Have questions before you get your COVID-19 vaccine?
This page offers advice from VA providers, Veterans, and other resources to help you learn more.Learn how to get your vaccine at VA
Why this matters to you
When you get your COVID-19 vaccine, you help protect yourself—and your family, friends, and community. But COVID-19 vaccines are new. It's understandable to have questions about them. We’re here to help you get the information you need. So you can talk with your health care provider and decide what’s right for you.
This page is for
- All Veterans
- Family members and caregivers
- Service members
What you can do
Learn more from trusted VA providers
As you make your decision about what's right for you and your family, you'll want to learn all you can. Our VA health care providers can help answer your questions and share more information.
Dr. Kim answers common vaccine questions
Dr. Jane Kim is the chief consultant for preventive medicine at VA. In this video series, Dr. Kim answers common questions from Veterans about COVID-19 vaccines.
Dr. Cosby talks about COVID-19 vaccines and women's health
Dr. Chelsea Cosby is our deputy director of women’s health here at VA. In this video, Dr. Cosby shares why it's important to understand more about COVID-19 and vaccines. She also shares more about the risks of COVID-19 to pregnant and breastfeeding women.
Dr. Chee shares her COVID-19 vaccine story
Dr. Christine Chee, psychologist at the Albuquerque Veteran Center, is a member of the Navajo Nation. In this video, Dr. Chee shares the devastating impact the pandemic has had on her family and community. She also shares how this impact has shaped her perspective on COVID-19 vaccines.
VA providers share their vaccine perspectives
VA health care providers talk about the importance of COVID-19 vaccines to their communities and provide a perspective many viewers may not have considered. This video is hosted by Emmy-award winner and Marine Corps Veteran James Reynolds.
Veterans share their COVID-19 vaccine experiences
In this video series, follow 2 Veterans as they get their COVID-19 vaccines. Learn why they chose to get vaccinated, how they felt after each dose, and what they look forward to getting back to in their lives.
Air Force Veteran
Marine Corps Veteran
Download more helpful resources
Use these resources as you talk with your health care provider and others you trust to help you make decisions.
8 important facts about COVID-19 booster shots at VADownload (PDF)
How to talk about COVID-19 boosters with those you care aboutDownload (PDF)
Vaccine facts for Veterans from racial and ethnic minority communitiesDownload (PDF)
Frequently asked questions
Here are 5 reasons to get a COVID-19 vaccine—even if you're young and healthy:
- Data shows that younger people are getting sick from the virus that causes COVID-19. Young Black and Hispanic people are at increased risk. This increased risk is due to racial health inequities and other factors that can affect a person's health. These include factors like the environment where the person lives or their ability to access health care.
- Some people report long-term effects of COVID-19. Most people get better in weeks. But some people have effects that last for a longer time. These effects may include symptoms like dizziness, depression, or feeling very tired. They may also include effects on vital organs like your heart or lungs. The effects can happen even after a mild illness.
Learn more about long-term COVID-19 effects on the CDC website
- When you get a COVID-19 vaccine, you help protect your family, friends, and community. When enough people in a community get the vaccine, the community builds up immunity to the virus. This makes it harder for the virus to spread from person to person. And it protects those who can’t get a vaccine (like small children). We call this “community immunity.”
- After you’re fully vaccinated, you can start to do more. This may include visiting with family. It may include not having to wear a mask except where required by law or other rules. It may also include traveling without the need for a COVID-19 test.
- You can get a free COVID-19 vaccine—even if you don’t have health insurance.
Find out how to get a COVID-19 vaccine at VA
Find COVID-19 vaccines near you on the CDC website
Here’s how we know that COVID-19 vaccines are safe:
- Scientists studied COVID-19 vaccines in tens of thousands of people in clinical trials. These trials showed no serious safety concerns. The trials included people of all ages, genders, races, and ethnicities. About 30% of people in the U.S. trials were Asian, Black, Hispanic, or Native American. About 50% of people in the trials were older adults.
- All the current vaccines have met the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) high safety standards. Before the FDA authorizes a vaccine for use, they review all safety data and clinical trial results. They also review the process a company uses to make the vaccine. They make sure the process follows quality and safety standards.
- Millions of people in the United States have now received COVID-19 vaccines. Serious safety problems are rare. The monitoring systems have found only 4 serious health problems after vaccination. These health problems are rare.
Learn more about these rare problems on the CDC website
- COVID-19 vaccines continue to undergo the most intense safety monitoring in U.S. history. The FDA and CDC respond right away if data shows a vaccine may cause health problems—no matter how rare.
Learn more about COVID-19 vaccine safety on the CDC website
Here's what you should know about how scientists created and tested COVID-19 vaccines so quickly:
- They built on earlier work. Scientists have been studying vaccines for more than 100 years. Scientists have been studying the technology for mRNA vaccines for more than 20 years. And the National Institutes of Health (NIH) was working on creating a coronavirus vaccine even before the COVID-19 pandemic.
- They got the funding they needed to work quickly. The COVID-19 pandemic is a public health emergency. So the U.S. government invested millions of dollars to help study and test vaccines.
- They used a faster review process with all the same steps. The FDA authorized the current COVID-19 vaccines under their Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). An EUA follows the same steps that full-term clinical trials take. This includes testing each vaccine on thousands of human participants. The only difference is that an EUA speeds up the FDA’s review process. This helps get critical vaccines to people faster while still making sure the vaccines are safe and that they work well.
