For the latest COVID-19 information, visit vcuhealth.org/covid-19 or Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU for pediatrics. For vaccine details, visit vcuhealth.org/covidvaccine.


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COVID-19 vaccine: Frequently Asked Questions

COVID-19 isn’t the same as the flu. It’s extremely dangerous — to you and those you come in contact with. If you develop severe symptoms from COVID-19 and survive, your recovery typically isn’t easy. You may require lengthy, difficult rehabilitation.

Now that vaccines are available, don’t take chances. Get the vaccine — to protect yourself, your family and the surrounding community.


Yes. The COVID-19 vaccines are safe. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved them under an Emergency Use Authorization.

Before vaccines are approved for the general public, they have gone through a careful trial process with several phases to address their safety and effectiveness. The COVID-19 vaccines have been produced faster than any other vaccine because public health officials have been preparing for this vaccine since the virus was first discovered in 2019 and prioritized its development.


The COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective:

  • The Pfizer vaccine is 95% effective at preventing COVID-19.
  • The Moderna vaccine is 94% effective at preventing COVID-19.

The vaccines also protect you from getting severely ill. An efficacy rate of 95% means that some people who get vaccinated (1 in 20) may still get COVID-19. But nobody who has become COVID-positive after receiving the vaccine has had a severe case of the disease.


No. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are essentially equally effective.


As with most vaccines, you may experience mild to moderate side effects. These can include fatigue, mild fever, headache, muscle aches and pain in your arm at the injection site. These side effects may last a couple days but are completely normal.


As with any medication, some people may experience an allergic reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine. This risk is extremely small. To be on the safe side, health care workers may ask you to remain for a short period after your vaccination so they can monitor you for an allergic reaction and take action should one occur.

If you do suffer an allergic reaction, contact your doctor, as you may want to skip the second dose of the vaccine. Also refrain from the vaccine if you’ve ever had a severe allergic reaction to any ingredient in the vaccine, such as polyethylene glycol or polysorbate. An allergic reaction is considered severe if you require epinephrine or an EpiPen for treatment or you need to go to the hospital.


No. You cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccines because they don’t contain the live virus nor do they contain a weakened or dead version of the virus. The vaccines so far approved by the FDA are mRNA vaccines, which work by teaching your immune system how to recognize and fight the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19.


We don’t yet know how long the vaccines will protect you from COVID-19. It’s possible that over time more doses will be needed to provide continued protection — similar to the flu shot. Scientists are currently studying this.


The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are 95% and 94% effective — not 100%. An efficacy rate of 95% means that some people who get vaccinated (1 in 20) may still get COVID-19.

If you are one of the 95% who do develop immunity, it typically takes about two weeks after your second vaccine dose to do so. You could get infected during this time, endangering your health. You could also spread the disease, endangering others.

Once most people are protected, restrictions may ease up a bit. In the meantime, continue to wear your mask, practice social distancing, avoid crowds and wash your hands often.


It is recommended to get the vaccine, although reinfection appears rare after someone has had COVID-19.

If you have had COVID-19, wait at least 90 days from your date of diagnosis before getting the vaccine. If you’ve had symptoms of COVID-19 but were never diagnosed, don’t assume you had the disease and are immune. Get the vaccine.


We think so. There is no convincing data to suggest that the available vaccines will be any less effective against the newly detected strains of COVID-19.

Viruses mutate all the time. It’s not unusual. The new strain, or variant, of COVID-19 that was discovered in the United Kingdom appears to be transmitted more easily than current strains. This is because, once infected, you have more virus to pass along. This has nothing to do with the vaccines’ ability to stop the virus, though.


A one-dose vaccine has not yet been approved. We do not know when, or if, a one-dose vaccine will be approved. Don’t take chances. We recommend getting whichever vaccine is offered when it’s available.


Not yet. Health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities received the vaccine first.

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) has a vaccination website that lists who meets the current criteria for the COVID-19 vaccine in Virginia. You can also find out which phase you fit in.

We are offering our patients vaccine information updates via email. Register for vaccine information emails.


The COVID-19 vaccine is only recommended for individuals 16 and older at this time. For more information on the COVID-19 vaccine and children, please visit our Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU vaccine webpage.


Approval of the vaccine for public use will come from the CDC and the Virginia Department of Health (VDH).

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) has a vaccination website that lists who meets the current criteria for the COVID-19 vaccine in Virginia. You can also find out which phase you fit in.

The Richmond City and Henrico County Health District offers a vaccination interest form that provides more information as it becomes available.

You can also sign up for our VCU Health vaccine information emails.


The vaccine will be free for all Americans. Any fees will be covered either by insurance companies or by the federal government at this time. You will not have any out-of-pocket costs.


We will provide more information on vaccine availability and locations as it becomes available. You can also sign up for our vaccine information emails.

VCU Health is working closely with the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) to offer the vaccine to the public once it is available. The VDH is collaborating with a number of institutions who can provide the COVID-19 vaccine, including hospitals, long-term care facilities, local health departments, urgent care centers, outpatient centers and pharmacies.


The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) has a great FAQ on their website with more information on the vaccine, its safety, and what to expect after you have been vaccinated.

Other resources include: