COVID-19 Vaccine Frequently Asked Questions
Updated Sept. 29, 2021
How does the COVID-19 vaccine work?
Vaccines allow the body to produce an immune response (e.g., antibodies), which help you to fight the virus should you come into contact with it. After getting vaccinated, you develop some level of immunity to that disease.
Why is the COVID-19 vaccine important?
Vaccines are one of the best, most effective ways to prevent disease. Thanks to vaccines and their scientific advancements, some diseases have been eliminated across all or most of the globe. For example, smallpox sickened and killed millions of people before a vaccine was created. Because the disease was eliminated following the creation of a vaccine, we no longer need to get immunized for it. The COVID-19 vaccine will help us to protect the health of our communities, whether the disease is eradicated or remains a public health challenge in the future.
What are the benefits of getting the COVID-19 vaccines?
Like all vaccines, the COVID-19 vaccines were designed to protect you and those around you from contracting the virus or to limit the severity of the disease should you contract it. We know from other diseases and their vaccines that we can slow or stop the spread of disease when a large majority of the population gets vaccinated. A vaccine can get us back to doing the things we love like seeing friends and family, traveling and attending events, safely.
Will I contract COVID-19 if I get a vaccine?
No, you will not contract the COVID-19 virus by receiving the vaccines available today. None of the vaccines give you COVID-19. According to the CDC, the vaccination process may cause some symptoms, such as a pain at the injection site, fatigue or a fever. These symptoms are generally mild and temporary, and an indication that the immune system is doing its job.
Do the COVID-19 vaccine affect my DNA?
No, there is no possible way for the vaccines to interfere with your DNA in any way. The mRNA technology, used in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, provides instructions to our cells to develop a response to the virus. The materials from the vaccine do not enter the nucleus of your cell, which is where your DNA is stored.
When I get a vaccine, can I still spread the virus to others?
We know that vaccines are effective and can reduce the risk of people spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. For this reason, we’re encouraging everyone 12 and older to get vaccinated. We’re getting closer to ending this pandemic every day and with each person who gets vaccinated.
Can I still contract COVID-19 after getting the vaccine?
While the COVID-19 vaccines available today are highly effective at preventing infection, hospitalization and death due to COVID, no vaccine is 100% effective. While rare, infections in vaccinated people, called breakthrough infections, can happen. However, we are seeing that those who experience a breakthrough infection do not get as sick and have a much lower rate of hospitalization or death from the virus than those who are unvaccinated.
Should I get a vaccine even if I have already had COVID-19 and recovered?
Yes, you should still get the vaccine even if you have already had COVID-19. It is possible, although rare, to contract the virus again and become reinfected with COVID-19. The immunity someone gains from having an infection varies from person to person, and experts are still learning how long someone is protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19. Studies also show that the vaccine can give a strong boost in immunity to someone who has already recovered from COVID-19. Plus, getting vaccinated is a much safer way to build immunity than getting the virus itself.
Should I consult with my doctor before receiving the first dose of the vaccine?
Consult with your provider prior to receiving the vaccine, if you answer “yes” to any of the questions below:
- Have you tested positive for COVID-19 in the past two weeks?
- Have you had a new onset of fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, difficulty breathing, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea?
- In the past 90 days have you received passive antibody therapy as part of COVID-19 treatment?
- Do you have a weakened immune system due to diseases such as HIV or cancer, or do you take immunosuppressive drugs or therapies?
- Do you have a bleeding disorder or are you on a blood thinner?
- Do you have a history of severe allergic reaction (e.g. anaphylaxis) to another vaccine, injectable medication, food, pets, things in the environment or oral medications?
- Have you ever had an allergic reaction to a component of the COVID-19 vaccine including polyethylene glycol (PEG) or polysorbate?
- Have you received any vaccine in the last 14 days?
If you answer “no” to all the questions above, it is not necessary to call your doctor prior to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
What is an mRNA vaccine?
Messenger RNA or mRNA vaccines – found in two COVID-19 vaccines – help to protect against infectious diseases. mRNA teaches our cells how to trigger an immune response. This immune response produces antibodies that help protect us from getting infected if we come into contact with the COVID-19 virus. mRNA vaccines are held to the same rigorous safety and effectiveness standards as other types of vaccines in the U.S. Understanding mRNA COVID-19 vaccines (CDC).
