FAQs for Black/African American Community & Civic Organizations

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Community and civic organizations within the Black/African American population are integral to the community. They are essential in keeping Black/African American people connected and informed and effective in making an impact where and when necessary. Many Black/African American people across various socioeconomic groups are members of these organizations and are often in more than one of these groups.

Community and civic organizations have been consistently on the front line of the effort to provide aid and resources to the community during the global pandemic. They have done this directly by dealing with COVID-19 prevention or by helping community members cope and move forward in the aftermath of the pandemic through education or financial assistance. These organizations are now primed and ready to support dissemination of vaccine information and continued preventive measures.

Messaging to spread awareness and education regarding vaccine information should be clear and easy to understand. These groups are key to spreading and educating Black/African American people, regardless of socioeconomic status. Information given to members of this group should prepare them to be messengers and educators for building vaccine confidence and the continued prevention of COVID-19.

The HHS COVID-19 public education campaign is providing these frequently asked questions and answers for Black/African American community and civic organization leaders to be able to address common concerns about COVID-19. The Campaign aims to increase public confidence in and uptake of COVID-19 vaccines while reinforcing basic prevention measures such as mask wearing and social distancing. This information includes the latest facts from CDC and will resonate with Black/African American audiences when they come from trusted voices.

This guidance is not intended to infringe on rights protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution or any other federal law, including the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.

About COVID-19

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a disease caused by a novel coronavirus that hasn’t been previously seen in humans. Because it’s a new virus, scientists are learning more each day. While most people who have COVID-19 have mild symptoms, COVID-19 can cause severe illness and even death. Some people, including African Americans and those with certain underlying medical conditions, have been more affected by COVID-19 than others and are at increased risk of severe illness.

How does COVID-19 spread?

COVID-19 spreads mainly through close contact from person to person, including between people who are physically near each other (within 6 feet). People who are infected but don’t show symptoms can also spread the virus to others. COVID-19 spreads easily from person to person, yet how easily a virus spreads person to person can vary.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

People with COVID-19 have reported a wide range of symptoms. Some people have no symptoms (they are asymptomatic) while others have mild-to-severe illness. Symptoms, which may appear 2–14 days after exposure to the virus, include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Feeling tired
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

This list doesn’t include all the possible symptoms. CDC will continue to update the symptom list as more information becomes available.

What are COVID variants and why should I be concerned?

When viruses multiply, small changes (mutations) in their genes create variants. As long as the COVID virus is able to spread from person to person, it will have opportunities to mutate and become more dangerous.

CDC is tracking several COVID variants in the United States. The Delta variant is the most contagious yet and is responsible for most new COVID-19 infections.

Infections, hospitalizations, and deaths due to COVID-19 are increasing again in the United States—almost exclusively among people who are unvaccinated.

The available COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective against severe illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19, including the Delta variant.

About organization operations

How can I protect myself and others from COVID-19 within our organization/community?

Ensure that your membership base and the communities you serve are aware of safety protocols since anyone can spread the virus before they know they’re sick.

Get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as you can. Until you’re fully vaccinated (2 weeks after your final dose), continue to:

  • Wear a mask when you’re inside public spaces (even vaccinated people in areas of substantial or high spread of COVID-19 should wear a mask inside public places).
  • Stay at least 6 feet (or 2 arm lengths) apart from people who don’t live with you and who may not be vaccinated.
  •  Avoid crowds.  The more people you’re in contact with, the more likely you are to be exposed to or spread COVID-19.
  •  Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol when soap and water aren’t available.

My committee/chapter would like to meet or host an event in person. What do I need to do to participate safely?

Stay up-to-date and follow the COVID-19 guidelines provided by our organization and state laws and regulations in following the steps necessary for hosting events. CDC highly recommends avoiding hosting and attending events and gatherings in person, because it increases your risk of getting and spreading COVID-19. However, once events and gatherings are permitted in person by our organization and state guidelines, follow CDC guidance for in-person events and gatherings.

As for right now, continue to host events virtually and following CDC guidelines.

What do I do if I am feeling sick?  

Take steps to care for yourself and help protect others in your home and community, including staying home and separating yourself from those within your household. You can still attend virtual events and meetings online, if available.

What can I do to stay connected with our membership base and our service communities?

Let’s reach out and support those members within our organization who can’t be physically present at events and meetings during these trying times. Please keep in contact with them, call them, and ask how our chapter/organization can assist them. Remember you can safely connect via text, calls, and video. Our community is here to support you emotionally, socially, and spiritually. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us and those you know who are alone or isolated to prevent getting the virus.

About COVID-19 vaccines

Are the COVID-19 vaccines safe?

Yes. The COVID-19 vaccines available in the United States meet the FDA’s rigorous standards for safety and effectiveness. Tens of millions of people in the United States have received COVID-19 vaccines, and all COVID vaccines will continue to be monitored for safety.

Serious health effects from vaccines are very rare. It’s highly unlikely that COVID-19 vaccines will cause long-term health problems. Also, there is no evidence at all that they will cause infertility or cancer.

Your risk for serious health problems is much lower from the vaccine than your risk if you’re unvaccinated and get COVID-19. COVID-19 can leave you with heart and lung damage and other conditions that require long-term treatment. Vaccines are much safer paths to immunity than the disease itself.

How was a COVID-19 vaccine developed so fast?

Scientists were able to quickly develop a vaccine because they were well-funded and used both proven and new technology. Also, vaccines were manufactured while safety data was still being reviewed by scientists, doctors, and other experts.

