-treatments-cancer-infectious-diseases.

“Questions and Answers About COVID-19 Vaccines,” Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, last modified May 3, 2021. https://www.chop.edu/centers-programs/vaccine-education-center/making-vaccines/prevent-covid.