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> COVID19 Vaccination FAQ

2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Vaccination FAQ

THE HEALTH AND WELL-BEING of our community is our top priority. Tompkins County Health Department (TCHD) is working closely with community partners to prevent and respond to the evolving novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

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The Tompkins County Health Department is urging everyone in our community who is able to get vaccinated for COVID-19 as it becomes available. Widescale vaccination is critical for developing immunity in our community. When a high percentage of people are vaccinated, their immunity against the virus will stop the transmission, as well as protect those who are unable to get the vaccine.

Everyone has a part in ensuring that the community stays healthy and safe. In addition to continuing to wear masks, maintain distance, wash hands, and follow gathering guidance, we can all encourage our friends, family, and neighbors to get vaccinated when it is available. Follow this website and the Health Department’s Facebook and Twitter channels for updates on the vaccine in our community.

Common Questions

About the vaccines
Getting vaccinated
Vaccine doses
What if …
But …
When you’re fully vaccinated
Delta variant

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About the vaccines
What is the difference between the vaccines?

All vaccines in use in the United States are proven to be very effective at preventing severe disease, hospitalization, and death.

  • Mechanism: the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are “mRNA” vaccines, and the Johnson & Johnson is a “viral vector” vaccine. All of them use virus parts (either mRNA or proteins) to trigger the immune system into building defenses that block production of those parts in the actual virus. In either case, these parts break down quickly and have no further influences on the body.
  • Dosage: the Pfizer requires 2 doses spaced 21 days apart, the Moderna is 2 doses spaced 28 days apart. The J&J requires only one dose.
  • Eligibility: Everyone ages 12 years and older is eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine. Everyone ages 18 and up are eligible to receive the Moderna and J&J vaccines.
  • Approval: The Pfizer vaccine has full FDA approval for use by ages 16+, and is available under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for ages 12-15. Moderna and J&J are available under an EUA for ages 18+.
  • Storage: the mRNA vaccines must be stored and transported at extremely low, subzero temperatures. This makes their distribution difficult in areas that do not have the specialty freezers necessary to transport or store the vaccine. The J&J vaccine simply needs to be refrigerated, and can be stored there for up to 3 months. (Source)
Are the vaccines safe?

Yes. The COVID-19 vaccines have gone through the same rigorous review that all vaccines must follow in the U.S. In New York, the State’s independent COVID-19 Clinical Advisory Task Force also approved these COVID-19 vaccines as safe and effective. While the vaccine is in use, the FDA and the CDC are constantly monitoring for new side effects.

Do the vaccines work?

Yes. All of the vaccines currently available in the US protect people against severe disease, hospitalization, and death due to COVID-19, based both on clinical trials and real-world experience and observation. No vaccines are 100% effective, so some fully vaccinated individuals will still get sick. However, data collected on these "breakthrough cases" suggest that symptoms are milder for these individuals. The vaccines can also reduce the spread of COVID-19, protecting others.

The vaccine was developed too fast.

Even though this is the first time the “mRNA” vaccines have been authorized for public use, the science and testing behind them has been underway for more than 10 years. The clinical trials for the vaccines were thorough and the results were carefully reviewed. Because the FDA granted a Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for each vaccine, they were available much sooner than would be expected when an emergency use is not necessary.

The Pfizer vaccine has full FDA approval as of 8/23/21.

Could a vaccine infect me with COVID-19?

No. None of the vaccines authorized or under review for use in the U.S. are made with the live virus that causes a COVID-19 infection or would make you sick.

Are the vaccines effective against COVID-19 “variants?”

Yes. The vaccines are effectively protect against severe disease caused by the dominant variants that are currently circulating, including the Delta variant. However, recent data suggests that the effectiveness rate may decrease (wane) over time and booster shots may be needed. An effective vaccine protects against severe disease, hospitalization, and death. 

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Getting vaccinated
When can I be vaccinated?

Now. Everyone age 12 and over (12+) who lives, works, or goes to school in New York State is eligible to be vaccinated here.

