There are three COVID-19 vaccines authorized for emergency use by the FDA.
There are also several other vaccines in various stages of clinical development.
All three authorized vaccines are given as an injection into the muscle. The Pfizer vaccine is given in two shots, three weeks apart. The Moderna vaccine is given in two shots, four 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.
The Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines are about 95% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 illness about two weeks after both doses are received, according to FDA data.
The Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine is about 66% effective at preventing moderate to severe COVID-19 illness and 85% effective at preventing severe COVID-19 illness 28 days after vaccination, according to FDA data.
According to clinical trials data, all of the authorized vaccines are 100% effective at preventing hospitalization and death related to COVID-19.
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.
There are a few SARS-CoV-2 variants that scientists are actively tracking. These include the B.1.1.7 variant, first reported in the U.K.; the B.1.351 variant, first reported in South Africa; and the P.1 variant, first reported in Brazil. Research is underway to see how effective the currently authorized vaccines are against these variants.
As of early-2021, the vaccines all appear to offer significant protection against the known variants. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines work as intended against the B.1.1.7 variant. The Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, while still protective, are less effective against the B.1.351 variant, which includes a mutation that impacts the spike protein’s ability to infect a cell. Moderna announced they are developing a booster shot to better target B.1.351 and other emerging strains.
The CDC has more information on these variants 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 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 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 Johnson & Johnson/Janssen single dose COVID-19 vaccine was authorized for emergency use by the FDA on Feb. 27. In clinical trials, it was found to be 100% effective at preventing hospitalization and deaths related to COVID-19 and 72% effective at preventing moderate to severe COVID-19 illness in the United States, 28 days after vaccination.
On April 13, following guidance from the CDC and the FDA, all California vaccine sites paused administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after six women (out of more than 6.8 million doses) reported developing a rare and severe blood clot within two weeks of receiving the vaccine.
On April 23, U.S. health officials lifted this pause after finding that that the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine’s known and potential benefits outweigh its known and potential risks. You can see the updated FDA fact sheet here, and the updated CDC guidance here. UCLA Health resumed administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on April 26.
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.
What’s different about this 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 will be easier to store and distribute to smaller offices and outlying areas.
COVID-19 has killed more than half a 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 24,000 to 62,000 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 will save lives and decrease 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.
No. Just like getting the flu vaccine shot is not mandatory, getting the COVID-19 vaccine will not be mandatory either. However, it will likely be highly encouraged as a way to protect yourself and those around you.
The FDA has confidently said that the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are safe, and has authorized them 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.
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.
A few people who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine experienced rare blood clots along with a low level of platelets within two weeks of their vaccination. The incidence of this side effect is about 1 in 1 million. 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). There have been less than 75 cases of anaphylaxis (serious life-threatening allergic reaction) reported out of 6 million doses of Pfizer and Moderna administered. This is within an expected level for a vaccine.
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.
We don’t know. Clinical trials for the authorized vaccines tested their ability to prevent symptomatic COVID-19 disease in vaccinated individuals. The trials did not test if vaccinated individuals could still become infected with COVID-19 or transmit the illness. But just because this wasn’t tested in the clinical trials doesn’t mean the COVID-19 vaccine isn’t preventing vaccinated individuals from catching and transmitting the disease. Based on experience with other vaccines and early data, it is likely that people who are vaccinated will at most have an asymptomatic illness, and will be less likely to pass the virus to others.
It typically takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity after vaccination. You are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after your second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or two weeks after a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. It’s possible to become infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just after vaccination or between the first and second dose and still get sick.
It’s also possible to still get COVID-19 even after you are vaccinated, as none of the vaccines are 100% effective or guarantee 100% protection. However, if you are fully vaccinated and get COVID-19, early data shows you are likely to have a mild or asymptomatic case.
We do not know yet. Clinical studies for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines showed that they were still effective six months after the second shot. Trial participants will be followed for two years. After that, we should know more about how long immunity lasts.
For most people, the answer is yes. The vaccine is currently authorized for use in people 16 years 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 and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccines here.
You must be 16 years of age and older to receive the Pfizer vaccine, and 18 years of age and older to receive the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
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.
The CDC recommends that the COVID-19 vaccine should be administered alone, with a minimum interval of 14 days before or after receiving any other vaccine. If the COVID-19 vaccine is inadvertently administered within 14 days of another vaccine, doses do not need to be repeated for either vaccine.
Yes. Pregnant women have two options – to get a vaccine when it’s available to them or to wait for more information about how the vaccine affects pregnant women, since they were not included in clinical trials. This is a decision best made in collaboration with a health care professional who knows your personal medical history.
