Frequently Asked Questions

For those who may still be considering whether to get the vaccine (especially long term care staff and residents), we asked medical professionals to answer some common questions.

Have another question that’s not included below? Contact us.

WHY

Why should I get a COVID-19 vaccine?

Getting vaccinated will help protect you, your family members, friends, coworkers, and our most vulnerable—like long term care residents—from COVID-19. The vaccines are highly effective in preventing individuals from getting sick or seriously ill from COVID-19 as well as slowing the spread.

Ultimately, when we all get vaccinated, we can help end the pandemic. This will allow us to enjoy the things we love to do again, kids to return to school, and families to reunite.

Are the vaccines safe?

Extremely. All COVID-19 vaccines have been proven to be highly effective at reducing the risk of contracting COVID-19.

Since long term care residents and staff were among the first to get the vaccines, we have already seen their positive impact in this population. Cases and deaths are at record lows in nursing homes.

Recent studies also show that the vaccines were 94% effective in preventing COVID-19 with symptoms among health care workers. Even in the face of an outbreak, residents and staff were 87% less likely to experience symptoms compared to those who are not vaccinated.

What are the benefits of getting a COVID-19 vaccine?

If you are fully vaccinated, you can resume activities you did prior to the pandemic. You can resume these activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by certain governments, businesses, and workplaces. Learn more about what you can start do.

In nursing homes, the federal government allows fully vaccinated residents and family members to visit without distancing or masks. Fully vaccinated residents can engage in activities and dining without masks or social distancing with other vaccinated residents.

In addition, if all long term care staff are vaccinated, they can congregate in break rooms or hold meetings without distancing and masks. Finally, vaccinated staff do not have to undergo routine testing in the facility.

Is catching COVID-19 really that bad?

COVID-19 is a serious threat, more so than the seasonal flu. Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been 33 million reported cases in the U.S. and nearly 600,000 deaths due to the virus.

Seniors and those with underlying conditions, especially long term care residents, are particularly at risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19. But even younger individuals can have severe reactions. While most people recover from the virus, many also experience long-term effects.

Additionally, if you contract COVID-19, you may spread it to others, including those who are especially vulnerable. So, getting vaccinated not only protects you, but also protects others.

Should I get the vaccine if I’ve already had COVID?

Yes. Public health experts recommend receiving the COVID-19 vaccine even if you have previously had the virus. While your body produces antibodies when you have the virus, we cannot know for certain how protective they are against reinfection.

Also, the risk of a second infection is possible due to the rise of new variants of the virus. Getting vaccinated ensures you have the greatest level of protection.

There is also emerging evidence that getting vaccinated helps reduce long-term effects from previous infections against COVID-19. As many as 30-40% of individuals who get the vaccine have reported improvements to their long-term symptoms from COVID-19.

SAFETY

Are the vaccines safe?

Yes. The vaccines have been subject to the most extensive safety monitoring effort in U.S. history. They were thoroughly tested in hundreds of thousands of individuals and the data from those clinical trials was rigorously examined.

Even now, the vaccines continue to be monitored closely to ensure their safety. As of mid-May, more than 125 million people are fully vaccinated in the U.S., and severe reactions to the vaccine have been extremely rare.

Which vaccine should I get/which one is the best?

Medical experts strongly recommend that you take the first vaccine that is offered to you, to ensure rapid protection against COVID-19.

All three vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson) have been approved for use by the FDA. All of them have been shown to be safe and highly effective at preventing serious illness from COVID-19. All three vaccines have similar side effects, such as fever, headache, chills, and aches lasting 1-2 days after getting the shot.

Are there side effects?

You may have some side effects, which are normal signs that your body is building protection. These side effects may affect your ability to do daily activities, but they should go away in a few days. Some people have no side effects.
You may experience:

  • Pain, swelling or redness at the injection site.
  • General symptoms up to two days after injection such as fever, chills, fatigue, muscle or joint pain, or headache

Most symptoms can be managed with acetaminophen or ibuprofen (Tylenol or Advil). If you experience more severe side effects, please contact your doctor. Learn more.

