About the COVID-19 Vaccines

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What you can do as a rural leader in your community to share information about the COVID-19 vaccines

A trusted community member can effectively deliver messages that motivate people to get a COVID-19 vaccine and engage in other positive health behaviors.

Rural communities are diverse, so you’ll need to customize your messaging about the COVID-19 vaccines to account for the local culture of your community.

  • Pair the general COVID-19 vaccine information below (Key Things to Know About COVID-19 Vaccines) with customized COVID-19 vaccination information for your community. Customized messaging creates trust and acceptance of the general information.
  • Ensure local doctors and other providers know they can call CDC’s Clinician On-Call Center, a 24-hour hotline for answering COVID-19 questions. Dial 1-800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) and ask for the Clinician On-Call Center.
  • Use free materials from CDC’s toolkits (available in English and Spanish) to share key facts about the vaccines in newsletters, presentations, or to share or post in community settings.
  • Check out the Rural Health Information Hub for innovative ideas for education and outreach.
  • When you come across COVID-19 information, cross-check it with cdc.gov/coronavirus and learn how to respond to misinformation that you encounter.

Key things to share about COVID-19 vaccines

The benefits of getting a COVID-19 vaccine

COVID-19 can have serious, life-threatening complications, and there’s no way to know how COVID-19 will affect you or your loved ones. And if you get sick, you could spread the disease to friends, family, and others in your community.

COVID-19 vaccination is an important tool to help stop the pandemic. All COVID-19 vaccines that are currently available in the United States are highly effective against severe illness, hospitalization, and death due to COVID-19, including from the Delta variant.

You should get a vaccine as soon as you can.

The different available vaccines

Multiple COVID-19 vaccines are currently available in the United States. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the vaccines only after confirming that they were proven safe and effective in medical studies involving tens of thousands of volunteers like you.

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.

If you’ve been vaccinated, you may be eligible for a booster shot to keep up your protection. See the latest guidance on boosters.

The cost of the vaccines

The federal government is providing the vaccines free of charge to everyone in the United States. It’s free to everyone even if you don’t have health insurance. And it’s free regardless of immigration status.

Safety of the vaccines

Every COVID-19 vaccine available for use in the United States is safe. Tens of millions of people nationwide have safely received a COVID-19 vaccine, and these vaccines continue to undergo extensive safety monitoring.

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.

For people who are pregnant, nursing, or would like to have a baby

Growing evidence confirms that the available COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective for people who are pregnant.

CDC recommends COVID-19 vaccination as soon as possible for all people who are pregnant, trying to become pregnant, wanting to become pregnant someday, or breastfeeding.

COVID-19 can be a dangerous disease during pregnancy and is known to present higher risks for severe illness if you are pregnant. COVID-19 during pregnancy also increases the risk of preterm birth and might increase risks for other adverse pregnancy outcomes. Getting a COVID-19 vaccine can protect you against severe illness from COVID-19 and help keep your baby safe.

Effectiveness of the vaccines on new forms of the virus

Scientists continue to study different forms, or variants, of the virus that causes COVID-19 to see if the vaccines will work against them. Current data suggest that COVID-19 vaccines authorized and recommended for use in the United States offer protection against most variants, including the highly contagious Delta variant. For this reason, COVID-19 vaccines are an essential tool to protect people against COVID-19, including illness caused by the new variants. CDC will continue to monitor the impact these new variants may have on how well the vaccines work.

Breakthrough infections possible among the vaccinated

It’s important to understand that infection doesn’t necessarily lead to illness. If you’re fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and the virus manages to enter your body and begins to multiply—that is, infect you—your immune system will be prepared to quickly recognize the virus and keep it from doing real damage. That’s why most people who get infected with COVID-19 despite being vaccinated—so-called breakthrough cases—have no symptoms (asymptomatic) or only mild-to-moderate illness.

Nearly everyone in the United States who is getting severely ill, needing hospitalization, and dying from COVID-19 is unvaccinated.

CDC recommends you get vaccinated as soon as you can.

Side effects from the vaccines

People who’ve been vaccinated commonly report side effects—these are 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, chills, feeling tired, headache, muscle pain, and joint pain.

A small number of people reported a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis after vaccination. This is extremely rare (two to five people for every million people vaccinated), and vaccine providers know how to effectively treat this type of reaction.

Even with side effects, the COVID-19 vaccines pose much smaller risks to your health than the virus.

Vaccine safety reporting systems

The FDA and CDC are using both established and new safety monitoring systems to closely monitor the COVID-19 vaccines and make sure they’re safe.

If you experience a reaction to one of the COVID-19 vaccines, report it to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System. You can also report your reaction through v-safe, a smartphone tool that allows you to quickly tell CDC if you have any side effects after getting a vaccine.

Availability of the vaccines

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:

  • Go to vaccines.gov 
  • Text your ZIP code to 438829
  • Call 1-800-232-0233

Once you’re fully 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.

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.

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.

Vaccine information in your community

Check out your state and local health department websites for the latest information about vaccination and the COVID-19 cases in your area and share this information with the community you serve.

Vaccine development in focus

Normally, vaccine development takes so long because of limited resources and funding.

Because of the urgency of the COVID-19 pandemic, scientists received a lot of money to fund their research into developing and testing vaccines.

Manufacturers also received a lot of money to start producing vaccines in large quantities while scientists tested their safety and effectiveness in tens of thousands of volunteers.

No one cut any corners or skipped any steps in the COVID-19 vaccine development, testing, and authorization process. They simply overlapped some of the steps instead of doing them one after the other. All the while, the FDA, CDC, and independent medical experts have been monitoring the safety of the vaccines and continue to do so.

Also, the scientists who worked on the vaccines didn’t start from scratch. Scientists have been studying vaccines for over 100 years. The technology used for the mRNA vaccines had been studied for two decades. And the National Institutes of Health had already been working on a prototype coronavirus vaccine. vaccination and the COVID-19 cases in your area and share this information with the community you serve.


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 and Guillain-Barré Syndrome following Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine and heart inflammation following Pfizer-BioNTech’s and Moderna’s vaccines—a very 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 reactions.

Thorough investigations have confirmed that all three available vaccines are safe and effective. Medical experts stress that the benefits of receiving any of the COVID-19 vaccines in use in the United States far outweigh any potential risks.

The monitoring systems ensure that doctors are notified to watch for signs of serious reactions, no matter how rare, and are aware of proper courses of treatment.

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