The Latest Answers to Your Questions About the COVID-19 Vaccines

illustration about covid vaccine questions

Verywell / Alex Dos Diaz

Key Takeaways

  • In the United States, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are currently approved for people over 16 and 18 years of age, respectively.
  • Until everyone is able to receive the vaccine, social distancing, masks, and hand-washing remain important when interacting with those outside of your bubble.
  • It is safe to receive a COVID-19 vaccine if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. The vaccine is not linked to any issues of infertility.

In the United States, COVID-19 vaccines from two companies are approved for use: Pfizer and Moderna. With so much misinformation circulating, it’s important to find clear, science-backed answers to all your vaccine questions.

As scientists and medical professionals continue to learn more about the COVID-19 vaccines, the path forward will be clearer. Here is the latest information available about the COVID-19 vaccines that you and your family should know.

Who Is Eligible for the Vaccine?

Current vaccine eligibility varies by location, but until supply can meet the total demand, states are generally following a phased roll-out that prioritizes individuals at the highest risk of severe COVID illness—such as older people with preexisting conditions—and those at high risk of contracting the disease, like frontline healthcare workers and first responders.

Check your state's Department of Health website for the latest on vaccine eligibility, and how you can make a vaccine appointment for yourself or a loved one.

Will Children Be Eligible to Receive a COVID-19 Vaccine? 

In 2019, there were about 73 million people under the age of 18 living in the United States alone. As of mid-January, there were just over 2.5 million reported cases of COVID-19 in children across the United States, making up about 12.6% of total infections. 

The minimum age approved for the Pfizer vaccine is 16, and Moderna is 18. However, work on clinical trials already has begun on children under 16.

Pfizer announced full enrollment in January of a trial looking at their COVID-19 vaccine’s effect on people aged 12-15. There are 2,259 adolescents participating. Moderna is currently working to fill spots for their adolescent vaccine trial.

“My prediction is that before the 2021-22 school year, we will have a COVID-19 vaccine licensed for kids 12 years of age and older,” says Dr. Robert Frenck, lead investigator of the COVID-19 vaccine trials at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. “I think a vaccine will be approved for kids down to three to four years of age by this time next year, maybe a bit sooner.”

Overall, children have experienced less of an effect from COVID-19. A December review published in the BMJ Archives of Disease in Childhood includes more frequent recurrent and concurrent infections and pre-existing immunity to coronaviruses as potential reasons for this phenomenon.

Robert Frenck, MD

My prediction is that before the 2021-22 school year, we will have a COVID-19 vaccine licensed for kids 12 years of age and older.

— Robert Frenck, MD

Vaccination of children is an essential step in returning to normal safely. “If we ever want to really get to community protection, we will need all members of the community to have access to COVID vaccines. By incorporating children into that plan, we will get to the level of community protection we need to stop this pandemic,” says Dr. Sharon Nachman, chief of pediatric infectious diseases and director of the office of clinical trials at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital.

Can Kids Be Around People Who Have Been Vaccinated?

With the timeline around a vaccine for children remaining uncertain, families question whether kids can interact with vaccinated relatives—such as grandparents.

The vaccine itself can not transport the virus to others. “None of the vaccinations have any live or killed whole-cell virus,” says Nachman. “So, there is no chance that either the person who got a vaccine will get COVID-19 from their vaccine, or that any close family member will get COVID-19 from a person who just got a vaccine.”

However, it's possible a vaccinated person can still be a carrier for COVID-19 and transmit it to people around them. Studies are ongoing on that front, and early results are promising regarding the vaccines' ability to limit transmission.

As previously stated, children can also be infected and transmit the virus. The vaccines are not 100% effective, meaning a person is still at risk—albeit much lower—of contracting COVID-19 even after receiving both doses.

Until there is herd-immunity, precautions such as masking, staying six feet apart, and maintaining proper hygiene are necessary even when a party involved is vaccinated.

Can You Receive a Vaccine If You're Pregnant or Breastfeeding? 

The FDA is not the only entity that has approved both vaccines for pregnant and breastfeeding individuals. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine have all given their support.

In a January study from Jama Pediatrics, researchers found that coronavirus antibodies transferred across the placenta to baby in 87% of cases. Vaccinations may work similarly.

