Responding to COVID-19

COVID-19 Vaccination

Versión en Español

Everyone age 5 and older is eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in Texas, and we strongly encourage vaccination as your best defense against the SARS-CoV-2 virus and its variants.

UT Southwestern patients, as well as members of our community whom we vaccinated, will be able to schedule a booster dose of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine through their MyChart. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended booster shots for everyone ages 12 and older. Please see our Booster Dose FAQ for more information.

If you are interested in receiving your first dose, you can make your appointment online now at UT Southwestern West Campus Building 3 (ninth floor), 2001 Inwood Road, Dallas, TX, 75390 (driving directions and parking information).

UTSW employees and learners can schedule their vaccinations through MyChart or the site.

We look forward to providing your vaccination.

Ready to Schedule Your Vaccination?

  • To schedule a booster shot, or third dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, please book your appointment through MyChart.
  • Vaccine information for children 5-11 is available through our partner Children’s Health.

Here to Help!

We offer several tip sheets to aid you throughout your vaccination journey with UT Southwestern. You may also scroll down to check out videos and blogs from our experts, including:

  • The science behind the COVID-19 vaccine
  • Insights on tracing coronavirus variants
  • FAQs for breastfeeding and pregnant women
  • Separating myths from reality

Read Our Tip Sheets!

Please find additional frequently asked questions below, arranged by topic.

Vaccine Action Center

Vaccine Eligibility and Distribution

How does UT Southwestern determine who gets vaccinated?

UT Southwestern continues to follow state and federal guidance for distribution. Everyone 5 and older is eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. UTSW is providing vaccines to individuals 12 and older. Vaccination information for children 5-11 is available through our partner Children’s Health.

How were the initial vaccine eligibility phases determined?

Because the initial supply of the vaccine was limited, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provided recommendations to state and local governments about who should be vaccinated first. CDC’s recommendations are based on those from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), an independent panel of medical and public health experts.

Recommendations are made with these goals:

  • Decrease death and serious disease as much as possible.
  • Preserve functioning of society.
  • Reduce the extra burden COVID-19 is having on people already facing disparities.
How fast will I be able to get vaccinated?

UTSW is pleased to offer immediate scheduling. View all available appointments by visiting our scheduling page.

Do I have to pay for the vaccine?

COVID-19 vaccines are free to the public under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Any charge for administering the vaccine will be paid for by your health insurance or the federal government’s Provider Relief Fund.

Will vaccines be available at all UTSW facilities?

We are providing COVID-19 vaccinations by appointment only at:

UT Southwestern’s West Campus Building 3, 2001 Inwood Road, Dallas, TX, 75390

About the Vaccine

Which COVID-19 vaccines is UT Southwestern receiving?

UT Southwestern is mainly receiving Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and some Moderna.

What's in each vaccine and how do they work?

On Aug. 23, 2021, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech (Comirnaty) COVID-19 vaccine for individuals 16 years of age and older. The vaccine continues to be available under emergency use authorization (EUA) for 5- to 15-year-olds. The FDA also authorized emergency use for Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use what’s called messenger RNA (mRNA), which in this case is a synthetic material that carries the genetic code used to make the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. The spike is the part of the virus that attaches to human cells. The mRNA is showing your immune system a part of the virus, so that when your body encounters the whole virus in real-life, it recognizes the invader and is able to mount a quick immune response, activating antibodies (B and T-cells) to fight it.

Vaccines using mRNA are new but the technology has been around for decades and has been used in treatments for other diseases such as cancer and cystic fibrosis. While many vaccines use a weakened or inactive version of the virus to create an immune response, these vaccines don’t so there is no risk of their causing disease.

The J&J vaccine is an adenoviral vector vaccine, which means it contains an engineered virus that can't cause disease. Within that virus is the genetic code for the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. After the shot, the adenovirus enters the cells and then shows that spike protein to your immune system so that if you encounter the whole virus in real-life, your body can mount a quick and effective response to fight it.

On April 13, distribution of the J&J vaccine for COVID-19 was paused by the FDA while it conducted an investigation into reports of rare blood clots in a few patients shortly after receiving that vaccine. On April 23, J&J vaccinations resumed following an extensive safety review by the CDC and FDA, which determined the benefits of the single-shot J&J vaccine outweigh the exceptionally rare risk of blood clots. An independent panel of experts reiterated the vaccine meets the FDA’s standards for safety and effectiveness while also making sure that more information about the possible side effect is available to the public.

