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What to Know

Why You Should Get the Shot
covid vaccine update 415

Coronavirus Vaccine FAQ

At Baystate Health, we are following the guidance of the CDC and MA Department of Public Health and providing vaccine doses as supply is available to us.

When will I be eligible to get the vaccine?

People age 16+ who live, work, or study in Massachusetts can now be vaccinated: Register Now

You can sign up for the vaccine through Baystate Health (for the vaccine center in Holyoke), Mass.Gov (sitewide), or Baystate Health Urgent Care (in Feeding Hills, Longmeadow, and Westfield).

Is there a minimum age to receive the vaccine?

Until recently, vaccine trials did not include children under the age of 16. Currently, people 16+ are eligible for the Pfizer vaccine and 18+ for Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. 

Pfizer has received FDA approval to include children 12 and older in current, ongoing trials. When the results for these trials become available in the future, there may be a change in vaccine recommendations.

Where can I get the vaccine?

Schedule Your Vaccine

You can schedule your vaccine through:

What if I am unable to go to a vaccination center?

The State of MA provides vaccines for homebound individuals through the COVID-19 Homebound Vaccination Program. If you believe you need an in-home vaccination, please contact the Homebound Vaccination Central Intake Line at 833-983-0485.

If you know someone who needs help scheduling, see this list of resources and contact information.

Find a Vaccination Site

Zoom in or open in full screen for detail. Or search by zipcode

This is a map that shows COVID-19 vaccine locations available in Massachusetts for currently eligible recipients. Learn more at

How safe and effective are coronavirus vaccines?

See the Pfizer-Biotech COVID-19 vaccine information from the FDA. 
See the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine information from the FDA.
See the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 vaccine information from the FDA.

Why does the CDC recommend resuming use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine?

As of April 25, the CDC recommends resuming use of the J&J vaccine after a temporary pause. "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."

Is the vaccine unsafe because it was rushed?

Vaccine researchers did not take shortcuts in studying the vaccines to show that they are safe and effective. There is already real-world data on safety and efficacy on the currently authorized vaccines in addition to the clinical trials that led to their authorization for use by the FDA. The new COVID-19 vaccines have undergone one of the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history.

What are the COVID-19 vaccine side effects?

As with any medicine or vaccine, there will likely be some side effects with COVID vaccines.

Based on data reported for the initial trials of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in adults, there do not appear to be serious adverse events or safety issues related to these vaccines.

Both Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines do seem to cause mild or moderate side effects for up to 50% of people within the first few hours and days of both the first and second doses of each.

These side effects include fever, headache, muscle aches, fatigue, and soreness and/or redness at the site of injection in the arm.

For the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the FDA reports side effects may include pain in the injected arm, and weakness, fever, and headache that resolves within three days after receiving the vaccine.

The CDC and the MA DPH will be closely monitoring reports and the latest news can be found on their websites. The CDC and FDA are encouraging the public to report side effects through the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System.

Is it safe for pregnant women or women breastfeeding?

Experts don’t yet have data on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines for pregnant women. We do know that mRNA vaccines (like Pfizer and Moderna) do not include the live virus. We also know that pregnant women are at an increased risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19, including increased likelihood of being admitted to intensive care and needing mechanical ventilation. If you are pregnant and part of a group recommended to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, we recommend that you talk with your healthcare provider to help you make an informed decision.

Do the vaccines contain microchips or tracking devices denying me of my privacy?

No, neither the vaccine nor the syringe includes microchips that will be injected into you. Such technology simply does not exist.

Does the vaccine cause cancer?

There is no evidence or case studies that the COVID-19 vaccine causes cancer.

Will my DNA be altered as a result of the vaccine?

No. There is no alteration of our DNA. Currently authorized COVID-19 vaccines are molecular vaccines that provide instructions to make a protein i.e. spike protein that our immune system will recognize as “foreign.” This will trigger an immune response after a short time that will eventually provide immunity, starting about 2 weeks after the 2nd shot of 2 dose-series vaccine (Moderna and Pfizer) or after the first and only dose vaccine (Johnson & Johnson).

