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COVID-19: What You Need to Know About the Vaccine

The arrival of the first COVID-19 vaccines sparked excitement, hope and anticipation for better days ahead. But for the COVID-19 vaccine to slow this deadly pandemic, enough of us need to get it to reach herd immunity. That’s why we strongly encourage you to get the vaccine if you haven’t already.

How Can I Get My COVID-19 Vaccine?

With the Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, widespread vaccination is available. Everyone ages 12+ can now get their vaccine. The Pfizer vaccine is authorized for emergency use by the FDA in those 12 and older, while Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are authorized for those 18 and older.

With the recent rise in cases of the delta variant, we must all continue taking important precautions to help slow the spread of the virus. This may include wearing a mask, washing and sanitizing your hands frequently, social distancing and limiting gatherings.


All Ohioans age 12 and over are now eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

Cleveland Clinic continues to receive doses of the Pfizer vaccine and offers vaccinations to those ages 12 and older at all of our locations. Those under the age of 18 who are coming to a Cleveland Clinic vaccination site must be accompanied by a parent or guardian or provide written consent from their parent or guardian in order to receive the vaccine.

At certain locations, if you’re scheduled for a primary care visit, you may be offered a COVID-19 vaccine during your appointment.

If you or your child are a Cleveland Clinic patient or Ohio resident who is interested in getting the COVID-19 vaccine at one of our vaccination sites, please visit our Ohio vaccination page.


All Floridians age 12 and over are now eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

You or your child must be a Florida resident and an established patient who has seen a Cleveland Clinic Florida provider in the last two years for outpatient or inpatient care. Those under the age of 18 who are coming to a Cleveland Clinic vaccination site must be accompanied by a parent or guardian or provide written consent from their parent or guardian in order to receive the vaccine.

If you or your child are a Cleveland Clinic patient who is interested in getting the COVID-19 vaccine at one of our vaccination sites, please visit our Florida vaccination page.

Cleveland Clinic caregiver with Pfizer COVID-19 vacine

What Should I Know About the COVID-19 Vaccine?

The FDA has authorized COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson for emergency use in the United States.

While the Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires only one dose, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are given in two doses. It’s important for you to get both doses of these vaccines to get the maximum benefit. For Cleveland Clinic patients, when you complete your first vaccination appointment, your second dose appointment will be automatically scheduled for you.

Pfizer’s vaccine doses are given 21 days apart. Moderna’s vaccine doses are 28 days apart. But if you can’t schedule your second dose during this time frame, you do not need to get the first dose again if the second dose is given later. This is because the CDC says there is no maximum time between doses.

The Pfizer vaccine is authorized for emergency use in those 12 and older. Moderna's and Johnson & Johnson's vaccines are authorized for emergency use in those 18 and older. Pfizer and Moderna started trials in March to evaluate the safety, tolerability and effectiveness of their COVID-19 vaccine in younger children and the results are expected this fall.

Cleveland Clinic nurse receiving the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine

Is the COVID-19 Vaccine Safe?

Yes, we strongly encourage you to get it.

Given the speed of development of these vaccines, it’s understandable that there have been questions about whether or not there’s been enough research and testing to ensure the vaccines are safe. But all vaccines must go through rigorous clinical trials to determine safety and efficacy, with at least two months of patient follow-up, and report their findings to the FDA.

As with many vaccines, you may be sore where it’s injected. You may also develop fatigue, fever and muscle aches afterward. This seems to be more common with the second dose of vaccine. If this happens, it means your immune system is taking notice of the vaccine and reacting.

Can vaccinated people still get COVID-19?

No vaccines are 100% effective. In fact, breakthrough cases (when someone tests positive for COVID-19 more than two weeks after they're fully vaccinated) are expected. Breakthrough infections are more common in indoor settings with large groups of people, the elderly and in individuals with compromised immune systems. However, the vaccines greatly reduce the risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19. For more information on the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines, visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.

Should I be concerned about a severe allergic reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine?

No. Allergic reactions, including shortness of breath and hives, were uncommon during COVID-19 vaccine trials. All recipients receiving the vaccine will be monitored for at least 15 minutes after vaccination for possible immediate hypersensitive reactions. If you have a history of allergic reactions to vaccines, talk to your healthcare provider before receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.

What side effects can I expect from the vaccines?

In the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson clinical trials, the vaccines were very effective with only mild side effects that are common in all vaccines. These include fever, fatigue, muscle aches and headache.

