Yes. Three COVID-19 vaccines are available in the U.S. Two of the vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) require two doses; the other (Johnson & Johnson) is a one-dose vaccine.
COVID-19 vaccines were tested in large clinical trials. This was to make sure they meet safety standards. Tens of thousands of people were involved in these trials—both in the U.S. and worldwide. No serious safety concerns were noted. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are tracking the vaccines as even more people get them. More than 230 million people (more than two-thirds of the U.S. population) have now received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S. and more than 200 million people in the U.S. are fully vaccinated. You can learn more about the systems that are in place to make sure the COVID-19 vaccines are as safe as possible.
Yes, the vaccines offer protection against new variants that are spreading, according to current data. For instance, fully vaccinated people who contract the Delta variant are far less likely to get seriously ill or die. Getting vaccinated now can also prevent new, potentially more-dangerous, variants from emerging later on. Since some newer variants are more contagious than previous variants, additional strategies like wearing masks are also important.
Yes, if you are getting one of the vaccines that is delivered in two doses (Pfizer or Moderna). In those vaccines, the first shot starts building protection. The second strengthens the body's immune response. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, however, delivers all of its protection in one dose. Everyone aged 5 and older can get the vaccine, and a booster dose is available for anyone over 18. The CDC also recommends that people with moderately to severely compromised immune systems receive an additional dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. Here are some more key things to know about vaccines from the CDC.
It does not—the COVID-19 vaccines are working. They are helping to prevent serious illness, hospitalization and death. However, with the Delta and other known variants, public health experts are starting to see reduced protection against mild and moderate disease. The boosters will help vaccinated people maintain their protection.
The CDC now recommends a booster shot for everyone ages 18 and older if you received either Moderna or Johnson & Johnson. If you received Pfizer, then everyone 12 years and over should get a booster. To get a booster shot, you must have gotten the initial Pfizer or Moderna vaccine series at least five months before. For the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you must have gotten their first shot at least two months before. The CDC allows mix-and-match dosing for booster shots. No matter what vaccine you initially received, you can choose to get any of the three vaccines as an initial booster shot. Learn more: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/booster-shot.html
The CDC also recommends a second booster shot for adults 50 years and over. To get a second booster, you must have gotten an initial booster shot at least four months before. No matter what vaccine or booster you initially received, the second booster shot must be a Moderna or Pfizer vaccine.
Yes. Being vaccinated makes you far less likely to get COVID-19. If you are vaccinated and do get COVID-19, you are much less likely than an unvaccinated person to get very sick or need to go to the hospital.
For other vaccines routinely used in the United States, the phases of clinical trials are performed one at a time. During the development of COVID-19 vaccines, these phases have overlapped to speed up the process so the vaccines can be used as quickly as possible to control the pandemic. No trial phases have been skipped. A partnership between several organizations and additional resources to support overlapping clinical trial phases sped up the process of bringing the vaccines through the required steps of FDA approval. The Pfizer (now called Comirnaty) COVID-19 vaccine received full FDA approval on August 23, 2021. The other two COVID-19 vaccines (Moderna and Johnson & Johnson) are approved under the emergency use authorization (EUA), and are in the process of data submission to the FDA for full approval.
Vaccines help our bodies learn to fight a disease. Two of the COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) are mRNA vaccines. These types of vaccines use strands of genetic material called mRNA. The mRNA material includes instructions that teach our cells how to fend off the virus if it enters our bodies. The third vaccine (Johnson & Johnson) takes a different approach, using a non-replicating, viral carrier called an adenovirus to transport the instructions to your cells to prime and ramp up your immune system.
No. The approved vaccines do not alter your cells' genes or DNA.
No. The vaccines used in the U.S. do not use the virus that causes COVID-19.
Several companies worked on developing COVID-19 vaccines. Clinical trials found all three prevented severe COVID-19 virus-related illness. The Pfizer vaccine was 95% effective at preventing COVID-19 illness. The Moderna vaccine was 94.1% effective. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was 72% effective.
While there is much discussion about the effectiveness of each vaccine, these numbers are hard to compare because the clinical trials were conducted under different conditions. For example, the Johnson & Johnson clinical trial included many global areas where there are more variants of the virus.
Regardless, all three vaccines are excellent at preventing the most critical issue—severe illness that leads to hospitalizations and death. For that reason, the expert guidance is "when you are eligible to get the vaccine, get the first vaccine available to you."