The American College of Obstetrician and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM) recommend that COVID-19 vaccines should not be withheld from pregnant individuals who meet criteria for vaccination. UCLA Health also stands by this statement from the ACOG and SMFM regarding the World Health Organization's position on this topic.
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.
The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is currently authorized for people 16 and older and the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are authorized for people 18 and older. Before a vaccine can be offered to children under 16, clinical trials must be run in different age groups to test its safety and effectiveness.
Pfizer and Moderna are currently running clinical trials to test their vaccines in kids 12 and older. On April 9, Pfizer requested that their Emergency Use Authorization be expanded to include adolescents ages 12 to 15 after their trial showed the vaccine was safe and effective in this group.
Moderna recently announced that they are recruiting children between 6 months and 12 years of age for a new clinical trial, while Johnson & Johnson announced they will also run a clinical trial to test their vaccine in children 12 to 18 years, followed immediately by studies to test the vaccine in newborns through adolescents and pregnant women. The timeline of when those trials will start or end has not been announced.
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.
If you have questions, please talk to your doctor.
Yes. If you are a transplant recipient, you should get vaccinated. Discuss optimal timing to receive your vaccine with your transplant doctor. One of the easiest ways to connect with your doctor is through the myUCLAhealth patient portal. If you do not have an account, please create one today.
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 and Moderna 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 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. UCLA Health is working with the CDC and California Department of Public Health to make sure that everyone who wants to be vaccinated will be able to do so 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.
No. UCLA Health will continue to receive vaccines produced by different manufacturers, and for now, patients will not be able to choose which vaccine they receive.
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 vaccine. 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.
If there are no available appointments in myUCLAhealth, keep checking back. We open appointment slots daily.
You can also schedule a vaccination appointment through one of the following:
No, please do not check in with or show up at our vaccine sites to see if extra doses are available. In order to avoid wasting doses, we book all appointment slots. Please remain patient, and do not come to our offices without an appointment.
The second vaccination dose should be received 21 days after the first dose for the Pfizer vaccine 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.
Getting the vaccine will keep you safe and other people safe who cannot receive the vaccine. It is important that everyone who can get the vaccine get it so that we can end the pandemic through herd immunity.
If you are concerned about potential long-term side effects related to vaccination, please note that all previous vaccine studies show that serious vaccine-related side effects normally occur within 6-8 weeks (2 months) after a vaccine shot. More than 100,000 people received the vaccine more than 6 months ago and there have been no serious side effects.
We recommend that you schedule your vaccination appointment as soon as you’re eligible. While our goal is to offer vaccinations close to where patients live or work, we may not be able to offer the COVID-19 vaccine at your regular doctor’s office.
Yes. You can book a second dose appointment in myUCLAhealth if the appropriate slot is available. 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.
If you have already been vaccinated, UCLA Health eventually will be notified by the state, which keeps a registry of people who are vaccinated and shares it with us. There have been some delays and we may have not received that notification yet. But, there is no need to take action. When we are notified, we will make sure to update your chart.
Yes. While data suggest the FDA-authorized vaccines are very effective, no vaccine is 100% effective, and we do not yet know how long immunity will last after getting the required shots. Therefore, we must continue to follow public health guidelines, such as wearing a face covering, practicing physical distancing, and avoiding indoor crowds. UCLA Health will continue to follow universal masking in all medical clinics and hospitals even after employees and patients receive the vaccine.
Yes. According to CDC guidance from March 8, fully vaccinated people can:
The CDC still recommends wearing a well-fitted mask in public and when visiting with unvaccinated people that are at a high risk for severe COVID-19 disease. This includes unvaccinated household members of people that are high risk for severe COVID-19 disease. Fully vaccinated people should also avoid medium and large sized in-person gatherings.
According to CDC guidance, fully vaccinated people who have been exposed to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 do not need to quarantine if they meet all of the following criteria:
If they do not meet all three criteria, they should still follow current quarantine guidance.
Information on vaccinations for UCLA faculty, staff and students is available on UCLA’s COVID-19 resource website (covid-19.ucla.edu).
As of March 1, 2021, invitations are being sent to those members of the campus community who are eligible for vaccination, as supplies are available. You will receive an email when it is your turn to self-schedule your appointment. You can find more information on campus prioritization and distribution here.
UCLA has hosted several town hall events to discuss the university’s planned approach to vaccine distribution and what to expect in the next few months. You can view these events online.
Learn more about myUCLAhealth