We know our patients have questions about the availability, safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines. Here is the latest information available. (Updated 1/21/2021)

COVID-19 Vaccine FAQs

Beth Israel Lahey Health will contact individual patients when they are able to receive the vaccine based on Massachusetts state guidelines and the number of vaccine doses available, which may change from time to time.

When we contact you, we will provide detailed information on where our patients can go and how to schedule an appointment.

Phase 2 begins in February and will focus on:

  • Age 75+ and patients of any age with 2 or more comorbidities
  • Age 65-74
  • Individuals of any age with 1 comorbidity

If you are part of these groups, your healthcare provider should contact you as you become eligible.

In addition, when Massachusetts enters Phase 3 and the vaccine is widely available individuals will have access to multiple vaccination sites. More information can be found on the Massachusetts state website.

Not yet—we are currently administering vaccines to everyone covered by Phase One of the State’s vaccine plan. Beginning in February, your healthcare providers will begin reaching out to eligible patients to schedule their vaccines based on Phase Two of the State’s vaccination plan.

We do not currently have a waitlist. Our patients will be contacted individually when they become eligible to receive the vaccine.

No, you will not be able to choose which vaccine you receive but both vaccines currently available are very similar.

The two vaccines currently approved are the Pfizer/BioTech and Moderna vaccines. Both have received Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These two vaccines are currently being administered across the country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has also approved the Pfizer vaccine for use in persons age 16 and over and the Moderna vaccine for use in persons age 18 and over.

We don’t know exactly, because the longer-term results of vaccine clinical trials are not complete. It takes time for your body to build protection after any vaccination. COVID-19 vaccines that require two shots take time to build protection, so you will not be protected until a week or two after your second shot.

At this time, experts don’t know how long someone remains protected from COVID-19 after being vaccinated, but the level of protection (around 94%) is among the highest in efficacy results for a vaccine.

Reactions following COVID vaccination are similar to those after other vaccinations like a flu shot or a shingles vaccine, including fever, chills, headache, fatigue, joint and muscle aches, as well as pain at the injection site. Between 10-30% of people may experience these symptoms, which can range from mild to severe and may also occur after the second dose of the vaccine. What’s important to remember is that these reactions to the vaccine are also associated with the body’s immune response—so they are a good sign that the vaccine is doing its job to build protections for you in the future.

Watch this video for information on possible reactions to COVID-19 vaccination.

The Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines do not contain the live virus and are considered safe for people who are immunocompromised. However, because immunocompromised patients were not included in the clinical trials that evaluated the COVID-19 vaccines, the vaccine’s efficacy in this population is unknown. Your doctor can help answer questions you may have about your personal risks and vaccination.

Both. In clinical trials, the vaccines proved to be highly effective at completely preventing COVID-19 infection in the majority of people. We also know that the vaccine also reduces the severity of COVID-19 sickness if you do catch it once vaccinated. Of the 32,000 people who received a Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine during clinical trials, only one person developed severe COVID-19, and none have died. The vaccines, aside from being 94% effective at preventing COVID-19 infection, are also capable of reducing the severity of infection for those in the 5-6% who do contract COVID-19.

Scientists are currently working to get a firm answer on whether the vaccine can reduce the risk of getting COVID-19 with no symptoms (asymptomatic) infection.

Before you call your doctor, try visiting the websites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. If you are not able to find answers to your questions, try contacting your health care provider online through your electronic medical record before calling.

Getting vaccinated not only helps you, but helps your community, and the country as we try to reach herd immunity (the threshold of immunity at which the virus can no longer freely spread).

So far, over 6 million Americans have had their first dose of the vaccine, with only 28 serious allergic reactions (as of January 2021). The chance of catching COVID-19 and possibly suffering a severe illness is far higher than a severe reaction to the vaccine. The COVID-19 vaccination helps protect you by creating an antibody response without having to experience illness. Learn more about how COVID-19 vaccines work.

If you are still on the fence, consider getting the vaccine to protect yourself, your family, your friends, and your community.

Watch this video to hear why getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is important.

Yes. The vaccine takes time to begin working. It can take around two weeks after the final dose is given for the vaccine to be fully effective. Also, after you’ve been vaccinated you may still catch COVID-19 and have mild symptoms. Because you can still carry the virus, (even if it doesn’t make you visibly sick) it’s important to wear a mask and maintain social distancing to make sure you do not pass the virus to others who are not yet vaccinated. The combination of getting vaccinated and following CDC’s recommendations to protect yourself and others will offer the best protection from COVID-19.

The protection someone gains from having an infection (called “natural immunity”) varies depending on the disease, and it varies from person to person. Because this virus is new, we don’t know how long natural immunity might last. Current evidence suggests that getting the virus again (reinfection) is uncommon in the 90 days after the first infection with the virus that causes COVID-19.

We won’t know how long immunity lasts after vaccination until we have more data on how well COVID-19 vaccines work in real-world conditions. However, the level of protection provided by the vaccines (94%) is one of the highest levels of protection obtainable in a vaccine.

Experts are working to learn more about both natural immunity and vaccine-induced immunity. CDC will keep the public informed as new evidence becomes available.

If you have just been diagnosed with COVID-19, you should not get vaccinated until you have completed the home isolation period and been cleared to return to work.