Vaccination during pregnancy has the added benefit of helping to protect your baby for their first few months of life with passive transfer of maternal antibody to an infant after 36 weeks gestation,” says Nachman.  

A vaccinated person who is breastfeeding may also be able to give antibodies to their baby. “Vaccination while lactating has similar benefits to babies with passive transfer of antibody to baby via breast milk,” Nachman adds.

There’s no evidence that the COVID vaccine is riskier for a pregnant person, but having the actual virus can be. “While the absolute risk for severe COVID-19 infection is low, the data shows that symptomatic pregnant women are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 compared to non-pregnant adults,” says Dr. Jennifer Hirshfeld-Cytron, a board certified reproductive endocrinologist with Fertility Centers of Illinois.

“It’s important to note that Black and Latinx individuals who are pregnant appear to have a disproportionately higher prevalence of COVID-19 infection and death," Hirshfeld-Cytron says.

Dr. Robert Frenck

All of the COVID-19 vaccines have demonstrated very high protection against the development of moderate to severe disease—hospitalization, ICU admission, and death.

— Dr. Robert Frenck

Due to the increased risk pregnant people face if infected with COVID-19, many states include pregnancy as a qualifying comorbidity for getting the vaccine in an earlier group.

Can the COVID-19 Vaccines Impact Fertility? 

The COVID-19 vaccine can not negatively impact a person’s fertility. This myth started after a November story claimed that the “head of Pfizer research” called the Pfizer vaccine “female sterilization.”

Not only is the claim debunked and not an accurate representation of what was said, but the man in question, Michael Yeadon, hasn’t worked for Pfizer since 2011, and he was never involved in vaccine development.

"The idea that [the vaccines] could ‘potentially’ affect fertility came from a suggestion that perhaps a protein on the surface of the placenta was similar to the ACE receptor for the virus, and that antibody made in response to the vaccine would somehow affect the placenta’s growth. This is completely untrue,” says Nachman. “There are no receptors for the virus on the ovary. Antibody made in response to the virus is the same antibody made in response to infection. With all of the individuals who had COVID-19, we have not seen any drop in female fertility.”

Hirshfeld-Cytron concurs, “Because the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines are not composed of live virus, they are not thought to cause an increased risk of infertility, first or second trimester loss, stillbirth, or congenital anomalies.”

The long and short of it: There is no evidence that any approved COVID-19 vaccine can impact a person’s fertility.

What Are the Potential Side Effects of the Vaccines? 

Like any vaccine, the available options for COVID have potential side effects.

According to William W. Li, MD, a physician and scientist, possible side effects of the COVID vaccine include:

  • Some arm soreness where injected
  • General muscle soreness
  • Flu-like symptoms for a day or two

The effects you feel may be different between the two doses. “Some report the second of two jabs brings on more side effects than the first, since your immune system is ramped up at that point,” says Li. “Some special precautions exist for people who have severe allergic reactions to past vaccines, who have severe food allergies, or those who have had cosmetic fillers.”

William W. Li, MD

Some report the second of two jabs brings on more side effects than the first, since your immune system is ramped up at that point. Some special precautions exist for people who have severe allergic reactions to past vaccines, who have severe food allergies, or those who have had cosmetic fillers.

— William W. Li, MD

Li notes that the 15-minute observation period post-injection in the presence of health care staff is for catching any serious reactions.

While the potential side effects of receiving a COVID vaccine can be irritating, the impact of catching the virus is far worse. “The risks of not being vaccinated are much higher than receiving the vaccine. As with everything in medicine, it is about the risk versus benefit,” says Li. “The vaccine has much more benefit from an individual and societal perspective, than risk. Everyone wants out of the pandemic—and getting vaccinated is the first major step to get there.”

What This Means For You

Keep up to date on new developments detailing when it's safe for you and your loved ones to receive the vaccine.

“All of the COVID-19 vaccines have demonstrated very high protection against the development of moderate to severe disease—hospitalization, ICU admission, and death,” says Frenck. “We need to get people vaccinated to end the pandemic. So, if you are offered a vaccine, please take it. It could save your life.”

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