How effective are the vaccines?

In Phase three clinical trials involving thousands of people in 2020, all three vaccines were completely effective in preventing serious COVID-19 illness, hospitalizations, and deaths. They were also well above the 50% efficacy rate necessary to receive emergency use authorization from the FDA.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were nearly 95% effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 in clinical trials and 100 % effective in preventing hospitalization and death. The single-shot J&J vaccine was 67% effective in preventing all COVID-19 illness in clinical trials. It was 85% effective in preventing severe illness, and 100% effective in preventing hospitalizations and deaths.

UT Southwestern’s Vaccine Science Review Committee independently reviewed clinical trial data of the vaccine candidates prior to administering a vaccine to employees and patients. You can read those reports here.

Read the Pfizer scientific review.
Read the Moderna scientific review.

Will the vaccines protect against new strains of the virus?

Vaccines remain the best protection against severe COVID-19 illness and hospitalization. The emergence of variants, such as Delta and Omicron, has only reinforced the importance of getting vaccinated to prevent severe illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19.

Some studies have shown that protections from the vaccines wane slightly over time, and they aren’t quite as effective against the highly transmissible Omicron variant, which prompted the CDC to recommend booster shots for everyone 12 and older. For more information on boosters, please visit our Booster FAQs.

In addition to vaccination, continue to practice safety measures such as masking, hand washing, and social distancing to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Why do some vaccines require two shots, and what happens if you miss the second shot?

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two shots. The first shot triggers the immune response, and the second one primes the body to memorize the virus so it will recognize it immediately in the future and fight it off. Many vaccines require boosters, such as tetanus, shingles, and MMR.

The Pfizer vaccine requires a second shot 21 days after the first; for Moderna the shots should be given 28 days apart. If you skip the second shot, it’s less likely you’ll develop full immunity.

J&J is a one-shot vaccine that can be stored at refrigerator temperature for much longer.

The CDC has recommended a booster shot, or third dose, of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines at least six months or more after the initial vaccination series for everyone 12 and older. (At this time, only the Pfizer vaccine is authorized for ages 12-17.) The CDC has also recommended a second-dose booster of the J&J vaccine at least two months after initial vaccination. Please see our Booster FAQ for more information.

Do I need to get the same vaccine (Pfizer/Moderna) for my second dose?

The approved mRNA vaccinations are not identical, and clinical trials did not examine data regarding combining first and second shots. So, your second dose is recommended to be the same vaccine as your first. However, the FDA has determined it is safe to get a COVID-19 vaccine booster that is a different brand than your initial doses.

Do the vaccines work in older and more vulnerable people?

The vaccines appear to maintain high efficacy rates regardless of age, sex, and ethnicity. For example, Pfizer’s vaccine was 94% effective in adults over age 65, according to safety data. All three vaccines have also been tested in people with stable pre-existing conditions such as diabetes and cancer, and efficacy rates held at essentially the same levels.

Why do some vaccines need to be stored in such cold temperatures?

Cold chain requirements vary and are based on the formulation of the vaccine. In some, such as the Pfizer vaccine (stored at -70 degrees Celsius; think dry ice), the molecules become unstable and degrade if they are left out in warmer temperatures. Moderna’s vaccine needs to be stored at -20 degrees Celsius, or about the temperature of a regular freezer.

With additional studies being conducted, it could become apparent that the vaccines don’t require such low temperatures, but they were developed and tested in a specific way during the clinical trials so that is the protocol to follow. Several other vaccines, such as one from Johnson & Johnson, require only refrigeration.

Do people who have recovered from COVID-19 need to get vaccinated?

It’s unclear how long natural immunity lasts after recovering from COVID-19, and there has been some data to suggest it begins to wane after 90 days. Similarly, the level of immunity you have after COVID-19 therapies such as convalescent plasma or monoclonal antibodies is unknown. There have been a few reported cases of reinfection, so the CDC may advise people to get a vaccine even if they have been sick with COVID-19 before.

COVID-19 Second Dose

If you need to schedule your second vaccination, please sign into MyChart. You will have the option to schedule a COVID-19 vaccine either through the “Schedule a COVID-19 Vaccine” quick link icon or through a scheduling ticket sent to your email from MyChart.

When should I receive my second dose of COVID-19 vaccine?

