Frequently Asked Questions

Find answers to frequently asked questions about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Safety and Effectiveness

Visit the CDC's webpage on COVID-19 Vaccine safety.

Is the vaccine safe and effective?

Yes. All COVID-19 vaccines in the United States are authorized for emergency use or approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and have been thoroughly tested and found to be safe and effective in preventing severe COVID-19. After a COVID-19 vaccine is authorized by the FDA, many vaccine safety monitoring systems watch for adverse events (possible side effects). This ongoing monitoring can pick up on adverse events that may not have been seen in clinical trials. If an unexpected adverse event is seen, experts quickly study it further to see if it is a true safety concern. Experts then decide whether changes are needed in US vaccine recommendations.

Millions of people in the United States have received COVID-19 vaccines under the most intense safety monitoring in U.S. history. 


Will the vaccine give me COVID?

No. None of the approved vaccines are made up of materials that can cause disease. For example, the first vaccines authorized for emergency use by the FDA use a small, harmless part of the virus’s genetic material called ‘mRNA’. This is not the virus. mRNA vaccines teach your body to create virus proteins. Your immune system develops antibodies against these proteins that will help you fight the virus that causes COVID-19 if you are exposed to it. That is called an immune response.


Are COVID vaccines safe for children?  

Yes. Currently, the FDA has determined that the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID vaccines meet the standards for effectiveness and safety needed for emergency use authorization for use by children ages 6 months and older. 


Are COVID-19 vaccines safe for pregnant people or people thinking of becoming pregnant?

Yes. COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective for people who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant. 

If you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, you should talk to your health care provider about your risk of getting COVID-19 and your risk of severe illness if you do get sick. A vaccine may protect you from severe illness, which could help both you and your unborn baby.

Both the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) strongly recommend that pregnant people receive the COVID-19 vaccine if they do not have a medical reason not to be vaccinated.

Pregnant people with COVID-19 have an increased risk of severe illness and of serious pregnancy complications.


If you get a vaccine do you need a negative COVID test beforehand? 

No. The CDC does not recommend COVID-19 screening tests before getting a COVID-19 vaccine.


Is it safe to get a 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. Please consult with your health care provider if you have specific questions about the COVID vaccine and your health.


If I already had COVID-19 and recovered, do I still need to get vaccinated? 

Yes. CDC recommends that you get vaccinated even if you have already had COVID-19, because you can catch it more than once. While you may have some short-term antibody protection after recovering from COVID-19, we don’t know how long this protection will last.


Will the vaccine make me sick or will I have side effects?

You may not notice any changes in how you feel after getting the shot. But it’s also possible to feel a little “under the weather.” This can happen after any vaccine. It is the body’s immune response to getting vaccinated and a sign that the vaccine is starting to work.

After the COVID-19 vaccine, you may have:

  • A sore arm where you got the shot
  • A headache
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Tiredness

Over the counter pain relievers and fever reducers may help.

You should feel better in a day or two. If you still don't feel well after two or three days, talk to your health care provider.

Do COVID-19 vaccines work against variants of the virus? 

All COVID-19 vaccines authorized or approved for emergency use in the United States have proven extremely effective at preventing serious illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19. The effectiveness of the FDA-approved and -authorized vaccines remains strong even against newer strains, including against variants.

Those who are unvaccinated have the greatest risk of becoming seriously ill, which is why the New York State Department of Health urges all eligible New Yorkers to get vaccinated as soon as they are able.


Can I get an allergic reaction from the COVID-19 vaccine?

People can have allergic reactions to any medication or biological product such as a vaccine. Most allergic reactions occur shortly after a vaccine is administered, which is why the CDC recommends that persons with a history of anaphylaxis (due to any cause) are observed for 30 minutes after vaccination, while all other persons are observed for 15 minutes after vaccination. All vaccination sites must be equipped to ensure appropriate medical treatment is available in the event of an unlikely allergic reaction. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends anyone with an allergy to "any component" of the vaccine not get the vaccine.


Is it better to get natural immunity to COVID-19 rather than immunity from a vaccine?

No. While you may have some short-term antibody protection after recovering from COVID-19, we don’t know how long this protection lasts. Vaccination is the best protection, and it is safe. People who get COVID-19 can have serious illnesses, and some have debilitating symptoms that persist for months.


How long will vaccine immunity last?

Researchers do not yet know how long immunity lasts after vaccination. That’s why continuing prevention practices like wearing a mask, washing your hands regularly and social distancing will still be important.


I tested positive for COVID antibodies. Do I still need the vaccine?

Yes. The CDC recommends that you get vaccinated even if you have already had COVID-19, because you can be infected more than once. While you may have some short-term antibody protection after recovering from COVID-19, we don’t know how long this protection will last. Vaccination is the best protection, and it is safe. People who get COVID-19 may have serious illnesses, and some have debilitating symptoms that persist for months. 


