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Frequently Asked Questions About the COVID-19 Vaccine

Click below to get answers to common questions about the COVID-19 vaccine. 

About the Vaccine


Are the vaccines safe?

  • There are no reported serious safety concerns from either vaccine. All approved vaccines will have gone through extensive clinical trials. The vaccine’s safety and efficacy will be reviewed by two panels of independent experts at the FDA.
  • While the vaccine did go through the clinical trial process quickly, it was tested on thousands of people just like every other vaccine or treatment that needs to be approved by the FDA. The shorter timeframe for vaccine development was achieved by reducing the time between each phase of the clinical trials.

What are the long-term side effects of the vaccine?

  • The vaccine has been tested on tens of thousands of people in initial clinical trials. No serious safety concerns were reported in these trials. However, more monitoring is needed to better understand if there are any long term side effects beyond the timeframe of the clinical trials. Ongoing safety monitoring through existing programs will continue to address safety concerns with the vaccine in real-time. The programs include the Vaccine Safety Datalink, Clinical Safety Assessment project, Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting Systems and new monitoring systems such as the V-SAFE program and the National Healthcare Safety Network.

Will the protection the vaccine offers last?

  • At this time, we don’t know how long the protection from the vaccine will last. The initial studies have shown the vaccine to provide protection from COVID-19 infection for the duration of the trials. There will be ongoing monitoring of the vaccination.

How does the vaccine work?

  • The COVID-19 vaccine uses mRNA as assembly instructions to tell your cells how to make a part of the virus, triggering an immune response. The mRNA provides instructions to make a single protein, thus it cannot create a living virus or cause COVID-19. The mRNA never enters the part of your cell that houses DNA, so it also cannot alter your DNA. mRNA vaccines have been studied for the past two decades and have undergone clinical trials for other infectious diseases including zika, influenza and rabies. Over that time, this process has been proven to be safe in these other clinical trials. Learn more about mRNA vaccines here.

What are the ingredients in the vaccines?

  • The vaccine is manufactured without any human or animal cells, including embryonic stem cells. No live virus is used for vaccine production.
  • Ingredients include: mRNA, lipids, cholesterol, potassium chloride, monobasic potassium phosphate, sodium chloride, dibasic sodium phosphate dihydrate and sucrose.

Does the COVID-19 vaccine provide protection from the new COVID-19 variant from the UK?

  • Yes, researchers expect the COVID-19 vaccine will protect people against the new strain, and studies are underway to confirm this. The new strain, known as B.1.1.7 (B-117), was first discovered circulating widely in England during November and December of 2020. It has now been confirmed in Wisconsin and other states. Epidemiologic and modeling studies indicate that the B-117 strain spreads more rapidly and easily than the original strain of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus causing COVID-19). The new strain does not cause more severe illness or increased risk of death. However, it could lead to more hospitalizations and deaths by infecting more people. Mask use, social distancing and other public health measures are very important to control the spread of the B-117 strain.

Does the COVID-19 vaccine contain a microchip that can track you?

  • No. There is no microchip or tracking device in the vaccine.

Does the COVID-19 vaccine alter your DNA?

  • No, mRNA vaccines do not alter DNA. The biochemistry of DNA and RNA is well-understood, and mRNA vaccines never enter the part of your cell that house the DNA. There are only a few copies of the vaccine mRNA in the cell, and the mRNA is broken down quickly to harmless molecules. Learn more about mRNA vaccines here.

Does the vaccine cause infertility?

  • There is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine causes infertility. In fact, no safety concerns were demonstrated in rats that received Moderna COVID-19 vaccine prior to or during gestation in terms of female reproduction, fetal/embryonal development or postnatal development. The rumors about infertility were fueled by an article published by a blog called Health and Money News, which falsely claimed that Pfizer’s vaccine contained ingredients capable of “training the female body to attack” a protein that plays a crucial role in the development of the placenta. Based on current knowledge, experts believe that mRNA vaccines are unlikely to pose a risk to the pregnant person or the fetus because mRNA vaccines are not live vaccines. The mRNA in the vaccine is degraded quickly by normal cellular processes and does not enter the nucleus of the cell. Learn more from this New York Times article.

Is natural infection from COVID-19 better than an actual vaccine?