When is someone "fully vaccinated?"
  • 2 weeks after a second dose in a 2-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or
  • 2 weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine.
Will getting vaccinated prevent me from getting sick with COVID-19?

Most likely. In the clinical trials, no one who was vaccinated got a case of COVID-19 that resulted in hospitalization or death. There is still a chance of getting a mild case of the disease.

Will the vaccine cause a positive test on future COVID-19 viral tests?

No. Authorized vaccines will not cause a positive on any of the tests used to detect a current infection.

Can I infect others even after I’m vaccinated?

Maybe. This is still being studied, so you should continue taking all precautions when around others who are not in your household, such as wear a mask, maintain distance, avoid gatherings, wash hands well and often. This risk may be greater while the Delta variant is the dominant strain in the population.

Should I get the vaccine if I already had a coronavirus infection?

Yes. The science shows that the vaccine provides better and longer-lasting protection than the defenses your body builds up when you were infected.

Can I get vaccinated if I am currently sick with COVID-19?

No. People with COVID-19 — both those who have symptoms and those who do not — should wait to be vaccinated until they have recovered from their illness and are released from isolation by the Health Department.

How much will it cost to get vaccinated against COVID-19?

Nothing. There is no charge or co-pay to be vaccinated. However, if you have health insurance or Medicare Part B, bring your card with you to the clinic.

What do I need to bring to the vaccination site?

You need to bring identification that shows your date of birth and that you are a resident of New York State. If you are not a resident, you need to bring documents that show you work or go to school in New York.

Can I get a flu shot at the same time I get a COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes. There is no required interval of time between receiving a COVID-19 vaccine and any other vaccine, such as the flu shot (you may want to consider getting one in each arm rather than both in the same arm). The Health Department recommends that everyone age 6 months and older get a flu shot every year. Most local pharmacies provide flu vaccines, or contact your primary care provider.

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Vaccine doses
When do I get the second dose of the vaccine?

Your second dose is 28 days after your first for the Moderna vaccine, 21 days for the Pfizer vaccine. You will make the appointment for your second before you leave the vaccination clinic. The second dose should be given at the same location where you got the first. If you get the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine, there is no second dose.

Third doses and boosters

As booster shots and third doses are authorized more widely, and NYSDOH issues its guidance, the Health Department will make updates and information available on our website and encourage those who are eligible to get their next dose.

Third doses: Are they the same as a “booster” dose?

No. According to the CDC the third dose is recommended for immunocompromised people who were unable to build up full protection from their first full course of vaccination, and the third dose is a way to add to existing protection. It’s like getting a higher than normal dose of vaccine: the immune system cannot use the vaccine as efficiently to build immunity, so you up the dose. The FDA has granted Emergency Use Authorization to make both Pfizer and Moderna available for a third dose for immunocompromised inviduals.

A booster dose is another dose given to someone whose immune system responded well to being fully vaccinated, but then that protection may decrease over time. This is also known as “waning immunity.”

Why is a third dose needed?

People with moderately to severely compromised immune systems may not build the same level of immunity from a 2-dose vaccine series compared to people who are not immunocompromised, and they may benefit from an additional dose to make sure they have enough protection against COVID-19.

Who is eligible for a 3rd dose?

Individuals who are moderately or severely immunocompromised and are fully vaccinated with one of the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer or Moderna) are advised to get a third dose of vaccine at least 28 days after their second dose. This includes anyone in one of the following situations:

  • Been receiving active cancer treatment for tumors or cancers of the blood
  • Received an organ transplant and are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
  • Received a stem cell transplant within the last 2 years or are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
  • Moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (such as DiGeorge syndrome, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome)
  • Advanced or untreated HIV infection
  • Active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids or other drugs that may suppress your immune response
Where can I get a third dose?


Booster doses: Why are they needed?

COVID-19 vaccines are working very well to prevent severe illness, hospitalization, and death, even against the widely circulating Delta variant. However, with the Delta variant, public health experts are starting to see reduced protection against infection and mild disease. With a booster shot, vaccinated people maintain protection for an extended period of time.

