What vaccines are currently available in the United States? Are they effective?
How many doses?
Effectiveness in real world situations?
|mRNA vaccines (Pfizer & Moderna)||
2 doses, given 3 weeks apart
Booster 6 months after 2nd dose for everyone 16 years & older
3rd dose for some immunocompromised patients
Around 40% effective in preventing symptomatic (showing symptoms) COVID-19 after 2 doses
>60% effective in preventing symptomatic (showing symptoms) after COVID-19 booster
>90% effective in preventing hospitalization from COVID-19
The Moderna vaccine is authorized for use in people over 18 years of age in the United States. The Comirnaty (Pfizer (mRNA)) vaccine is also authorized for use in children 5 years of age and older. These vaccines do not alter your DNA.
Which vaccine is being administered at Arkansas Children’s?
Arkansas Children’s is pleased to offer the Comirnaty (Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19) vaccine to our qualifying individuals. General information about this vaccine can be found on the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
How many shots of COVID-19 vaccine will I need?
The Pfizer (Comirnaty) and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines need two shots to be effective. If your first shot was from Pfizer, your second shot must also be from Pfizer. The same is true if you received the Moderna vaccine as your first shot — your second shot must be from Moderna. Keep your vaccine card or take a photo of it so you remember which one you received. If you have certain problems with your immune system, you may need a third dose of your vaccine. Please talk to your doctor to see if this applies to you.
The CDC now recommends that everyone receive an additional booster dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine 6 months after finishing their initial 2-dose vaccine series. Completing your vaccine series is critical. Data about the Omicron variant shows us that your protection is much better after a booster dose than after the primary vaccine series alone or after prior COVID-19 infection.
How many days apart do the two vaccine shots need to be?
The number of days between doses depends on which initial vaccine you got. You need to get your second dose within 3-4 weeks.
When you get vaccinated, you will be given a card that tells you which vaccine you got and when to return for the second shot. Be sure to keep this card and take a photo of the card for your records.
What percentage of the population needs to get vaccinated to have herd immunity to COVID-19?
Experts do not know what percentage of people need to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity to COVID-19. Herd immunity depends on how effective the vaccine is, how well it protects against spreading the virus even when you do not feel sick (asymptomatic spread), and which groups of people get the vaccine. We will continue to study this as the vaccines are being given around the country.
Herd immunity is a term used to describe when enough people have protection — either from previous infection or vaccination — that it is unlikely a virus or bacteria can spread and cause disease. As a result, everyone within the community is protected even if some people do not have any protection themselves.
Is it okay to get the flu shot and COVID-19 shot at the same time?
Yes, any person age 5 or older can receive a flu vaccine and COVID-19 vaccine at the same time. The same is true for any other needed vaccines as well. However, children younger than age 5 are not authorized to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at this time.
Is there a microchip in the vaccine?
There are no microchips or other additives in the COVID-19 vaccines. When new medical treatments or other technologies arrive, there are often rumors that those things will be used to track or control our behaviors. Quick advances in technology can make people nervous, but this rumor is false.
What is the difference between the vaccine for children ages 5-11 and the vaccine for ages 12 and up?
The vaccine dosage for children ages 5-11 is one-third of the dosage given to older children and adults. The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine dosage is ten micrograms for ages 5-to-11 and 30 micrograms for individuals 12 and older.
Despite the smaller dose, the immune response in smaller children is as strong as in older children and adults.
Children will have a two-dose vaccine series, just like adults, and the vaccines are most effective 14 days after the second dose.
How was the vaccine safety tested for children ages 5-11?
During clinical trials, investigators tested the lower-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in 2,268 children ages 5-11. In September, they announced the data demonstrated the vaccine was safe and produced a significant immune response. Within this test group, about two-thirds received the vaccine, and one-third received a placebo. Three of the children who received the COVID-19 vaccine became sick with COVID-19, while 16 children in the placebo group contracted COVID-19. The children who received the COVID-19 vaccine had fewer symptoms related to their COVID-19 infection than the children who received the placebo vaccine.
Side effects like fever, headache and fatigue were similar to those seen in adults, and there were no reports of heart inflammation, called myocarditis, among the vaccinated children.
Pfizer continues to gather data on this test group every two weeks to ensure its continued efficacy.
What do we know about the long-term effects of the vaccine on growing children? Are there concerns about a potential impact on future fertility?
Side effects are common with all childhood vaccines and occur shortly after injection because the body quickly destroys the substances in the vaccine.
So far, we have several months of safety information on thousands of children involved in the clinical trials and many months of safety information from the millions of vaccinated older children and adults. There is no evidence of any long-term side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine.
