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Coronavirus Vaccine Q&A

Here are answers to some of the common vaccine questions we're hearing from members. (updated August 2021)

When can I get the vaccine?
Everyone ages 12 and older can get the vaccine right now in the United States. Vaccines are available at many clinics and pharmacies — and some counties even have a home vaccination program for people who can’t leave the house.

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How many shots will I have to get?
If you get the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, you'll need 2 shots, about a month apart. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is just 1 shot. If you have a condition that causes problems with your immune system, you may need an extra shot. Talk to your doctor about what’s recommended for you. 

You may also need a booster shot later on. Original Medicare will cover any coronavirus vaccines that the CDC recommends for you, including booster shots.

Does the vaccine work? 
Yes, very much so. During the studies, the vaccine prevented sickness from coronavirus 95% of the time. You almost can't do any better than that. Vaccines we have for other diseases have been incredibly successful, and this one is even better. By a lot. It's not often we see this kind effectiveness in fighting disease.

Scientists tested the vaccine on people of different ages, genders, races, and ethnicities, and the results were the same across the board. They're still testing the vaccine on children. It's not yet approved for anyone under age 12.

Even with the new Delta variant, the vaccine still works well — especially at preventing serious illness and death from the coronavirus.

Is it safe?
Yes, it is. Even though the vaccine was developed quickly, it went through all the normal stages in testing. The studies did NOT take any shortcuts. It all happened so quickly thanks to amazing collaboration among experts from around the world.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use a technology called messenger RNA (mRNA) that scientists have been working on for almost 20 years. It works by telling your cells to make a piece of the coronavirus. This small piece of coronavirus can't make you sick. But it's enough to help your immune system learn to protect you if you come into contact with the real virus.

Similarly, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses an approach that scientists have been studying for decades, called an adenovirus vector vaccine. The vaccine teaches your body how to fight off the coronavirus — without making you sick.

Are there side effects?
With any vaccine, it's common to have symptoms like fatigue or a headache after you get it. This is your immune system reacting (in a good way!) to the shot. The side effects with the COVID vaccine are very similar to what we see with other vaccines.

In the coronavirus vaccine studies, up to half of people reported mild symptoms like fatigue or headache after getting the shot. Fewer than 5 of every 100 people reported things like low grade fevers or swelling and redness where they received the shot. These side effects typically go away on their own after a day or two. Be sure to call your doctor if you have any side effects that bother you or don't go away.

Can I choose which vaccine to get?
Maybe. Different clinics and pharmacies may only have some brands available, so you can ask. But all the vaccines available in the United States are safe and effective. We suggest you get whichever one you can get first.

After I get the vaccine, can my life go back to normal? 
Not quite. Even with the vaccine, it may still be possible to get the virus and pass it to someone else, especially with the new Delta variant.

That's why it’s important to continue with masks and social distancing in the months ahead. We can go back to normal once things are under control. 

Do I need to get the vaccine if I already had the coronavirus?
Yes. Some of the people in the studies had already had the coronavirus and the vaccine was safe for them. Experts also think the boost of extra immunity from the vaccine will be helpful. Always check with your doctor if you have any questions based on your health conditions and history. 

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