Common Questions About the COVID Vaccine

Published January 1, 2022

vile of mRNA vaccine

These shots are so new. How can they be safe?

Researchers have been studying mRNA vaccines — that’s the idea behind the Pfizer and Moderna shots — for 30 years. So the technology isn’t all that new. It’s just that we’re now using it to fight COVID.

Plus, we have an incredible amount of data — from several large studies and real-world experience — that shows how safe and effective the vaccines are. Learn about the research behind COVID vaccine safety and effectiveness.

Haven’t people gotten sick from COVID vaccines?

It’s very, very rare. In fact, you’re more likely to get struck by lightning than have a bad reaction to your COVID shot. In the U.S. alone, we’ve given over 369 million doses of COVID vaccines. We’ve seen only a handful of severe reactions. And those were mainly in people who had a reaction to a shot in the past or knew they had higher odds for problems.

What about side effects?

Serious side effects — ones that could cause long-term health problems — are extremely unlikely with COVID vaccines. At this point, millions of people have received shots and we haven’t seen any lasting issues.

The dangers of COVID itself are a much bigger concern than any potential risks of getting the shot.

I’m totally healthy. Why bother getting jabbed?

Three big reasons. First, while your risk may be lower, COVID could still make you seriously ill. Plus, we’ve already seen many different versions (variants) of the COVID virus — there’s always a chance the next one could be more dangerous than the last.

The second reason is what we call long COVID, where COVID has lasting impacts on your health. That could mean permanent loss of taste and smell, heart disease, lung disease, and more. Even young, healthy people who had only mild symptoms sometimes get long COVID.

Finally, you help protect other people, like young children and those who can’t get the vaccine for health reasons. And with more people vaccinated, the virus has fewer chances to develop into something more dangerous.

Can’t I get COVID even after the vaccine?

The goal of the vaccine isn’t to stop you from getting COVID. It’s to make sure you don’t get too sick from it. At this point, most people who end up in the hospital or die from COVID haven’t gotten the shot.

How effective are the vaccines?

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are more than 90% effective in preventing severe illness. Roughly, that means 9 in 10 vaccinated people who get COVID will have only minor symptoms at worst. That’s off-the-charts effective, even compared to other vaccines that have been around much longer. Plus, the vaccine lowers the odds that you’ll spread COVID to others.