Your questions about the COVID-19 vaccines, answered

Published October 4, 2021

In the face of COVID-19, every question, answer and vaccination is important. That’s why we’re addressing uncertainties you may have about receiving a COVID-19 vaccine with facts from the CDC to help alleviate your concerns and arm you with the knowledge you deserve.

The CDC recommends everyone 12 years and older should get a COVID-19 vaccination. Receiving both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson [J&J]/Janssen vaccine is crucial to protecting against severe disease and death from variants of the COVID-19 virus.

Recent booster recommendations:The guidance provided below from the CDC is only for those who originally received the two-dose series of Pfizer’s COVID vaccine. The CDC will be evaluating data in the coming weeks to provide recommendations related to booster shots for people who received the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

Can I get COVID-19 from the vaccine?
No. You have to be exposed and become infected with the novel coronavirus (SARS-C0V-2) to get COVID-19. The currently authorized vaccines teach our immune systems how to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19. They do not contain any live viruses or virus particles.

If I get the vaccine, are there any side effects?
After vaccination, some people may develop a fever, muscle aches, headache, and/or fatigue. These side effects are related to the activation of the immune system. It is called “reactogenicity”. These symptoms usually last 1-2 days and don’t require special treatment.

Are the ingredients safe?
Yes, the currently authorized vaccines were shown to be very safe in large studies. Researchers have studied vaccines for decades and they have found that our bodies recognize parts of the virus (antigens). Without the risk of exposure to live virus which occurs with natural infection, we can build a response (antibody) to protect us from the disease. The vaccine also stimulates the immune system to grow “memory cells”. This means the vaccine helps our bodies respond to fight the virus if we’re infected in the future.

Will the vaccine work for everyone?
The COVID-19 vaccines currently available were proven to be highly effective across diverse races and genders. So, across the U.S., every family and neighborhood can expect the same effectiveness and protection.

I’ve already had COVID-19. Do I still need to get vaccinated?
Yes. Health experts recommend the COVID-19 vaccine even for people who have had a COVID-19 infection. Data shows that protection from “natural” COVID infection starts to lessen after 90 days.

How long does protection from a COVID-19 vaccine last?
Experts are still learning how long protection lasts for people vaccinated against COVID-19. Current information shows that antibody levels do decrease over time but protection against severe illness, hospitalization and death has remained high.

Do I need a booster shot (additional dose) if I am fully vaccinated?
At this time, the CDC has provided guidance for Americans who are at highest risk for COVID-19 to receive a Pfizer COVID-19 booster to help increase their protection.

The CDC recommends people 65 years and older and residents in long-term care facilities, as well as people aged 50–64 years with underlying medical conditions should receive a third shot of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine at least 6 months after their Pfizer primary 2-dose series.

The CDC recommends people aged 18-49 years with underlying medical conditions, and people ages 18-64 years who are at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of occupational or institutional setting may receive a booster shot of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine at least 6 months after their primary 2-dose series, based on their individual benefits and risks.

These recommendations from the CDC are only for those who originally received the two-dose series of Pfizer’s COVID vaccine.

If I received the Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen (J&J/Janssen) COVID-19 vaccine can I get a booster dose of an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna)?
No. At this time, there is not enough data to support getting an mRNA vaccine if someone has previously gotten a J&J/Janssen vaccine. More data is expected in the coming weeks and the CDC will provide updated guidance.

Should I still get the flu shot if I got the COVID-19 vaccine?
Yes, separate vaccinations for the flu and COVID-19 are needed to protect yourself against both viruses.

Can I get a flu shot if I just received my COVID-19 vaccine?
Yes. You can get a COVID-19 vaccine and any other recommended vaccines including the flu shot during the same visit.

If I get both the flu shot and the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time, will the potential side effects be worse?
According to the CDC, history shows that a vaccine’s side effects are generally similar when given alone or with other vaccines.

Should everyone in my family get the flu shot?
The CDC recommends everyone 6 months in age and older should get a flu vaccine every season. You should consult with a health care provider if you think you have any reason not to receive a vaccine.

Will the flu shot protect me from COVID-19?
No. The currently authorized COVID-19 vaccines are the only vaccines that will protect you from serious illness, hospitalization or death due to COVID-19. The flu vaccine is designed to prevent you from getting sick with various flu strains each season. The COVID-19 pandemic has not yet ended and flu season is coming. You can receive both vaccines at the same time.