Who is eligible for a booster dose?

Following careful review by the CDC, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), and the FDA, the CDC endorsed the recommendation of a Pfizer booster shot for certain populations. This recommendation applies only to those who got 2 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, whose second dose was at least 6 months ago, and who are in at least one of the groups listed below.

You should get a Pfizer booster if you are:
  • Age 65 years or older, OR
  • A resident of a long-term care facility age 18 or older OR
  • Age 50-64 years with one or more of the following conditions due to increased risk of moderate or severe illness or death from the virus that causes COVID-19:
    1. Cancer (current or in remission, including 9/11-related cancers)
    2. Chronic kidney disease
    3. Pulmonary disease, including but not limited to, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), asthma (moderate- to-severe), pulmonary fibrosis, cystic fibrosis, and 9/11 related pulmonary diseases
    4. Intellectual and developmental disabilities including Down syndrome
    5. Heart conditions, including but not limited to heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathies, or hypertension (high blood pressure)
    6. Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) including but not limited to solid organ transplant or from blood or bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, HIV, use of corticosteroids, use of other immune weakening medicines, or other causes
    7. Severe obesity (BMI 40 kg/m2), obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 30 kg/m2 or higher but < 40 kg/m2)
    8. Pregnancy
    9. Sickle cell disease or thalassemia
    10. Type 1 or 2 diabetes mellitus
    11. Cerebrovascular disease (affects blood vessels and blood supply to the brain)
    12. Neurologic conditions including but not limited to Alzheimer's disease or dementia
    13. Liver disease; OR
You may get a Pfizer booster if you are:
  • Ages 18-49 years with one or more of the underlying medical conditions listed above, based on individual benefits and risks; OR
  • Ages 18-64 years and at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of occupational or institutional setting based on individual benefits and risks. This may include but is not limited to the following:
    • Healthcare workers and first responders
    • Individuals who work in long-term care facilities and nursing homes
    • School and daycare staff working with students who are not currently eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine due to age
    • Food and agricultural workers
    • Grocery store workers
    • Public transit workers

Booster References: CDC Who is eligible | TCHD Health Alert 9/28/21 | NYSDOH booster doses

Where can I get a booster dose?

If you are eligible to receive a Pfizer booster dose, check the TCHD pop-up clinic schedule, or contact your health care provider or your local pharmacy

Links to 3rd dose and booster resources

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What if …
What if I am pregnant or breastfeeding?

All of the currently authorized COVID-19 vaccines are safe for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding. If you have questions, discuss this with your practitioner. There is currently no evidence that any vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, cause fertility problems.

Will the vaccine affect my fertility?

There is no scientific evidence to suggest that either the COVID-19 vaccines or being infected by the virus affect fertility in women. Out of all the women of child-bearing age who have been either infected or vaccinated, there is no evidence that the COVID pandemic has changed fertility patterns.

Can children be vaccinated with the current vaccines?

The Pfizer vaccine has recently been authorized for use in individuals ages 12 and up. The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are authorized only for ages 18 and over. Clinical trials for ages 2-11 are underway.

Will I need the vaccine to go to work or school?

Maybe. Many workplaces and schools are requiring staff and students to be vaccinated as a condition of employment or enrollment. This is legal. In some cases regular testing is allowed as an alternative to vaccination. You should check with the school, college, or employer.

What are the side effects of the vaccine?

The vaccination is an injection (shot) like the flu vaccine. The most common side effects are injection site pain or soreness, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, fever. These symptoms go away after a few days. You can learn more about side effects in this section below.

Can I get time off to get vaccinated?

A NYS law grants public and private employees time off to receive the COVID-19 vaccination. Under the law, employees will be granted up to four hours of excused leave per injection that will not be charged against any other leave the employee has earned or accrued. This legislation was passed and signed in March 2021, and remains in effect through the end of the year. Click here for an FAQ from the NYS Department of Labor.