The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines each require two doses. The recommended time frame for second doses is as follows*:

  • Pfizer: 21 days after your first dose
  • Moderna: 28 days (or more) after your first dose

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and UTSW infectious disease experts stress the importance of getting fully vaccinated to achieve maximum efficacy, but there is flexibility in the time frame for your second dose.

*While the second dose should be administered as close to the recommendations as possible, the second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines may be scheduled for administration up to six weeks (42 days) after the first dose.

Doses that are given after the recommended time frame are considered valid and do not require the series to be restarted.

How will I be notified when it’s time to receive my second dose?

You will receive a MyChart scheduling reminder. Please note that appointments will not be available until UTSW has received its dedicated second-dose shipment of vaccines, so continue to check for open slots in MyChart as you near your due date. Do not be alarmed if appointments do not become available until the last minute. If you received your first dose of vaccine at UTSW, you are guaranteed your second dose.

When vaccines are available, you will have the option to schedule a COVID-19 vaccine either through the “Schedule a COVID-19 Vaccine” quick link icon or through a scheduling ticket. You can find more detailed instructions in the “How to schedule a COVID-19 vaccine via MyChart” tip sheet.

I have a scheduling ticket for my second dose, but no scheduling quick link icon is visible. What do I do?

To get started, click the link below or select the “Schedule an Immunization” Quick Link on the MyChart home screen, and follow the prompts. If you return to MyChart and no longer see that icon, take these steps:

  1. On the main menu, click the three bars to bring up the drop-down menu.
  2. Under “Find Care,” click “Schedule an Appointment” and look for your COVID-19 Vaccination scheduling ticket. You will see a prompt that “You have an appointment that needs to be scheduled.”
  3. After clicking “Schedule now,” appointment times will display as slots become available.
Will I have any trouble getting my second dose on time?

UT Southwestern has not experienced and does not anticipate any delays in receiving our second-dose shipments. Both the state and the vaccine manufacturers have assured us that second doses will be available to us on time.

As part of our own protocols at UT Southwestern, we are prioritizing second doses when we allocate and schedule vaccination appointments. We are confident that you will receive your second dose on time.

What should I do if I test positive for COVID-19 before I receive my second dose?

If you test positive for COVID-19, it is recommended that you wait until you have fully recovered and been cleared by your provider, before receiving your second dose. After that, you can receive your vaccine even if beyond the recommended 21-day mark for second-dose Pfizer and 28 days for Moderna. Having COVID-19 essentially primes your immune system, and so it is acceptable to delay the second vaccine up to 90 days without having to restart the series. 

Although the CDC indicates that you can wait up to 90 days to be vaccinated since the risk of reinfection is low, there is no minimum time you need to wait for your second dose after you have recovered.

The only exception is if you received a monoclonal antibody or plasma COVID-19 treatment. If so, then you should wait 90 days before receiving the second dose because these treatments may make the vaccine less effective if administered within 90 days. Please speak with your provider if you have any questions.

Can I get my second dose if I have been exposed to someone with COVID-19?

If you are exposed to someone who is positive for COVID-19, you should wait until you are cleared from your quarantine period, 14 days after exposure, before receiving the second vaccine dose.

Evolving Omicron

The emergence of the highly mutated, fast-spreading variant has created a winter surge of COVID-19 cases. Dr. Trish Perl, Chief of Infectious Diseases at UT Southwestern, and Dr. Julie Pfeiffer, a UTSW Professor of Microbiology who studies virus evolution, offer insights on the potential trajectory of Omicron and how it stacks up against the vaccines.

COVID-19 Booster (Third Dose)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended a single booster dose, or third shot, of the Pfizer vaccine for all individuals 12 and older who received their second dose at least five months ago. The CDC also recommends booster shots for those 18 and older who received the Moderna vaccine five months ago, or the Johnson & Johnson single-shot vaccine who were vaccinated at least two months ago.

The booster shot can be any of the COVID-19 vaccines authorized in the U.S., the CDC says.

Booster shots for all three approved COVID-19 vaccines will also be available at many retail pharmacies.

Our experts have provided answers below to some frequently asked questions about booster shots.

What is a COVID-19 booster shot and how does it help?

A third dose of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines is being recommended to prolong and increase the magnitude of protection against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. (At this time, only the Pfizer vaccine is authorized for ages 12-17. Pfizer and Moderna are authorized for ages 18 and up.) Clinical trial data submitted to the CDC’s Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices (ACIP) showed a significant reduction in infection within two weeks of receiving a booster shot and an even greater benefit in the reduction of severe COVID-19.