How does the Johnson & Johnson vaccine differ from mRNA vaccines?

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses DNA from the COVID-19 spike protein into a virus called an adenovirus (the type of virus that typically causes colds) instead of mRNA. You only need to get one dose instead of two. In the phase 3 clinical trial, the vaccine was shown to be 66% effective in preventing moderate and severe COVID-19 disease 28 days after vaccination. Overall, the vaccine was also 85% effective in preventing hospitalization and 100% effective in preventing death, 28 days after vaccination.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe for children?

Similar to the first authorized COVID-19 vaccines for adults, the Pfizer vaccine went through rigorous testing and analysis to determine its safety and effectiveness in children 12+ before it was made available to them. Because children’s immune systems are different than adults and change as they age, vaccines are tested and approved for different age groups. Medical trials involving children involve strict protocols to ensure their safety and trials are still underway for children 6 months to 11 years old. Find answers from our pediatricians to your pressing questions about vaccinating your children.

If I’m pregnant, breastfeeding or trying to conceive, can I get immunized?

While pregnant and breastfeeding women weren’t included in the first COVID-19 vaccine trials, safety data is reassuring. Since the vaccines don’t contain the live virus, they aren’t thought to increase the risk of infertility, miscarriage during the first or second trimester, stillbirth or birth defects. There’s also no evidence to suggest the vaccine is a risk to a breastfeeding baby. That said, getting the vaccine while trying to conceive, during pregnancy or when you are breastfeeding is a personal choice. We encourage you to talk to your Ob/Gyn to help you make a decision together.

If I've had COVID-19 should I get vaccinated anyway?

We still recommend that you get the vaccine even if you’ve had COVID-19. However, you may consider waiting 90 days after getting infected as it’s not common to get COVID-19 again within three months of first being infected.

Young black man standing in hallway with mask

Why Should I Get the COVID-19 Vaccine (If I'm Still on the Fence)?

It's the best way to slow this deadly pandemic

We understand that you might be uneasy about getting your COVID-19 vaccine. Maybe you’re not sure what to expect. Or you aren’t sure if it’s right for you.

Here’s why you should consider getting your vaccine:

  • To protect yourself: Getting the vaccine is the best way to protect yourself from severe illness or death from COVID-19. While some breakthrough cases are being reported, those who have been vaccinated generally have milder cases or don’t have any symptoms.
  • To protect those around you: If you get sick, you could spread the virus to others. Getting the vaccine, while continuing to wear a mask and practice social distancing, will help keep your friends and family safe, especially those who may be at risk for a severe case of COVID-19.
  • To protect your community: For the vaccine to be effective against COVID-19, we need enough people to get vaccinated. So, even though you may have to wear a mask for a little longer until more people have received it, we know that every person that gets vaccinated is a small step in the right direction.

At the end of the day, we’re confident that this vaccine is the most important public health strategy for slowing the spread of COVID-19, and we strongly encourage you to consider getting it.

How Was the COVID-19 Vaccine Developed and How Does It Work?

How Was the COVID-19 Vaccine Developed and How Does It Work?

illustration of Coronavirus vaccine

Vaccines save millions of lives each year from deadly diseases caused by viruses or bacteria. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, work on a vaccine to protect against the virus is happening at lightning speed. That doesn’t mean they’re skipping important steps along the way, though.

illustration of microscope and vials in lab

Similar to other vaccines, pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson had to go through a long process of research, development and approval before their COVID-19 vaccines can be authorized for emergency use.

illustration of coronavirus

Normally, a vaccine works to train your body to recognize and respond to proteins that are produced by a bacteria or virus. Both Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines are first-of-their-kind mRNA vaccines that trick your body into producing the protein (instead of waiting to respond to it). This causes your immune system to start defending itself. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine injects a piece of DNA from the COVID-19 spike protein into an adenovirus (the kind of virus that typically causes colds). This modified adenovirus can carry the DNA segment but can’t replicate inside the body and cause illness. The DNA causes cells to make harmless versions of the spike protein, and the body creates an immune response to it.

illustration of herd immunity

We know how quickly COVID-19 — and especially the delta variant — can spread from person to person. When a large number of people in a community are vaccinated, the virus can’t spread as easily. While it's not an automatic “off” switch, encouraging as many people as possible to receive a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine is the best way we can begin to slow the spread of the virus.

Stay Healthy — Stay Safe and Help Us Fight COVID-19

Stay Healthy — Stay Safe and Help Us Fight COVID-19

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