- They involved many experts in reviewing data. Independent groups also reviewed trial results to make sure the vaccines are safe. These include groups like the National Medical Association, the leading professional society of Black doctors.
The FDA continues to monitor COVID-19 vaccines even after they’re approved.
Play this FDA video to learn more about the EUA process (YouTube)
Scientists studied COVID-19 vaccines in tens of thousands of people in clinical trials.
The trials included people of all ages, genders, races, and ethnicities:
- About 30% of U.S. trial participants were Asian, Black, Hispanic, or Native American.
- About 50% of trial participants were older adults.
Studies show that COVID-19 vaccines work well in these ways:
- Vaccines help protect you from getting COVID-19.
- Even if you get COVID-19, vaccines help protect you from getting seriously ill.
Scientists continue to study these vaccines as millions of people get vaccinated. For example, one study reviewed how well the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines protected health care and other essential workers. These groups are at high risk of infection with the virus that causes COVID-19. The study showed that people had a 90% less risk of infection 2 weeks after they were fully vaccinated.
We’re still learning about how long vaccines protect you from COVID-19. We’re also still learning how well vaccines protect you from spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. Early data shows that vaccines do help keep people with no symptoms from spreading the virus.
Learn more about COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness on the CDC website
Learn more about how COVID-19 vaccines work on the CDC website
COVID-19 vaccines offer good protection against the variants we know most about. And widespread vaccination can prevent deaths and hospitalizations from COVID-19.
Current vaccines may not offer as much protection against future variants. But with the new types of vaccines that we have now, we can adjust the vaccines to fight new variants. Until we achieve high levels of vaccination around the world, we expect more variants to arise.
Here’s what we know about the new variant called the “Delta variant” that’s now spreading across the U.S.:
- The Delta variant spreads more easily and quickly than other variants.
- The CDC reports that some of the medical treatments we use to treat COVID-19 may not work as well against this variant.
- People who haven’t gotten a vaccine—or have only gotten their first of a 2-dose vaccine series—are at highest risk. Getting your second dose is critical. There are reports of people who’ve received only one dose and got very sick from COVID-19.
We don’t yet know how strong the current vaccines' protection will be against the new Omicron variant. If we do find that there’s a variant that’s different enough that a current vaccine won't protect against it, you may need to get an updated vaccine. But that shouldn’t prevent you from getting your vaccine—including your booster—now.
Get the latest facts about COVID-19 variants from the CDC website
Yes. Vaccines have pieces of germs or viruses, killed germs, or weakened germs in them.
The goal of a vaccine is to teach your immune system to make antibodies to fight off the real virus if you’re exposed to it. In the natural state, your body is exposed to thousands of germs. Your body then makes antibodies in response. Vaccines are a safer way for your body to learn to make antibodies to some of the more dangerous viruses, like COVID-19. But vaccines use the same natural process of your immune system, which is already activated often by germs and viruses.
Together, vaccines and booster shots provide the best protection against coronavirus variants like Delta and Omicron.
Scientists are still studying how strong protection will be against the new Omicron variant. But the vaccines offer strong protection against other variants. If we do find that there’s a variant that’s different enough that a current vaccine won't protect against it, you may need to get an updated vaccine. That shouldn’t prevent you from getting a booster now.
No. mRNA vaccines that protect you from COVID-19 don’t alter your DNA. These vaccines work outside of your cell’s nucleus (where your DNA is kept). The vaccines teach your cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response. Your cells then break down the mRNA and get rid of it soon after they’ve finished using the instructions.
No. The current COVID-19 vaccines, and the vaccines still in development, use one of these methods:
- An inactivated virus
- A harmless piece of the virus
- A gene from the virus
None of these can cause COVID-19.
Learn more about how COVID-19 vaccines work on the CDC website
Yes. The CDC and other experts strongly recommend that people who are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or breastfeeding get a COVID-19 vaccine.
Pregnant people are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Severe illness may mean having to go to the hospital, needing a ventilator to breathe, or having an illness that results in death. Pregnant people also have an increased risk of preterm birth.
COVID-19 vaccines can help protect you from COVID-19. And experts believe that COVID-19 vaccines are safe for people who are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or breastfeeding.
Learn more about COVID-19 vaccines during pregnancy or breastfeeding
A lack of transparency and consent was a major issue in past research abuses. The Tuskegee Study is one of the most well-known examples. This was a study of syphilis conducted on Black men between 1932 and 1972. In the study, researchers gave participants false information. They also withheld effective treatments. Participants couldn’t make informed decisions about their own health.
After this study, the U.S. government made changes to help prevent future abuses. Today, we have strong laws to protect the safety of every person who joins a study (or clinical trial). For example:
- Researchers must follow strict rules to make sure that all participants are safe.
- Each trial must follow a careful study plan. The plan balances potential benefits and risks to participants. The plan also makes sure the trial aims to answer specific research questions.
- For most trials, a group of health care providers, scientists, and community members approve and monitor the trial. This group reviews the research to help protect participants’ rights.
- Researchers must explain how the trial works, and any risks, to each person before they agree to join.
The COVID-19 vaccine trials followed the highest ethical standards.
Learn more about clinical trials from the National Institutes of Health
Learn more about the Tuskegee Study on the CDC website
Remember: It’s always your choice to decide if you want to get a vaccine. We want to give you all the information you need to make an informed choice. Our goal is to provide you with safe and effective care. Your decision won’t affect your care or benefits in any way.
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