A booster dose of vaccine helps train the body’s immune system to create additional antibodies and strengthen protection against COVID-19 and variants that emerge, such as Delta and Omicron.

Who is eligible for a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine?

The CDC has expanded its recommendations to suggest that everyone ages 12 and older receive an additional dose of vaccine.

COVID-19 vaccines remain effective in preventing severe disease, but some recent data show that protections can wane over time, especially in people ages 65 and older.

The emergence of the highly transmissible Omicron variant further emphasizes the need for vaccination and boosters to protect against COVID-19.

Will the booster be the same vaccine I received initially?

For booster shots, or third doses, the CDC updated its recommendations to allow for mixing and matching COVID-19 vaccines, stating that receiving a booster dose from a different vaccine maker than your original vaccination is safe and effective. This guidance also applies to those who previously received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. They may now receive a Moderna or Pfizer booster.

At this time, only the Pfizer vaccine is authorized for ages 12-17.

At UT Southwestern, we will provide boosters with the same type of mRNA vaccine you previously received, given our supply. The Pfizer booster is a full third dose. The Moderna booster is a half dose, which the manufacturer said it chose because it triggered fewer short-term side effects such as fever and achiness.

Was the booster engineered to protect against the Delta or Omicron variant?

Pfizer boosters will contain the same dose of the mRNA vaccine included in the first and second shots. Moderna has reportedly reduced its dosage by 50% for its planned third shot.

One of the benefits of mRNA vaccine technology is that it can be tailored to defend against variants and produced quickly in large quantities. Manufacturers are conducting clinical trials of a vaccine dose that would target the Delta and Omicron variants, but it is still being tested.

Are there any risks in receiving a booster shot?

Potential side effects remain mild, short-lived, and the same as those encountered with the first two doses of the vaccine – sore arm, headache, fever, and chills. The CDC continues ongoing active surveillance for rare side effects of the vaccines, including the initial vaccines and the booster shots.

Immunocompromised patients should consult with their doctor before receiving a booster dose so they can weigh any risks, as well as the timing of the dose. For instance, it may be necessary to pause some patients’ immune-suppressing medications temporarily to let the booster dose of the vaccine take effect.

Do I need a booster shot if I’ve had COVID-19 and I’m vaccinated?

There are some studies that suggest so-called “hybrid” immunity can be very powerful, but currently there isn’t enough research to confirm that. It remains unclear whether people who have natural immunity from a prior COVID-19 infection and protection from the initial vaccine series will need an additional dose of vaccine at some point.

Will everyone eventually need a booster shot?

Studies continue to show that the COVID-19 vaccines are effective at preventing serious illness and hospitalization, and they are very safe. It’s not uncommon for some vaccine protections to wane over time. Booster shots will provide added protections for millions of people, but the most effective way to curb the spread of COVID-19 is to encourage unvaccinated people to get their shot.

Is it safe to get a COVID-19 booster and a flu vaccine at the same time?

Yes, it is safe to get a COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines during the same visit, according to the CDC. Earlier guidance had suggested waiting 14 days between vaccinations, but data has shown immune responses and side effects are similar regardless of whether the shots are given alone or together.

COVID-19 Booster (Fourth Dose)

Who is eligible for a fourth COVID-19 shot?

On March 29, 2022, the FDA authorized a second booster shot, or fourth dose, of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) for individuals 50 and older at least four months after they received their first booster dose, or third shot.

The CDC updated its recommendations to reflect that change and also said adults who received a primary vaccine and booster dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at least 4 months ago are now eligible for a second booster dose using an mRNA vaccine.

The CDC had previously recommended a fourth dose of the mRNA vaccines for moderately or severely immunocompromised individuals, (ages 12+ for Pfizer, 18+ for Moderna) and they are now eligible for a fifth dose.

Why would someone need a fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccine?

Current evidence and recent studies from Israel suggest protections from the vaccine and the first booster shot wane over time, so a fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccine has been recommended to help prevent serious illness and hospitalization in older and immunocompromised individuals.

The majority of hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 have been among people 65 and older, which is one reason the CDC is recommending a fourth dose for people in that age range. Underlying conditions, such as heart disease, lung disease, obesity, and diabetes, also increase the risk of serious illness from COVID-19, so individuals 50+ with any of those conditions would benefit from a fourth dose, experts say.