How is the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine different from the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines?
The COVID-19 vaccines available today in the U.S. vary in technology, efficacy, dosing and storage requirements. However, all are proven safe and effective by the FDA and health and science experts, and each offers substantial protection against COVID-19. Having more vaccines available in the U.S. is a good thing because it means more people can get vaccinated and we can start to slow the spread of COVID-19 and eventually put an end to this pandemic.
Technology: The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines use mRNA technology to teach our body how to protect us from getting infected with COVID-19. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses a weakened common virus to teach the body how to react to COVID-19, if we come into contact with it.
Dosing: Both Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require two doses, separated by three to four weeks. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is only one dose, making it more convenient and accessible.
Safety and Efficacy: The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are safe and about 95% effective in preventing COVID-19. According to the data, the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is safe and 66-72% effective in preventing moderate to severe COVID-19, and 85% effective in preventing severe disease. This level of protection is considered very good. For comparison sake, the flu vaccine is only about 50% effective and is widely used for the prevention of flu transmission and severe illness.
Storage: The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines need ultra-cold storage and special freezers, whereas the Johnson & Johnson vaccine only needs to be stored at -20º C (about the temperature of your freezer at home) for extended stability. This can make it easier for more facilities and providers to store and administer the vaccine.
Can I choose which vaccine I get?
You may be able to choose which COVID-19 vaccine you get, depending on where you decide to get vaccinated. Supply can vary place to place. All the vaccines available today in the U.S. are safe and effective and can help protect you and those around you. We encourage you to learn more about which vaccines are available to you and to talk with your health care provider, who can help you to decide what is right for you and your loved ones.
Can I be seen by a COVID-19 vaccinated caregiver?
We do not assign caregivers or providers to patients unrelated to their professional role, service or area of expertise. However, in cases involving immunocompromised patients who are particularly vulnerable to infection, caregivers and providers may be reassigned based on their vaccination status. This is a common practice in health care and not unique to COVID-19. All caregivers and providers are expertly trained for the care they provide and have proven protocols in place to safeguard patient safety.
Are the COVID-19 vaccines morally permissible?
Yes, ethicists and Catholic leaders determined it’s morally acceptable to receive any of the COVID-19 vaccines available today in the U.S. Safe and effective vaccination contributes to the common good by reducing infections, hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19, and preserves the health of our communities. More on this determination and additional guidance can be found here and here.
Vaccine eligibility, populations
Am I eligible to receive an additional dose or booster of the vaccine?
Information about COVID-19 and the vaccines is changing rapidly. The following information is current as of Sept. 29, 2021. Check the CDC website for the latest guidance.
An additional dose or booster of the COVID-19 Pfizer and Moderna vaccines is recommended and authorized for select patient populations.
- Moderately to severely immunocompromised patients can receive an additional dose of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. Learn more here. Recommendations for those who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are still being evaluated.
- People ages 65 and older, residents in long-term care settings and people ages 50-64 with underlying medical conditions should receive a booster shot of the COVID-19 vaccine. Other groups may receive a booster shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine based on their risk, including occupation. Learn more here. Recommendations for those who received the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine are still being evaluated.
If you are eligible to receive an additional dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or a booster of the Pfizer vaccine and have questions, please contact your health care provider to determine what's right for you and your health.
COVID-19 vaccines are easy to get and are available at a variety of settings, including most pharmacies. Please note that many care sites do not accept walk-ins for vaccines. Please call ahead to confirm availability and to schedule an appointment, if needed.
Was the vaccine tested on people of color?
Yes. Clinical trials for the COVID-19 vaccines available today included Asian, Black, Hispanic, Indigenous and white participants. The goal of any vaccine trial is to ensure that as much of the general population as possible is represented. Vaccine manufacturers published their participant breakdown (here, here and here).
I am pregnant. Should I get the COVID-19 vaccine?