Importantly, we continue to monitor all vaccines in the United States for side effects through patient reporting, clinical studies and nationwide monitoring.
There is no evidence of any impact on current or future fertility, pregnancy or breastmilk. In fact, many women who chose to get vaccinated have since gotten pregnant and given birth. In addition, their babies were born with vaccine antibodies, protecting them from COVID-19.
Does the vaccine work differently for children ages 5-11 than for older children and adults?
The vaccine works the same in children ages 5-11 as it does in adults.
The Pfizer vaccine uses mRNA technology — the “m” stands for messenger. Think of the mRNA molecule like a set of instructions. While many vaccines use a weakened or inactivated germ to trigger an immune response in our bodies, mRNA vaccines carry a set of instructions teaching our cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response and produces antibodies to the virus.
mRNA technology has been studied to treat cancer, muscular dystrophy and other diseases for over 15 years.
You can learn more about mRNA vaccines on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
Does my child really need to get vaccinated? Aren’t they less likely to get sick from COVID-19 than adults?
The COVID-19 vaccine is the safest, most effective way to protect yourself and your children. From the history of vaccines and the history of the COVID-19 vaccine in adults and in children ages 12 and older, we know receiving the vaccine is much safer than your child getting COVID-19.
Early in the pandemic, it appeared children were less affected, but we now know they can get extremely sick from COVID-19. We also know children can easily spread the infection within their families.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, about one in six Americans infected was under age 18. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, with the surge of the Delta variant, children now account for as many as one in four infections.
While even children without underlying conditions have gotten seriously ill with COVID-19 infections, we are especially worried about children with underlying conditions, such as obesity, which is very common in the United States. Lung disease, asthma, heart disease and immunodeficiency are all risk factors for more serious cases.
Can my child get the COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines like the flu shot at the same time?
Ongoing research shows that the COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective when administered with other vaccines. The CDC revised their recommendations eliminating any waiting period, including giving the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as other vaccinations like the flu shot.
“Experience with other vaccines has shown that the way our bodies develop protection, known as an immune response, after getting vaccinated and possible side effects of vaccines are generally the same when given alone or with other vaccines,” the CDC says.
The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a statement supporting the change, particularly for children and adolescents needing other childhood vaccinations or who fell behind the recommended schedule. The CDC notes that if multiple vaccines are given during a single visit, the injections may be given in different parts of the body.
Is there any reason my child should NOT get vaccinated?
Children should not get the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine if they have a history of a severe allergic reaction to any ingredient (such as polyethylene glycol) in the vaccine. Allergic reactions to vaccine ingredients are extremely rare. The vaccine does not contain eggs, preservatives or latex, and you can find a complete list of the ingredients here.
If you have questions, talk to your pediatrician before getting your child vaccinated.
If your child has severe allergies to anything else (medications, foods, bees), remain at the vaccination site for 30 minutes after the injection, instead of the 15-minute waiting time recommended for the general population.
Who is eligible for the vaccine?
On November 2, 2021, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) endorsed the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for people age 5 and older. Arkansas Children’s is now giving the vaccine to eligible individuals between the ages of 12 and 21. We will begin administering the vaccine for children ages 5 through 11 as soon as supply is made available.
If I had a documented, confirmed case of COVID-19, do I still need the vaccination?
If you previously had COVID-19, you can and should still get vaccinated if you are not in an isolation or quarantine period for a current positive COVID-19 test or exposure.
If I have had an antibody test that shows COVID-19 antibodies, do I still need the vaccination?
Yes. You can and should still get vaccinated.
Should I get the vaccine if I recently tested positive for COVID-19?
We are following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines and allowing anyone who is more than 14 days out from their COVID-19 infection (out of isolation/quarantine) to be vaccinated. We know from the clinical trials that people with COVID-19 infection still benefit from the vaccine and do not seem to have worse side effects.
Will there be enough vaccines for everyone?
We now have a large supply of COVID-19 vaccines around the state. Anyone who wants to get the vaccine and is age 5 or older can receive one.
Will the vaccine be mandatory in the future?
This will depend on the course of the COVID-19 pandemic and national guidelines.
Why don’t I need an antibody or COVID-19 test before getting the vaccine?
We are not doing antibody or COVID-19 testing before vaccination because it wouldn’t change anything about whether or not you should be vaccinated. We know the antibodies from natural infection only last a few months, so even if your antibody test was positive, we would want to vaccinate you to boost your immune response.