- The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is approved for ages 12 and older and requires two shots, 21 days apart. More information here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/different-vaccines/Pfizer-BioNTech.html
- The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is approved for ages 18 and older and requires two shots, 28 days apart. More information here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/different-vaccines/Moderna.html
- The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is approved for ages 18 and older and requires a single shot. More information here: https://www.fda.gov/emergency-preparedness-and-response/mcm-legal-regulatory-and-policy-framework/janssen-covid-19-vaccine-frequently-asked-questions
It's normal to have some side effects after a vaccine. They can be a sign that your body is building protection against the virus. If you get the type of vaccine that requires two shots, you may be more likely to have side effects after the second dose. Common side effects include pain and swelling near the injection site. You may also have fever, chills, tiredness or headache. If redness or tenderness increases after 24 hours or side effects don't go away after a few days, call your doctor or make an appointment with one of our providers.
- More information on the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine and common side effects: https://www.fda.gov/emergency-preparedness-and-response/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19/pfizer-biontech-covid-19-vaccine
- More information on the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and common side effects: https://www.fda.gov/emergency-preparedness-and-response/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19/moderna-covid-19-vaccine
- More information on the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine and common side effects: https://www.fda.gov/emergency-preparedness-and-response/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19/janssen-covid-19-vaccine
COVID-19 vaccines are recommended for and can be given to most people with underlying medical conditions. Adults with conditions like diabetes and heart failure are at increased risk for severe illness from the virus that causes COVID-19. The clinical trials included many different types of people, including those with medical conditions. Learn more at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/recommendations/underlying-conditions.html
Yes. Reinfection with COVID-19 is possible. We don't yet know how long someone is immune after they have had COVID-19. If you were treated for COVID-19, talk to your provider before getting the vaccine, as some treatments require waiting 90 days. If you currently have COVID-19, you should not get the vaccine until you can stop isolating.
The CDC recently added a recommendation that fully vaccinated people wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission. When out in public, you might choose to wear a mask regardless of the level of transmission. Depending on how many people get vaccinated and how the virus spreads, this advice may change. It is still important to use all the tools available to slow the spread of the virus. Learn more at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/fully-vaccinated-guidance.html
Contact your local medical provider to find out where vaccines are available in your area. You will also be able to find this information on VaccineFinder, a website that helps people find vaccine providers.
The vaccine is available at no cost to Americans. Your provider may charge an administration fee. Contact your provider for more information.
COVID-19 is a respiratory illness caused by a coronavirus. People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported—from mild symptoms to severe illness.
The virus spreads from person to person through coughing, sneezing, talking. It can also be spread through infected surfaces or objects, although the main mode of transmission is by person-to-person through respiratory droplets. The closer you are to others and the longer you're interacting, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread.
Many people infected with the virus may never develop symptoms. This means that the virus can easily be spread to others inadvertently, which is why it is so important to follow the guidelines put in place when outdoors or in places of business.
You may be at greater risk if you have recently lived or traveled in an area where there are higher rates of new cases or if you have come in contact with someone who has the virus.
Children of all ages can get COVID-19. Most children, particularly younger children (those younger than 10 years old) often have very mild or no symptoms; about half do not have fever or cough. With that said, a small percentage of children, teens and young adults (estimated to be less than 5% of COVID-19 cases) can have severe symptoms and require supportive care delivered in a hospital setting.
While COVID-19 is mild in children, a new rare syndrome is being seen in children called multi-system inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C). This syndrome is likely related to COVID-19 and is seen several weeks after the COVID-19 infection (or weeks after an outbreak in a geographic area). Although the condition is rare, MIS-C can cause children to become very ill with dangerous inflammation in the body and can lead to problems with the heart or other organs. Most children can recover with treatment, but it may require a hospital stay.
Parents should watch for persistent fever (greater than three days), nausea/vomiting/abdominal pain, conjunctivitis, a rash that can appear blotchy on the torso or arms/legs as well as redness around the mouth (strawberry-colored tongue/red, swollen and cracked lips) and lethargy.
Parents should not be afraid to take their child to their family physician or pediatrician or seek in-person care if they are worried their child is sick. Healthcare settings have re-opened to safely provide care and prevent the spread of COVID-19. Most importantly, make sure your children are keeping up on their well-child visits and vaccinations. The diseases prevented with vaccines are much more severe in children than COVID-19, so we want to make sure to protect children from those diseases as well.
Getting care and guidance from the comfort of your own home can put your mind at ease and help you avoid longer wait times in doctors' offices and the ER, which can carry many germs. Our providers can evaluate your risk level and advise you on next steps.
