Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?
Yes. Like all vaccines, COVID-19 vaccines were carefully tested before they were approved. Many people of different ages, races, ethnicities, and with different medical conditions participated in the studies. The FDA looked at all of the data and determined the vaccine was safe and effective. Scientists will keep studying the vaccine to keep learning more about it. You can read more about COVID-19 vaccine safety research on the CDC website.
COVID-19 vaccines don’t give you COVID-19, make you sick, or change your DNA or genetic material. COVID-19 vaccines don’t cause infection, and you can’t get COVID-19 from the vaccine. None of the current COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. contain the live virus that causes COVID-19. If you do get COVID-19 right after you get your vaccine, it doesn’t mean the vaccine caused it. It takes 2 weeks after you finish getting vaccinated for your body to build immunity (protection) against COVID-19 — that means you can still get sick from COVID-19 right before or right after you get your vaccine(s).
Does the COVID-19 vaccine have side effects?
For some people, COVID-19 vaccines may cause side effects, especially after the second dose. Possible side effects include:
Soreness in your arm
These side effects can be unpleasant for some people and even make it harder to do normal daily activities, but they’re not dangerous. And side effects usually don’t last longer than a day or two. You can take antihistamines and pain medicine like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or aspirin to help relieve discomfort from side effects if it’s safe for you to take these medicines normally.
If you’re getting a 2-dose vaccine, it’s important to get your second shot even if you have side effects (unless your doctor tells you not to).
Some people get a red, itchy, swollen, or painful rash where they got the shot (sometimes called “COVID arm”). The rash can pop up a few days to more than a week after you got your shot, and it can be pretty big. You can take an antihistamine or pain medicine to help with discomfort. If this happens to you, you should still get your second shot when it’s scheduled. Tell your provider that you got this rash or “COVID arm” — they may give you the second shot in your other arm.
Side effects do NOT mean that you have COVID-19, and the vaccine can’t give you COVID-19. In fact, these reactions are a sign that the vaccine is working and your immune system is doing what it’s supposed to do: building up protection against COVID-19.
But it’s still possible to get COVID-19 right after you get the vaccine, because it can take a few weeks after your second dose for your body to build up enough protection against the virus. If you have symptoms of COVID-19, or you have any questions about side effects you may be having, call your nurse or doctor.
It’s rare, but like any medicine you take, dangerous reactions to the vaccine are possible. If you’re having a serious reaction, like not being able to breathe, call 911 or go to the emergency room right away.
Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine if I have a history of allergic reactions?
The vaccine is safe for most people. People with a history of severe allergic reactions not related to vaccines — like food, pet or latex allergies — can get any of the vaccines. And if you only had a local reaction to the first dose of the vaccine — like pain, swelling, or itching in your arm — you can still get the second dose. But there are a few reasons someone should not get the COVID-19 vaccine.
If you had a severe allergic reaction to the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, don’t get the second dose of that vaccine. A severe allergic reaction is when you have anaphylaxis (not being able to breathe), need treatment with epinephrine (AKA an EpiPen), or have to go to the hospital.
If you had an immediate allergic reaction to the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, don’t get the second dose of that vaccine (even if your reaction wasn’t serious enough to go to the hospital). An immediate allergic reaction is when you have symptoms like hives, swelling, and wheezing within 4 hours of getting the vaccine.
If you’ve ever had a severe allergic reaction or an immediate reaction (even if it wasn’t severe) to any ingredient in a COVID-19 vaccine, don’t get that vaccine. If you know you’re allergic to polyethylene glycol (PEG) or polysorbate, don’t get an mRNA vaccine (these ingredients are in mRNA vaccines).
You can read a full list of ingredients for each vaccine here:
The 3 COVID-19 vaccines now available in the U.S. don’t have eggs, preservatives, or latex in them.
If you’ve had any kind of allergic reaction to another vaccine or shot of medication before, talk with your nurse or doctor to help decide if it’s safe for you to get the COVID-19 vaccine. After you get the vaccine, you may have to stay 15-30 minutes for observation to make sure you’re safe if you do have a reaction.
Can children get the COVID-19 vaccine?
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is approved for people 12 years and older. The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccines are approved for people 18 years and older. The CDC now recommends that everyone ages 12 and up get vaccinated if they can.
Scientists are currently doing research around the vaccine for children younger than 12, but these studies aren’t finished yet. If you have questions about whether your child can get the COVID-19 vaccine, contact their nurse or doctor.
If you’re under 18, you need parental consent to get the COVID-19 vaccine, and you can only get the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. So make sure to make an appointment somewhere that has the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, or states that they give vaccines to people ages 12 and up. You can also contact your local health department for more information about getting the vaccine if you’re younger than 18.
How can I trust a vaccine that was developed so quickly?
Even though COVID-19 is a new infection, there’s decades of research on the science behind the types of vaccines used to prevent COVID-19.
All of the COVID-19 vaccines were researched with extremely high safety standards to make sure they were both effective AND safe. Thousands of volunteers got these vaccines in clinical trials in 2020, and were closely monitored for 2 months after getting their final dose before the FDA approved the vaccine. The FDA and many other expert medical, research, and health care organizations reviewed the data and all found that the vaccines were safe and effective. The CDC and other federal partners are continuing to monitor the vaccines for serious side effects (called adverse events) using well-established vaccine safety monitoring systems.
The vaccines were able to be developed so quickly and safely because pharmaceutical companies, public health organizations, and governments all over the world collectively prioritized and invested in finding a way to prevent COVID-19 and end this devastating pandemic as soon as possible — this type of collective action doesn’t happen often, but it shows what’s possible when people across the globe work together to find innovative solutions to public health problems.
