Three COVID-19 vaccines are currently available and are being distributed! The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine has officially been fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration for everyone 16 and older. Moderna & Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 vaccines are being distributed under Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) granted by the FDA. You may have questions about the COVID-19 vaccines. To help you get to the answer you need, below we share trusted resources regarding distribution and efficacy of the vaccines.

Is there data available that shows the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes. Before the FDA determined whether to approve and authorize the COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use, clinical trials were conducted to determine effectiveness of each vaccine. The vaccines will continue to be studied to determine how well it works under real-world conditions, even after authorization. Effectiveness will further be assessed through the CDC and other federal partners. For more information on clinical trials and how they are used to determine approval of vaccines, you can read Ensuring COVID-19 Vaccines Work from the CDC.

You can find more data on the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials from the Advisory Committee Immunization Practices (ACIP) on the CDC website and the FDA briefing. Additionally, Pfizer has published an informational fact sheet for recipients and caregivers.

You can find more data on Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials from the Advisory Committee Immunization Practices (ACIP) on the CDC website and the FDA briefing. Additionally, Moderna has published an informational fact sheet for recipients and caregivers.

You can find more data on the Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials from the Advisory Committee Immunization Practices (ACIP) on the CDC website and the FDA briefing. Additionally, Janssen Biotech, Inc. has published an informational fact sheet for recipients and caregivers.

Source: CDC: Ensuring COVID-19 Vaccines Work

Which COVID-19 vaccines are currently available?

There are three vaccines that are currently authorized and recommended to prevent COVID-19:

  • Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine (FULLY approved by the FDA)
  • Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine
  • Janssen COVID-19 vaccine

There are multiple COVID-19 vaccines still under development. Phase 3 clinical trials are in progress or are being planned for two additional COVID-19 vaccines in the United States.

Source: CDC: Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 Vaccination

What is the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine?

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is a messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine. mRNA vaccines do not use the live virus that causes COVID-19 and it cannot give someone COVID-19. mRNA vaccines enable cells in the body to make a spike protein that triggers an immune response that produces antibodies. These antibodies are what protect individuals from getting infected by the actual virus.

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is given in the upper arm muscle as a series of 2 shots, 21 days apart. It is recommended for people aged 16 years and older.

Most common side effects are pain, swelling, and redness in the location of vaccination as well as chills, tiredness, and headache. Side effects can start within a day of receiving the vaccine and could feel like flu symptoms but should subside within a few days. For more information on side effects, see “What are the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine?” below.

For more information, Pfizer-BioNTech has published a fact sheet for recipients and caregivers.

Source: CDC- Information about the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, Understanding mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines

What is the Johnson & Johnson Janssen COVID-19 vaccine?

Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 vaccine is an adenovirus-based vaccine that uses a specific type of adenovirus, called Ad26, to deliver a piece of genetic material that is used to make a spike protein of the virus that causes COVID-19. Adenoviruses are relatively common and the Ad26 adenovirus can cause cold symptoms and pink eye. However, it has been modified for the vaccine so that it cannot replicate in the human body to cause illness.

After a person receives the vaccine, the body can temporarily make the spike protein, not causing disease, but triggering the immune system to learn to react defensively by producing an immune response against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

The Janssen COVID-19 vaccine is given as an injection into the muscle as a single dose. It is recommended for people aged 18 years and older.

Most common side effects were pain at the injection site, headache, fatigue, muscle aches, and nausea. Most side effects were reported within 1-2 days after vaccination and were mild to moderate in severity lasting 1-2 days.

For more information, Janssen Biotech Inc., a Janssen Pharmaceutical Company of Johnson & Johnson, has published a fact sheet for recipients and caregivers.

Source: CDC: Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine, FDA: FDA Issues Emergency Use Authorization for Third COVID-19 Vaccine

What is Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine?

Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine is a messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine. mRNA vaccines do not use the live virus that causes COVID-19 and it cannot give someone COVID-19. mRNA vaccines enable cells in the body to make a spike protein that triggers an immune response that produces antibodies. These antibodies are what protect individuals from getting infected by the actual virus.

Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine is given in the upper arm muscle as a series of 2 shots, 28 days (one month) apart. It is recommended for people aged 18 years and older.

Most common side effects are pain, swelling, and redness in the location of vaccination as well as chills, tiredness, and headache. Side effects can start within a day of receiving the vaccine and could feel like flu symptoms but should subside within a few days. For more information on side effects, see “What are the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine?” below.

For more information, Moderna has published a fact sheet for recipients and caregivers.

Source: CDC: Information about the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine, CDC: Understanding mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines

How do mRNA COVID-19 vaccines work?

When infected with a virus, the immune system fights the infection using white or immune cells that are found in our blood. There are different types of white blood cells, such as macrophages, B-lymphocytes, and T-lymphocytes, that all help fight infection. The first time a person is infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, it can take several days or weeks for their immune system to get over the infection. However, the immune system will remember how to protect the body against that disease in the future.  After infection, T-lymphocytes, or memory cells, remain in the body and will quickly go into action if the body were to encounter the same virus again. When the antigens of the familiar virus are detected, B-lymphocytes produce antibodies to attack them.

mRNA COVID-19 vaccines assist in developing immunity to the virus that causes COVID-19 without actually having to get the illness.