While there is no treatment for COVID-19, people who are mildly ill may be able to isolate and care for themselves at home.
For cases where in‐person care is needed, we will navigate patients to appropriate resources and encourage patients to "let them know before you go" so that the in-person care facility can direct them appropriately and minimize potential exposure for others.
We are partnering with the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), state and local health officials, and our health system partners to provide our communities with the support, information and care they need.
All hospitals, surgical centers, and doctor's offices have re-opened with the appropriate safety protocols in place. You should ask about the new protocols when scheduling your next appointment. Depending on the surgery that was canceled, there may be alternatives that can be considered. If you have Expert Medical Services through your health benefit, you can get guidance and confirmation on your diagnosis, need for surgery or help deciding on a treatment option while you wait for rescheduled appointments.
Services may vary based on health plan or employer. Please set up your account or log in to see which services are available to you.
If you have a fever or feel feverish, have cold-like symptoms or flu-like symptoms, or feel run-down, you should contact us. If you are experiencing shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, then you should call your local doctor’s office to request an in-person visit. Shortness of breath—having trouble breathing—is a more severe symptom that requires an in-person evaluation.
Our doctors can answer questions about COVID-19 and when to seek in-person care. They can discuss eligibility for the use of certain treatments. Our doctors can explain guidelines for testing, isolation and quarantine. They can also advise how to stay safe if you are seeking to travel and gather as cases surge.
At this time, our doctors cannot prescribe the newly FDA-approved emergency-use oral medication for COVID-19. Patients should seek an in-person consultation for appropriate assessment. The newly available oral COVID-19 treatments include molnupiravir by Merck (also known in the U.K. as LAGEVRIO®) and PAXLOVID™ by Pfizer (also known as ritonavir).
Our doctors also cannot prescribe medications that must be given intravenously, including the antiviral drug VEKLURY(remdesivir) and monoclonal antibodies (for COVID-19 treatment).
Also called serology tests, these tests check your blood for antibodies, which show if you had a previous infection of the virus. Even if you were never diagnosed or experienced symptoms of COVID‐19, this test can help determine if you may have been previously infected with the virus.
Given that a large percentage of infected individuals only develop mild symptoms or no symptoms at all, antibody testing can help public health experts and epidemiologists to better understand how many people have already had the disease and what percentage of people infected with COVID‐19 become severely ill.
There is no scientific evidence to confirm whether antibodies mean you have immunity and are protected from re‐infection. Regardless of antibody test results, you should continue to take precautions to protect yourself and others.
Your provider will determine if you should be tested or not based on your symptoms and contact history (e.g., known exposure to a person diagnosed with COVID-19, recent travel or living in an area with an active outbreak, or a healthcare worker who may have increased risk of exposure) to assess COVID-19 risk.
While testing capacity is expanding, local diagnostic testing availability varies by community. Many labs and testing sites continue to prioritize patients with the greatest risk of COVID‐19 complications or the greatest risk of spreading to others.
Current testing locations across the United States:Testing locations
CVS MinuteClinic COVID-19 testing locations (available in specific states, with an appointment, and with no out-of-pocket cost):Visit CVS MinuteClinic
Order Labcorp COVID-19 at-home testing kits (kits are sent directly to you with no upfront costs):Visit Labcorp
Teladoc does not offer mail-order COVID-19 tests.
Starting on January 15, 2022, health plans must cover or reimburse costs for at-home rapid COVID-19 tests. Patients should follow the guidance of their health insurer to determine the process to obtain and be reimbursed for these tests.
People who are mildly ill with COVID-19 are able to isolate at home during their illness. You should restrict activities outside your home, except for getting medical care. Wear a mask in your home to prevent others in your household from getting COVID-19. Wash hands often. Keep hydrated. Do not go to work, school or public areas. Avoid using public transportation, ride-sharing or taxis. Call your primary care provider or the ER if your illness worsens, especially if you are feeling short-of-breath.
Here are some helpful links from the CDC for guidance:
- For symptoms, go here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html
- For prevention, go here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/prevention.html
- If you think you have COVID-19, go here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/steps-when-sick.html
- To learn more about caring for yourself at home, go here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/caring-for-yourself-at-home.html
Our recommendation is that you stay at home until newly infected cases are on a decline for 14 days. Ideally, your local community has a positive test rate of less than 5%; that is, of all the people tested in your community, less than 5% are positive for COVID-19, which indicates low community spread of the COVID-19 virus. The reason for declining cases and/or low positivity rates is that public health systems can start to quickly identify new cases and do contact tracing to prevent further spread. The challenge is that one area may have a decline, while a neighboring area may not have met the criteria for declining cases. And, if one area opens up while the neighboring area does not, you still have issues with people traveling between areas and being a source of COVID-19 spread.