Because of increased risk of severe illness and pregnancy complications due to COVID-19, the CDC encourages all pregnant people, people who are thinking about becoming pregnant and those breastfeeding to get vaccinated to protect themselves from COVID-19. More than 350 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been given in the U.S. to date, and the data tells us that the benefits of receiving the vaccine outweigh any known or potential risks. You provider can answer your COVID-19 questions and help you make a vaccine decision that's right for you and your family.
Is it safe to get COVID-19 vaccine if I have an underlying medical condition?
Yes. COVID-19 vaccination is especially important for people with underlying health problems like heart disease, lung disease, diabetes and obesity. People with these conditions are more likely to get very sick from COVID-19. For more information, see our FAQ titled, “Should I consult with my doctor before receiving the first dose of the vaccine?”
Will I be asked my immigration status if I come to Providence to get the vaccine?
No. Our patients are never asked about their citizenship or legal status to receive medically necessary care. Providence sees health care as a fundamental human right, not a privilege. We serve members of our communities without regard to legal or socioeconomic status and believe that everyone deserves quality health care. As a Mission-driven organization, we have a special focus on those who are most vulnerable and know immigrants, undocumented or not, face unique challenges. Our medical facilities are a sanctuary for all in need of healing, and a safe place where everyone can expect to be treated with compassion and respect.
Vaccine safety, efficacy
The COVID-19 vaccines were made available so quickly. How can I have confidence that the vaccine is safe?
Vaccines are tightly regulated in the U.S. and go through a rigorous evaluation process to ensure safety and efficacy. The FDA has a strict protocol that outlines very specific safety, effectiveness and study requirements for drug and vaccine manufacturers to follow. These requirements must be met to pursue approval, even on a limited, emergency use basis. The FDA determined that the COVID-19 vaccines available in the U.S. today are safe and highly effective in preventing COVID-19, severe illness and hospitalizations caused by COVID-19. U.S. health authorities will continue to monitor safety. And, we carefully reviewed the vaccines and their data prior to providing them to patients and caregivers. We always put safety first.
Why are vaccinated people getting infected with COVID-19?
While the COVID-19 vaccines available today in the U.S. are highly effective, no vaccine is 100% successful at preventing illness. Cases of COVID-19 in fully vaccinated people, called breakthrough cases, can happen but are very rare. Less than 1% of vaccinated individuals have been infected. We know that vaccinated individuals who experience a breakthrough infection become less ill and are at a lower risk of hospitalization and death than those who are not vaccinated. In fact, the vast majority of those hospitalized due to COVID-19 in the U.S. right now are unvaccinated, reaffirming that the COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective in protecting against severe cases of the disease, hospitalization and death.
Should I get the COVID-19 vaccine if there's a chance I can get infected even after vaccination?
Yes, everyone who can get the COVID-19 vaccine should get vaccinated. We know that the COVID-19 vaccines available in the U.S. today are safe and highly effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and severe illness, hospitalization and death due to COVID-19. No vaccine, COVID-19 or otherwise, is 100% effective, but it's close and it's our best shot at stopping this pandemic. Talk to your doctor about the COVID-19 vaccine and what's right for you.
How does a vaccine receive Emergency Use Authorization?
Vaccines are tightly regulated in the U.S. and go through a rigorous evaluation process to ensure safety and effectiveness. The Food and Drug Administration has a strict protocol that outlines very specific safety, effectiveness and study requirements for drug and vaccine manufacturers to follow. These requirements must be met for a drug or vaccine to pursue approval, even on a limited, emergency use basis. Boards of leading academic experts review the drug or vaccine data at various check points throughout the process and have the authority to stop the study or require additional studies of the drug or vaccine to further evaluate its safety or effectiveness. These monitoring boards and the FDA look for evidence that a drug or vaccine meet safety and efficacy benchmarks and can grant drug or vaccine candidates EUAs. EUAs allow us to provide timely access to critically needed medical interventions. The FDA can’t grant an EUA without at least half of all vaccine study participants having been tracked for at least two months. under EUA, the vaccines continue to be studies, and over time and as safety and efficacy continues to be demonstrated, the FDA may grant full approval to the vaccines, as we have seen happen with the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine.
What is an EUA and how is it different from FDA approval?
