7 things to know about COVID-19 vaccines

April 2, 2021

Revised March 29, 2021 

1. Safety 

The safety of COVID-19 vaccines is a top priority. No steps have been skipped during the rigorous and highly regulated development process. All COVID-19 vaccines were thoroughly reviewed and approved for use by the U.S. FDA. 

2. How COVID-19 vaccines work 

All three vaccines –Johnson & Johnson (J&J), Pfizer, and Moderna –work by causing your own cells to produce the spike protein that the novel coronavirus uses to attack human cells. This ensures that your immune system learns to recognize and respond quickly to a real infection. COVID-19 vaccines do not use a live virus and cannot give someone COVID-19. 

3. Benefits 

The Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines have been proven to be safe and highly effective at preventing serious illness and hospitalization due to COVID-19 infection. New studies show the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines prevent COVID-19 infections, too.  

4. Number of doses needed 

The COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna each require two shots, and everyone needs to receive both shots to get the most benefits the vaccine can offer. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires just one shot. You’re fully vaccinated two weeks after your last injection. You will still need to wear a mask in public and around non-vaccinated people, practice social distancing and frequently wash your hands after you get the vaccine.  You don’t need to wear a mask around other fully vaccinated people (for example, at home). 

5. Availability and cost 

While supply continues to be limited, certain groups (such as health care workers, people living in nursing homes, essential workers and people living with HIV in some areas, such as Chicago) are prioritized to receive the vaccine first. The vaccine will be offered to all people age 16 and up who want it in Illinois after April 12 and is expected to be more widely available in Chicago in June. The vaccine is free for everyone, regardless of insurance status.  

6. People living with HIV 

COVID-19 vaccines have gone through the same safety tests and meet the same standards as other vaccines. People with HIV were included in clinical trials. Public health authorities recommend that people living with HIV get vaccinated. 

7. Medical mistrust 

Some people may decide not to take the COVID-19 vaccine at first because of historic and ongoing medical mistreatment of Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) communities in the U.S. Extensive, community-driven education is needed to address people’s concerns about COVID-19 vaccines thoughtfully and without judgement. Medical mistrust can also stem from lack of access to vaccines. Ensuring equitable access for all communities is critical.  

Categorized under Inside Story and National.

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