If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, you are likely protected from re-infection for at least 90 days. Because you are at lower risk of infection, you could hold off on getting vaccinated for up to 90 days. However, the duration of protection after an infection is not fully known and if you are eligible for vaccination, it is encouraged that you get vaccinated after the acute symptoms of infection—such as fever—have resolved.

Protection from symptomatic infection (meaning you are infected with COVID-19 and showing symptoms) starts as soon as 12 days after the first dose of the vaccine but is not completely comprehensive. Even after your second dose, it is still possible to catch COVID-19 (but be protected from severe illness) and become contagious. If you do happen to become symptomatic with COVID-19 after the first dose of the vaccine, you should receive the second dose after the acute symptoms, such as fever, have completely resolved, and after you have completed a standard period of home isolation.

Please note: Fever, fatigue, sore muscles and joints in the first few days after the vaccine may be vaccine side effects. If these symptoms do not clear within a couple of days or become worse, call your doctor and consider scheduling a COVID-19 test.

We are confident in the quality, safety, and reliability of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) approval of the vaccine. Beth Israel Lahey Health’s team has closely examined the FDA’s process for the COVID-19 vaccine trials and are satisfied that they make decisions that are guided by strong scientific data. Additionally, a group of infectious diseases experts from academic centers across Massachusetts met to independently review the same data for each vaccine to advise the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and all hospitals and medical facilities in the Commonwealth, on safety and appropriateness of the vaccine for use. This group met and independently approved the Pfizer vaccine for use in persons over the age of 16 years. The Moderna vaccine is indicated for use in persons over the age of 18 years.

Watch this video to learn about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines.

Before a vaccine can end up in the hospital or at your local pharmacy, it has to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates drugs based on their safety and efficacy. Two other important endorsements come from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), and the National Institutes of Health and the Infectious Diseases Society of America. No single person gets to decide if a vaccine is safe. These organizations bring together panels of doctors and experts in infectious disease, virology, and immunization. In addition, infectious diseases experts from Beth Israel Lahey Health partnered with those from academic centers across Massachusetts to independently review vaccine the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines.

Yes you can get the vaccine, and no, you should not wait. Due to the severe health risks associated with COVID-19 and the fact that re-infection is possible, people who previously tested positive can and should receive the COVID-19 vaccine when it is available to them.

Currently, scientists don’t know how long COVID-19 antibodies protect people after they have been infected but estimate that the protection is far less robust than the protection from the vaccines that have been developed. People who had proven COVID-19 (or may have had) can and should receive the COVID-19 vaccine when it is available to them because it will give them additional levels of immunity. Testing for antibodies to COVID-19 as a marker of past infection is not recommended or needed prior to vaccination.

Please note: Persons who have active COVID-19 infection should not be vaccinated.

If you have ever had a severe allergic reaction to any ingredient in a COVID-19 vaccine (such as polyethylene glycol), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you not get that specific type of vaccine. If you have had a severe allergic reaction to other vaccines or injectable therapies, you should ask your primary care provider if you should get a COVID-19 vaccine. Your doctor will help you decide if it is safe for you to get vaccinated.

The CDC recommends that people with a history of severe allergic reactions not related to vaccines or injectable medications—such as allergies to food, pets, venom, environmental, or latex—may still get vaccinated. People with a history of allergies to oral medications or a family history of severe allergic reactions, or who might have a milder allergy to vaccines (no anaphylaxis)—may also still get vaccinated.

If you have a severe allergic reaction after getting the first shot, you should not get the second shot. Your primary care provider may refer you to a specialist in allergies and immunology to provide more care or advice. The only reason related to allergies to avoid vaccination is if you’ve ever had a severe allergic reaction to any ingredient in the COVID-19 vaccine. Read more about COVID-19 vaccines and severe allergic reactions here​.

If you regularly take aspirin, acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol) or ibuprofen (e.g. Motrin, Advil) for other medical conditions, continue to do so as directed by your physician or as needed. Otherwise, do not take them before vaccination. Taking these over-the-counter pain relievers before receiving a vaccine may reduce its ability to work and slow your immune system’s response to it.

If you have pain or discomfort after receiving the vaccine, it’s ok to take pain relievers. Remember, side effects after the COVID-19 vaccine can be a good sign that your body is building protection, and they should go away in a few days. If you have concerns about taking medications, check with your doctor.

There is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine causes infertility or difficulty becoming pregnant. Social media platforms have recently been overwhelmed with headlines that say the vaccine could cause infertility, but scientists across the globe say that these fears are not based in scientific reality. Currently, the COVID-19 vaccine is available to patients who are pregnant in the U.S. at all gestational ages, as well as people who are planning for or considering pregnancy in the future, and there are no warnings issued to people intending to conceive. Please contact your obstetrician or primary care provider about your personal risks and vaccination.

Some preliminary information suggests that these new COVID-19 strains may be more easily transmitted. Investigations are underway, and there is no evidence so far that the current vaccines will be ineffective against the new strains. The appearance of new viral strains underscores the importance of vaccination as one important measure to get the pandemic under control as soon as possible, and reduce the risk of new COVID-19 strains from emerging. There is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines are ineffective against these strains, and initial studies show they are just as effective.

For more information about COVID-19 vaccines, visit the websites of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.