Finally, the emergence of the BA.2 Omicron variant has caused cases to increase in Europe and Asia, and it has become the dominant variant in the U.S. A fourth dose of vaccine would provide additional protection from the highly contagious BA.2 variant if cases begin to rise again.

How will I know if I’m eligible for a fourth dose?

UT Southwestern patients will receive a message via MyChart if they qualify for a fourth dose, along with instructions on how to self-schedule their appointment. All others should consult with their doctor if they are unsure whether they are eligible for a fourth dose.

Understanding COVID-19 Vaccine Reactions

As the first wave of people receive the COVID-19 vaccines, a few cases of anaphylactic reactions have created concerns among people with severe allergies. Dr. Rebecca Gruchalla, Chief of UT Southwestern’s Division of Allergy and Immunology, explains what might be causing these rare events, and advises how people with severe allergies should proceed.

Vaccine Safety

How do we know steps weren’t skipped to produce the vaccines faster?

There is a well-established testing and clinical trial regimen that must be followed for the FDA to consider approving a vaccine. For these COVID-19 vaccines, the research was performed concurrently, rather than consecutively, and the wait times for review of the research were substantially reduced through Operation Warp Speed, a federal program that invested in development and manufacturing of the vaccines.

No steps were skipped, and safety was not sacrificed for speed.

An independent and transparent monitoring board of experts reviewed the trial data, and career scientists evaluated it at the FDA. Clinical trial information has been published in peer-reviewed journals.

Is it safe to get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Vaccinology is one of the safest interventions we have in patient care and disease prevention, and it has a long history of protecting the public – from smallpox to polio to measles. Yes, there are low-grade side effects, but they are minor compared with the protections that a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine can provide.

Are the vaccines safe for children and pregnant women?

Vaccines are typically tested in adults first to ensure they’re safe before pediatric trials begin. While historically, pregnant women have not been included in vaccine trials, a small number of women in the Pfizer clinical trial became pregnant during the study, without any short-term complications.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have strongly recommended that women who are pregnant, wanting to become pregnant, or breastfeeding receive the COVID-19 vaccines. Studies have shown that the benefits of vaccination for pregnant women and their babies outweigh potential risks and the vaccine can prevent severe illness, death, and pregnancy complications related to COVID-19. Women who have more questions should discuss COVID-19 vaccination with their personal physician.

At this time, vaccinations are approved for ages 5 and older.

Are the COVID-19 vaccines safe for people with a history of allergic reactions?

Severe allergic reactions to vaccines are very rare, even for people who have a history of allergies to food, pets, environmental factors, or oral medications. Still, UT Southwestern is following the CDC’s recommendations and observing patients for 15 minutes in a safe environment after vaccination to monitor for any adverse effects.

Patients who have had a severe allergic reaction to a vaccine, an intravenous medication, or an injectable in the past should discuss COVID-19 vaccination with their provider. In the majority of cases, you can still get the vaccine but with a 30-minute observation period instead.

If you’ve had a severe allergic reaction to one of the components in the COVID-19 vaccines, such as polyethylene glycol or polysorbate, it is recommended that you do NOT get one of the currently available COVID-19 vaccines. Also, if you’ve had a severe or immediate allergic reaction to the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, you should NOT get the second dose until you discuss the specifics of the reaction with your provider.

Why was distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine stopped for a short time?

The FDA, “out of an abundance of caution,” decided on April 13 to pause distribution of the J&J vaccine after a small number of women between the ages of 18 and 48 experienced blood clots within 13 days of vaccination.

Scientists at the FDA and CDC reviewed safety data and on April 23 recommended that J&J vaccinations resume, stating the vaccine’s known and potential benefits far outweigh its potential risks. Women younger than 50 should be aware of the rare but increased risk, the CDC said, and that there are other COVID-19 vaccine options available.

What should I do if I’ve already received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine?

It’s important to keep in mind that these blood clots were extremely rare, so no additional testing is recommended if you received the J&J vaccine and are not experiencing any symptoms. Continue to monitor for side effects for three weeks post-vaccination. After that time, the risk of an adverse reaction is very unlikely.

If you received the J&J vaccine within that time frame and are experiencing new symptoms – very severe headaches, leg pain, or shortness of breath – please contact your physician for an evaluation and let them know you recently received the J&J vaccine.

The CDC and FDA will continue to monitor the safety of all COVID-19 vaccines.

