There are three COVID-19 vaccines either approved or authorized for emergency use by the FDA.
The CDC also recommended that certain immunocompromised people receive a third (supplemental) dose of a mRNA vaccine.
All three 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.
The authorized vaccines still offer significant protection against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. However, there are a several SARS-CoV-2 variants that scientists are actively tracking. These include four variants of concern actively circulating in the United States for which there is evidence of 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.
Variants of concern include:
Alpha (B.1.1.7): This variant was first reported in the U.K. It is more transmissible, meaning it spreads more easily in populations. It may lead to more severe COVID-19 disease based on hospitalizations and case fatality rates. The vaccines work well against this variant.
Beta (B.1.351): This variant was first reported in South Africa. It is more transmissible. The Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines offer significant protection against this variant.
Delta (B.1.617.2): This variant was first reported in India. It is more transmissible. Research is ongoing to determine how well the available vaccines work against this variant.
Gamma (P.1): This variant was first reported in Japan and Brazil. The Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines offer significant protection against this variant.
The CDC also lists variants of interest, which are more transmissible and likely to result in outbreak clusters. These include Epsilon (B.1.427 and B.1.429), first identified in California, and Iota (B.1.526), first identified in New York.
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 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.
It depends on the setting. Now that the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine has 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 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.
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.
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).
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 rare. 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.
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 after you are fully 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.
Yes, you will likely need a supplemental dose or booster shot.
The CDC now recommends that certain immunocompromised people who are more susceptible to infection receive a third (supplemental) mRNA vaccine dose. The FDA updated emergency use authorizations for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines to allow for this third dose. The CDC is not currently recommending supplemental vaccine doses for anyone who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
For the general population, the CDC website notes that the goal is for people to start receiving a COVID-19 booster shot beginning in the fall of 2021, eight months after they received their second dose of a mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna). This is subject to authorization by the FDA and recommendation by CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.
For most people, the answer is yes. The vaccine is currently authorized for use in people 12 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 vaccines on the UCLA Health vaccine info hub webpage.
You must be 12 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.
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 12 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. Please see this UCLA Health article with additional information on this topic, or the CDC website for additional information and guidance. 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.
The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is currently FDA-approved for people 16 and older and authorized for adolescents 12 through 15. The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are authorized for people 18 and older.
Clinical trials are underway to test the vaccines in younger children. It’s likely a vaccine for kids 2 and older will be available by the end of 2021.
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 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. 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 12 and older.
Yes. While the authorized vaccines and 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 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.
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 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.
As of Aug. 20, 2021, the CDC recommends that certain immunocompromised people who are more susceptible to infection receive a third (supplemental) mRNA vaccine dose. We have reached out to all eligible UCLA Health patients to let them know of this new guidance and are inviting patients to schedule at UCLA Health as appointments become available.
If you fall into one of the groups included in the CDC recommendation, you can also self-attest as eligible for an additional vaccine dose and get it wherever it is available by making an appointment through the California My Turn portal or going to a local pharmacy. You do not need an order from your physician.
For the general population, the CDC website notes that the goal is for people to start receiving a COVID-19 booster shot beginning in the fall of 2021, eight months after they received their second dose of a mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna). This is subject to authorization by the FDA and recommendation by CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Stay tuned for more information.
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.
In most settings, yes. Everyone, regardless of vaccination status, must wear a mask indoors and in some outdoor settings. 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.
Given the highly transmissible Delta variant, the CDC updated guidance for fully vaccinated people in late-July, 2021. Fully vaccinated people should now wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission, or when required by federal, state, local, tribal or territorial laws, rules and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.
The CDC also now recommends that fully vaccinated people who have come in close contact with someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 be tested 3 to 5 days after exposure and wear a mask in public indoor settings for 14 days or until they receive a negative test result.
Fully vaccinated people can:
See the CDC’s “Choosing Safer Activites” webpage for more information about what is deemed most safe after vaccination.
It depends. According to CDC guidance, if you are fully vaccinated and are experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19, you should isolate yourself from others, be clinically evaluated for COVID-19 and tested for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, if clinically indicated.
If you are fully vaccinated and have a known exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 and you do not have symptoms, you should be tested 3 to 5 days following the date of exposure and wear a mask in public indoor settings for 14 days or until you receive a negative test result. If you test positive, you should isolate. You should continue to monitor for COVID-like symptoms for 14 days following a known or potential exposure.
According to the CDC, fully vaccinated people with no COVID-like symptoms do not need to quarantine or be restricted from working following an exposure if they follow the above testing and masking recommendation.
Children under 12 are not yet eligible for COVID-19 vaccination. With this in mind, the following are some general guidelines to consider. See the CDC website for more information.
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