  • No. Natural infection leads to death in about 1% of infected people, and it has caused more than 300,000 deaths in the U.S. during 2020. The COVID-19 vaccine provides almost full protection against illness without any serious safety concerns. The strength and duration of protection after natural infection is not known, and you should receive the COVID-19 vaccine even if you had a prior infection.

Does the vaccine give you COVID-19?

  • No. The vaccine cannot cause COVID-19. The vaccine is manufactured without live viruses, and the mRNA vaccine generates a single protein that triggers the immune response.

What is the cost of the vaccine?

  • Vaccines will be provided to patients at no cost. Your insurance may be billed for a vaccine administration fee, but all private/public insurance will cover this cost. If you are uninsured, the cost will be covered by the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Provider Relief Fund.

Your Personal Health and the Vaccine


If I’ve had COVID-19 already, do I still need the vaccine?

  • Patients with documented acute SARS-CoV-2 infection in the preceding 90 days may choose to delay vaccination until near the end of the 90-day period in order to facilitate vaccination of others who remain susceptible to infection. However, all individuals should receive COVID-19 vaccine even if they have had the infection.

Should I get the COVID-19 vaccine if I recently received a different vaccine?

  • Given the lack of data on the safety and efficacy of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines administered simultaneously with other vaccines, the CDC recommends that the COVID-19 vaccine not be given with other vaccines at this time. You should wait 14 days after receiving another vaccine to get the COVID-19 vaccine. You should wait 14 days after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine before receiving another vaccine.

Is the vaccine safe for pregnant women?

  • At this time, there is no safety data for pregnant or breastfeeding women.

If I have underlying health issues (co-morbidities), can I still get the vaccine?

  • Clinical trials demonstrated similar safety and efficacy profiles in persons with some underlying medical conditions, including those that place them at increased risk for severe COVID-19, compared to persons without comorbidities. However, you should talk to your doctor before receiving the COVID-19 vaccine because there are special precautions for certain individuals.

Should I still get the vaccine if I had a positive antibody test for the virus?

  • Yes. A positive antibody test means you were previously infected with SARS-CoV-2 (virus that causes COVID-19), but it does not mean you are protected from getting reinfected. Vaccination is safe and recommended for people with and without prior infection with SARS-CoV-2.

How does COVID-19 vaccination affect COVID-19 testing?

  • If you previously received a COVID-19 vaccination, it will not affect the results of COVID-19 viral tests including nucleic acid amplification or antigen tests.

Do I need to get the same vaccine for my second dose as I did for my first dose?

  • Yes. These mRNA COVID-19 vaccines are not interchangeable with each other or with other COVID-19 vaccine products. The safety and efficacy of a mixed-product series has not been evaluated. Both doses of the series should be completed with the same product.

How long do I have to stay after I get the COVID-19 vaccine?

  • CDC currently recommends the following: Persons with a history of anaphylaxis (due to any cause): 30 minutes and All other persons: 15 minutes.

Is there anything I need to know about getting my second dose of the vaccine?

  • When you come in for your second COVID-19 vaccine appointment, make sure to bring your COVID-19 vaccination card. You should also make sure you are receiving the same vaccine you received during the first appointment. Some people experience more severe side effects following the second dose of the vaccine.

Do I have to continue wearing a mask after I get the vaccine?

  • Yes, you should continue to wear PPE until the CDC and State of Wisconsin guidelines change. Initial studies have shown the vaccine to be effective at preventing illness of the vaccine recipient, but there is still more to learn about if the vaccine protects individuals from potentially spreading illness.

About the Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine


Is the vaccine effective?

  • The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is 95% effective against symptomatic COVID-19. Protection is high even in older adults and people with chronic diseases. There is some evidence the vaccine also protects against severe COVID-19. Protection continues at a high level for at least 3-4 months. We do not yet know if protection will decline over time or if a booster dose will be needed.

What do we know about long-term safety after vaccination?

  • Safety was carefully assessed in the clinical trial that enrolled over 40,000 people. No safety concerns were found during 8 weeks after completing vaccination, providing a high level of confidence in vaccine safety. It is possible that a rare vaccine-related problem could occur with longer follow-up in larger groups, and there are several monitoring systems in place to make sure any safety issues are quickly found and investigated.

Can the vaccine cause serious allergic reactions?

  • There have been reports of rare, but serious allergic reactions occurring immediately after receiving the Pfizer vaccine. These are currently being investigated. CDC currently recommends that people with a past history of severe allergic reaction after vaccination or injectable medication should talk to their doctor before getting vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine. If you have allergies you are concerned about, talk to your doctor.