Booster shots are recommended for the nearly 15 million people who have received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. Anyone 18 and older who was vaccinated with J&J at least two months ago can opt for a second dose of the J&J vaccine or choose one of the mRNA vaccines as a booster, according to the CDC.

If I am having symptoms or feeling unwell, is it recommended or safe to get the vaccine?

If you are feeling unwell or are having symptoms of COVID-19, please speak with your provider who may recommend that you defer your vaccination until a later date.

Do the vaccines affect fertility in women?

There is no evidence or reason to think COVID-19 vaccines affect fertility, despite some claims to the contrary circulating on the internet. Those reports are rooted in the theory that because the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein resembles the syncytin-1 protein, which is crucial for formation of the placenta, the COVID-19 vaccines might prompt an immune response that targets the placenta protein. But virologists say the two proteins are completely unrelated and not similar enough to confuse antibodies that attack the virus.

Vaccines for Adolescents, Ages 12-15

Which vaccine will my child or teen receive?

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been granted emergency use authorization by the FDA for children ages 12-15. Currently, it is the only COVID-19 vaccine authorized for ages 12-17, and it requires two shots given 21 days apart.

Will 12- to 15-year-olds receive the same dose as people ages 16 and older?

Yes. The two Pfizer vaccine doses are exactly the same as those given to people ages 16+.

How do we know the vaccine is safe and effective for ages 12-15?

The COVID-19 vaccines have undergone the most intensive safety monitoring program in U.S. history, including studies in adolescents. Pfizer conducted clinical trials that included 2,000 adolescents ages 12-15, half of whom were randomized to receive the vaccine and half to receive a placebo. Vaccine efficacy was 100%. There were no cases of COVID-19 among the approximately 1,000 trial participants who received the vaccine. There were 16 cases reported among the more than 970 placebo recipients.

Are the vaccine side effects any different for this age group?

No. According to safety data from Pfizer’s clinical trials, the most common side effects for adolescents ages 12-15 were some soreness at the injection site, fatigue, headache, chills, muscle pain, fever, and joint pain – all of which are consistent with trials in older teens and adults. These side effects go away after a few days. There were no reports of serious side effects like blood clots, serious allergic reactions, or Bell’s palsy in the adolescent clinical trials. Long-term side effects are extremely unlikely. Historically, vaccine side effects have occurred within six weeks of vaccine administration. Millions of people have had the COVID-19 vaccine and no long-term side effects have been noted in post-vaccine monitoring.

Do I need to be there when my child gets vaccinated?

Yes. A parent or legal guardian must accompany children ages 12-17 to the vaccination appointment and sign consent forms in person.

Can my child take their normal medications before the COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes. Your child should continue to take their normal medications as prescribed.

Should my child stay home from school after the COVID-19 vaccine?

Not unless they have a fever. There is no need to limit their activities.

Should my child get the vaccine if they’ve already had COVID-19?

Yes. It’s not known how long natural immunity lasts, and there have been some reported cases of reinfection.

Are children ages 12-15 eligible for booster shots?

On Jan. 3, 2022, the FDA amended its emergency use authorization to make booster (third) doses of the Pfizer vaccine available to children ages 12-15 five months after their second dose. The CDC updated its recommendations to include boosters for ages 12-15 as well. (Pfizer is the only COVID-19 vaccine authorized for ages 12-17). The Omicron variant is spreading quickly among younger people and the public health agencies have cited boosters, as well as mask wearing and social distancing, as vital to fighting the spread of COVID-19.

What if my child has COVID-19 now?

Wait until they’re feeling better and no longer need to isolate based on CDC guidelines.

How do I support my child during the vaccine visit?

Be honest. Remind them that vaccines pinch when they are given, but it will not last long. Discuss the benefits of the vaccine, such as returning to a more “normal life” including sports, school activities, and travel.

What is the status of vaccines children younger than 12?

On Nov. 2, 2021, the CDC recommended the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5-11, following successful results in clinical trials. For more information on vaccinating children 5-11, please visit our partner hospital Children’s Health.

Vaccine trials for children 6 months to 5 years old are still ongoing.

If children and teens are less likely to get sick from COVID-19, why do they need a vaccine?

It is rare for children to get seriously ill from COVID-19, but children 12 and older have needed hospital care for COVID-19, particularly those with underlying health conditions, such as weakened immune systems, obesity, or chronic lung conditions. Additionally, early data show that vaccinated people are much less likely to transmit the virus to others.

