Updated Nov. 30, 2022
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 and Moderna vaccines, now marketed as Comirnaty and Spikevax, have received full FDA approval for certain age groups. 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.
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.
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) and the Novavax (a protein subunit vaccine).
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. Due to concerns about TTS, CDC recommends that people who are starting their vaccine series get either Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna (mRNA COVID-19 vaccines) or the Novavax vaccine. These vaccines are preferred over Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 vaccine in most circumstances, but there are situations in which the Johnson & Johnson vaccine may be considered. Learn more *
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.
These reactions are known, very rare and typically treatable, and the FDA and CDC continue to emphasize that getting vaccinated is a much safer option than the unknown outcomes of a COVID-19 infection.
*See also: FDA Statement Limiting Authorized use of Johnson & Johnson vaccine to certain individuals
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. Watch this video to learn more about VAERS.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is still authorized for use in some individuals.
On May 5, 2022, the FDA announced a change in the Emergency Use Authorization of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after determining that the risk of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) warranted limiting use of the vaccine. Although the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is generally safe and effective, the CDC recommends that people who are starting their vaccine series or getting a booster dose get either Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna (mRNA COVID-19 vaccines) or Novavax. These vaccines are preferred over Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 vaccine in most circumstances, but there are still situations in which the Johnson & Johnson vaccine may be considered. Learn more
The FDA, has determined that:
- The reporting rate of TTS is 3.23 per million doses of vaccine administered
- And the reporting rate of TTS deaths is 0.48 per million doses of vaccine administered
The FDA and CDC continue to monitor for safety concerns. The change in the vaccine’s Emergency Use Authorization shows us that vaccine safety measures work.
- FDA Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine
- CDC Statement on Johnson & Johnson Janssen Vaccine
- DOH Johnson & Johnson Update
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.
The Novavax vaccine relies on older, more familiar vaccine technology.
The Novavax vaccine is a protein subunit vaccine—a type of vaccine that has been used and studied for decades. This type of vaccine contains pieces (proteins) of the virus that causes COVID-19. These are pieces of what is known as the “spike protein,” which is harmless and cannot do anything on its own. Along with the proteins, the vaccine also contains fats and sugars and an adjuvant, which is an ingredient that helps the immune system respond to the spike protein in the future. Once the body learns how to recognize these proteins, it can respond to any actual virus proteins in the future and protect you from COVID-19. This vaccine does not contain mRNA.
Washington State Department of Health What You Should Know About the Novavax Vaccine
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.
- Safety of COVID-19 Vaccines
- Feature Article: Long-term Side Effects of COVID-19 Vaccine? What We Know
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, harmless pieces of protein, or an adenovirus that cannot replicate. The 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.
- Understanding mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines
- Video: Addressing COVID-19 vaccine misinformation and disinformation (ASL)
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.
- Information About COVID-19 Vaccines for People Who Are Pregnant or Breastfeeding
- Myths and Facts About COVID-19 Vaccines
- Video: Addressing COVID-19 vaccine misinformation and disinformation (ASL)
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.
- COVID-19 Vaccine Frequently Asked Questions
- Questions and Answers about COVID-19 Vaccines
- Video: Addressing COVID-19 vaccine misinformation and disinformation (ASL)
Getting vaccinated only takes about 30 minutes.
Your vaccination appointment should take about 30 minutes, including 15 minutes for observation for potential allergic reactions.
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 but not the administration fee. 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.
If you have insurance: check with your primary care provider to see what they charge to administer the vaccine and if your insurance covers the fee. If you do not have insurance, you will potentially be charged for the administration of the vaccine or the vaccine itself.
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 COVID-19 variants. Additionally, bivalent vaccines are now available for use as booster doses, and they provide greater protection from infection with the Omicron variant. For that reason, the CDC continues to recommend that you get all doses, including boosters, recommended for you.
Please see “How Many Doses Do I Need?” to learn more about booster doses and when to receive them.
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.
“Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: FDA Limits Use of Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine to Certain Individuals,” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, May 5, 2022, https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/coronavirus-covid-19-update-fda-limits-use-janssen-covid-19-vaccine-certain-individuals.
“COVID-19 Vaccines for People who are Moderately or Severely Immunocompromised” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last modified June 30, 2022, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/recommendations/immuno.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.
"Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine: Overview and Safety” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last modified May 25, 2022, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/different-vaccines/janssen.html.
“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.
“Novavax COVID-19, Adjuvanted Vaccine: Overview and Safety,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last
modified July 20, 2022, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/novavax.html.
“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.
“Stay Up to Date with COVID-19 Vaccines Including Boosters,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last modified Oct. 24, 2022, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/stay-up-to-date.html.
“Understanding mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last modified March 4, 2021, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/different-vaccines/mRNA.html?s_cid=10506:how%20mrna%20vaccines%20work:sem.ga:p:RG:GM:gen:PTN:FY21.
"Understanding Protein Subunit COVID-19 Vaccines,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last modified July 20, 2022, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/different-vaccines/proteinsubunit.html.