Should I get my second dose if I had side effects from the first?

Receiving the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines will ensure you have the most protection against developing serious illness from COVID. Side effects are a sign that the vaccine is working.

Some people tend to have more of these symptoms after the second shot and sometimes they are a bit stronger, but they usually last less than 24 hours. You may be able to manage those minor side effects with acetaminophen or ibuprofen (Tylenol or Advil).

You also need to balance these short-term side effects against the risk of getting COVID-19. The vaccines are the best chance we have to protecting everyone from this deadly virus and bringing an end to the pandemic.

You should talk to your doctor about any specific concerns.

Do these vaccines cause allergic reactions?

Serious allergic reactions have been documented but are extremely rare and generally occur in people who have a history of severe allergic reactions.

Individuals are monitored for 15-30 minutes after vaccination to ensure they do not experience this reaction. If you have a history of anaphylactic allergic reactions, talk to your doctor or pharmacist before receiving the vaccine. Seasonal allergies, pet allergies and other common allergies that do not cause anaphylaxis are not associated with allergies to this vaccine.

Do these vaccines affect fertility?

No. This is a rumor that started on social media. There is no known link between the vaccines and infertility. In fact, there is growing evidence about the safety of vaccinations during pregnancy.

Also keep in mind that pregnant people are more likely to get severely ill with COVID-19 compared to non-pregnant people. Learn more about the CDC’s recommendations.

Is the vaccine safe for people who have cancer and/or are taking chemo treatments?

According to the American Cancer Society, many expert medical groups now recommend that most people with cancer or a history of cancer get the COVID-19 vaccine once it’s available to them.

The main concern about getting the vaccine is not whether it is safe for people with cancer, but about how effective it will be, especially in people with weakened immune systems. Some cancer treatments like chemotherapy (chemo), radiation, stem cell or bone marrow transplant, or immunotherapy can affect the immune system, which might make the vaccine less effective.

Since the situation for every person is different, it is best to discuss the risks and benefits of getting one of the COVID-19 vaccines with your oncologist or primary care physician. They can advise you and tell you when you should receive it.

NEXT STEPS

Where can I get the vaccine?

The vaccine is available to all Americans free of charge. Please contact your state or county health department for the latest information on vaccine clinics.

You can also search vaccines.gov, text your ZIP code to 438829, or call 1-800-232-0233 to find locations near you.

Vaccine Spotter also scans local pharmacies to help individuals find vaccine appointments.

If you’re a long term care resident or staff member, talk your facility’s administrator about getting a vaccine. They may be able to help facilitate your shot on-site.

Do I still have to wear masks and other PPE after getting vaccinated?

Members of the public can resume activities without wearing a mask, except where required by various levels of government, local business, and workplaces.

Health care settings must still follow specific guidance by federal, state, and local governments. This currently includes wearing personal protective equipment in certain situations. For example, staff should still wear source control masks throughout the facility and might be asked to wear full PPE in the event of an outbreak or if the surrounding community has a high level of COVID-19. This is to help keep vulnerable residents and staff safe.

Fully vaccinated staff at long term care facilities can meet, socialize, and dine without masks or physical distancing in break rooms and meeting rooms unless unvaccinated staff are present.

Dr. David Gifford, Chief Medical Officer for the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living, answered some of these questions. Hear why he thinks long term care staff should #GetVaccinated.

Why should I get the COVID-19 vaccine?
What are the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine?
Will the COVID-19 vaccine cause infertility?
Does the COVID-19 vaccine cause allergic reactions?
How was the COVID-19 vaccine developed so quickly?
Why should I get the COVID-19 vaccine now when I can wait to see what happens?
Why should I get the COVID-19 vaccine?
What are the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine?
Will the COVID-19 vaccine cause infertility?
Does the COVID-19 vaccine cause allergic reactions?
How was the COVID-19 vaccine developed so quickly?
Why should I get the COVID-19 vaccine now when I can wait to see what happens?

Still have questions? Fill out this form and a medical expert from AHCA/NCAL will answer them!