Immunocompromised individuals who received the Moderna or Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine series are eligible to receive a third dose to improve protection from infection.
On September 22, 2021, the FDA authorized a third dose or booster of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for certain individuals, and on September 23, the CDC officially recommended a booster for the following groups:
- Individuals 65 and older
- Individuals 18-64 at high risk of severe COVID-19 due to underlying conditions, including:
- Chronic kidney disease
- Chronic lung diseases (COPD, asthma, interstitial lung disease cystic fibrosis, pulmonary HTN)
- Dementia or other neuro conditions
- Diabetes (Type 1 or 2)
- Down syndrome
- Heart conditions (heart failure, CAD, cardiomyopathies, HTN)
- HIV infection
- Immunosuppressed state
- Liver disease
- Overweight and obesity – BMI > 25 kg/m2
- Sickle cell disease or thalassemia
- Smoking, current or former
- Solid organ or blood stem cell transplant
- Stroke or cerebrovascular disease
- Substance use disorders
- Individuals 18-64 with frequent institutional or occupational exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 virus (health care workers, teachers, daycare staff, grocery workers and those in homeless shelters or prisons)
Eligible individuals may receive a Pfizer booster shot at least six months after their second dose. Learn more here.
COVID-19 VACCINE FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Updated September 27, 2021
Please visit this page regularly for updates.
Summit Health is committed to safeguarding the health of our patients and team members and stopping the spread of COVID-19. Vaccination is an important step in this process and likely our best hope for ending this pandemic.
GENERAL VACCINE INFORMATION
A vaccine provides active acquired immunity to a particular infectious disease – meaning it helps your immune system fight viruses or bacteria. When most people in a community are vaccinated against a disease, the ability for the disease to spread is limited. This is known as herd immunity.
VACCINE USE AUTHORIZATION
Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) is quick facilitation during a public health emergency. For an EUA to be issued for a vaccine, the FDA must determine that the known and potential benefits outweigh the known and potential risks of the vaccine.
There are three vaccines currently approved by the FDA for use in the United States. The Moderna and the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccines have Emergency Use Authorization based on extensive evidence from clinical trials showing both effectiveness and safety of the vaccines. The Pfizer vaccine has full approval for use to prevent COVID-19. All three vaccines are safe and effective.
VACCINE ELIGIBILITY AND DISTRIBUTION
All persons 12 years of age and older are eligible to receive the vaccine.
There are several vaccination location options people can consider, including state and local vaccine sites and retail pharmacies listed on the New Jersey COVID-19 Information Hub. Appointments are readily available and many sites offer walk-in service.
The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines each require two doses. The second Moderna dose is administered 28 days after the first. The second Pfizer dose is administered 21 days after the first.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine only requires one dose.
No. In keeping with the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, no patient will be charged for the vaccine or its administration. Even if you do not have insurance coverage, you will not be charged for the vaccine.
Many people do develop a sore arm, muscle aches and/or fevers, especially after the second dose. OTC fever reducing and pain relieving medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen may be taken for the treatment of post-vaccination symptoms, if medically appropriate.
It is recommended that you do not take these medications prior to receiving the vaccine. Instead, use the medications if you begin to feel symptoms after the receiving the shot.
SAFETY AND EFFECTIVENESS
The Moderna and Pfizer BioNTech vaccines are mRNA vaccines. These vaccines use a piece of genetic material from the virus called messenger RNA (mRNA), surrounded by a protective lipid (oily) shell. When the vaccine is injected into the muscle, it gives the muscle cells instructions on how to make a harmless piece of the s-protein, a spike-like structure found on the surface of coronaviruses. Your body’s immune system will recognize that the spike protein doesn't belong, and it will begin building an immune response by making antibodies.
Shortly after the mRNA has done its job, the body will rapidly degrade the proteins and the lipid shell so there are no vaccine components that remain in your body.
In the future, if your body is exposed to the COVID-19 virus, these antibodies will quickly attack and kill the virus. The vaccines do not use live virus organisms and cannot cause COVID-19.
Testing for antibodies is not recommended after vaccination.
No. Because there are no virus particles in the vaccine, it cannot cause infection in your body.
All vaccines must be proven safe and effective in large (phase III) clinical trials designed to identify side effects or other safety concerns before being approved for use. Vaccines must also undergo a series of independent reviews for safety and efficacy. After any vaccine is introduced to the public, health officials closely monitor for any safety concerns. In addition, over a billion doses of the COVID-19 vaccines have been administered across the world.
Based on large studies as well as extensive real-world experience, the currently available COVID-19 vaccines have been found to be safe and highly effective in reducing the risk of COVID-19.