Should I get my antibodies checked after getting my COVID-19 vaccination?


On May 19, 2021, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a safety warning to the public stating that results from COVID-19 antibody tests should not be used to  measure the level of protection from COVID-19 at any time, especially after COVID-19 vaccination. Currently authorized SARS-CoV-2 antibody tests are not approved to measure immunity or protection from COVID-19 infection.

While some laboratories offer COVID-19 antibody tests, these tests are designed to measure immunity from infection but not from vaccination. Commercially-available COVID-19 antibody tests look for antibodies that are different from those made by current vaccines, so you won’t get a true picture of your protection. 

The CDC recommends that people who have had only 1 dose of a 2-dose COVID-19 vaccine series complete the series regardless of results of antibody testing. Likewise, people who are up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines do not need any additional doses of COVID-19 vaccine due to negative or low results of antibody tests. 


What is in the COVID-19 vaccines?

The ingredients in Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine are listed on page 2 here.

The ingredients in Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine are listed on page 2 here.

Did the clinical trials include people with comorbidities including diabetes or hypertension?

Yes. Clinical trials for both vaccines included participants identified as having at least one condition that put them at increased risk of severe complications of COVID-19 including:

  • Chronic lung disease (e.g., emphysema and chronic bronchitis, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, and cystic fibrosis) or moderate to severe asthma
  • Significant cardiac disease (e.g., heart failure, coronary artery disease, congenital heart disease, cardiomyopathies, and pulmonary hypertension)
  • Obesity (body mass index ≥ 30 kg/m2)
  • Diabetes (Type 1, Type 2 or gestational)
  • Liver disease
  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infection (not included in the efficacy evaluation)

Do COVID-19 vaccines contain animal-based ingredients? 

No. The Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen COVID-19 vaccines contain no human or animal products, preservatives or adjuvants and utilize no ingredients of human or animal origin.


When should I get the vaccine? 

COVID-19 vaccines are updated periodically to better protect against new strains of the virus. For more information on the most up- to- date vaccine formulation and vaccination schedule, visit the CDC website.

I'm homebound. How can I get the vaccine?

COVID vaccines are widely available at pharmacies, local health departments, clinics, Federally Qualified Health Centers and health care provider offices. You can find a vaccine appointment here. Your health care provider may be able to help if you are unable to get to any of these sites. 

What vaccines are available?

In the US there are three vaccines available, Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, and Novavax.

Children 6 months and older are eligible for the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. Those 12 years and older are also eligible for the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine 

The Janssen/Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine is no longer available in the U.S. All remaining U.S. government stock of Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine expired May 7, 2023. 

Is the vaccine free?

The COVID-19 vaccine is now available on the commercial market. Most people can get no-cost COVID-19 vaccines through their private health insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid plans. Adults without health insurance and whose insurance does not cover all vaccine costs can get no-cost COVID-19 vaccine at health care providers, federally supported health centers, and select pharmacies participating in CDC’s Bridge Access Program

CDC’s Vaccines for Children (VFC) Program provides vaccines at no cost to eligible children through health care providers enrolled in the program.



Eligibility and Scheduling

What age group is eligible to receive the vaccine?

All individuals 6 months of age and older that reside in the United States are eligible to receive the vaccine. For individuals under the age of 18, the consent of a parent or legal guardian is required.

Where do I find the COVID-19 Vaccine?

COVID-19 vaccines are widely available statewide through pediatricians, doctors, healthcare providers, pharmacies, local health departments, Federally Qualified Health Centers, rural health clinics and other locations across New York State. Visit or text your zip code to 438829 or call 1-800-232-0233 to find locations near you.

On the forms I fill out prior to receiving the vaccine, will there be a non-binary gender option?

Forms generated and maintained by New York State and used at local health department vaccine administration sites will include a non-binary gender option.​

If I am undocumented will my personal information be shared? 

New York will not transmit any data that could be used to identify the immigration status of any individual. This includes, but is not limited to, name and address. Any data shared will be done so in accordance with New York's robust laws protecting immigration status, and include only aggregated demographic data and dates of vaccine administration and doses. The CDC also agreed that use and access to any data shared from New York will not be shared with any other agency or entity for purposes not related to public health. 

Can I bring someone to join me on site during my vaccination appointment?

Yes. You can bring someone to accompany you if you need assistance or if you need someone for the purpose of vaccine consent, for example for a minor under the age of 18.

Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine on the same day I get a flu shot?

Yes. The CDC recommends that COVID-19 vaccines may be given on the same day as, or at any time before or after, other vaccines.
Ask your local vaccine clinic or pharmacy which vaccines they have in stock.