There are four COVID-19 vaccines either approved or authorized for emergency use by the FDA.
The CDC also recommends booster doses for everyone 5 and older, if eligible. A second booster dose is also recommended for some patients.
All four vaccines are given as an injection into the muscle. The Pfizer primary vaccine series is given in two shots, three weeks apart. The Moderna primary vaccine series is given initially in two shots, four weeks apart. The Novavax vaccine is given in two shots, three weeks apart. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is given as a single shot. If you receive a vaccine as part of a two-dose series, you must receive the same vaccine for both doses.
SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes COVID-19. The vaccines increase the body’s immune response by making antibodies. These antibodies block the SARS-CoV-2 virus from injecting itself into human cells, thereby preventing it from reproducing and making you sick.
The authorized vaccines still offer significant protection against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. However, there are several SARS-CoV-2 variants that scientists are actively tracking, some of which have caused increased transmissibility and increased disease severity. In some cases, antibodies developed from previous infection or vaccination are less able to neutralize these variants and prevent infection.
Pfizer and Moderna released an updated (bivalent) booster in August 2022 that targets the highly contagious omicron subvariants, BA.4 and BA.5, as well as the original coronavirus strain. The Pfizer-BioNTech bivalent booster is authorized for people 12 and older who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and the Moderna bivalent booster is authorized for people 18 and older who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The CDC has more information on variants of concern and variants of interest online.
No. You cannot become infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, from any of the vaccines.
The ingredients for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, the Novavax COVID-19, adjuvanted vaccine and the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine are listed on the FDA website. None of the vaccines contain the live virus that causes COVID-19, eggs, preservatives or mercury.
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use the same mRNA technology, but contain different ingredients to protect the mRNA, maintain the pH, and stabilize the solution. The ingredients include:
The Novavax COVID-19, adjuvanted vaccine is a protein subunit vaccine. It contains pieces (proteins) of the virus that causes COVID-19 and another ingredient called an adjuvant. These components teach your immune system how to recognize and respond quickly if infected with the actual virus spike protein. The ingredients include:
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses what’s known as “viral vector” technology. This means a harmless cold virus, adenovirus 26 (Ad26), is engineered to contain the gene for the SARS-CoV-2 “spike” protein. It also contains salts, sugar and buffers to maintain the pH and stabilize the solution. The ingredients include:
The CDC now advises that in most situations, the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are preferred over the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for both the initial vaccine series and booster dose due to the risk of serious adverse effects.
The CDC has identified a plausible causal relationship between Johnson & Johnson/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine and blood clots with low platelets (thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome, or TTS). TTS is a rare but serious adverse event that happens at a rate of about 3.83 cases per million Janssen doses. It has resulted in deaths.
Learn when to consider the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses what’s known as "viral vector" technology. This means a harmless cold virus is engineered to contain the gene for the SARS-CoV-2 "spike" protein. Once someone gets this shot, their body mounts an immune response and produces antibodies that prevent them from a future severe COVID-19 infection.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine does not need to be transported frozen like the two currently authorized vaccines. This means it is easier to store and distribute to smaller offices and outlying areas.
If you receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and experience any signs of a blood clot, including severe headaches, abdominal pain, leg pain or shortness of breath, contact your doctor or seek medical care immediately.
COVID-19 has killed more than one million people in the United States. This is significantly more deaths than other viruses that we routinely vaccinate against, such as influenza, which typically causes 12,000 to 52,000 deaths in the U.S. per year, according to the CDC.
In addition to the high death toll, COVID-19 can also cause other long-term complications. The COVID-19 vaccine saves lives and decreases the likelihood of long term COVID-related problems involving the brain, heart and lungs.
COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and death rates are disproportionately higher in lower-income communities and communities of color. Vaccines are needed to stop the virus and prevent COVID-19’s devastating health, social and financial effects on lower-income communities of color.
It depends on the setting. Now that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have full FDA approval, it’s easier for schools, employers, and the military to mandate COVID-19 vaccination for students and employees. Check with your employer or school for more information.
