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What to Know Before Getting Your COVID-19 Vaccine

Will I have to pay for the vaccine?

No. The vaccine is being provided free of charge to everyone 5 years or older by the federal government. If you have insurance, it will be billed at no cost to you. However, you do not need to be insured to receive the vaccine. You will never be asked for a credit card number to make an appointment.

May undocumented immigrants receive the vaccine for free?

Yes. The vaccine itself is free for all individuals in Massachusetts. Health insurance (including Medicare and Medicaid) will cover the cost of administering the vaccine. For patients without health insurance, health care providers may request reimbursement from the federal government for the cost of administering vaccine to undocumented immigrants.

Can I still get the vaccine if I don't have an ID card?

Yes. You can get a vaccine even if you do not have insurance, a driver’s license or a Social Security number. For more information, visit How to prepare for your COVID-19 vaccine appointment.

Will getting the vaccine negatively impact a person’s immigration status?

No. The federal government has confirmed that it will not consider COVID-19 treatment (including a vaccine) as part of a determination of whether someone is a “public charge” or as it relates to the public benefit condition for certain individuals seeking an extension of stay or change of status, even if the vaccine is paid for by Medicaid or other federal funds.

Is a patient’s vaccination record protected from disclosure?

The Department of Public Health will maintain an electronic record of each patient in Massachusetts who receives the COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine database is kept confidential like a patient’s medical record with his or her doctor.

Will I need to be tested for COVID-19 before getting the vaccine?

No, a COVID-19 test is not needed before getting the vaccine.

Should someone who is COVID-19-positive receive the vaccine?

No. People who are known to have COVID-19 should wait to be vaccinated until their isolation period has ended, usually 10 days after symptoms started or, if they didn’t have symptoms, 10 days after their test was positive.

Should people who have had COVID-19 be vaccinated?

Yes, people who have previously had COVID-19 should be vaccinated. Emerging evidence shows that getting a COVID-19 vaccine after you recover from COVID-19 infection provides added protection to your immune system. One study showed that, for people who already had COVID-19, those who do not get vaccinated after their recovery are more than 2 times as likely to get COVID-19 again than those who get fully vaccinated after their recovery. 

People who were treated for COVID-19 with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma or people who have a history of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in adults or children (MIS-A or MIS-C) may need to wait a while after recovering before they can get vaccinated. Talk to your doctor if you are unsure what treatments you received or if you have more questions about getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

Can people who live in another state or country part time (e.g. students, retirees, people with dual citizenship) get the COVID-19 vaccine in Massachusetts?

Yes. The Massachusetts COVID-19 Vaccination program is intended for individuals who live, work or study in the Commonwealth. You may also get your second dose in Massachusetts if you received the first dose in another state. Please be sure to keep the vaccination card you were given at the time of the first dose.

What are the benefits of getting a COVID-19 vaccine?

COVID-19 vaccination will help keep you from getting sick from COVID-19. All COVID-19 vaccines available in the U.S. have been shown to be very effective. Experts continue to conduct more studies about whether the vaccines also keep people from spreading COVID-19. Wearing masks and social distancing help lower your chance of getting the virus or spreading it to others, but these measures are not enough. The combination of getting vaccinated and following CDC’s recommendations to protect yourself and others will offer the best protection from COVID-19.

Will vaccines work against COVID-19 variants?

It is normal for viruses to change as they spread, and for new variants to appear. The CDC is monitoring virus changes in the United States, including changes with the Delta variant. Scientists are working to learn more about how easily each variant spreads, whether they could cause more severe illness, and whether the vaccines we already have will protect people against specific COVID-19 variants. So far, studies suggest that the vaccines provide protection from the known variants. Even when a vaccinated person gets infected with COVID-19, they are very protected against severe disease and death. Learn more at About Variants of the Virus that Causes COVID-19 | CDC.

Does the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine provide as much protection as the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines?

In most situations, Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are preferred over the J&J/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine for primary and booster vaccination due to the risk of serious adverse events. Vaccine recipients must be informed of the risks and benefits of J&J.Janssen COVID-19 vaccination. The J&J/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine may be considered in some situations, including for persons who:

  • Had a severe reaction after an mRNA vaccine dose or who have a severe allergy to an ingredient of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna (mRNA COVID-19 vaccines).
  • Would otherwise remain unvaccinated for COVID-19 due to limited access to Pfizer-NioNTech or Moderna (mRNA COVID-19 vaccines).
  • Wants to get the J&J/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine despite the safety concerns.

Will I need a booster shot?

Studies show after getting vaccinated against COVID-19, protection against the virus and the ability to prevent infection with variants may decrease over time and due to changes in variants. The recent emergence of the Omicron variant further emphasizes the importance of vaccination, boosters, and prevention efforts needed to protect against COVID-19.