COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is currently eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine?

The COVID-19 vaccine continues to be distributed in phases throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania according to prioritization guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health care workers (including Capital Health employees and members of our active and associate medical staff), residents of long-term care facilities and police and fire personnel are currently receiving the vaccine in New Jersey. Prioritization schedules are rapidly changing and we will keep this site updated.

As of January 14, 2021, the following groups are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in New Jersey:

  • Paid or unpaid persons working on volunteering in a healthcare setting.
  • Residents of long-term care facilities and other congregate settings.
  • Frontline first responders.
  • Persons aged 65 and old.
  • Persons aged 16-64 years old who have at least one chronic medical condition that poses high-risk for severe COVID-19.
    • Cancer
    • Chronic Kidney Disease
    • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
    • Down Syndrome
    • Heart conditions
    • Immunocompromised
    • Obesity
    • Pregnancy
    • Sickle cell disease
    • Smoking
    • Type 2 diabetes mellitus

These groups can start making vaccination appointments. More groups will be eligible in the coming weeks. To register for a COVID-19 vaccine, visit covidvaccine.nj.gov.

For a list of open vaccination sites nearest to you and to learn more, visit covid19.nj.gov/vaccine.

If you are a patient, information about the state distribution plans are available online at www.covid19.nj.gov for New Jersey and www.health.pa.gov for Pennsylvania.

When will I be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine?

As more vaccine supplies are available, more people can get vaccinated. Capital Health continues to follow local, state and federal guidelines for direction regarding our role in distributing the vaccine in the community.

How I do find out when the COVID-19 vaccine is available to me?

As the vaccine becomes available to more people, we will share the information on the website, our social media accounts and our patient portals.

I’m eligible to be vaccinated now, but others in my household are not. Should we wait until we’re all eligible?

You should get vaccinated as soon as it is available to you to protect yourself from the virus.

How does the COVID-19 vaccine work to protect me?

The COVID-19 vaccine gives your immune system a preview of the coronavirus, so it learns how to stop it if you are exposed. It triggers antibodies in your blood to attack the virus’ unique spike protein.

Your immune system learns from the vaccine how to quickly recognize the actual virus and stop it from multiplying. The idea is to stop SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, from getting into cells, replicating itself and making you sick.

I’ve heard about new strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus (such as the UK variant) in the news. Will the vaccine protect me against those too?

There is no evidence that the vaccine will be less effective against the new variants of the virus.

Are there any side effects of the vaccine?

The side effects can be like other vaccines immunizations. The most common issues are pain/redness at the injection site, headache, fatigue, muscle/joint aches and low-grade fever. If you have side effects, usually Tylenol or ibuprofen is helpful. Most often symptoms last less than 24 hours.

Is it safe to get the vaccine if I am not feeling well?

If you are not feeling well, it is recommended that you wait until you are feeling better to get the vaccine. Call your primary care physician with any questions.

Can I get the vaccine if I’m pregnant?

Those who are pregnant or breastfeeding should talk with their doctor about the vaccine.

Can my child get vaccinated?

The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for those ages 16 and older. The Moderna vaccine has been approved for those ages 18 and older. Additional studies are underway to determine safety and effectiveness for younger children.

I am concerned because have a specific medical condition. Is the vaccine safe for me?

Discuss your medical condition and the vaccine with your doctor for a personalized recommendation.

I’ve had allergic reactions to vaccines (like the flu vaccine) in the past. Should I receive the vaccine?

If you have a history of severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) to vaccines, talk with your doctor before receiving the vaccine.

How many doses of the vaccine will I need?

Two shots are needed to provide the complete protection. The first one primes the immune system, helping it to recognize the virus, and the second one strengthens the immune response.

After I get my second dose, how long will it take for me to develop immunity?

The vaccine requires two doses given three (Pfizer) or four (Moderna) weeks apart. Immunity takes some time to develop, at least two weeks after last the last injection. For example, someone vaccinated in late January won’t be fully protected until late February or early March.

Will the vaccine work if I skip the second dose?

You should receive both doses. The vaccine’s approximate 95 percent effectiveness is based on two doses taken by more than 78,000 clinical trial participants.