Should I expect any side effects after vaccination?

  • Yes. Pain at the injection site is common and many people develop symptoms such as fatigue, headache, chills and muscle aches. These are mild to moderate in most people and typically resolve after 1-2 days. Lymph nodes may also become swollen and tender on the same side as the injection. These side effects occur because the immune system is responding normally to the vaccine. In general, these side effects are more severe after the second dose, and they may be less severe in older adults.

About the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine


Is the vaccine effective?

  • The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is 94% effective against symptomatic COVID-19. Protection is high even in older adults and people with chronic diseases. There is some evidence the vaccine also protects against severe COVID-19. Protection continues at a high level for at least 3-4 months. We do not yet know if protection will decline over time or if a booster dose will be needed.

What do we know about long-term safety after vaccination?

  • Safety was carefully assessed in the clinical trial that enrolled over 30,000 people. No safety concerns were found during 8 weeks after completing vaccination, providing a high level of confidence in vaccine safety. It is possible that a rare vaccine-related problem could occur with longer follow-up in larger groups, and there are several monitoring systems in place to make sure any safety issues are quickly found and investigated.

Can the vaccine cause serious allergic reactions?

  • There have been reports of rare, but serious allergic reactions occurring immediately after receiving the Pfizer vaccine. This has not been reported for the Moderna vaccine, but rare allergic reactions are possible with any vaccine. If you have allergies you are concerned about, talk to your doctor.

Should I expect any side effects after vaccination?

  • Yes. Pain at the injection site is common and many people develop symptoms such as fatigue, headache, chills and muscle aches. These are mild to moderate in most people and typically resolve after 1-2 days. Lymph nodes may also become swollen and tender on the same side as the injection. These side effects occur because the immune system is responding normally to the vaccine. In general, these side effects are more severe after the second dose, and they may be less severe in older adults.

COVID-19 vaccine availability


Is a COVID-19 vaccine available?

  • As of Dec. 18, 2020, the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is available at several locations throughout the Health System. Pfizer was approved by the FDA for an Emergency Use Authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine on December 11, 2020. As of Jan. 5, 2020, the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is available at limited locations throughout the Health System. Moderna was approved by the FDA for an Emergency Use Authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 18, 2020.
  • There are several other vaccines undergoing clinical trials.

Will the Health System provide the COVID-19 vaccine to patients?

  • Yes, we are providing the COVID-19 vaccine to certain groups. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services and CDC have prioritized front line health care workers, emergency responders and residents of long-term care facilities as the first to receive the vaccine. Individuals 65 and older are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine starting January 25, 2021. Additional groups will soon be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Those eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine should go here to sign-up for our waitlist. We are expecting further guidance from the state about the rollout of the vaccine beyond these groups in the coming weeks. We will communicate out to the community once the vaccine is available to additional groups. We appreciate your patience as we continue to plan for mass vaccination in the coming months.

Is the Health System creating waitlists for patients to receive the COVID-19 vaccine?

  • Yes, we do have waitlists for individuals that are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at this time. To be added to the waitlist, individuals should fill out the survey found here. We are expecting further guidance from the state about the rollout of the vaccine beyond these groups in the coming weeks. We will communicate out to the community once the vaccine is available. We appreciate your patience as we continue to plan for mass vaccination in the coming months.

When will COVID-19 vaccine be available to high risk groups?

  • We do not know at this time. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services has not prioritized individuals in high risk groups to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at this time. For a complete list of those eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, go here. We are expecting further guidance from the state about the rollout of the vaccine beyond these groups in the coming weeks. We will communicate out to the community once the vaccine is available. We appreciate your patience as we continue to plan for mass vaccination in the coming months.

When will the Health System receive the vaccine?

  • We are actively receiving a supply of the COVID-19 vaccine on a weekly basis from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and are vaccinating individuals according to the State’s plan regarding vaccine rollout.

Does it make a difference if I fill out the survey or call the phone number?

  • No. In both instances you will be added to the same waitlist and be called back in the order the survey was received. When you call the phone number, the individual that answers the phone call will help you complete the online survey over the phone.

Looking for more information on COVID-19?

The situation is changing daily, and we regularly update our COVID-19 hub with the recommendations, MCHS updates and key resources you need to protect you and your family.


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