How effective is the vaccine?

So far, in trials that have involved tens of thousands of healthy adult volunteers, both the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines show that they are 90-95% effective in preventing COVID-19 infection. It is too early to know how long the effectiveness will last at this point.

What is the vaccine made of? What are the ingredients?

None of the COVID-19 vaccines in development in the U.S. use the “live” virus that causes COVID-19.

Both the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines rely on a new technology called mRNA, the synthetic messenger RNA (mRNA) protein. While mRNA technology is new, it has been studied for more than a decade and the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines have been carefully tested for safety.

Instead of using weakened or inactivated viruses to prompt the body’s immune response, mRNA vaccines uses the cells’ own protein-making process to make proteins, trigger an immune response, and build immunity to SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19).

How do mRNA COVID vaccines work?

  • The Pfizer and Moderna COVID vaccines are mRNA vaccines (messenger RNA).
  • mRNA is not new – our bodies are full of it. mRNA vaccines have been studied for the past two decades.
  • mRNA vaccines mimic how viruses work.
  • The mRNA is like a recipe card that goes into your body and makes one recipe for a brief time. The recipe is for a small part of the virus (the spike protein). When this spike protein is released from cells, the body recognizes it as foreign and the immune system responds.
  • This immune response causes the side effect symptoms (like aches and fever) but leads to improved immunity.
  • mRNA breaks down quickly, so it only lasts a brief time.
  • This is also how the other viruses like a cold virus work – viruses use our body and cells to make their proteins. Then our immune system attacks those proteins to keep us healthy.
  • There is no way for the vaccine to give people COVID.

Learn more about mRNA on the CDC’S website.

Does the vaccine prevent transmission (giving it to others)?

The vaccine will provide a 94 to 95% chance that you will not get COVID 19. However, it does not prevent transmission to others if you are already carrying COVID-19. You may be spreading the virus without knowing it if you do not have symptoms. Therefore, it will still be necessary to wear a mask and practice social distancing even after getting the vaccine.

Can I get infected from the COVID-19 vaccine?

No, it is not possible to get COVID-19 from vaccines. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use a gene from the virus – not the “live” virus itself. None of the COVID-19 vaccines can cause COVID-19.

Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine if I have been recently received another vaccination?

Do not schedule your COVID-19 vaccine until at least 14 days have passed since getting the other non-COVID vaccine.

What did the research show?

  • The Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccine trials each had over 30,000 people (including those who got placebo) and showed that the vaccine lowers a person’s chance of getting COVID and severe COVID.
  • In each study, over 15,000 people got the vaccine and over 15,000 people got a saline injection (placebo).
  • After one dose, the vaccine appears to be 50% effective.
  • After 2 doses, both vaccines are about 95% effective.
  • In other words, for every 100 people who got COVID in the placebo group, only 5 people got COVID in the mRNA vaccine groups.
  • Severe cases of COVID were also reduced in both mRNA vaccine groups.
  • There were no serious safety concerns.

What does "fully vaccinated" mean?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, you’re considered fully vaccinated:

  • Two weeks after your second dose in a 2-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or
  • Two weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine (currently on hold until further notice)

What can I do safely after I'm vaccinated?

After you're vaccinated, it is still important to following social distancing, handwashing, and masking guidelines in public. The CDC says it is okay to visit at home unmasked with fully vaccinated people from outside your household. The CDC has guidelines for traveling, visiting with unvaccinated people, going to large gatherings, and more. See the recommendations

What should I expect when I get the vaccine?

If you're getting the vaccine at a Baystate Health Vaccination Center:

  • Please bring your driver’s license/legal photo ID.
  • You must be a Massachusetts resident.
  • Please do not arrive for an appointment if you have any COVID-like symptoms (fever, cough, GI upset) or were exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the past 14 days.
  • Please come alone unless you are in need of assistance by a caregiver.
  • Masks and social distancing are required at all times during your appointment.

Will the COVID-19 vaccine be free?

Currently, there is no cost to get the vaccine.