How long will the vaccine provide immunity?

We don’t yet know how long protection lasts for those who get infected or those who are vaccinated.

Can the COVID-19 vaccine give me the virus?

No. The COVID-19 vaccine is not made with a live virus and cannot give you COVID-19.

Is it possible for me to test positive on COVID-19 viral tests after I receive the vaccine?

Vaccines currently in clinical trials in the United States won’t cause you to test positive on viral tests, which are used to see if you have a current infection. Your body develops an immune response, which is the goal of vaccination, but you may test positive on some antibody tests. Antibody tests indicate you had a previous infection or that you have been vaccinated successfully and that you have some level of protection against the virus. Experts are currently looking at how COVID-19 vaccination may affect antibody testing results and how long immunity lasts after vaccination.

If I have previously been sick with COVID-19, do I still need to be vaccinated?

Yes. Due to the severe health risks associated with COVID-19 and the fact that re-infection with COVID-19 is possible, people may be advised to get a COVID-19 vaccine even if they have been sick with COVID-19 before. In general, you should wait at least several weeks after recovery from COVID-19 before being vaccinated. Consult with your physician.

At this time, experts do not know how long someone is protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19. The immunity that is gained from having an infection (called natural immunity) varies from person to person. Some early evidence suggests natural immunity may not last very long. Experts won’t know how long immunity produced by vaccination lasts until more data is available on how well it works.

Do I need to continue wearing a mask and practicing social distancing after I am vaccinated?

Yes. While experts learn more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide under real-life conditions, it will be important for everyone to continue using all the tools available to help stop this pandemic, like covering your mouth and nose with a mask, washing hands often, and staying at least 6 feet away from others.

Experts need to understand more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide before changing recommendations on steps everyone should take to slow the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.

Vaccine Safety

The COVID-19 vaccines are brand new. How do I know they are safe?

Like most new medicines and vaccines, the COVID-19 vaccines are tested for safety in large clinical trials.

The COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials follow these steps:

  • Volunteers receive the vaccine.
  • The volunteers regularly check in with scientists to report any side effects or illnesses.
  • The scientists apply for Emergency Use Authorization from the Food and Drug Administration if the vaccine has data to support its safety and effectiveness.
  • Scientists continue to follow the volunteers for at least two years to report any long-term or rare side effects and safety concerns.
How effective are the COVID-19 vaccines?

Both the Pfizer vaccine and the Moderna vaccine demonstrated an almost 95 percent rate of effectiveness during clinical trials.

Vaccine Development

What is a vaccine?

In the simplest terms, a vaccine is a way for your immune system to practice for an infection. Vaccines give the body a preview of a virus or bacteria before you get the real thing. The immune system then learns and remembers how to react. This helps the body stop a virus or bacteria from making you sick if you are exposed to it.

Who analyzes the data from clinical trials?

For each vaccine study, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the FDA, and a safety committee called the Data Safety and Monitoring Board each have an independent group of experts who review all safety data as it comes in and provide regular updates. If a safety issue is found, immediate steps are taken to determine if the COVID-19 vaccine caused the issue, followed by an appropriate course of action.

Doesn’t it usually take years to develop a vaccine?

That’s correct, the average vaccine takes roughly six years to go from development to distribution. Factors that can affect the timeline include:

  • Funding and resources
  • Establishing a protocol to show safety and effectiveness
  • Manufacturing
Why was the development of the COVID-19 vaccine different?

The vaccines developed for COVID-19 are funded by the federal government through Operation Warp Speed (OWS). Clinical protocols were set by the federal government, which allowed the vaccine trials to begin as soon as a promising vaccine was developed.

Manufacturing of the vaccine began at the same time as the trials. Usually, manufacturing starts once the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine is proven, but in the case of the COVID-19 vaccine, researchers had a head start. Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) are both caused by coronaviruses and are closely related to the virus that causes COVID-19. Vaccines were in development for both viruses, and research for them was applied to the development of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Where can I learn more about the COVID-19 Vaccine?

More information about the COVID-19 vaccine can be found on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s website at https://www.cdc.gov/. State and local information is available online at www.covid19.nj.gov for New Jersey and www.health.pa.gov for Pennsylvania.