When there is an emergency, such as a global pandemic, the FDA can issue an EUA to provide more timely access to critical medical interventions, when there are no other available alternatives. An EUA allows the FDA to authorize the emergency use of COVID-19 vaccines that meet safety and effectiveness criteria within weeks, rather than months to years. The EUA process is different from FDA approval, clearance or licensing because the EUA standard may permit authorization based on less data and in less time. EUAs are in effect until an emergency declaration ends but can be revised or revoked as more data becomes available or as products become approved, cleared or licensed by the FDA. Remdesivir is an example of a drug to treat COVID-19 that recently went through this process, and now has FDA approval.
Vaccine side effects
What side effects are people experiencing from the vaccines?
We know there is a small risk of side effects associated with all vaccines, but the majority of the time side effects are less serious than the diseases themselves. The COVID-19 vaccine is no different. It may cause mild to moderate symptoms for some people. These symptoms can include pain at the injection site, fatigue, headache and fever. In very rare instances, a more serious reaction may occur. If you have questions about the COVID-19 vaccines, please visit the CDC’s website, or Providence’s coronavirus website.
Will the vaccines affect my fertility or cause sterility?
There is no scientific evidence to suggest that the COVID-19 vaccines affect or harm fertility in women or cause sterility in men. Because of the increased risk of severe illness and pregnancy complications, the CDC encourages all pregnant people, people who are thinking about becoming pregnant and those who are breastfeeding to get vaccinated to protect themselves from COVID-19.
What happens if I experience an allergic reaction to the vaccine?
In the rare event a person experiences anaphylactic symptoms after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, that person will be advised not to receive another dose and will be referred to an allergist-immunologist for follow-up. The CDC recommends that caregivers who have unusual side effects report them in the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). The CDC has also developed a smartphone-based tool called vSafe to provide vaccine recipients with near real-time health check-ins after they receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
Does the vaccine cause heart inflammation in adolescents?
The CDC has received reports of a type of heart inflammation called myocarditis or pericarditis in adolescents and young adults after COVID-19 vaccination. These reports are rare, given the hundreds of millions of vaccine doses administered to date. Leading doctors, nurses and public health leaders, including the CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics, continue to recommend COVID-19 vaccination for anyone 12 years of age and older, as the known and potential benefits of COVID-19 vaccination outweigh the known and potential risks, including the possible risk of these types of heart inflammation. While Providence recommends everyone who can get the vaccine do, including those 12-17 years of age, we know it might not be right for all. Talk with your child’s health care provider to discuss what options are available and right for your family, and the benefits and potential risks of the vaccine. More information about these reports and what to know can be found here.
What is V-safe?
V-safe is a smart-phone-based tool developed by the CDC where vaccine recipients can voluntarily report side effects to the COVID-19 vaccine. The tool also provides participants a reminder to receive their second dose of the vaccine. Signing up for V-safe is completely voluntary, and the information in the tool is only used by the CDC to track adverse side effects.
For internal audiences: Please see Caregiver COVID-19 Vaccine Policy Frequently Asked Questions for information on the vaccine policy.
Are caregivers required to get the COVID-19 vaccine?
All caregivers are required, where permitted by state law, to get vaccinated and show proof of vaccination. Those who do not get vaccinated will be required to sign a declination and follow additional protocols, such as enhanced COVID testing, mandatory vaccine-related education/discussions, and/or other infection prevention requirements in accordance with ministry policy, CDC or state and local public health government mandates. All caregivers must comply by Sept. 30. Please note Providence's California facilities have an earlier deadline due to state law.
Is Providence requiring caregivers to receive an additional dose or booster of the COVID-19 vaccine?
At this time, Providence is not requiring caregivers to receive an additional dose or booster of the COVID-19 vaccine. Additionally, and in order to conserve resources and support caregiver workload, enterprise-wide additional doses or boosters of the COVID-19 vaccine will not be provided at this time. Ministries who are able to secure vaccines, supplies and required human resources without interrupting all other mission-critical services may offer COVID-19 additional doses or boosters as they see fit. All eligible caregivers can seek an additional dose or booster at their local pharmacy. We encourage Providence caregivers who receive an additional dose or booster to provide a copy of your vaccination documentation to your local Caregiver Health Services department to keep your health record as current as possible.
