Frequently Asked Questions

COVID-19 Vaccine 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Covid-19 Vaccine? 

The COVID-19 vaccine is an mRNA vaccine that helps our body develop immunity against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. mRNA is the instructions for the cell on how to make proteins. In the COVID-19 vaccine, mRNA teaches our body to make a harmless “spike protein” that is unique to SARS-CoV-2.  

After a piece of the protein is made, the cell breaks down the mRNA and disposes of it. It is important to note that the mRNA strand never enters the cell’s nucleus, where our genetic material is stored. Thus, mRNA vaccines never alter someone’s genetic makeup.

The cell presents the “spike protein” on its surface, causing the immune system to begin producing a response by making antibodies, to fight off what it thinks is an infection. These antibodies are specific to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which means the immune system is ready to protect against future infection (CDC). 

Is the Covid-19 Vaccine Safe for Me? 

mRNA vaccines do not contain the live virus and do not carry a risk of causing the disease in the vaccinated person (CDC). 

mRNA from the vaccine never enters the nucleus of the cell and does not affect a person’s DNA (CDC). 

COVID-19 vaccines were tested in large clinical trials to make sure they meet safety standards. Many people were recruited to participate in these trials to see how the vaccines offer protection to people of different ages, races, and ethnicities, as well as those with different medical conditions (CDC). 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) carefully reviews all safety data from clinical trials and  authorizes emergency vaccine use only when the expected benefits outweigh potential risks (CDC).

What is the dosing schedule for the Covid-19 Vaccine? 

Two shots are needed to provide the best protection against COVID-19. The second shot is given 3-4 weeks after your first shot. The first shot primes the immune system, helping it recognize the virus, and the second shot strengthens the immune response (CDC). 

How and when can I get vaccinated for Covid-19? 

New York State is currently under Phase 1a and Phase 1b of vaccine distribution. Current eligible New Yorkers include doctors, nurses, health care workers, people aged over 65 years old, first responders, teachers, public transit workers, grocery store workers, and public safety workers. To determine your eligibility, you may call the New York State COVID-19 Vaccination Hotline at 1-833-NYS-4-VAX, or (1-833-697-4929). For a more comprehensive list of eligible people, please visit:

Two vaccines are available for New Yorkers: one developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, and one developed by Moderna. Both vaccines have been thoroughly reviewed and authorized by the FDA and New York State’s COVID-19 Clinical Advisory Task Force. Both of these vaccines require 2 doses for maximal efficacy.

The federal government has a very limited supply of the vaccine. For this reason, it may be up to 14 or more weeks until you are able to receive the vaccine. 

When you are eligible to receive the vaccine, you will get a vaccination card after your first dose to show you the date you received the vaccine, the type of vaccine you received, and when to return for your second dose. Please keep this card and remember to bring it along with you for your second dose. 


What can I do to keep myself safe, until I can receive the vaccine? 

Until you are able to receive the vaccine, the CDC recommends that you continue these safe behavioral practices to keep yourself and your loved ones protected:

  • Wear a mask over your nose and mouth

  • Stay at least 6 feet away from others

  • Avoid crowds

  • Avoid poorly ventilated spaces

  • Wash your hands often

What should I let my vaccination provider know before I receive the vaccine? 

  • Your allergies, particularly if you have severe allergic reactions to any ingredient of the vaccines (both vaccines DO NOT contain eggs, preservatives, or latex)

  • If you have a fever

  • If you have a bleeding disorder or are on a blood thinner

  • If you are immunocompromised or are taking medication that affects your immune system

  • If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant

  • If you are breastfeeding

  • If you have received another COVID-19 vaccine and when

  • Any other pertinent medical condition 

What are the side effects of the vaccine? 

After receiving the vaccine, you may experience these potential side effects : 

  • Injection site pain

  • Fatigue

  • Headache

  • Muscle pain

  • Chills

  • Joint pain

  • Fever

  • Injection site swelling

  • Injection site redness

  • Nausea

  • Feeling unwell

  • Swollen lymph nodes

More serious side effects from vaccination can happen, but they are very rare. Please call 911 or go to the nearest hospital if you experience these symptoms of a severe allergic reaction, known as anaphylaxis: 

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Swelling of your face and throat

  • Fast heartbeat

  • Rashes/hives all over the body 

  • Dizziness and weaknesses 

Do I have to continue wearing a mask even after I receive both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine? 

Yes. There is not enough information at this time to determine whether receiving the COVID-19 vaccine will prevent you from spreading the virus to others, even if you won’t get sick yourself. To help keep your family, friends, and community safe, it is recommended that you continue to follow these recommendations by the CDC: 

  • Wear a mask over your nose and mouth

  • Stay at least 6 feet away from others

  • Avoid crowds

  • Avoid poorly ventilated spaces

  • Wash your hands often

Have more questions about the COVID-19 Vaccine? 

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