COVID-19 Vaccine Frequently Asked Questions

Are the COVID-19 vaccines safe?

There are many strict protections in place and steps taken during vaccine development to ensure that any vaccine authorized for use is proven to be safe and effective. Vaccine developers are required to go through a rigorous, multi-stage process including large (phase III) trials that involve tens of thousands of participants. After the clinical trials show that the vaccine is safe and effective, a series of independent reviews and evidence are required to demonstrate efficacy and safety. The FDA is responsible for making sure that FDA-authorized or approved COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. Duke experts in vaccine science review all available safety and efficacy data for any authorized vaccine to ensure the evidence supports its broad use.

Who determines who will receive the vaccine and when?

The North Carolina Institute of Medicine convened an independent COVID Vaccine Advisory Committee, which created a priority plan for North Carolina. It provides guidelines for the equitable distribution of the vaccine. The prioritization plan is based on the risk of exposure to and severe illness from COVID-19. You can view the guidelines for distribution of the vaccine in North Carolina on the North Carolina Health and Human Services website.

Is the vaccine safe for children?

As of now, the vaccine is not yet approved for children. In early COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials, only non-pregnant adults at least 18 years of age participated. However, clinical trials of the COVID-19 vaccines are now expanding to include children. More information will be available from the vaccine manufacturers as these trials progress.

Is the vaccine safe for pregnant people?

The approved COVID-19 vaccines have not been studied in pregnancy. We know that pregnant people are at an increased risk for complications from COVID-19. That's why we encourage all pregnant people to ask questions and discuss their concerns with their care providers. Duke Health will offer pregnant people the option to get vaccinated according to NCHHS guidelines for vaccine distribution.

Can the COVID-19 vaccine make me infertile/sterile?

No. There is no evidence to suggest the vaccines cause infertility or affects your ability to become pregnant. A rumor on the Internet claims a protein created by the body after vaccination is similar to a protein that is needed for placental formation. This is not true. The proteins are not similar nor do they impact fertility or affect a pregnancy. Both vaccine manufacturers are monitoring people in the clinical trials who became pregnant.

If I had COVID-19 and recovered, should I get the vaccine?

Yes. Early findings suggest natural immunity from COVID-19 may not last very long. More studies are needed.

How much vaccine will Duke Health receive?

The exact quantity and timing for shipments is continuously evolving. Vaccine quantities are determined by the state. Supplies are distributed throughout North Carolina according to state distribution guidelines.

How many doses will I need?

The FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccines require two doses, three or four weeks apart. Pfizer’s vaccine requires two doses of the vaccine 21 days apart. Moderna's second dose is administered one month after the first. Additional COVID-19 vaccines in development may require only one dose.

Will the vaccine cause adverse reaction or side effects?

There is a potential for injection site reactions (redness, swelling, and pain) as well as fever, fatigue, headache, chills, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pain, and/or joint pain. These are adverse reactions commonly seen with other vaccines. There may be other reactions that are not currently known. To ensure the vaccine is effective, it is important that you receive the second dose even if you experience side effects after the first dose.

If I get the vaccine, do I still need to wear a mask and practice social distancing?

Yes. Vaccines may boost your immune system so it is ready to fight the virus if you are exposed, but it is not yet fully understood whether vaccinated people might still be able to transmit the virus. Initially, we will not have enough vaccines to vaccinate everyone who wants it, and the virus will still be in the community. Therefore, wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, and frequently washing your hands will help reduce your chance of being exposed to and spreading the virus.