The three existing COVID-19 vaccines currently available in the U.S. are highly effective. Studies show that individuals start to develop antibodies about one week after receiving the vaccination. With the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines (mRNA technology), one week after the first dose, you will have a somewhat reduced risk, and two weeks after the second vaccine, you are considered fully vaccinated. With the Johnson & Johnson, single shot vaccine, you are considered fully vaccinated after two weeks.
It is clear that vaccinated people have a much lower risk of getting really sick or dying from COVID-19.
While some new strains of the virus are more contagious, current evidence suggests that getting vaccinated will still provide significant protection against serious illness.
The Delta variant is of concern, spreading more easily and quickly and leading to an increase in cases in many parts of the country, particularly areas with low vaccination rates.
For continued protection, in addition to getting vaccinated, you should continue wearing your mask around people who are not members of your household, as well as washing your hands and practicing proper social distancing.
Eligibility of initial COVID-19 vaccine series and additional doses:
Johnson & Johnson/Janssen
Eligible ages for vaccination
12 years and older
18 years and older
18 years and older
How many shots are needed?
Two shots at least 21 days apart
Two shots at least 28 days apart
3rd dose for immunocompromised individuals
Third shot recommended at least 4 weeks after second dose
Third shot recommended at least 4 weeks after second dose
No recommendation for 3rd dose yet
Booster dose for non-immunocompromised patients
On September 23, the CDC recommended a booster for individuals who are:
No recommendation for booster yet
No recommendation for booster yet
Health care workers, teachers, daycare staff, grocery workers, and those in homeless shelters or prisons.
The vaccines contain no preservatives.
Some recipients did report side effects, usually fever and aches lasting a day or two. Side effects were generally worse after the second dose of the two-dose regimen. Side effects were also more common among persons between 18 and 55 years of age than in those over the age of 55.
You can learn more about clinical trials here.
Vaccines can cause normal reactive enlargement of lymph nodes on the side of the injection. This can be interpreted as an abnormality on the screening mammogram or sonogram and cause the patient to have to return for additional imaging and/or follow up exams.
Timing of Breast Imaging Before and After COVID-19 Vaccination
To reduce the need for avoidable follow-up exams, our breast imaging experts are recommending the following:
- Schedule routine screening mammograms and screening ultrasounds either:
- Before the first dose of the vaccine or
- 4 weeks after the second dose of the vaccine
- Let imaging staff know about recent COVID vaccine date and side of injection.
Of course, breast imaging should not be delayed in anyone who has symptoms or when it may negatively impact their outcome.
If you are already overdue for your screening exam or cannot reschedule within the next few months, you should keep your screening mammogram appointment and keep your COVID-19 vaccination appointments.
Summit Health is working with our breast imaging, marketing, and legal teams to develop information for patients. A questionnaire will be handed to patients before imaging to identify those who have received the COVID-19 vaccine.
Bell’s palsy is a temporary one-sided facial weakness thought to be caused by inflammation of a nerve in the face. It most commonly occurs after viral infections and resolves in a few weeks in almost all patients.
Three participants who received the vaccine did have Bell’s palsy, but given the size of the population, this is not an unusual number and FDA experts believe it was not likely to be related to the vaccine. The FDA does not exclude people with a history of Bell’s palsy from getting the vaccine.
Given what we know now, the theoretical risks of the new vaccine are by far outweighed by the potential benefits. If you are worried about a possible allergic reaction, we recommend you speak to your health care provider before scheduling your vaccination. Additionally, it would be reasonable to remain at the medical facility where the vaccine is administered for 30 minutes (as opposed to the standard 15) after getting vaccinated. Serious allergic reactions almost always occur within the first 30 minutes.
Yes. Firstly, you do not gain full effects of the vaccine until about one week after the second vaccine dose, so you must practice all safe habits to protect yourself.
Secondly, we know that getting vaccinate protects you from getting sick. However, the evidence around possibly contracting an asymptomatic infection is not as strong, and therefore we must continue to protect others by abiding by all recommended precautions.
For these reasons, please continue safe habits such as masking at all times around others, avoiding large social gatherings, and practicing distancing.
MEDICAL CONDITIONS, IMMUNE SYSTEM & CIRCUMSTANTIAL INFORMATION
You should weigh the risks of your medical condition with the benefits of reducing the risk of contracting COVID-19. People with conditions that impact the immune system, or who take immunosuppressive medications, are likely to be at increased risk for severe COVID-19. The CDC recommends that individuals with conditions that impact the immune system should receive the COVID-19 vaccine. It is possible that these individuals may have a reduced immune response, but still gain some protection. If you have any concerns, it is best to discuss with your health care provider.