How will the vaccine be given?

Currently the vaccine will be an injection, the same way flu shots are given. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require 2 injections. The Pfizer vaccine requires a second dose 21 days from first dose and the Moderna vaccine requires a second dose 28 days after the first dose.

Do I need to wear a mask when I receive a COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes. CDC recommends that during the pandemic people wear a mask that covers their nose and mouth when in contact with others outside your household. That includes wearing a mask in healthcare facilities and when receiving any vaccine, including a COVID-19 vaccine.

If I had COVID-19, do I still need to get the vaccine?

Research is still being conducted on how and if the vaccine should be given to those who have already had the virus. We do know that you should continue following safety guidelines including wearing a mask and social distancing. At Baystate Health, our policy is that you may receive the vaccine as soon as you are medically cleared to return to work.  

Do I get to choose which brand of vaccine I receive?

Yes, as supplies allow.

How long does it take for the vaccine to start protecting me?

It usually takes a few weeks after receiving a vaccine for the body to mount an effective immune response.

What should I expect after my shot?

You might have some side effects following your vaccination. In the arm you received your shot, you might experience soreness, swelling, and sometimes swollen lymph nodes. You may also experience tiredness, headache, muscle soreness, chills, fever and nausea. Learn more. 

Will I still have to wear a mask and social distance after getting the vaccine?

Yes. The current safety precautions will still be important including wearing masks and social distancing. Here are some reasons why:

  • As the vaccine rolls out, there will still be high levels of infection in our communities.
  • You will most likely need two doses of the vaccine in order to be protected.
  • Even though you are protected after getting a vaccine, you could still be spreading the virus if you were previously infected.

Do I need to get the COVID-19 vaccine every year like the flu?

We do not know yet how often a COVID-19 vaccine will have to be administered.

Can I donate blood after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine?

After receiving the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, you will need to wait for 2 weeks before giving blood. This is because you could lose newly formed COVID-19 antibodies and white blood cells when your blood is drawn. Those antibodies and white blood cells are important to ensure that the vaccine can do its job and trigger an immune response within your body.

If you have any side effects from the vaccine (sore arm, headache, muscle/joint pain, low grade fever, tiredness), you will need to wait to donate blood until your side effects go away.

For more on how to prepare for your COVID vaccine appointment

Visit Mass.Gov/CovidVaccineGuide


How are COVID vaccines developed?

What is the process of developing a vaccine?

All vaccines go through a similar testing process. Once products are created in the laboratory and show evidence of safety and effectiveness in animal models, they may proceed through a progressively escalating series of human clinical trials in volunteer.

Progress to each “phase” of trials depends on success in the previous one. Phase I studies are small scale human trials designed to assess safety and appropriate dosing. Phase II trials are larger human studies that assess safety in more depth and laboratory measure of effectiveness. Phase III trials are large clinical studies that seek to address safety and efficacy and are generally placebo-controlled studies, meaning that some volunteers get vaccine, and some get a non-vaccine injection.

Learn more on the CDC website.

What were the length of trials?

The length of phase III vaccine trials, which are the large-scale ones to determine safety and effectiveness, is based generally on reaching enough “endpoints” to show that the virus is safe and working. The main “endpoint” is the number of COVID infections that occur in the control group.

What are the outcomes of the clinical trials?

The Pfizer clinical trials showed that the vaccine is 95% effective while the Moderna trials have shown that the vaccine is 94% effective. No serious adverse events were noted in these trials.

How do vaccines work?

Not all vaccines work the same way. Most commonly, vaccines are made from inactivated viruses or weakened live viruses. Vaccines use antigens (substances that prompt immune responses) to train the immune system to identify threats and produce antibodies. The COVID-19 vaccines being tested by Pfizer and Moderna are different – they are gene-based. These new vaccines carry genetic instructions to help prompt the body to make antibodies.

Learn more about COVID-19 gene-based vaccine research.

How do COVID-19 Vaccines Work?

Dr. Anthony Fauci talks about the science behind COVID-19 vaccines. 

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