Can I get sick pay if I have side effects from the vaccine? How long will I be out of work if I have side effects?

Whether there are side effects from the vaccination, and if so the severity, is different for everyone. Governor Cuomo has stated that, "no New Yorker will miss a day's pay because of getting the vaccine. The Department of Labor will be issuing guidance to all employers reminding them that in the unlikely event someone needs time off after experiencing side effects, by law, that is considered a paid sick leave day." Additional information will be posted as available.

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But …
I’m afraid of needles, is there another way to receive the shot?

Many people are afraid of needles, so you are not alone. However, right now there are no other ways of getting vaccinated. If you have a chronic illness or condition and are concerned about pain during or after you get a shot, it is best to talk with your primary care doctor who knows your situation. You may also speak with a nurse at the vaccination site.  

I’ve got a lot of allergies and someone told me not to get it

There is a remote chance that a vaccine could cause a severe allergic reaction, but this would usually occur within a few minutes to one hour after getting vaccinated. For this reason, individuals are asked to stay at the clinic site for 15 to 30 minutes after they get their shot to be monitored by medical staff for any allergic response. Registered nurses are on site, both administering vaccinations and in the observation area, so be sure to tell one if you are concerned.

There is a 98% survival rate for Covid-19, so why bother getting vaccinated?

Clinical trials have shown there is a 100% survival rate for people who are vaccinated. Plus, even if you don’t get sick, you may still harbor the virus and spread it to family, friends, and loved ones. Getting vaccinated significantly drops the chance of that happening.

I take a lot of vitamins and keep myself really healthy.

A healthy lifestyle can make you feel better everyday!  But that may not be enough to keep you from getting infected with the virus. Even with a mild or “asymptomatic” case of COVID-19, you can still spread the virus to others with weaker immune systems. That is why it’s so important to get vaccinated, and continue to wear a mask in public places, wash hands well, avoid crowds, and social distance to prevent the disease from spreading.

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When you’re fully vaccinated

Note: If you are contacted by the Tompkins County Health Department as part of a contact tracing investigation, you should follow the instructions you are given. Always follow guidance and requirements issued by a business, workplace, venue, or local government.

What is Fully Vaccinated?

2 weeks after you’ve completed your vaccination course, you are considered fully vaccinated. Pfizer and Moderna require 2 doses to complete the course, Johnson & Johnson requires one dose.

Do I need to wear a mask?

Yes, in indoor public areas and when around high risk individuals. Tompkins County issued a mask advisory on August 20, in response to being at a High level of community transmission. This applies to both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.

Do I need to Quarantine?

No. If you know or are told that you were exposed to someone who tested positive, you are not required to quarantine if you are fully vaccinated and have no symptoms. However you should closely monitor yourself for 14 days. If symptoms develop, immediately isolate yourself and call the Health Department for information on how to safely get tested, at 607-274-6604.

Should I get tested?

Yes. If you suspect or are told that you were exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19, you should get tested 3–5 days after exposure, even if you don’t have symptoms. If you have any COVID-19 symptoms, you should isolate and get tested right away. If you test positive using an at-home or self test, you should contact your health care provider and notify the Health Department immediately at 607-274-6604.



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Delta Variant FAQ

What is a virus variant?

Variants are expected as viruses constantly change and become more diverse through mutation. Sometimes, due to their nature or mutation, new variants disappear, and other times, they persist. Many variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 have been studied and identified since the beginning of the pandemic. Some changes allow the virus to spread more easily, and those variants must be carefully monitored.

What is different about the Delta variant?

Delta is a COVID-19 “Variant of Concern” that originated in India. New data shows that people infected with Delta have higher viral loads—meaning more virus in their body—than with previous variants. Delta spreads about twice as easily from one person to another, compared with earlier strains. In May 2021, less than 1% of U.S. cases were the Delta variant. In July 2021, 80% of cases were of the Delta variant.

Can I spread the Delta variant if I’m vaccinated?