As you evaluate going out in public again, our advice is to be conservative. Go slow with decisions about re-entering into daycare, school and other basic public areas. It will take about two to four weeks or more to see how COVID-19 spreads after an area makes a change. To assess your own situation, you can ask yourself these questions:
- Does my child have any underlying conditions that make them more at risk than other children?
- Do I have people in my home (or myself as a parent) who have underlying conditions that put them at higher risk?
- What plan has the organization published/shared with parents to put in place the non-pharmaceutical interventions that will reduce the spread of COVID-19?
- How has my community been responding? Do I see lots of testing for COVID-19?
- Could I or my child or a family member easily get a COVID-19 test if needed?
- Do I feel confident that the organization would handle an outbreak quickly, effectively and appropriately (with prompt case-tracing notification)?
- Am I prepared to go back to “stay at home” should the COVID-19 cases rise in my area again?
Masks are one of the single best protective measures that we can all take for COVID-19—to keep ourselves and those we love safe. Wearing a mask that is properly fitted and extends over your nose and under you chin with no gaps protects you and others from becoming infected or spreading the COVID-19 virus. A good reason to wear a mask when you’re in public settings, especially indoors, is because you could be someone who has the virus but doesn’t have symptoms, which means you could inadvertently spread it to others. We now know that a large proportion of COVID-19 transmissions are from people who had no symptoms when they infected others.
Social distancing is intentionally increasing the physical space between people to avoid spreading illness. Social distancing works because COVID-19 is mainly spread from person to person through respiratory droplets. Being six feet or more apart protects you and others from being exposed to respiratory droplets. Washing your hands frequently and disinfecting high-touch surfaces also greatly reduces the risk of spread. This is why events are being canceled, people are being asked to work from home or avoid public/crowded areas, and why face masks are now recommended.
When new, contagious outbreaks like COVID-19 occur, practices like social distancing have become one of the simplest and most effective measures communities can take to avoid exposure as well as spreading the virus.
COVID-19's incubation period could last up to 14 days, which means you could be carrying the virus to others and not be aware of symptoms until later.
The more we practice social distancing (i.e., working from home, remaining six feet apart from people in any public setting and avoiding heavily public areas or events), the more likely we are to avoid the spread and shorten the period of time we must be out of our normal routine.
Another significant reason social distancing should be exercised is for those who have weakened or compromised immunities. People with diabetes, cancer, respiratory issues and other specific diseases or disorders can't afford to get COVID-19.
All of these tips and recommendations combined can help you stay safe:
- Continue social distancing
- Wear a well-fitting face mask when going out in public, especially in enclosed spaces
- Wash your hands
- Get the flu shot
- Build your immunity through diet, hydration and exercise
- Don’t be around others if not feeling well
- Seek medical attention if you think you have COVID-19
- Get the COVID-19 vaccination when it is available to you
Stay at home as much as possible, and refrain from socializing or social events. It’s important that you avoid risking exposure and spreading the virus, especially if you have family members at home who are more vulnerable. By practicing social distancing and following hand-washing, cough etiquette, and disinfecting high-touch surfaces, you will likely avoid the virus.
Be mindful of your community's positivity rate. As communities go above a 5% positivity rate (5% of all people who are getting testing for COVID-19 in your area are positive for COVID-19), your community is starting to see outbreaks. You should consider less-risky activities when your community spread is rising. See a handy chart of activities by risk level here.
Also, seek out testing for COVID-19, especially if you feel you may have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19. Testing will allow your community’s disease detectives to quickly find the main sources of COVID-19 transmission and help those individuals stay at home. Working with public health case tracers will help stop the spread of COVID-19 sooner, so we can all get back to some sort of new normal.
Note: Your local public health disease detectives and case tracers are there to help get your community back to a low rate of COVID-19, so we can all get back to school and work and other safe activities during this COVID-19 outbreak. Public health disease detectives won’t judge or blame; they just want to help the community stop the spread of COVID-19. Help public health in your community by working with your public health disease detectives to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Cleaning and sanitizing your household are important to help prevent the spread of illness and disease.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets and sinks.
- If surfaces are dirty, clean them. Use detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.
- Then, use a household disinfectant. Most common Environmental Protection Agency-registered household disinfectants will work.