Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?
Yes. It may seem like COVID-19 vaccines were developed quickly, but Moderna and Pfizer developed their two-dose mRNA vaccines using a process that’s been in development for years. No steps were skipped in the testing process; both vaccines were required to go through four testing phases before they were approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and released to the public.
As people receive the vaccine, systems are in place to continuously track any reported problems or side effects. At this point, no vaccine trials reported any serious safety concerns.
Click here for experts’ answers to questions you might have about vaccine safety as you consider getting the vaccine and make your plan to receive one.
Will the vaccine protect me from new COVID variants?
The more people a virus infects, the more opportunities the virus will have to add mutations. It is not yet known if each vaccine protects against each variant, but those studies are ongoing. Scientists are closely monitoring new variants and mutations to track and control their spread. The best way to protect yourself and others from all COVID variants is to continue practicing recommended safety measures including physical distancing, hand washing, wearing a mask, and getting vaccinated when it’s your turn.
What’s the difference between the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines?
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is an mRNA vaccine that is recommended for people ages 16 and older. People receiving this vaccine will get two separate shots—21 days apart. Evidence from clinical trials shows that the Pfizer vaccine is 95% effective at preventing COVID-19 in people who did not have evidence of previous infection. More information about the Pfizer vaccine is available here.
The Moderna vaccine is an mRNA vaccine that is recommended for people ages 18 and older. People receiving this vaccine will get two shots—one month (28 days) apart. Evidence from clinical trials shows that the Moderna vaccine is 94.1% effective at preventing COVID-19 in people who did not have evidence of previous infection. More information about the Moderna vaccine is available here.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was approved by the FDA for emergency use on February 27, 2021. This AdVac® (a technology based on the development and production of adenovirus gene carriers) vaccine is recommended for people ages 18 and older, and requires just one shot. Clinical trials have shown it to be 66% effective in preventing moderate to severe disease 28 days after vaccination, and 100% effective in preventing COVID-related hospitalization or death.
In short, all three of these vaccines have very high rates of effectiveness, and you should get whichever one is available to you. Check with your local health district or visit vaccinate.ne.gov to register for your appointment.
When will I be able to receive a COVID-19 vaccine?
As of April 5, 2021, all Nebraskans age 16 and up are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The Pfizer vaccine is approved for everyone 16 and up , and the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are approved for everyone 18 and up. A parent/guardian signature is required for those under 19.
For current data on vaccine distribution in Nebraska, click here.
How much will I have to pay for the vaccine when it’s available for me?
The vaccine is free. Everyone will be able to get the vaccine with no barriers—regardless of financial or insurance status.
According to the CDC, vaccine doses purchased with U.S. taxpayer dollars will be given to the American people at no cost; however, vaccination providers may be able to charge administration fees for giving the shot. If you are uninsured, you will not need to pay any administration fees.
Should I get the COVID-19 vaccine if I’m pregnant?
It is always important to discuss concerns and questions with your trusted health care provider before making decisions about your health during your pregnancy.
According to Methodist Health System’s Dr. Emily Patel, “If you have a high-risk profession or underlying health conditions, the vaccine’s benefits far outweigh its risks.” She encourages those who are pregnant to talk it over with their health care providers before deciding whether or not to get the vaccine, because “they’ll be able to answer your questions on a more personalized level and help you make the most informed decision possible.”
After I am fully vaccinated, do I still need to wear a mask and social distance?
It depends. While the vaccines have been proven to protect the recipient against severe illness from the virus, it is not yet known whether a vaccinated person could still be an asymptomatic carrier, and could still spread the virus to others. These studies are ongoing.
According to the CDC, fully vaccinated people can gather indoors without physical distancing or wearing masks with:
- Other people who are fully vaccinated
- Unvaccinated people from one other household, unless any of those people or anyone they live with has an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19
Until more is known, fully vaccinated people should continue to wear masks and stay 6 feet apart from other people in other settings, like when they are in public or visiting with unvaccinated people from multiple households.
Together, COVID-19 vaccination and following CDC’s recommendations for how to protect yourself and others will offer the best protection from getting and spreading COVID-19.
What percentage of the population needs to get vaccinated to have herd immunity to COVID-19?
According to the CDC, experts do not know what percentage of people would need to get vaccinated to achieve herd immunity to COVID-19. Herd immunity is a term used to describe when enough people have protection—either from previous infection or vaccination—that it is unlikely a virus or bacteria can spread and cause disease. As a result, everyone within the community is protected even if some people don’t have any protection themselves. The percentage of people who need to have protection in order to achieve herd immunity varies by disease.
Should I get tested for COVID-19?
If you are experiencing symptoms and want to be tested, it’s recommended that you call your health care provider first. You can also learn more about testing from the CDC. To find more about how you can get tested in your area, visit the Resources page and click on your county for the latest local testing information.
How can I get tested for COVID-19?
To learn about how you can get tested in your area, visit the Resources page and click on your county for the latest local testing information.
I have returned from traveling. Do I need to quarantine?