Yes, new data shows that fully vaccinated people who are infected with the Delta are contagious and can potentially spread the virus to others, though maybe for a shorter time period than someone who is unvaccinated. Even so, vaccinated individuals represent a small amount of the transmission occurring around the country. The CDC is continuing to monitor available data.

Virtually all hospitalizations and deaths continue to be among unvaccinated individuals.

What is a breakthrough case?

While COVID-19 vaccines are effective, a small percentage of people who are fully vaccinated will still get COVID-19 if they are exposed to the virus that causes it. These are called “vaccine breakthrough cases.” This means that while people who have been vaccinated are much less likely to get sick, it will still happen in some cases. It is also possible that some fully vaccinated people might have infections, but not have symptoms (asymptomatic infections). Experts continue to study how common these cases are.

Why is the CDC recommending masks even if you’re vaccinated?

Recent data, both in the United States and in other countries, shows that a small proportion of fully vaccinated people may become infected with Delta and transmit it. For this reason, in areas with substantial or high transmission rates, fully vaccinated individuals should wear a mask in public indoor settings to help prevent the spread of Delta and protect others.

In low transmission areas, the overall risk of a vaccinated person getting Delta is lower. Individuals can still consider whether they want to take the extra precaution of wearing a mask, particularly in households with someone who is immunocompromised, unvaccinated, or at risk of severe disease.

Why get vaccinated if the Delta variant can infect you anyway?

Vaccination is the best way to protect you, your family, and your community. The vaccine is proving to be effective at reducing severe symptoms and preventing hospitalizations and death if the virus is contracted. Plus, the vaccines can help prevent Delta from spreading even further.

Are the vaccines still as effective as first thought?

Data demonstrates that the vaccines continue to be very effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and death, and are effective against the Delta variant.

The 162+ million fully vaccinated Americans have a very strong degree of protection against the variants, including Delta. They are overwhelmingly avoiding severe illness, hospitalization, and death. Unvaccinated individuals account for virtually all the hospitalizations and deaths in the U.S.

Is the Delta variant active in Tompkins County?

Yes. According to data published August 10, Delta is the dominant strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in Tompkins County. This was confirmed by a sequencing program at Cornell University’s Virology Lab, in collaboration with Cayuga Medical Center and the TCHD.

Samples from positive cases taken during the months of June and July 2021 were tested by the Cornell lab. Of the 87 samples that were sequenced, 80 were the Delta variant. Six of the samples were other variants of the virus. All samples of fully vaccinated individuals sequenced in this batch resulted from infection by the Delta variant.


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Vaccine Details & Fact Sheets

Safety of the COVID-19 Vaccines

The COVID-19 vaccines have gone through the same rigorous review that all vaccines must follow in the U.S. As of February 27, 2021, three vaccines have been granted Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the FDA: the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, the Moderna vaccine, and Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine.

These authorizations followed three rounds of clinical trials with thousands of participants and a diverse range of race, age, and other demographics.

The Pfizer/BioNTech received full FDA approval for ages 16+ on August 23, 2021. Pfizer for ages 12-15 is still available under an EUA.

Full FDA Approval of the Pfizer vaccine

The FDA granted full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for preventing COVID-19 in ages 16+. The Pfizer vaccine is available under its EUA for ages 12-15, and for use as a third dose for certain immunocompromised individuals.

Pfizer Clinical Trials
  • Phase 2/3 clinical trials had about 43,400 participants who participated at 152 clinical sites across the globe, 130 of which were in the United States.
  • Half of participants received the vaccine, the other half received a placebo (assigned randomly)
  • Demographics of participants:
    • 49% female, 51% male
    • 83% white
    • 9% Black or African American
    • 28% Hispanic or Latinx
    • 4.3% Asian
    • 0.5% Native American/Alaska Native
  • 35% of participants were clinically obese
  • 21% of participants had at least one coexisting condition
  • The median age was 52 years old
  • The age range of participants spanned from 16 to 91

