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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 put an end to this deadly pandemic, enough of us need to get it. That’s why we strongly encourage you to get the vaccine.

When and Where Can I Expect to Get the Vaccine?

We are glad that so many of you are eager to get these safe and effective vaccines. We’re confident that everyone in our communities who wants to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and is eligible (no vaccines have yet been authorized for children under age 16) will be able to.

A Cleveland Clinic team, in collaboration with public health officials and area hospitals in Northeast Ohio and Florida, has been working to get more doses as soon as possible. We’re also making sure they’re stored and distributed according to guidance from the CDC and state authorities.

Until we have reached herd immunity, we must all continue taking important precautions to help slow the spread of the virus. This includes wearing a mask, washing and sanitizing your hands frequently, social distancing and limiting gatherings.


All Ohioans age 16 and over are now eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

The Pfizer vaccine is authorized for emergency use by the FDA in those 16 and older, while the vaccines from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are authorized for emergency use in those 18 and older. Cleveland Clinic anticipates receiving doses of the Pfizer vaccine over the next several weeks and will be able to offer vaccinations to those ages 16 and older at all of our locations.

Teenagers 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.

Getting everyone who wants to be vaccinated against COVID-19 will still take several more months. We know many of you are eagerly awaiting your turn. Thank you for your patience. We’re following state and federal guidelines to give vaccines as quickly and safely as possible as we get them.

If you’re 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.


Cleveland Clinic is working with the Florida Department of Health to provide vaccinations based on established criteria by executive order of Gov. DeSantis.

Due to limited supply and the overwhelming interest in the vaccine, we will be contacting our oldest and most vulnerable patients first. You 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.

If you're eligible, you'll be contacted via phone calls or MyChart, our free patient portal, to schedule vaccinations. For directions on how to schedule your appointment through MyChart, please visit our Florida vaccination page.

If you aren't contacted immediately even though you're eligible, we ask for patience. As we receive additional vaccine supply, we will be offering appointments to more patients.

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 & Jonson for emergency use in the United States.

Both 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 schedule 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 timeframe, 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 Johnson & Johnson vaccine is the third vaccine to get authorized for emergency use and requires only one dose.

The Pfizer vaccine is authorized for emergency use in those 16 and older. Moderna’s and Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is authorized for emergency use in those 18 and older. Researchers have not yet started clinical trials in children under 12. Trials in teens have just recently started. Since a child’s immune system is different from an adult’s, COVID-19 vaccines for younger children, especially, may require different dosage levels or formulations than the adult versions. At this time, we don’t have a clear answer as to when a vaccine will be available for children.

Cleveland Clinic nurse receiving the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine

Is the COVID-19 Vaccine Safe?

Yes. When the vaccine becomes available to you, 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.

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. There were no serious safety concerns.

How is the newest Johnson & Johnson vaccine different from the others already approved?

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.

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 means there’s up to a 95% chance that you’ll personally be protected from getting COVID-19.
  • 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 — 50% to 80% — 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 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.

two elderly woman socialize after being vaccinated

Once I Get the COVID-19 Vaccine, Can I Stop Wearing a Mask and Social Distancing?

Yes, but only in certain situations

The CDC has issued guidance for those who are fully vaccinated from COVID-19. You are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving your second dose in a two-dose series (such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines) or two weeks after a single-dose vaccine, like the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

If you’re fully vaccinated from COVID-19, you can have small, indoor visits with others who are fully vaccinated. You can also then have small gatherings with others from a single household who are not vaccinated and have a low-risk for developing severe COVID-19 disease. And you no longer need to quarantine or get tested if you have been in close contact with someone who is positive for COVID-19 but does not have any symptoms.

The CDC adds that you should still continue to wear masks and physically distance in public spaces even if you’re fully vaccinated. You should also avoid being in direct contact with unvaccinated people from multiple households, unvaccinated people at high-risk for severe COVID-19 disease, and those living with an unvaccinated person at high-risk for severe COVID-19 disease. Plus, after being fully vaccinated, you should still watch out for symptoms of COVID, especially if you’ve been around someone who is COVID-positive. If you develop symptoms, you should get tested and stay away from others.

There is still much to learn about how effective vaccines are against COVID-19 variants, as well as how well vaccines keep people from spreading the virus. We will continue to watch for updated guidance from the CDC as more data becomes available.

It’s important to note that this guidance does not apply to healthcare settings, and our current masking policies remain in place. All patients, visitors and caregivers at Cleveland Clinic will still be screened and required to wear a face mask in our facilities, even if they are fully vaccinated.

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

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

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