Does the COVID-19 vaccine cause infertility, sterility, or miscarriage?
No. Research shows that COVID-19 vaccines are safe, and they don’t make you sterile, affect your fertility, or cause miscarriage or problems in pregnancy.
Some people have made false claims that the COVID-19 vaccine makes your body attack reproductive organs, leading to infertility — this is NOT true and isn’t based on any science or research. There’s no evidence that people have problems getting pregnant after getting the COVID-19 vaccine. In fact, during the vaccine trials, about the same number of people got pregnant in both the placebo group and the vaccine group.
Bodies are smart and the vaccine trains your immune systems to focus their attack on the coronavirus, without attacking your internal organs. COVID-19 vaccines don’t give you COVID-19, make you sick, or change your genetic material or DNA.
Is it safe to get the COVID-19 vaccine if I’m pregnant or breastfeeding?
Yes. The CDC recommends the COVID-19 vaccine for people who are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, might become pregnant in the future, or are breastfeeding.
Research shows that the COVID-19 vaccine is safe for pregnant people. And there have been no problems reported in the many people who’ve gotten the vaccine during pregnancy.
The COVID-19 vaccine wasn’t tested specifically in breastfeeding people, but there’s no evidence that the vaccine is unsafe if you’re breastfeeding. In fact, there’s some research showing that vaccinated people have COVID-19 antibodies in their breast milk — so it’s possible that getting the vaccine could pass some COVID-19 protection on to your baby. (Scientists are still studying this.) You can read more about COVID-19 vaccine safety for pregnant and breastfeeding people on the CDC website.
People who are pregnant or have been pregnant recently are more likely to die or get very sick from COVID-19 than people who aren’t pregnant. And pregnant people who have COVID-19 may have a higher risk of pregnancy complications, like early birth. So if you’re pregnant, it’s important to do what you can to avoid getting COVID-19 — including getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
Talk with your doctor or nurse if you have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine.
Can the COVID-19 vaccine affect mammograms?
A small number of people have had harmless swelling in their lymph nodes near their breasts after getting the COVID-19 vaccine, but this is very rare. This swelling may look similar to breast cancer on a mammogram, which can cause a false result. The COVID-19 vaccine does NOT cause breast cancer.
If you’re due for a mammogram, try to schedule your screening before your first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, or 4-6 weeks after your last dose. But don’t skip your mammogram altogether because of your vaccine.
Will the vaccine cause autism or developmental issues to any children I have in the future?
No. Vaccines do not cause autism. COVID-19 vaccines do not change your DNA or genetic material. Your body gets rid of the material in the vaccine once it’s done using it to learn how to build up immunity to COVID-19. Nothing from the vaccines can be passed down genetically to children.
Can the COVID vaccine affect my period?
Scientists didn’t study the vaccine’s impact on periods during the clinical trials. But there’s no reason to think that vaccines have a big effect on your period. And the CDC and other researchers are continuing to monitor the vaccines for serious side effects (called adverse events) using well-established vaccine safety monitoring systems.
Lots of things can make your period lighter, heavier, or come at a different time than you’d expect — like stress, being sick, taking certain medicines, and hormonal changes. It’s possible that your first period after getting vaccinated may be a little different, but that doesn’t mean there’s anything to worry about. If changes in your period keep happening, something else may be causing it — contact your nurse or doctor, like the ones at your local Planned Parenthood health center.
Does the COVID-19 vaccine affect birth control?
No. The vaccine trials didn’t show any interactions with medicines, including birth control, so you don’t have to worry that COVID-19 vaccines make your birth control less effective. There’s also no evidence that you’re any more or less likely to get pregnant after getting vaccinated. You can be confident that your birth control is still protecting you from pregnancy after getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
Does the COVID-19 affect STD medicine?
No. There’s no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines affect medicines for sexually transmitted infections. The vaccine trials didn’t show any interactions with any medicines, including medicines used to treat or prevent STDs (like antibiotics, herpes medicines, and PrEP). So you can trust that your medicines are still working to keep you healthy after getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
Is the Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Safe?
In early 2021, a very small number of women under the age of 50 got a rare & severe type of blood clot with low platelets — called thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome or TTS — after getting the J&J vaccine. It’s important to note that this is extremely rare. Of the 7 million Americans that had been vaccinated at that time, there were only 6 cases of this event.
The CDC and FDA took these events seriously and acted out of an abundance of caution. From April 13-23, 2021, they put the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on hold while they investigated its safety. After carefully reviewing the data, the FDA and CDC cleared the vaccine for use again. They found that the risk of TTS from the J&J vaccine is extremely low, and the health risks from getting or spreading COVID-19 are much higher than any potential risks from the vaccine.
Based on the research, it seems that women younger than 50 have a higher risk of TTS compared to other people. But the risk is still extremely low. If you have questions about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines, talk with your nurse or doctor. If you have severe headache, stomach pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within 3 weeks of getting the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, get medical care right away.
No serious problems have been reported with the Moderna or Pfizer mRNA vaccines, and they’re a different kind of vaccine than the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Does the Johnson & Johnson vaccine cause Guillain Barré syndrome (GBS)?
Guillain Barré syndrome (GBS) is a neurological disorder where your body’s immune system damages your nerve cells. Some people who got the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine have gotten GBS, but this is extremely rare.
The reports show that men 50-64 years old may be more likely to get GBS after getting the J&J vaccine than other people. The CDC and FDA have decided that the benefits of getting the COVID-19 vaccine outweighs the extremely low risk of GBS.
No serious problems have been reported with the Moderna or Pfizer mRNA vaccines, which are a different kind of vaccine than the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.