What should I know about COVID-19 vaccines?

COVID-19 vaccines are the most effective way to prevent serious illness and death from COVID-19 infection. COVID-19 vaccines are free and available to everyone 5 years of age and older regardless of insurance or immigration status.

To schedule an appointment in New York State, visit these sites:

NYS: https://covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov/

NYC:  https://vaccinefinder.nyc.gov/

NYC Sinai: https://www.mountsinai.org/about/covid19/vaccine-information

Long Island: https://www.northwell.edu/coronavirus-covid-19/vaccine

There are currently three COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the United States.  All 3 greatly reduce your chances of getting very sick with COVID-19. It takes about 2 weeks following a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine or the second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine for you to be fully protected against COVID-19. 

Yes.  The COVID-19 vaccines are currently approved for children aged 5years and older. The vaccine is important for reducing COVID-19 risk in this age group because some children who get COVID may get very sick, be hospitalized, or experience symptoms that last for weeks or months.  Most children who have been hospitalized with COVID-19 were otherwise healthy and did not have any underlying conditions. Young children can transmit COVID to others, even when they do not have COVID symptoms. For these reasons, COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for children aged 5 years and older. 

Clinical trials are now investigating the use of the vaccine in children as young as 6 months. 

Stay up to date on COVID vaccinations for children with information from the FDA and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

As of November 2021, only the two-dose Pfizer mRNA vaccine is approved for use in children.  The two doses should be spaced 21 days apart. Children age 12 and up should receive the same dose as adults (30 micrograms). A lower dose (10 micrograms) is approved for use in children aged 5 to 11 years. This dose has been shown to be highly effective at preventing COVID-19 in this age group. Vaccine dosage is based on age, not body weight. Therefore children should receive the dose for their age regardless of body size. 

Find answers to more frequently asked questions about the COVID vaccine for children from the AAP and AAP President Lee Savio Beers.

It is safe to receive another vaccine, such as a flu shot, at the same time as a COVID vaccine. It is recommended that you receive them at different injection sites (e.g. different arms).

Yes. You can receive the COVID vaccine as soon as you are no longer experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and your isolation period has ended. If you become sick with COVID after receiving your first dose of an mRNA vaccine, you should wait until your symptoms resolve and your isolation period ends to receive your second dose. Natural immunity from COVID-19 infection decreases over time and many people have been reinfected. Getting vaccinated against COVID after having it has been shown to lead to very high levels of protection.

For the most up to date recommendations regarding booster doses, visit the CDC Booster Shots Page.

Studies have shown that immunity to COVID-19 begins to decrease within several months after vaccination, particularly in individuals over the age of 65 and those who are immune-compromised or have an underlying medical condition. A booster dose of the vaccine can provide further protection against severe disease. A booster is a full dose of either Johnson and Johnson or Pfizer or a half dose of the Moderna vaccine.  

The CDC recommends a booster for all individuals age 12 years or older who received their second dose of an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna) at least 5 months ago or the single dose of Johnson and Johnson at least 2 months ago. Individuals age 12-17 years old who received their second Pfizer mRNA vaccine at least 6 months ago are also eligible to receive to receive a Pfizer booster.

Which booster shot should I get?
If you are 18 years or old, it is recommended that you get either the Pfizer or Moderna booster, regardless of which vaccine you received originally. This is because of rare but serious clotting events that have been observed with the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. Only the Pfizer booster is approved for teens age 12-17.  “Mixing and matching” booster doses has been shown to be safe and effective. Only the Pfizer booster is approved for teens age 12-17 years old.

When can I receive the booster shot if I recently had COVID? 
You can receive a booster as soon as you are no longer experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and your isolation period has ended.

Yes. The CDC recommends a third primary dose of an mRNA vaccine for immunocompromised individuals age 5 years and older 28 days after receiving their second dose.

Some individuals experience side effects to the COVID-19 vaccine including mild to moderate headache, fever, and fatigue that resolves within a day or two. Side effects were more common after the second dose of the mRNA vaccines compared to the first. Side effects after the single Johnson & Johnson shot were similar to those seen after dose 2 of the mRNA vaccines. Side effects from the COVID booster shots are similar to those experienced following the initial vaccine series, and often milder. 

In clinical trials for children age 5-11, side effects were similar to those seen in adults and older children but less severe. The most common side effects reported included fatigue (38% of participants), headache (28% of participants), and muscle pain (12% of participants). No serious side effects including myocarditis (inflammation of the heart tissue) were seen in this age group in clinical trials. 

In large clinical trials, the COVID-19 vaccines were found to be safe with no serious health effects. Rare cases of myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle, were seen in a very small number of teens and young adults after receiving an mRNA vaccine (Moderna or Pfizer).  The vast majority of these cases were seen in males after the second dose and were mild.  Myocarditis can also result from COVID infection. After careful review, the FDA determined that the benefits of vaccination against COVID infection outweigh the extremely rare risk of myocarditis. 

Following approval of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, very rare but serious blood clots were observed, mostly in women under the age of 50. For this reason, the CDC recommends mRNA vaccines (Pfizer or Moderna) when available. Individuals who received Johnson and Johnson originally should receive an mRNA booster. No increased risk of blood clots have been observed for the mRNA vaccines.

After you are fully vaccinated there is still a low risk that you may become infected and spread COVID-19. For this reason, it is still important for you to take steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Get more information from the CDC  about what you can do safely after you are vaccinated.