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The COVID-19 Vaccines

Who can get the vaccine?

Currently, any individuals 12 years old and older who live or work in San Diego County are eligible to receive a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination. Those 16 and older may receive either the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson, or Moderna vaccinesYou can visit the County HHSA Vaccine Eligibility page for details.

Before Your Vaccination Appointment

  • Take it easy the night before to ensure potential symptoms are not a result of other unrelated activities.
  • Anticipate the COVID-19 vaccines may cause minor side effects in some people, like sore muscles, feeling tired, or mild fever.
  • Do not take acetaminophen or ibuprofen in anticipation of potentially having side effects from the vaccine.
    • Taking these medications for the purpose of preventing post-vaccination symptoms is not currently recommended.
  • When you go to your appointment, remember to:
    • Watch your distance – stay at least 6 feet away from others.
    • Wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth.

During Your Vaccination Appointment

  • A COVID-19 vaccination card will be given to you when you receive your first dose of the vaccine. It will list:
    • The type of vaccine you received.
    • The date you received it.
    • Where you received it.
  • Keep this vaccination card in a safe place and bring it with you to your second dose appointment.
    • If you have a smartphone with you, it is recommended you take a picture of your vaccination card in case you misplace the physical card between appointments.
  • You will also receive a fact sheet that tells you more about the COVID-19 vaccine you received.
  • You will be monitored for allergic reactions on-site for 15-30 minutes.
  • You will be advised to register for v-safe for:
    • Personalized health check-ins,
    • Reminders to get your second dose,
    • Quickly tells the CDC if you have any side effects, and after getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

After Your Vaccination Appointment

  • It takes time for your body to build protection after any vaccination.
  • The Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines require two shots for them to work best.
    • The vaccine is most effective 2 weeks following your second dose.
  • Continue to wash your hands.
  • Continue to watch your distance.
  • Continue to wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth when in contact with others outside your household.

Frequently Asked Questions about the COVID-19 Vaccines

How does an mRNA vaccine work?

The virus that causes COVID-19 is called SARS-CoV-2. All viruses, like SARS-CoV-2, have a unique genetic code. Scientists take part of the virus’s code, called the messenger RNA (mRNA), which tells our cells what to build, and coats them in a lipid so they can enter the body’s cell. This is what is injected into the patient. The mRNA tells the cells to make a specific part of the virus, the “spike protein.” The immune system produces antibodies and activates T-cells to destroy spike proteins so when you are exposed to the virus in the future, your immune system will recognize those spike proteins and has the antibodies and T-cells to destroy the virus. (Source: How the Vaccines Work.)

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?

The U.S. FDA granted full authorization (EUA) for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The FDA has granted Emergency Use Authorization (EAU) for the Moderna and Janssen vaccines, which have been shown to be safe and effective determined by data from large clinical trials. While vaccines are being developed as quickly as possible, routine processes and procedures remain in place to ensure the safety of any vaccine that is authorized for use. The CDC continues to monitor adverse events through safety monitoring systems. Click here for more information on the CDC and safety monitoring. (Source: CDC, Ensuring the Safety of Vaccines & Benefits of Getting Vaccinated)

Will the vaccine give me COVID-19?

No. According to the CDC, none of the authorized and recommended COVID-19 vaccines or COVID-19 vaccines currently in development in the U.S. contain the live virus that causes COVID-19.

(Source: CDC, Facts about Vaccination)

Who should not get the vaccine?

You should not get the COVID-19 vaccine if you:

  • had a severe allergic reaction after a previous dose of the vaccine or have had a severe allergic reaction to any ingredients of the vaccine.
  • had an immediate allergic reaction, even if it was not severe, to any ingredient in an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.
  • have had an allergic reaction to PEG (polyethylene glycol) or polysorbate. Polysorbate is not in the vaccines but closely related to PEG which is included.

(Source: CDC, Allergic Reactions)

If you are pregnant, plan to be pregnant or breastfeeding, please talk to your doctor before getting vaccinated.

If you have already recovered from COVID-19, there are no recommendations by CDC on whether or not to get vaccinated. There is not enough information available to say if or for how long after COVID-19 infection someone is protected from getting it again (natural immunity). If you are currently infected with COVID-19, please wait until you have completed your quarantine period and are not experiencing symptoms before getting vaccinated.

If you have questions or concerns on whether to be vaccinated, please speak with your doctor.

What are the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine?

The most commonly reported side effects of the vaccines include:

  • Injection site pain and swelling
  • Tiredness
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Fever

If you experience any of these side effects, these are normal signs that your body is building protection and should go away in a few days. The CDC still recommends getting the second shot even if you experienced side effects after the first shot, unless a vaccination provider or your doctor tells you otherwise.

Each individual who is vaccinated should report their side effects in the v-safe health checker platform right away.