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Moderna Clinical Trials
  • Phase 3 clinical trials had about 30,400 participants from the United States
  • Half of participants received the vaccine, the other half received a placebo (assigned randomly)
  • Demographics of participants:
    • 48% female, 52% male
    • 79% white
    • 10% Black or African American
    • 21% Hispanic or Latinx
    • 5% Asian
    • 0.8% American Indian/Alaska Native
  • 22% of participants had at least one high-risk condition
  • 25% of participants were health care workers
  • Median age of 52
  • The age range of participants spanned from 18 to 95

Johnson & Johnson (J&J/Janssen) (Source: CDC and FDA)
J&J Clinical Trials
  • Phase 3 clinical trial of 39,321 participants.
  • The J&J/Janssen vaccine was 66.3% effective in clinical trials (efficacy) at preventing laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 illness in people who had no evidence of prior infection 2 weeks after receiving the vaccine. People had the most protection 2 weeks after getting vaccinated.
  • The vaccine had high efficacy at preventing hospitalization and death in people who did get sick. No one who got COVID-19 at least 4 weeks after receiving the J&J/Janssen vaccine had to be hospitalized.
  • Early evidence suggests that the J&J/Janssen vaccine might provide protection against asymptomatic infection, which is when a person is infected by the virus that causes COVID-19 but does not get sick.
  • CDC will continue to provide updates as we learn more about how well the J&J/Janssen vaccine works in real-world conditions.
  • Demographic information from clinical trials
    • 58.7% White
    • 45.3% Hispanic or Latino
    • 19.4% Black or African American
    • 9.5% American Indian or Alaska Native
    • 5.6% Multiple races
    • 3.3% Asian
    • 0.2% Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander
  • Sex breakdown
    • 54.9% Male
    • 45.0% Female
    • <0.1% Undifferentiated or unknown sex
  • Age breakdown
    • 66.5% 18–59 years
    • 33.5% 60 years and older
      • 19.6% 65 years and older
      • 3.5% 75 years and older

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What you need to know about J&J safety
CDC Updates as of April 25, 2021
  • CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommend use of Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen (J&J/Janssen) COVID-19 Vaccine resume in the United States, after a temporary pause.
  • Reports of adverse events following the use of J&J/Janssen vaccine suggest an increased risk of a rare adverse event called thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS). Nearly all reports of this serious condition, which involves blood clots with low platelets, have been in adult women younger than 50 years old.
  • A review of all available data at this time shows that the J&J/Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine’s known and potential benefits outweigh its known and potential risks.
  • However, women younger than 50 years old should be aware of the rare but increased risk of this adverse event and that there are other COVID-19 vaccine options available for which this risk has not been seen.
  • CDC and FDA will continue to monitor the safety of all COVID-19 vaccines.
  • Seek medical care right away if you develop any of the symptoms below after receiving the J&J/Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine.
  • If you have any questions or concerns, call your doctor, nurse, or clinic.
Precautionary Information
  • There is a plausible causal relationship between J&J/Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine and a rare and serious adverse event—blood clots with low platelets (thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome, or TTS). However, after reviewing all available safety data, CDC and FDA recommend use of this vaccine resume in the United States given that the known and potential benefits outweigh the known and potential risks.
  • This adverse event is rare, occurring at a rate of about 7 per 1 million vaccinated women between 18 and 49 years old. For women 50 years and older and men of all ages, this adverse event is even more rare.
  • For three weeks after receiving the vaccine, you should be on the lookout for possible symptoms of a blood clot with low platelets. These include:
    • Severe or persistent headaches or blurred vision
    • Shortness of breath
    • Chest pain
    • Leg swelling
    • Persistent abdominal pain
    • Easy bruising or tiny blood spots under the skin beyond the injection site

Seek medical care right away if you develop one or more of the symptoms listed above.

FDA web page for the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine (J&J)

CDC’s Product information for Johnson & Johnson's Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine  

CDC prevaccination checklist for health care providers

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Will these new vaccines continue to be monitored for problems?