Returning international travelers are no longer required to self-quarantine and self-monitor for 14 days upon return/arrival. However, several countries are seeing increasing cases of COVID-19 and we continue to recommend that travelers practice strict social distancing and self-monitor for symptoms. If symptoms develop, individuals should isolate immediately. Out-of-state travelers and others traveling within Nebraska (e.g., commuters) should practice strict social distancing and self-monitor for symptoms consistent with COVID-19. Individuals that develop symptoms should immediately self-isolate. For more information, click here.
It seems late, should I still get my flu shot?
Yes! Although, you can’t have a COVID-19 vaccine within 2 weeks of getting the flu shot. We need to do everything we can to stay healthy while waiting our turn to get the vaccine, so getting your flu shot now is still important.
I’m having symptoms of COVID-19 (Coronavirus). Do I need to see my doctor or go to the ER?
We want to make sure that our healthcare system has the capacity to handle severe cases of COVID-19 (Coronavirus). If you are having symptoms that are mild enough that you wouldn’t normally call your doctor, then you can simply stay home and isolate until you’ve recovered.
On the other hand, if you feel sick enough that you would normally see your doctor, please go ahead and call your doctor. Similarly, if your symptoms are so severe that you would normally go to the ER or call 911 – especially if you are having trouble breathing – please go to the ER or call 911 immediately.
Do I need to wear a mask?
We now know that a significant portion of people with coronavirus lack symptoms or can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms. In light of this new evidence, the CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. By wearing a mask, you protect the person next to you, and when other people wear a mask, they are helping to protect you.
The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators. Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance.
Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or anyone who is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.
While Nebraska does not currently have a statewide mask mandate in place, some cities have mandated masks in public settings. Please check with your local health department or government agencies for information on what mandates may be in place where you live or work. Masks are strongly encouraged any time you are in close contact with someone outside of your household in order to reduce transmission of the virus.
Do I need to wear two masks in order to be protected?
Research shows that multiple layers of face coverings add protection from transmission of the virus. When choosing a face covering, it is recommended to wear a multi-layer cloth mask that fits snugly against your face, over the nose and mouth. There are several ways to improve the fit of your mask using additional layers, such as a second mask, nylon cover, knotted ear loops, or a mask brace. Click here to learn more about ways to improve the effectiveness of your mask.
It is important to remember that facial coverings are just one layer of protection against the COVID-19 virus, and they work best when worn properly by everybody present in a social setting. Even when wearing masks, it is still recommended to maintain at least six feet of distance from people outside of your household whenever possible, and to continue to practice other protective measures such as hand washing and avoiding indoor settings with poor ventilation.
I might have been exposed to COVID-19. Do I need to quarantine or get tested?
If you were in direct contact (closer than 6 feet for approximately 15 minutes or longer) with a person confirmed to have COVID-19, then you need to self-quarantine for 14 days from the date of the last exposure. If you are living with a COVID-positive individual and it is difficult to determine your last exposure, then you need to quarantine for 14 days after the COVID-19 positive individual ends their home-isolation (typically 10 days), which would be 24 days in total. Because receiving a negative test result after an exposure CANNOT rule out a COVID infection, you still need to complete your 14 day quarantine even if you test negative. (See the CDC’s When to Quarantine webpage for more information.)
In a classroom where everyone is masked, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services now allows school-aged children to self-monitor for symptoms for two weeks instead of quarantine if they had an exposure in the classroom. Pre-K through 12th grade teachers and staff have also been given the ability to self-monitor instead of quarantine if they have had an exposure (provided they don’t develop any symptoms); however, in addition to self-monitoring twice daily, they must wear a mask at work for 14 days following exposure AND practice social distancing.
Test results will be more accurate if you wait 4-5 days after exposure before getting tested. Getting tested sooner increases the chances of getting a false negative result, meaning you are actually infected with coronavirus but it is too soon for the virus to be detected.
If your exposure was less than 15 minutes or further than 6 feet (especially with masks in place) with a person confirmed to have COVID-19 OR your contact was indirect (contact of a contact), then the recommendation is to self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms for 14 days.
I’m having COVID-19 symptoms or I’ve tested positive for COVID-19. What do I need to do?
If you start to develop COVID-19 symptoms, then you need to self-isolate immediately and should only leave your home for seeking medical care or to be tested. If you test positive for COVID-19, then you need to remain in home-isolation until you are no longer infectious.
You are considered recovered and no longer infectious if:
- At least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared (or you were tested); AND
- At least 1 day (24 hours) has passed since you’ve had a fever without the use of fever reducing medications; AND
- You have seen an improvement in any other symptoms such as cough or shortness of breath.
Can traveling to visit family or friends increase my chances of getting and spreading COVID-19 even if it is within Nebraska?
Yes, Travel increases your chances of getting and spreading COVID-19. Before you travel, learn if COVID-19 is spreading in your local area or any of the places you are going. The Do Right, Right Now website has links to Nebraska counties and provides information on the current risk in those areas.
Out-of-state travelers and others traveling within Nebraska should practice strict social distancing and self-monitor for symptoms consistent with COVID-19. Individuals that develop symptoms should immediately self-isolate. It is recommended that family gatherings remain small and limited to immediate family members.
How likely is COVID-19 to spread through surfaces?
Transmission of COVID-19 occurs much more commonly through respiratory droplets than through objects and surfaces, like doorknobs, countertops, keyboards, toys, etc.