Even in settings where the COVID-19 vaccine is not mandated, it is highly encouraged that anyone eligible receive the vaccine, as it is the best way to protect yourself and those around you.
The FDA has confidently said that the Pfizer, Moderna, Novavax and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are safe. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are fully approved, and the Novavax and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are approved for emergency use. People who receive the vaccine will be monitored to check for safety, and participants in the original clinical trials will be followed for two years.
We understand there may be skepticism about the COVID-19 vaccine, especially among people of color, because of historical medical racism and experimentation in people of color. The COVID-19 clinical trials included people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds, and the vaccines were found to be safe and effective for all participants.
EUA is a way for the FDA to make vaccines and treatments available to the public under emergency circumstances, such as a pandemic.
Both EUA and full FDA approval are rigorous processes that look at the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine in tens of thousands of study participants.
One key difference is EUA looks at just two months of data from phase 3 clinical trials. Full FDA approval reviews at least six months of data.
All of the authorized vaccines work by helping your body produce antibodies. Antibodies are proteins that help fight infections from viruses, bacteria and other germs. Mild symptoms are common as when the body produces antibodies, and are not a sign of infection.
In ongoing clinical trials, the most common side effects included:
Side effects are generally mild and went away after a day or two. For the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, they are likely to be more pronounced after the second shot.
The CDC has identified a plausible causal relationship between Johnson & Johnson/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine and blood clots with low platelets (thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome, or TTS). TTS is a rare but serious adverse event that happens at a rate of about 3.83 cases per million doses. If you receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and experience any sign of a blood clot or low platelets, including severe headaches, abdominal pain, leg pain, shortness of breath, or easy bruising or tiny blood spots under the skin beyond the site of injection, contact your doctor or seek medical care immediately.
As with any vaccine, there is a low chance of allergic reaction. If you have a history of severe allergic reaction to other vaccines, please talk to your doctor about whether you should receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Yes. Mild adverse reactions, such as soreness at the injection site, body and muscle aches, fatigue, and mild fever, are common. Serious adverse reactions may occur but are very rare.
Of the millions of COVID-19 vaccinations that have now been given in the United States, there have been a small percentage of adverse reactions reported through the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS).
All UCLA Health facilities providing COVID-19 shots have staff with proper training and resources to care for those that experience adverse reactions.
No, but you should not get the COVID-19 vaccine if you have had a severe allergic reaction to any ingredient in the vaccine or if you had a severe allergic reaction to a previous dose of the vaccine.
Below is some additional information and context.
All UCLA Health facilities providing COVID-19 shots have staff with proper training and resources to care for those that experience adverse reactions. Please talk to your doctor if you have additional questions.
If you take aspirin, acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol) or ibuprofen (e.g., Motrin, Advil) for a medical reason, you can continue to take it as directed. However, we suggest that you do not take any of these medicines before getting your vaccine shot because they could dull your body’s immune response.
If you have a fever or body aches after being vaccinated, you may take these medicines as needed.
It is better to get vaccinated. Getting the actual COVID-19 disease is much worse.
When the virus that causes COVID-19 infects a cell, it injects all of its own genetic material into the cell and begins replicating itself. Contracting the virus can cause both direct damage to cells and inflammation, which can harm your entire body.
With the vaccine, your body gets instructions to build antibodies that keep the spike protein from ever infecting your cells.
Yes. Any type of vaccination can impact mammography results. Here's what you need to know:
Based on this information, the current recommendation from the Society of Breast Imaging is that anyone due for a screening mammogram either schedule it before their COVID-19 vaccination or at least four weeks after vaccination. If that isn't possible, just let your make sure to let your doctor know when you received your COVID-19 vaccination so they can note that information on your medical record.
Yes. When someone who is fully vaccinated tests positive for COVID-19, it is called a “breakthrough” case. Breakthrough cases are expected and relatively common. Oftentimes, vaccinated people who have a breakthrough infection are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms.