After Vaccination and Side Effects

Should I take anti-inflammatory medication such as Advil or Tylenol prior to getting my vaccine to prevent post-vaccination side effects?

No. Although these drugs could help with potential side effects, they could also affect your immune response, making the vaccine less effective. It is recommended that you take them after your vaccine only if you are experiencing pain, swelling, or fever.

Do the vaccines have any serious side effects?

The most common side effect is soreness at the injection site and headache, with most side effects lasting less than 48 hours.

Clinical trial participants reported arm soreness, fatigue, chills, fever, or headaches that lasted a day or two, most often after the second shot. But that reaction is typically a sign that the vaccine is working – triggering the immune response (or inflammation) indicating your body recognizes this never-before-seen pathogen and is mounting a protective response against it.

The clinical trials will continue to monitor patients for side effects long after patients are vaccinated. The state of Texas will use the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), a national system co-managed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and FDA, to track vaccine safety and side effects. Texas will also employ an app called V-safe, which sends vaccine recipients text messages and check-in emails to keep tabs on their health, as well as remind them when it’s time to get their second shot.

Will the side effects from the vaccine be seen immediately or is it possible to experience them at a later date?

It is possible to have a delayed reaction or side effect starting more than seven days after your vaccination including fever, body aches, headache, and injection site reactions. Delayed injection site reactions have been reported including pain, swelling, itching, and redness. This is not considered an allergic reaction and does not prevent you from receiving your second vaccination. In addition, these reactions are a positive sign that your immune system is responding to the vaccination. If you have any concerns, please speak with your primary care provider.

Do the vaccines present any long-term health risks?

Phase three vaccine trial participants were monitored for 60 days after receiving their second shot, which is required before any safety data can be submitted to the FDA. Typically, if a patient hasn’t experienced severe side effects in 60 days, it is extremely unlikely they will. But because these vaccines are so new, significant long-term data are still being collected.

According to clinical trial safety documents released by the FDA on Dec. 10, there were four cases of Bell's palsy, a condition that temporarily weakens the facial muscles, among Pfizer clinical trial participants who received the vaccine. The rates of Bell’s palsy, however, were no different than what occurs in the general population and there is no evidence the vaccine caused the problem. Still, the FDA is likely to recommend follow-up investigation.

How long does it take for immunity to develop after getting vaccinated?

The FDA documents said the Pfizer vaccine showed 95% immunity seven days after the second shot and the Moderna vaccine showed 94.5% immunity 14 days after the second shot. The full response takes time to develop after the second vaccine, and therefore one is not considered fully vaccinated until two weeks after the second dose.

The booster is necessary to strengthen the immune response and provide full protection. Also, keep in mind that exposure is still possible between doses, so continue to wear a mask and follow hand-washing and physical distancing recommendations.

How long will immunity to COVID-19 last?

There’s no definitive way to tell yet, but some studies have indicated it could last years, even decades. The research showed that patients who contracted COVID-19 early in 2020 had robust antibodies six months later. Studies of survivors of SARS, also caused by a coronavirus, showed that participants carried immune cells 17 years after being infected. So there are some reasons to be encouraged, but scientists will need to continue monitoring the length and strength of immune responses in vaccinated patients.

If I get the vaccine, does that mean I can’t get COVID-19 or transmit the disease?

Although both vaccines are very effective, they are not 100% effective, so it is still possible, but highly unlikely, that you could contract COVID-19.

Vaccine trials tested whether participants would produce antibodies to shield them from developing COVID-19 symptoms or severe illness, but it is still not clear if vaccinated people could develop asymptomatic infection and potentially transmit the virus. It is imperative that you continue to wear masks, practice social distancing and wash your hands.

Once I am fully vaccinated, will the antibodies from the vaccine lead to a positive COVID-19 test?

No. The vaccines will not influence the results of PCR or antigen COVID-19 tests, as the vaccine does not contain the virus itself – rather it prompts the body to produce antibodies specific for the spike protein. The spike protein is like a key the virus uses to “unlock” and enter our cells. The PCR and antigen tests look for the genetic code of the virus itself, which is not contained in the vaccine, but rather is only present during the viral infection.

Will I still need to wear a mask and social distance after getting vaccinated?

Yes. People will be getting vaccinated throughout much of 2021. Until a majority of the population has been vaccinated – some estimates say vaccinating 80% of Americans would help us reach herd immunity – wearing a mask, washing your hands, practicing physical distancing, and avoiding large, indoor gatherings will continue to be important tools to limit spread.

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