Are there side effects associated with the vaccine?

People who’ve been vaccinated commonly report side effects—normal signs that your body is building protection against the virus that causes COVID-19. These side effects are mild and typically short-lived, lasting at most a few days. The most common side effect is a sore arm at the injection site. Other side effects include fever, feeling tired, headache, muscle pain, joint pain, and chills.

Can the COVID-19 vaccine cause the COVID-19 disease?

No. You can’t get COVID-19 from the vaccines. None of the COVID-19 vaccines available in the United States contains the live virus that causes COVID-19.

Will any of the new COVID-19 vaccines alter my DNA?

No. None of the vaccines available in the United States will alter your DNA or genetic makeup. The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines use something called messenger RNA (mRNA), a lab-made molecule that is found in its natural form in almost all plants and animals, to protect people from getting COVID-19. But it doesn’t change or interact with your DNA.

When can I get vaccinated?

Vaccines are here now and everyone age 5 and older in the United States can get them. You have three ways to find vaccines near you:

How many doses of the vaccine are needed?

To get the most protection from the vaccines, you need all the recommended doses:

  • The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines require two initial doses.
  • Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine requires one initial dose.

If you meet the criteria for having a compromised immune system, you should get a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine at least 4 weeks after your second dose. An FDA and CDC review of data for Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine will determine whether a second dose is appropriate for people with compromised immune systems.

Who can get a COVID-19 vaccine booster? 

COVID-19 vaccines continue to work very well at preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and death.  

But protection against infection appears to decrease over time.  

A booster shot is an extra dose that helps keep up protection.  

You’re eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot if: 

  • You got the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine; 
  • It’s been at least 6 months since your 2nd dose; AND
  • You’re any of the following: 
    • At least age 65. 
    • At least age 18 and have an underlying medical condition (such as asthma, diabetes, or obesity). 
    • At least age 18 and are at increased risk for getting and spreading COVID because of where you live (such as a health care facility, college dormitory, or correctional facility). 
    • At least age 18 and are at increased risk for getting and spreading COVID because of your job (such as a health care worker, teacher, or grocery store worker). 

If you received the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 vaccine, you’re not yet eligible for a booster. CDC will let the public know when. 

For more information about boosters, or if you have questions about your eligibility, check out our booster resources or talk to a health care provider. 

Note that a booster is not the same as the recommended third vaccine dose for people with compromised immune systems.  

Do I need to wear a mask after getting vaccinated?

If you’re fully vaccinated, you can participate in many of the activities that you did before the pandemic. To maximize protection from the highly contagious Delta variant and prevent possibly spreading it to others, wear a mask inside public places if you’re in an area of substantial or high spread of COVID-19.

If you’re not yet vaccinated, you should continue to:

  • Wear a mask when inside public places.
  • Keep at least 6 feet part from people who don’t live with you and who may not be vaccinated.
  • Avoid crowds.
  • Avoid poorly ventilated spaces.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.

Vaccinated and unvaccinated people must still follow federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial laws, rules, and regulations. That includes public transportation, airport/airplane, local business, and workplace guidance.

Do people with compromised immune systems need extra doses of a COVID-19 vaccine?

People with compromised immune systems are less able to fight infections. If any of the following apply to you, you may not be fully protected from COVID-19 even if you’ve received two doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s or Moderna’s mRNA COVID-19 vaccine:

  • You have a moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency disorder such as DiGeorge syndrome or Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome.
  • You have an advanced or untreated HIV infection.
  • You’ve ever had an organ transplant or had a stem cell transplant within the last 2 years.
  • You’re being treated with corticosteroids or other immunosuppressant medicines for such conditions as arthritis, asthma, or an autoimmune disease, such as lupus, sarcoidosis, inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriasis.
  • You’re being treated for cancer.

To get the most benefit from the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, people with compromised immune systems should get a third dose. Wait at least 4 weeks after you get your second dose to get your third dose. An FDA and CDC review of data for Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine will determine whether a second dose is appropriate for people with compromised immune systems.

You should also continue to follow current COVID-19 prevention measures until your health care provider says it’s safe for you to stop:

  • Wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth around people you don’t live with and when inside public places.
  • Stay at least 6 feet apart from people you don’t live with.
  • Avoid crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol when soap and water aren’t available.

Who can I talk to if I have additional questions?

If you have questions regarding COVID-19, preventive measures, or the vaccines, please let us know and we’ll make sure you have the most recent facts and science-based information. You can also go to cdc.gov/coronavirus or the website of your local public health department.


The FDA and CDC have the highest standards when it comes to ensuring the safety and effectiveness of vaccines. Their process includes the following procedures:

  • Scientists must first test vaccines extensively in medical studies to ensure they are safe and effective.
  • Before the FDA authorizes a vaccine for use among the public, it ensures its safety by independently:
    • Reviewing the data from the medical studies, and
    • Inspecting the manufacturing facilities.
  • Even after a vaccine has been authorized, the FDA and CDC closely monitor vaccine administration to identify even rare side effects or reactions. 
  • The FDA and CDC closely review any reports of side effects or reactions and share these facts with the public.

The extremely rare cases of blood clotting following Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine—just a small number of cases out of millions of vaccinations—show that the FDA and CDC’s vaccine safety monitoring systems work and catch even the rarest of reactions.

A thorough investigation has confirmed that Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine is safe and effective.

And doctors have been notified and trained to understand the signs to watch for and the proper course of treatment if blood clots occur.