Staying up to date on your vaccines is the best way to protect yourself and others. It sharply reduces your risk of going to the hospital or dying due to COVID, and it helps you avoid getting infected. There is no cure for COVID that works for everyone, every time.
This national website can help you find a place in your zipcode where you can get a vaccine for COVID-19 or for flu. You can also call 1-800-232-0233 (TTY 1-888-720-7489).
Yes. The vaccines’ main job is to keep people from going to the hospital or dying from COVID. They do that amazingly well, even against the Omicron variant. Vaccines also make you less likely to get long COVID, even without a booster. If you're boosted, your odds are even better.
Compared to other variants, Omicron is better at infecting people who have been vaccinated, especially if they aren't up to date on their vaccines. More recent sub-variants of Omicron are even better at it.
The more vaccinated people there are, the more likely it is that vaccinated people will get infected. This has nothing to do with how the vaccines work — it's just math. (Learn more in this thread by Dr. Jason Salemi here; screenshot below.)
Thankfully, when vaccinated people do get infected, they are much less likely to get very sick than people who aren’t vaccinated at all. They are also less likely to get Long COVID.
Yes. The COVID vaccines have been studied more carefully for safety than any other vaccine ever made. And they have been given safely to hundreds of millions of people in the US.
We know that vaccines can have side effects. But nearly all of them are mild and don't last very long. You're much more likely to get sick or even die from COVID than you are to get a serious side effect from the vaccine.
Most side effects of the COVID vaccine are mild and go away after a few days, just like side effects from any other vaccines. The most common ones that happen among all ages of people are:
Pain, swelling and/or redness at the site of the shot
In kids ages 17 and under, swollen lymph nodes are also common. Adults often feel sick to their stomachs. Kids under age three may not be able to tell you exactly what's wrong — they may just be irritable and not want to eat much.
That all sounds unpleasant, but there's good news — these things all happen because your immune system is working.
All vaccines do the same thing: They tell your body how to recognize a virus. Your body then builds the tools it needs to fight that virus when it shows up. Those side effects are your immune system meeting the stuff in the vaccine and building tools that it will use when the real virus shows up. You can learn more about how the COVID vaccines work in this article.
Vaccination is much more reliable protection against serious illness than infection is.
It's not clear how much protection people get from infection or how long that protection lasts.
If you've already had COVID, the vaccine acts a bit like a booster shot — it gives you extra-strong protection.
To protect your kid.
We all want to protect our children. Vaccinating kids helps keep them from getting COVID.
We know that most cases of COVID in kids are mild. And we know that vaccines can have side effects. But your child is much more likely to get sick or even die from COVID than they are to get a serious side effect from the vaccine.
In 2021, COVID killed about 600 kids. In an average year, flu kills about 120 kids. So for kids, COVID is at least five times more deadly than the flu.
About a third of kids who get sick with COVID may also get Long COVID. Vaccination helps keep that from happening.
To protect your family.
Vaccinating your child makes it much less likely that they will get infected and pass the virus on to other family members. That's even more important if someone in your household is at high risk of getting very sick from COVID.
To protect your community.
Vaccinating children can make it less likely that elderly people in your community will get sick.
To protect all of us.
Every time COVID infects a person, there’s a chance that the virus can create a new variant. The best way to keep new variants from appearing is to vaccinate as many people as possible, including kids.
Getting vaccinated helps keep you from getting COVID while you're pregnant, which could end your pregnancy even if you don't get very sick yourself. Being pregnant also decreases your immune system's ability to respond to infections. So if you do get COVID, you're much more likely to get very sick.
Getting vaccinated while you're pregnant may also give your baby some protection from COVID for the first six months after they're born. It may give your newborn 10 times as much protection as much protection as having gotten COVID in the past.
There are three reasons to stay up to date on your COVID vaccines:
You are even less likely to go to the hospital or die from COVID. Vaccinated and boosted adults are 23 times less likely to be hospitalized with the Omicron variant than unvaccinated adults are. If you're over 50 and you've gotten both of your boosters, you're 47 times less likely to die than you would be if you weren't vaccinated.
You are much less likely to get infected at all. In a study of NBA players, people who were boosted were half as likely to get infected with Omicron than people who hadn't gotten a booster yet. And if you’re not infected you can’t spread the virus.
The more people there are who get boosted, the faster a surge goes away. Plus, if younger people get boosted, it helps protect older people from getting sick or dying.
As more people in a community get vaccinated, it gets harder for the virus to move from person to person. Here are some of the people you help when you get vaccinated and boosted:
People who have problems with their immune system. They don’t get as much protection from vaccines as other people do.
Infants under six months old, who can’t get vaccinated until they're older.
People in your family who are at high risk of getting very sick from COVID.
Elderly people in your community.
All of us, since any new infection could lead to a dangerous new variant.
No. You won't test positive on either a rapid test or a PCR test after you get a vaccine or booster.
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines give your body the instructions to make what it needs to fight the virus. (This animated cartoon shows how the vaccine works.)The J&J vaccine includes a modified cold virus that helps your body recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID. Neither of those things will make any kind of COVID test turn positive. In addition, your body gets rid of the material from the vaccine very quickly.
However, if you take an antibody test after you get vaccinated, you may test positive. That kind of test looks for antibodies, which are part of how your body fights viruses. If you haven't been vaccinated, an antibody test can be used to help figure out if you've been infected. Once you've been vaccinated, the test won't be able to tell if any antibodies you have are from being infected or from getting the vaccine.