Based on data from clinical trials and real-world experience, most medical experts, including the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG), believe it is safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. In fact, the ACOG recommends that all eligible pregnant and lactating individuals should receive the vaccine. If you have any questions, we encourage you to discuss them with your health care provider to determine what’s best for you and your baby. Learn more on the ACOG website and the CDC page.
There is a lot of vaccine misinformation on the internet and on social media, so we encourage you to use reliable sources such as CDC.gov when learning about the vaccine. There is a false rumor that the antibody produced by the vaccine to fight COVID-19 infection can impact the placenta in the womb. In fact, there is absolutely no evidence that the antibody has an impact on fertility, pregnancy, or the ability for the fetus to grow in the womb.
We know that COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted Black, Latinx, Native Americans, and other minority communities. Vaccine trials have made active efforts to include people of all races and ethnicities for testing of safety and effectiveness. Efficacy has been consistent across race, ethnicity, and gender demographics. Given that Black and Latinx people are at higher risk for severe COVID-19, the benefits may be even greater.
You can still receive the vaccine if you have a bleeding disorder or are taking a blood thinner. It does not exclude you from receiving the vaccine. The vaccine is not associated with serious bleeding risk. It is possible that you experience light bruising and/or light bleeding at the injection site which is a common side effect with any vaccine and generally resolves the same day.
Chronic medical conditions can place people at increased risk for severe COVID-19, compared to individuals without these conditions. Clinical trials have demonstrated that the vaccines are very safe and effective in people with underlying medical conditions.
The risk of allergic reactions to the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine is very low. The CDC does not disqualify people with a history of allergies to food, medications, pollen, stings, or other substances from getting the vaccine. If you have a history of allergies to specific foods or medications, you should discuss the risks and benefits of the vaccine with your health care provider. Based on your risk factors for developing severe disease if you contract COVID-19, you and your provider can decide whether you should take the vaccine now or wait a little longer.
The FDA has noted only two populations who should not receive the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine:
- Those who have had a severe allergic reaction after a previous dose of this vaccine
- Those who have had a severe allergic reaction to any ingredient of this vaccine
If you are not feeling well, it is recommended that you wait until you are feeling better to get the vaccine. If you have scheduled an appointment to receive the vaccine and are not feeling well on the day of vaccination, it is best to reschedule your appointment. If you have symptoms and/or signs of respiratory infection, evaluation is recommended.
No, the COVID-19 vaccine does not take the place of the pneumonia vaccine or the flu vaccine. Discuss your need for other vaccinations with your health care provider.
At this point, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are approved for persons 12 years of age or older. Both companies are conducting trials in children under 12.
PREVIOUS INFECTION AND ANTIBODIES
People who have had the infection or positive antibodies can still get the vaccine. Results of antibody testing should not be used for the purpose of vaccine decision-making, and the CDC does not recommend testing for infection before vaccination. Individuals with documented acute infection in the preceding 90 days can get the vaccine if their symptoms have resolved and they have completed their isolation period. Since reinfection seems to be uncommon in the 90 days after initial infection, individuals may defer vaccination until the end of this period, if desired.
For now, it is recommended that if you have received monoclonal antibody or plasma for treatment of COVID-19, you should wait 90 days before receiving the vaccine. This recommendation is based on known half-life (how long antibodies last in the body after they are infused though an IV) of such treatments. It is likely that if you received these, you have some protection for three months and the delay will help ensure the vaccine leads to a strong immune response.
This is not a live vaccine so there is no risk of viral shedding, which is when a virus replicates inside your body. You do not need to practice any special infection control processes after vaccination. However, you should continue to practice all the usual safety guidelines, including wearing a mask and social distancing.
Infection control protocols will likely continue throughout the country until a significant portion of the population has been vaccinated (70%+). We may be wearing masks and distancing for a large portion of 2021.
Whether vaccinated or not, everyone should still be following CDC guidelines which include:
- Staying home if not feeling well
- Washing hands frequently
- Maintaining social distancing
- Wearing a mask
- Avoiding crowds
- Covering nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing
Asymptomatic patients who have an established Summit Health provider may call (908) 273-4300 M-F between 8:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. to schedule an appointment to be tested. If you need assistance on the weekend, our Nurse Triage Line (option 1) will be available for scheduling.
Asymptomatic patients who do not have an established Summit Health provider may go to one of our CityMD sites for evaluation and testing.
Please note: If you have had close contact with a known COVID-19 positive person:
- It takes time after exposure to turn positive. Getting a test within the first few days of exposure is of limited value as it takes time for the test to convert.
- Anyone who has had close contact should isolate in their home for 14 days per the New Jersey Department of Health even if their test is negative.
- Other NJ Testing Options
To learn more about the benefits of getting a COVID-19 vaccination,
visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.