Why do I need to get vaccinated if I wear PPE as part of my job?
Regardless of whether you wear PPE as part of your job, all caregivers are required, where permitted by state law, to get vaccinated and show proof of vaccination, unless you qualify for a medical or religious exemption. Like PPE, vaccines are an important line of defense against this highly contagious virus. A COVID-19 vaccine, in combination with other measures such as wearing appropriate PPE, frequent hand washing and social distancing, is the best way to protect yourself and those around you.
Is my ministry offering incentive pay during this COVID-19 surge?
Incentive pay is determined at the local ministry. Contact your core leader and/or your HR business partner for more information.
Where can I learn more about the COVID-related benefits and programs available to me?
Visit www.providence.org/easeyourway for more information.
Is Providence extending the COVID-19 health care benefits for myself and my dependents?
Our family of organizations is extending 100% coverage of in-network medical claims for COVID-19 treatment for caregivers and their dependents enrolled in our medical plans through Dec. 31, 2021 in all regions except Southern California.
For caregivers in Southern California, if you are enrolled in a:
- Providence Health Plan-administered plan, 100% coverage for in-network medical claims for COVID-19 treatment has been extended through Dec. 31, 2021.
- Blue Shield plan, Blue Shield ended 100% coverage for COVID treatment effective Feb. 28, 2021. To get updates visit Blue Shield's COVID site.
Will there be any compensation if I experience side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine that keep me from coming to work?
Data suggests that a relatively small number of caregivers will experience side effects, which may be more common after the second vaccination dose. If an employed caregiver experiences significant side effects (e.g., fever, chills, extreme malaise, etc.) which prevents them from working within 48 hours of receiving either dose of the vaccine, they are eligible for up to two days total of paid pandemic administrative leave for missed scheduled shifts during those 48 hours due to side effects from the vaccine. Caregivers must notify their core leader within those 48 hours to be eligible for this leave. Caregivers experiencing COVID-like side effects must also notify Caregiver Health Services to report their symptoms per federal and state requirements since most of the vaccines available today are still authorized for emergency use.
If symptoms exceed 48 hours in duration and prevent a caregiver from returning to scheduled work, it is recommended that they file a Worker's Compensation incident with Sedgwick to determine further benefit eligibility beyond paid pandemic administrative leave.
What’s the protocol for calling in with COVID-19 related symptoms when not scheduled for work?
- Caregivers who are not scheduled to work are not required to call in if they are having the typical side effects from the COVID-19 vaccination. The common side effects from the vaccine are: swelling, redness or pain around injection site, fatigue, fever, headache, and achy arms and legs. These are common side effects that occur within the first three days after the vaccine.
- Caregivers who are scheduled to work and have a fever of greater than 100 or have symptoms of COVID-19 or other illness (as defined in this graphic) should notify their core leader and the Caregiver Health Services Call Center.
What is the latest guidance on travel?
Our caregivers are advised to travel safely and review safety measures carefully before traveling to other states or countries. Avoiding travel can reduce the risk of virus transmission and bringing the virus back home.
Although many state guidelines have been lifted, it is still important for caregivers to avoid non-essential travel, including travel that is considered tourism or recreational in nature. Providence recommends caregivers use discretion if they need to travel, regardless of their vaccination status.
For more information, see the CDC’s travel recommendations.
What do federal and state regulations say about an employer asking for vaccine verification? Isn't this protected health information?
HIPAA does not prohibit employers from requiring proof of vaccination status. Several states, including Washington, Oregon and California, require employers to know their employees' vaccination status in order to follow appropriate infection prevention and exposure protocols. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) also requires employers to provide a safe workplace for employees, and to fulfill that duty, they are able to ask for proof of vaccination status. Caregiver Health Services maintains vaccination information separate from caregivers' personnel files.
How can I stay informed on COVID-19 updates?
We will continue to provide updates in a number of ways.
- Our newsletters: subscribe to and follow your local, regional and line of business newsletters.
- Our Sharepoint site: follow along for regularly updated information and access helpful resources.
- InOurCircle: Download the InOurCircle app and subscribe to the COVID-19 channel.
- Visit coronavirus.providence.org and coronavirus.providence.org/covid-vaccine for the latest updates.