Can I get infected with the Delta variant if I am fully vaccinated against COVID-19?
Yes. We have learned that vaccinated persons can become infected with the SARS-C0V-2 virus (breakthrough infections). Right now, the Delta variant causes almost all infections in both vaccinated and, importantly, the unvaccinated. However, fully vaccinated people still have lower severe illness, hospitalization and death if they become infected. Those who are unvaccinated are at risk of getting infected and seriously sick from the Delta variant.

If I am fully vaccinated and become infected with the Delta variant, can I spread it to others?
Early evidence suggests fully vaccinated people with breakthrough infections can transmit the virus to others.

Are variant strains like Delta more dangerous?
The Delta variant has been shown to be more contagious and is spreading quickly throughout the U.S. causing serious illness, hospitalization and death. The best way to stop the spread of the Delta variant is to get vaccinated against COVID-19. There is an increased risk that additional variants may arise if the spread of the virus is not stopped. There is a concern that new variants might escape protection from our current vaccines.

If I am fully vaccinated for COVID-19, do I need to wear a mask around others?
In most cases, you do not need to wear a mask when outdoors. To increase protection from the Delta variant and to prevent potentially spreading COVID-19 to others, the CDC recommends wearing a mask indoors in public.

Should I get a COVID-19 vaccine if I am pregnant or planning to become pregnant?
Yes, the CDC recommends a COVID-19 vaccination for all people 12 years and older, including people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, trying to get pregnant now, or might become pregnant in the future. Serious illness, hospitalizations and deaths are being reported in pregnant women who have not been vaccinated.

Should my teen/pre-teen get a COVID-19 vaccine?
At this time, the CDC recommends everyone 12 years and older should get a COVID-19 vaccination to help protect against the virus. Widespread vaccination is important to helping end the pandemic. Children 12 years and older can get the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

Should my baby or young child get a COVID-19 vaccine?
At this time, there are no COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in children under the age of 12 in the U.S. In the near future, the FDA is reviewing data from Pfizer’s COVID vaccine in clinical trials to consider whether to authorize the vaccine for younger children. Other vaccine makers are currently testing COVID-19 vaccines in children through clinical trials.

Will a COVID-19 vaccine alter my DNA?
No. A COVID-19 vaccine will not alter your DNA, and none of the approved vaccines interact with your DNA. The approved Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines; they contain a bit of RNA (ribonucleic acid) that teaches the cells of the body how to make a protein that causes the immune system to make COVID-19 antibodies.

It seems like the vaccine was approved quickly. Is it as safe as other vaccines I’ve gotten?
COVID-19 vaccines went through the same rigorous safety assessment as all vaccines before being authorized for use in the U.S. by the FDA. When it comes to safety, you can be assured there have been no shortcuts. The unprecedented speed of the COVID-19 vaccines was due to multiple factors, including past research into these types of vaccines. COVID-19 is caused by the SARSCoV-2 virus. Research was already underway to prevent past coronavirus diseases such as SARS and MERS and that experience helped jumpstart work on our current vaccines.

Is the vaccine free?
The COVID-19 vaccines are available to everyone at no cost. However, vaccination providers might still charge an administration fee for giving you the shot. Please check with your insurer.

Note: For the purposes of this guidance, people are considered fully vaccinated for COVID-19 two weeks after receiving the second dose in a 2-dose series (Pfizer or Moderna), or two weeks after receiving a single-dose vaccine (Johnson & Johnson [J&J]/Janssen).

For more information about COVID-19 topics and how the pandemic can affect you and your family, visit You can also contact your local health department or physician’s office for additional COVID-19 vaccine information.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that vaccine recipients or their caregivers are provided with Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) fact sheets to help make informed decisions about vaccination. The EUA fact sheet is specific to each authorized COVID-19 vaccine, is developed by the manufacturer of the vaccine, and is authorized by the FDA. Links to the fact sheet documents are available at

As of April 25, 2021 the CDC advises women younger than 50 years old to be aware of the rare but increased risk of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) following the use of J&J/Janssen vaccine. For more information visit

Information included here is accurate as of October 4, 2021 and is subject to change.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association is an association of 35 independent, locally operated Blue Cross and/or Blue Shield companies.