What if I have an asymptomatic (showing no symptoms) COVID-19 infection when I receive my vaccine?
We are not recommending testing people to see if they are asymptomatically (showing no symptoms) infected before giving them the vaccine. There is nothing in the data that shows that people with COVID-19 have worse side effects or less benefit from the vaccine.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests waiting to vaccinate anyone who is currently COVID-19 positive or people who were exposed to COVID-19 while they’re still in their quarantine period. This helps protect the health care worker giving the vaccine from unneeded exposure to COVID-19.
As long as you are masked appropriately and your vaccinator is wearing appropriate personal protection equipment (PPE), the risk of spread would be very low if you are unknowingly asymptomatically (showing no symptoms) infected.
Can I test positive for COVID-19 due to the vaccine?
You cannot get infected with COVID-19 from the vaccine itself. Infection comes from coming into contact with someone who has COVID-19 infection. If you have a positive swab test for COVID-19, you are infected with COVID-19. The vaccine only impacts your antibody tests, which are blood tests. The vaccine does not contain any live virus.
What if I get exposed to or infected with COVID-19 after I get my first vaccine dose, but before I get my second dose?
With high COVID-19 rates in the community, it is possible that you will be exposed to or infected with COVID-19 before you complete your two-vaccine series. If you begin to have symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, cough, fatigue, etc.) after your first vaccine and those symptoms last more than 24 hours, you should follow the recommended protocol for quarantine and testing (if necessary). If this happens, talk to your primary care provider and discuss when you should get your second dose.
Do the vaccines work against the COVID-19 variants of concern, like the Delta and Omicron variants?
All COVID-19 vaccines authorized in the United States are highly effective in preventing severe illness and hospitalizations due to COVID-19, including the Delta and Omicron variants.
Does the vaccine help prevent COVID-19 spread in communities, even if a vaccinated person gets infected?
Several studies show that if a vaccinated person gets infected with COVID-19 (which is very rare and called a “breakthrough infection”), they have far less detectable virus in their system. That means they are less likely to spread infections to other people.
When does my protection start after the vaccine?
You may consider yourself fully vaccinated two weeks after your second dose of the vaccine. People in the studies of the Comirnaty (Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19) and Moderna vaccines had 95% protection from COVID-19 infection beginning 1-2 weeks after their second dose of the vaccine. Similar studies show that the Johnson and Johnson vaccine was 66% effective in preventing COVID-19 infection and highly effective in preventing hospitalization and death due to COVID-19.
Does immunity after getting COVID-19 last longer than protection from COVID-19 vaccines?
The protection someone gains from having an infection (called natural immunity) varies depending on the disease, and it varies from person to person. Since there’s still a lot we don’t know about the virus, we don’t yet know how long natural immunity might last. The information we have so far shows that most people get a bigger immune response, if we look at how much antibody they make, from the vaccine than they do from natural infection. Importantly, prior COVID-19 infection does not offer protection against infection with the new Omicron strain but COVID-19 vaccination does.
Will a COVID-19 vaccine need to be given annually?
We don’t know yet. The vaccine manufacturer will continue to monitor vaccine recipients for several months or more so that, over time, we will continue to get a better picture of how long the vaccine’s protection lasts. With this information, we will be better able to understand whether vaccines against COVID-19 will require annual dosing like influenza.
How do we know if a COVID-19 vaccine is safe?
To make sure they are safe and effective, the vaccines go through intense clinical trials and safety reviews before they’re approved. Thousands of people from various age groups, racial backgrounds and ethnicities from all over the nation participated in vaccine trials before the vaccines went through even more scrutiny from experts at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In real world use, over many months, more than 160 million people have been vaccinated in the United States and it has proven to be just as safe and effective as we saw in clinical trials.
Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe for pregnant or breastfeeding individuals?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said pregnant and breastfeeding women who are at high risk of exposure do qualify to receive the vaccine if they choose.
While pregnant or breastfeeding women were not included in the clinical trials, health officials have not detected safety concerns among thousands of pregnant women who have received a COVID-19 vaccine or among their babies.
There is no evidence of any impact on future fertility or on pregnancy. In fact, many women who chose to get vaccinated have gotten pregnant and given birth since getting vaccinated. In addition, their babies were born with the antibodies required to protect themselves from COVID-19.
There is no evidence that vaccines would impact fertility, a developing baby or breastmilk. Both the Society for Maternal and Fetal Medicine and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommend pregnant and breastfeeding women be allowed to get the vaccine. Additionally, the American Academy of Pediatrics released news stating preliminary data shows no safety concerns for pregnant women receiving COVID-19 vaccines. Any pregnant person, or person considering pregnancy or breastfeeding should talk to their doctor about possible individual risk factors or concerns.
Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe for children?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone who is age 5 and older get a COVID-19 vaccination. At Arkansas Children’s, we are encouraging all eligible individuals to get the vaccine as soon as possible.
The Pfizer clinical trials had participants as young as 6 months, and vaccines are only approved for individuals 5 years of age or older. The studies for younger children are still in progress. The Moderna vaccine is only currently approved for individuals 18 years of age and older. Future studies will help us determine the effects of vaccines in younger children.
What are the side effects to the COVID-19 vaccines?
Like other routine vaccinations, COVID-19 vaccines may cause short-term pain at the injection site. After the second dose, there may be more pain and systemic effects like fever, fatigue and muscle aches. These side effects are usually gone in a day or two. There are no concerns about long-term side effects or how the vaccine would impact people later in life. If you have concerns, we encourage you to talk to your care provider or contact Arkansas Children’s directly.
The most common side effects of any COVID-19 vaccine are arm pain, fatigue, fever and body aches. These side effects are brief and typically get better without any intervention. These side effects come from the work your immune system is doing to “learn” from the vaccine so it can fight the real virus in the future. It does not mean that you are infected with COVID-19. and the vaccines do not contain live virus.
A few days after receiving the second dose of an mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine, some children and young adults have developed mild inflammation of their heart, called myocarditis or pericarditis. In most cases, symptoms have gotten better quickly with rest and medications. This side effect is less common and less severe than the serious heart complications we have seen in children with COVID-19 infection. Vaccination is recommended for everyone 5 years of age and older to prevent the serious complications associated with COVID-19 infection.
Can I take acetaminophen or ibuprofen before or after my vaccine to prevent side effects?
If you develop fever or body aches, it is okay to take acetaminophen or ibuprofen AFTER your vaccine. However, we do not recommend taking any of those medications before your vaccine. For other vaccines, those medications can decrease the effectiveness of the vaccine. Until we have more data about how they affect the COVID-19 vaccines, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends you not pre-treat yourself with medication. As always, you should discuss any of your individual medications or health care concerns with your primary care provider.
Could I have an allergic reaction to the vaccine?
The current rate of anaphylaxis (a severe, life-threatening reaction) for the Comirnaty (Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19) vaccine is 11.1 per 1 million doses administered. Everyone is monitored for reactions following their vaccine, and we have emergency supplies available if there are any issues. If you have any questions about an individual allergy, be sure to check with your primary care provider.
Individuals who have an allergic reaction to the first dose of the vaccine should be evaluated by an allergist and may not be a candidate for the second vaccine dose. Only a handful of people who received the vaccine at Arkansas Children's had allergic reactions and those who have been assessed on an individual level. NONE have had anaphylaxis or severe allergic reactions. We have taken every precaution to be prepared for vaccine reactions and have all the required medications and personnel available to take care of someone experiencing an allergic reaction. Team members who receive the vaccine must wait 15 minutes before leaving so we can monitor the person receiving the vaccine.
Expected, non-allergic reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine include: fever, chills, fatigue, pain, erythema or swelling at the injection site, lymph node swelling in the same arm as the vaccination, headache, vomiting or diarrhea, muscle aches, and joint pains.
What if I have a latex allergy?
A latex allergy is not a reason to not get the COVID-19 vaccine. The vial stoppers (the lid on the container that holds the vaccine) are latex-free.
Where can my child and I get a vaccine?
The COVID-19 vaccine is available to all adults and children in Arkansas ages 5 and older. We encourage all eligible individuals to get the vaccine as soon as possible. To book your vaccination appointment, you can find the closest and most convenient location for you at vaccines.gov.
At Arkansas Children’s, we are offering the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 (also known as Comirnaty) vaccine to qualifying individuals between the ages of 5 and 21. Contact your pediatrician or visit archildrens.org/getmyvaccine to schedule an appointment.
Can my child get the vaccine somewhere other than Arkansas Children’s?
Yes. Your family may have access to the vaccine at another community clinic or local pharmacy. Please research the options available at the vaccines.gov website.
We want individuals to receive the vaccine in the way that is most convenient and helpful for their families.
How do we register for vaccination at Arkansas Children's?
We will begin administering the vaccine for children ages 5 through 11 as soon as supply is made available. You can sign up on our waitlist by visiting archildrens.org/moreinfo. Individuals between the ages of 12 and 21 can schedule the first vaccine dose one of two ways:
Second doses will be scheduled during your first dose appointment.