However, even in asymptomatic or mild cases, it is possible for someone who is fully vaccinated to transmit COVID-19 to others. This is particularly true when someone is infected with the highly transmissible Delta variant.
Clinical studies show that the effectiveness of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines wane about six months after the second shot. Therefore, the CDC now recommends that everyone 5 and older receive a booster dose. A second booster dose is also recommended for some people including people ages 50 and over and those 12 and older who are immunocompromised.
Learn more about the vaccine and booster shots in our COVID-19 vaccine info hub.
Yes, the CDC recommends that everyone 5 and older get a booster shot. A second booster dose is also recommended for some people including people ages 50 and over and those 12 and older who are immunocompromised. Learn more about the vaccine and booster shots in our COVID-19 vaccine info hub.
For most people, the answer is yes. The vaccine is currently authorized for use in people 6 months of age and older.
You should talk to your health care provider before receiving the COVID-19 vaccine if any of the following apply:
You should also talk to your doctor if you have any questions, either in general or specific to your medical history.
You should not get the vaccine if you have had a severe allergic reaction to any ingredient in the vaccine, or if you had a severe allergic reaction to a previous dose of the vaccine.
You can find the ingredients and fact sheets for the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Novavax and Johnson & Johnson vaccines on the UCLA Health vaccine info hub webpage.
Yes. There is not currently enough information available to say if or for how long after infection someone is protected from getting COVID-19 again, so you should still get the COVID-19 vaccine if you have already recovered. You cannot receive the vaccine if you have an active COVID-19 infection.
Yes. If you recently received monoclonal antibody therapy or convalescent plasma to treat a COVID-19 infection, you should defer your vaccination for at least 90 days from when you last received that therapy. If you received this therapy after your first vaccine dose but before your second, you should defer your second dose for at least 90 days following receipt of the therapy.
If you are receiving antibody therapies not specific to COVID-19 treatment, such as intravenous immunoglobulin, you do not need to wait to receive the COVID-19 vaccination.
No. The CDC determined that the COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines can safely be given on the same day, and within 14 days of each other.
If you have any questions about scheduling routine vaccinations, talk to your primary doctor.
Yes! COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for all people 6 months and older, including people who are pregnant, lactating, trying to get pregnant now, or plan to become pregnant in the future. The available COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective, and there is no evidence that any of them affect current or future fertility. If you have questions, please talk to your obstetrician, midwife, or family physician.
Yes. The COVID-19 vaccine should be offered to people who are lactating/breastfeeding. Although lactating individuals were not part of the vaccine clinical trials, based on experience with other vaccines, the benefits of vaccine outweigh any safety concerns. You do not have to delay or stop breastfeeding if you receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists offers additional guidance on this topic.
Yes, you can safely get the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine if you’ve received injectable dermal fillers. Infrequently, people who have received dermal fillers may develop swelling at or near the site of filler injection (usually in the face or lips) after a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. This appears to be temporary and can resolve with medical treatment, including corticosteroid therapy. Please reach out to your primary care physician if you have any questions.
In most cases, yes. People with medical problems can and should receive the vaccine if they do not have a severe allergy to the ingredients in the vaccine. This includes people living with HIV, autoimmune disorders, such as Lupus, or any other medical problem that leads to a weakened immune system. The CDC also recommends that certain people who are moderately to severely immunocompromised receive a third (supplemental) dose of a mRNA vaccine to improve their protection. If you have questions, please talk to your doctor.
Yes. If you are a transplant recipient, you should get vaccinated as soon as possible. Additionally, the CDC recommends that people who are moderately to severely immunocompromised, including anyone who has received an organ transplant and is taking medicine to suppress their immune system, receive a third (supplemental) dose of a mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna).
If you have any questions, please reach out to your doctor. For additional guidance on this topic, please see information from The Transplantation Society and the American Society of Transplantation.