Yes. Even though no safety issues arose during the clinical trials, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other federal partners will continue to monitor the new vaccines for serious side effects that may not have been seen in clinical trials. Any unexpected side effect will be quickly studied to determine if it is an isolated incident or a broader safety concern.

How will experts evaluate the COVID-19 vaccines in real-world conditions?

Experts are working on many types of real-world studies to determine vaccine effectiveness, and each uses a different method. CDC will use several methods because they can all contribute different information about how the vaccine is working.

  • Case-control studies.
  • A test-negative design study.
  • Cohort studies.
  • Screening method assessments.
  • Ecologic analysis assessments.

Details about the different types of studies are in this FAQ Addendum.

Common side effects of the vaccine

Side effects that have been reported for the vaccines include:

  • Injection site pain
  • Tiredness
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Chills
  • Joint pain
  • Fever
  • Injection site swelling
  • Injection site redness
  • Nausea
  • Feeling unwell
  • Swollen lymph nodes

There is a remote chance that a vaccine could cause a severe allergic reaction including difficulty breathing, swelling of your face and throat, rapid heartbeat, a rash all over your body, dizziness and weakness. Severe allergic reactions usually occur within a few minutes to one hour after getting vaccinated. For this reason, individuals are asked to stay at the clinic site for a 15 to 30 minute observation period after they get their shot. If you experience a severe allergic reaction, seek medical attention or call 9-1-1.

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How often will I need to get a COVID-19 vaccination?

Two of the currently authorized vaccines require a second dose to increase their effectiveness, and one just a single dose. The Pfizer vaccine second dose should be 21 days after the first shot, and the Moderna vaccine’s second dose should be taken 28 days after the first. Second doses must be given at the same location where you received your first dose. Be sure you have an appointment for your second shot before you leave the clinic where you get your first shot. 

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is just one dose, and no future appointments are needed to become fully vaccinated.

What happens if I don’t get the second shot on time?

There have not been enough studies to know if a delayed second shot will still reach the full effectiveness for each vaccine. The schedule for doses of each vaccine is based on data from clinical trials. Everyone who receives a first dose of the vaccine should get the second dose according to schedule in order to provide the best possible protection against the disease.

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Vaccination Process

There is no residency requirement for being vaccinated at a Tompkins County facility.


What questions will be asked before I get the vaccine?

Your vaccinator will ask you a series of screening questions before you are vaccinated, similar to questions you are asked when you get a flu shot. Examples are listed below. You may be asked these questions on your registration form, and again at the vaccination site.

  • Have you ever had an allergic reaction to any vaccine or shot?
  • Do you feel sick today?
  • In the last 10 days, have you had a COVID-19 test or been told to isolate or quarantine at home?
  • Are you immunocompromised or on a medicine that affects your immune system?
  • Are you pregnant or plan to become pregnant?
  • Are you breastfeeding?

Sample screening forms

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Explainer Video

This 2-1/2 minute (2:19) video provides the basic information about the vaccine and vaccination. Watch on YouTube or Download from Google.

This same video is currently available in these languages: Karen, Spanish

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Continue to follow these safety guidelines while the community gets vaccinated
— Click any image for information on that topic —

  • Distance--Please do not form lines or groups. Keep 6 feet of distance at all times
  • Density--Avoid entering crowded rooms or areas. Reduce occupancy to allow for proper distancing
  • Face Covering--You must wear a face covering when in public buildings and outdoor spaces around others
  • Hand Hygiene--Wash hands well and often. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces often
  • Symptoms--If you have a fever, cough, shortness of breath, or body aches, stay home and get tested

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“Office Hours” Live Stream Video Series

Photo graphic for the Office Hours live stream series

"Office Hours" is a series of virtual Vaccine Q&A live streams produced by TCHD in partnership with local physicians and community members. Each event is designed to offer a safe space and informative experience for attendees seeking more information on COVID-19 vaccines.

Each event is moderated by a member of the community or TCHD staff and will focus on the safety and efficacy of the vaccines. Attendees will be able to ask questions live or anonymously. Some sessions will be recorded for later viewing and archived on the County's YouTube Channel. Direct links to recordings are in the listings.