Source: CDC: Understanding mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines, CDC: Understanding How COVID-19 Vaccines Work

How do viral vector COVID-19 vaccines work?

Viral vector vaccines use a modified version of a different virus (known as the vector) to deliver important cellular instructions. Viral vector COVID-19 vaccines do not use a vector of the virus that causes COVID-19 but rather a different, harmless adenovirus, Ad26, instead.

The vector enters the cells in the body and uses the cell to produce a harmless piece of the virus that causes COVID-19, known as a spike protein, that is only found on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19. Once the cell displays the spike protein on its surface, the immune system recognizes it doesn’t belong, triggering the immune system to begin producing antibodies and activating other immune cells to fight what is thought to be an infection. In the end, our body and immune system will have learned how to protect against future infection from the virus that causes COVID-19 without ever risking the serious consequences of getting sick with COVID-19.

Viral vector COVID-19 vaccines cannot give someone COVID-19 or other infections from the virus used as the vaccine’s vector.

While there are different types of vaccines that work in different ways to offer protection, all vaccines leave the body with a supply of “memory” T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes that will remember how to fight against that virus in the future.

Source: CDC: Understanding Viral Vector COVID-19 Vaccines, CDC: Understanding How COVID-19 Vaccines Work

Do mRNA COVID-19 vaccines contain the virus?

No. mRNA vaccines do not use the live virus that causes COVID-19 and it cannot give someone COVID-19.

Source: CDC: Understanding How COVID-19 Vaccines Work, CDC: Understanding mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines

Do viral vector COVID-19 vaccines contain the virus?

No. The viral vector used in the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine does not contain the virus that causes COVID-19. Rather, the adenovirus called Ad26 is used as the vector to produce a harmless piece of the virus that causes COVID-19. Viral vector vaccines cannot cause infection with COVID-19 or with the virus that was used as the vaccine vector.

Source: CDC: Understanding Viral Vector COVID-19 Vaccines, CDC: Understanding How COVID-19 Vaccines Work

How many doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are needed?

For the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, vaccination is a 2 shot series, 28 days (one month) apart.

For the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, vaccination is a 2 shot series, 21 days apart.

For the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine, vaccination is a single dose.

Source: CDC: Information about the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine, CDC: Information about the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, CDC: Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine

How much does the COVID-19 vaccine cost?

COVID-19 vaccine doses that have been purchased with U.S. taxpayer dollars will be given at no cost.

Vaccination providers can charge an administration fee for administering the shot to someone. This vaccine administration fee can be reimbursed by patients’ public or private insurance companies or by the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Provider Relief Fund for uninsured patients.

Source: CDC: Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 Vaccination

If I already had COVID-19 and recovered, should I get vaccinated?

Yes. Due to the severe health risks associated with COVID-19 and possibility for reinfection, the vaccine should be offered even if you already had COVID-19. You are not required to have an antibody test before being vaccinated.

Currently, it is not known how long protection will last after recovering from COVID-19. Natural immunity, immunity that is gained from having an infection, varies by person and early evidence suggests natural immunity may not last very long.

Anyone currently infected with COVID-19 should wait to receive the vaccine until after their illness has resolved and after they no longer have to isolate.

Source: CDC: Facts about COVID-19 Vaccines

Will my doctor be distributing the COVID-19 vaccine in their office?

Due to demand of the vaccine, state and local governments are managing access and distribution points primarily to ensure the most vulnerable populations have priority. At some point soon, vaccines will have broader distribution points, including primary care physicians and perhaps other medical specialties such as pediatrics and obstetrics and gynecology. In order to optimize distribution, state government requires practices to register in order to receive and begin vaccinations. It is expected that most TopLine MD Alliance affiliated practices will be able to provide the vaccine once available.

Where can I find more information on the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines as it relates to my county?

While the CDC continues to provides recommendations on who should have access to the COVID-19 vaccine first, each state has its own plan on deciding who will be vaccinated first and how they will be able to access the vaccines. Your local health department will be able to provide more information on COVID-19 vaccination in your area.

What is Emergency Use Authorization (EUA)? How does it work?

During public health emergencies, like the current coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, there is often an urgent need for products to diagnose, treat, or prevent a medical threat. In cases of these emergencies, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) can issue an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) that provides more timely access to drugs, diagnostic testing, or other critical medical products, like vaccines, when there are no available options.

EUA does not require emergency products to follow the full approval process as there may not be available time to gather enough evidence for full FDA approval. Under EUA, the FDA quickly evaluates options using available evidence to balance any known risks and potential benefits of releasing the product to the public during the emergency.

Source: FDA: Emergency Use Authorization

For more information on COVID-19, please visit these additional resources:

COVID-19 Vaccine Resource Center >
COVID-19 Patient Health & Safety >