In general, the answer is yes. COVID-19 poses a much greater risk to your health than the risks posed by vaccination. There may be special circumstances in which individuals awaiting a transplant should not be vaccinated, such as if they had a very recent transplant or are receiving treatment for transplant organ rejection or allergic reactions. Please contact your transplant team before you receive any vaccination.
Reach out to your clinical trial study team coordinator with questions about your eligibility to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine technology, used in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, is new, but not unknown. While this is the first time mRNA has been used in a licensed vaccine, the structure and technology have been studied for years. Advancements in biology and chemistry have improved mRNA vaccine safety and efficacy, and it is now thought to be less dangerous than other types of vaccines.
No, the COVID-19 vaccines do not contain aborted fetal cells. However, Johnson & Johnson did use fetal cell lines — not fetal tissue — when developing and producing their vaccine, while Pfizer, Moderna and Novavax used fetal cell lines to test their vaccines and make sure that they work.
Fetal cell lines are grown in a laboratory and were started with cells from elective abortions that occurred several decades ago in the 1970s-80s. They are now thousands of generations removed from the original fetal tissue. None of the COVID-19 vaccines use fetal cells derived from recent abortions.
We understand this is a sensitive issue, and specifically important to religious communities. We’d like to provide some additional context on this topic. On Jan. 27, the California Catholic Conference noted in an official statement that they support the use of all COVID-19 vaccines, including the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, to prevent the continued spread of COVID-19. Pope Francis also publicly supported COVID-19 vaccination and the Vatican has issued a statement saying it is morally acceptable to receive COVID-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process.
No, the vaccines were not made too quickly. Given the importance of stopping the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccine experts focused their time on developing safe and effective vaccines by using pre-existing vaccine models that have been studied for years.
Each vaccine was developed and tested following the same rules as other medications and vaccines that have been approved for use, such as antibiotics and the flu shot.
No. There is no way for the COVID-19 vaccine to alter your genetic material (DNA).
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use messenger RNA (mRNA) technology. RNA is a short-lived, temporary messenger, and it only works in one direction. This means that the RNA does not interact with your DNA and never enters the part of the cell where your DNA is located.
The Novavax COVID-19, adjuvanted vaccine is a protein subunit vaccine. It doesn’t contain any genetic material, only proteins and another ingredient called an adjuvant. These components teach your immune system how to recognize and respond quickly if infected with the actual virus spike protein.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses viral vector technology. This means a harmless cold virus (adenovirus 26) is engineered to contain the gene for the SARS-CoV-2 “spike” protein. Once someone gets this shot, their body mounts an immune response and produces antibodies that prevent them from a future severe COVID-19 infection. The genetic material delivered by viral vector does not interact with your DNA.
No. The vaccine was created by expert scientists, not the government. The U.S. government provided money and support to assist in the production and distribution of the vaccine.
The vaccine does not contain a live or whole virus, microchip, or any other harmful items. Each vaccine was developed and tested following the same rules as other medications and vaccines that have been approved for use, such as antibiotics and the flu shot.
No. There’s absolutely no evidence that the vaccine interferes with fertility or pregnancy.
The vaccine includes only one protein of the virus, which causes your immune system to respond against it. This is something our bodies are used to — it happens every day.
There is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine will cause autoimmune problems. The immune response caused by the vaccine only targets the spike protein of the virus, not the other cells in your body.
No. The vaccines were rolled out in an equitable and orderly way. However, additional vaccine educational outreach is being made to communities of color to help stop the high rates of COVID-19 infection, hospitalizations, and death seen in Black, Latino, and Indigenous people.
The US has a history of medical racism and unethical experimentation on people of color. The National Research Act of 1974 outlawed unethical human experimentation on people of color and other vulnerable groups.
The COVID-19 vaccines were created by people of diverse backgrounds and reviewed by leading doctors and scientists of color, including the president of Meharry School of Medicine. The vaccines were tested in people of different racial and ethnic backgrounds and was found to be safe and effective.
The COVID-19 vaccines have been endorsed by the National Medical Association and the National Hispanic Medical Association, the country’s leading organizations of Black and Latino doctors.
Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart that can occur after infections, including viral illnesses. A small number of adolescents and young adults reported experiencing mild heart problems after receiving a mRNA COVID-19 vaccine (Pfizer and Moderna), that turned out to be myocarditis.
The CDC is currently evaluating the data on myocarditis to assess the benefits versus the risks. They continue to recommend COVID-19 vaccines for everybody 6 months and older. The CDC recommends that young male patients consider waiting 8 weeks before the 1st and 2nd doses of the primary series in order to reduce the potential risk of myocarditis.
Yes. While the authorized vaccines are all safe and effective, if you want to receive a specific vaccine type, you should select a location that offers the vaccine you prefer when you schedule your appointment.
If you receive a vaccine that needs two doses, it is important that you receive the same vaccine for both doses. For example, if you receive the Pfizer vaccine for your first dose, you must get a Pfizer vaccine for your second dose. This is the same for the Moderna and Novavax vaccines. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is only one dose.
The COVID-19 vaccine is free. If you have insurance, your insurance provider may be charged for the vaccine administration, but there will be no out-of-pocket cost for you. If you don’t have insurance, there is no cost.
If you are a UCLA Health patient, the best way to schedule your vaccination is through the online patient portal, myUCLAhealth. If you’re unable to login to myUCLAhealth, you can contact the support team at 855-364-7052.
Once you’re logged in, select “Visits” from the top navigation and then “Schedule an Appointment.” Choose “COVID Vaccine” as the reason for your appointment, select whether this is your first or second dose appointment, and then choose the location, date and time that works for you.
You can also schedule a vaccination appointment through one of the following:
The second vaccination dose should be received 21 days after the first dose for the Pfizer and Novavax vaccines and 28 days after the first dose for the Moderna vaccine.
The CDC offered additional guidance on this topic, noting that if it is not feasible to receive the second dose within the recommended interval, it may be scheduled up to six weeks (42 days) after the first dose. While there is limited data on how well vaccines administered beyond this window will work, if a second dose is given beyond the six-week window, the CDC notes that there is no need to restart the series.
Note: The CDC recommends that young male patients consider waiting 8 weeks before the 1st and 2nd doses of the primary series in order to reduce the potential risk of myocarditis.
UCLA Health patients can also schedule through myUCLAhealth. You can schedule your appointment through the California My Turn portal or get it at a local pharmacy. You do not need a doctor's note to get your booster shot.
Yes. You can book a second dose appointment in myUCLAhealth. Once you’re logged into myUCLAhealth, select “Visits” from the top navigation and then “Schedule an Appointment.” Choose “COVID Vaccine” as the reason for your appointment, note that this is your second dose appointment along with what vaccine type you received and on what date, and then choose the offered location, date and time that works for you.
You can find your digital COVID-19 vaccine record within myUCLAhealth under COVID-19 Information or Immunizations. Within the myUCLAhealth (MyChart) app, you can find your digital record by clicking on the "My COVID Info" icon. If your vaccine info is missing in myUCLAhealth or incorrect, please let your primary care office know.
You can also request your record through the California Department of Public Health's Digital COVID-19 Vaccine Record website. Please note that UCLA Health has no control over the state vaccine record website. If you have any questions, please see their FAQ or call 833-422-4255.
While not mandatory, the California Department of Public Health recommends that all people, regardless of vaccine status, wear a mask in indoor public settings. There is no longer a universal mandate requiring mask usage on public transit, but it’s still recommended. See the California Department of Public Health guidance on face coverings for more information.
Masks are also still required, regardless of vaccination status:
At UCLA Health, patients, physicians and staff must still wear masks in all clinical settings.
Please see the CDC quarantine and isolation webpage for the latest guidance on whether you need to quarantine after a known COVID-19 exposure.
Information on vaccinations for UCLA faculty, staff and students is available on UCLA’s COVID-19 resource website at covid-19.ucla.edu.
Learn more about myUCLAhealth