Registration: Online use the links below. By phone call 2-1-1 (or 1-877-211-8667). 

  • For All Community Members.
    • Open session for all community members with questions and concerns about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine. 
    • Hosted by Dr. Kathryn Rooth, Cayuga Medical Center
    • Watch the recorded event on YouTube
  • Focus on Questions from People of Color.
  • With REACH Medical.
    • Open session with REACH Medical, for community members with concerns about the vaccine. 
    • Hosted by Dr. Judy Griffin & Dr. Elizabeth Ryan, REACH Medical
    • Watch the recorded event on YouTube
  • For Parents and Caregivers.
    • Open session to answer questions and concerns from those who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or parents/caregivers about the vaccine & children.
    • Hosted by Dr. Audrey DeSilva & Dr. Jeffrey Snedeker, Northeast Pediatrics
    • Watch the recorded event on YouTube  
  • For Karen/Burmese Speakers.
    • Catholic Charities Immigration Services with translation for Karen/Burmese speakers.
    • Contact Paige Cross at Catholic Charities for access to recording: (607) 272-5062; 
    • Hosted by Tompkins County Health Department Community Health Nurses Melissa Gatch, Karen LaCelle, & Director of Health Promotion Samantha Hillson
  • For Older Adults
    • Wednesday, Feb. 24, 3:00 p.m. 
    • Open session for older adults with questions about the COVID-19 vaccine
    • Hosted by Dr. Deidre Blake, MD, Cayuga Health Systems Orthopedic Program
    • Watch the recorded event on YouTube
  • Horario de Oficina en Español
    • Miércoles 24 de Febrero, 17:00 h. 
    • Con Dr. Maya Aponte, CMC, y Carolina Gilbert, RN, CMC
    • Moderado por Patricia Fernandez de Castro Martinez, Asociación Cívica Latina
    • Mira el evento grabado en YouTube
  • Q&A for communities of color
    • ​Friday, March 5, 6:00 p.m. 
    • Guest practitioner: Dr. Daryll Dykes, Upstate Medical Center
    • Moderators: Rev. Wright, Calvary Baptist Church, and Dr. Clarke, Tompkins County Office of Human Rights
    • In partnership with Calvary Baptist Church, St. James A.M.E. Zion, Baptized Church of Jesus Christ, T.C. Office of Human Rights and T.C. Dept. of Veteran Services
    • Watch the recorded event on YouTube
  • Vaccine Q&A with Dr. Blake (Live)
    • Wednesday, May 5, 3:00-4:00 p.m.
    • Guest practitioner: Dr. Deidre Blake, Cayuga Medical Center
    • Open session for all interested community members
    • Register for the event here.Registration required to ask questions live or anonomously. 
  • Preguntas y respuestas para hispanohablantes (evento en vivo)
    • Martes, 18 de mayo de 2021, 12:00 p.m.
    • Con la Dr. Maya Aponte de CMC
    • Durante cada evento, los asistentes tendrán la posibilidad de hacer preguntas en vivo o de forma anónima. Cada evento será moderado por un miembro de la comunidad o el personal de TCHD.

    • Mira el evento grabado en YouTube
  • Vaccine Q&A for parents and caregivers (Live)
    • Tuesday, May 18, 6:30-7:30 p.m.
    • Guest practitioners: Dr. Snedeker, Northeast Pediatrics and Dr. Casey, Buttermilk Falls Pediatrics 
    • Vaccinating children, and questions related the vaccine and fertility, pregnancy, and breastfeeding

    • Watch the recorded event on YouTube

Flu Vaccine

Everyone age 6 months and older should get a flu shot to be immunized against influenza now. Visit your local pharmacy or your health care practitioner today. More info is here.

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References and resources:

New York State
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC)
Professional Associations
Other sources

If you have questions about whether you meet these criteria after you read the guidance or have questions about registration, you may email the Tompkins County Health Department at, or call 2-1-1 (877-211-8667)

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