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.
The one-dose Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) vaccine was developed using the AdVac® vaccine platform, a unique and proprietary technology that was also used to develop and manufacture Janssen’s European Commission-approved Ebola vaccine regimen and construct its investigational Zika, RSV, and HIV vaccines. Distribution of the J&J vaccine was paused temporarily in April 2021 due to reports of a small number of cases of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) in women between the ages of 18-59. TTS is a serious condition that involves blood clots with low platelets. CDC and FDA have recommended that use of J&J/Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine resume in the United States, effective April 23, 2021. A review of all available data showed that the J&J/Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine’s known and potential benefits outweigh its known and potential risks for those recommended to receive it. However, women younger than 50 years old especially should be aware of the rare risk of blood clots with low platelets after vaccination, and that other COVID-19 vaccines are available where this risk has not been seen.
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. If you have questions or concerns about safety of the vaccine, please consult your physician.
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 12 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?
All Nebraskans age 12 and up are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The Pfizer vaccine is approved for everyone 12 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.
There are currently no COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in children age 0-11.
For current data on vaccine distribution in Nebraska, click here.
How much will I have to pay for the vaccine?
The vaccine is free. Everyone can 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?
On Thursday, May 13, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced updated COVID-19 guidance for masking for fully vaccinated people. “Fully vaccinated” means that you have received all doses of the vaccine (two doses for Pfizer and Moderna or one dose for Johnson & Johnson) and two weeks have passed since your last dose.
- Fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.
- Fully vaccinated people do not need to quarantine after being exposed to someone who has COVID-19, unless they start showing symptoms.
If you are not yet fully vaccinated, you should continue to wear a mask in public settings and keep a safe distance from people outside of your household. 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. For more information, click here.
I’m having symptoms of COVID-19 (Coronavirus). Do I need to see my doctor or go to the ER?
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?
According to new CDC guidelines as of May 13, people who have been fully vaccinated no longer need to wear masks or socially distance in public.
The CDC recommends that people who have not been vaccinated still wear face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. We know that a significant portion of people with coronavirus lack symptoms or can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms.
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.
Do I need to wear two masks in order to be protected?
COVID-19 vaccines are the best protection against the virus. People who have been fully vaccinated no longer need to wear masks, per CDC guidelines.
However, for those who have not yet been vaccinated, a second mask layer can offer extra protection in public settings where social distancing is not possible. 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.
I might have been exposed to COVID-19. Do I need to quarantine or get tested?
As of May 13, 2021, people who have been fully vaccinated and/or who have tested positive and recovered from COVID-19 within the past three months no longer need to quarantine after a COVID-19 exposure.
If you have been in close contact (closer than 6 feet for approximately 15 minutes or longer) with a person confirmed to have COVID-19, you should self-monitor for symptoms. If you develop symptoms, you should contact your doctor.
If you have not yet been vaccinated and have not had COVID-19 in the past three months, then you should self-quarantine for 14 days from the date of the last exposure. You can shorten the length of your quarantine if you get a negative COVID-19 test 5 days after exposure.
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.
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.