COVID-19 Vaccine FAQ

Good news! In Rhode Island, everyone age 12 and older is eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Scientists and other health experts agree that it’s important for people to get the vaccine so we can safely get back to our normal lives. 

What is the latest on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lifted a pause on the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) COVID-19 vaccine on April 23, 2021, after a thorough safety review that followed reports  of rare and severe blood clots, combined with low levels of blood platelets, in a small number individuals who received the vaccine. Learn more.


Have questions? We can help. Here are answers to common questions about the vaccine.

How do I get the vaccine?

It’s much easier to get a vaccine than it was a few months ago.

You can visit or call 844-930-1779 to register for an appointment at one of the two state-run vaccination sites. These sites are located in:

  • Providence at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center
  • Cranston at Sockanosset Cross Road

You’ll get an email or text about making an appointment.

You can also try getting an appointment at:

  • Your local pharmacy. Some local CVS and Walgreens pharmacies are administering COVID-19 vaccines.
  • Your local town or city website will have information about COVID-19 vaccines near you.

If you want to get alerts about the vaccine, visit the Rhode Island COVID-19 Information Portal and sign up.

Where can I get the vaccine?

Eventually, the plan is to have it administered in primary care provider (PCP) offices, hospitals and federally qualified health centers. In the meantime, the Rhode Island COVID-19 Information Portal has up-to-date information on where you can get a vaccine. You can also check with your local health department for details about where you can get a shot.

And look for COVID-19 vaccine signs in grocery stores, pharmacies and pop-up sites near where you live or work.

What is the COVID-19 vaccine?

The COVID-19 vaccine will help keep you from getting sick from COVID-19. We urge you to get a shot.

You cannot catch COVID-19 from the vaccine. However, after you receive any vaccine, you may have mild side effects. This is normal. It’s a sign that your body is building immunity to help fight the infection.

If you do have side effects, they may include soreness and/or itching in the arm where you got the vaccine. You also may have a mild fever, chills, tiredness or headache. The side effects should last no longer than 1-2 days.

Call your provider if you develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain or shortness of breath within three weeks of getting the J&J vaccine. This could be a sign of the rare but serious blood clots that occurred in a small number of people who received the J&J vaccine.

Why should I get the COVID-19 vaccine?

People who get the COVID-19 vaccine are less likely to get infected with COVID-19. They also are less likely to get seriously ill if they do get sick. People who get a shot also seem to be less likely to spread COVID-19 to people who have not yet gotten the vaccine.

By getting a vaccine, you can help us reach herd immunity. According to the CDC, herd immunity means the spread of an infection in the community goes down when enough people have been vaccinated or have had the infection. When we reach herd immunity, it will be harder for COVID-19 to spread from person to person. This makes us all safer.

How much does the vaccine cost?

There is no cost to you when you get the COVID-19 vaccine. All COVID-19 vaccine providers must agree not to charge patients or deny anyone vaccination services.

Will I have to pay out of pocket for any vaccine costs?

Tufts Health Plan members will pay nothing when they get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Will I be covered if I get the vaccine from an out-of-network provider?

The COVID-19 vaccine is covered by all insurance plans and the federal government and is being provided at no cost to the public. All sites that receive COVID-19 vaccines agree not to charge patients or deny anyone access to the vaccine.

If you’re a Tufts Health Plan member, that means there is no cost whether you go to in-network or out-of-network providers.

Can I get COVID-19 from the vaccine?

The COVID-19 vaccine will not give you COVID-19 infection.

I have heard different vaccine names. Which one is best for me? Can I choose which one I receive?

The FDA has approved the Pfizer, Moderna and J&J COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use authorization (EUA). These vaccines had high success rates during clinical trials.

As of May 2021, you cannot choose which vaccine you get. The federal and state governments distribute the vaccines. You will receive the vaccine that is being used at your vaccine site. Kids ages 12 through 17 can only get the Pfizer vaccine. It is the only vaccine approved for use in people under age 18.

The provider who gives you the vaccine can tell you if you need a second shot. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two shots. It is important to get both doses to get the full benefit of the shots. The J&J vaccine requires only one dose.

The CDC urges people to get whichever vaccine is available first. The J&J vaccine now has a warning for women younger than 50 years of age that there is a rare risk of blood clots with the J&J vaccine. This risk has not been reported with the other COVID-19 vaccines.

Do I still need to wear a mask and social distance after getting vaccinated?

As we learn more from ongoing studies, the CDC will update its guidance. You can read the latest advice from the CDC here:

Please keep in mind that the vaccine does not protect you right away. It takes two weeks for it to be fully effective.

Should I worry that development of COVID-19 vaccines was rushed?

The FDA and CDC have safety checks to make sure the vaccines it approves are safe and effective. The pause in using the J&J vaccine shows how those safety checks work. Any reports of health issues following COVID-19 vaccination are taken very seriously. This potential safety issue with the J&J vaccine was caught early. According to the CDC, COVID-19 vaccines have undergone and will continue to undergo the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history.

There’s a lot of information about the COVID-19 vaccines. How do I know what’s true?

You should refer to sources you trust for health and safety information. The CDC, the Rhode Island Department of Health, and your city or town health department all provide reliable information about COVID-19 and COVID-19 vaccines on their websites.

Should I get a COVID-19 vaccine if I’m pregnant?

This is a personal choice best made after talking with your provider. You also should review information about the risk pregnant women face from COVID-19 and the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine for pregnant women. Here is some information to consider:

  • The CDC reports that pregnant women have an increased risk of serious illness from COVID-19. Pregnant women with COVID-19 also have an higher risk for premature birth.
  • Clinical trials evaluating how well the vaccines work in pregnant women are underway or planned.
  • No safety concerns were raised in studies of animals that received a vaccine before and during pregnancy.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine support making COVID-19 vaccines available to women who are pregnant and breastfeeding. 

How is my state addressing racial equity around COVID-19 vaccines?

Federal and state health officials know, as with many other health issues and access to care, the impact of COVID-19 pandemic has had a greater impact on minority communities. These are some of the inequities that affect access to health care, including access to vaccinations:

  • Location and density of neighborhoods
  • Household size
  • Job type
  • The need for public transportation
  • Economic and food insecurity  

Rhode Island is using an age-based approach. It also is sending vaccines to communities with the highest number of COVID cases.

Are there any vaccines that do not require two doses?

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses to be fully effective. The J&J vaccine requires one dose. All vaccines that receive FDA approval will have dosage instructions. The provider who gives you your vaccine can tell you if you need a second shot.

What are the side effects of the vaccine?

After getting the COVID-19 vaccine, you may have some side effects. This is a good sign. It means that your body is building protection. Temporary soreness in your arm, fever, itching, chills, tiredness and headache are all normal reactions. For more info, the CDC provides details on what to expect after getting the vaccine.

Call your provider if you develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain or shortness of breath within three weeks of getting the J&J vaccine. These symptoms could be signs of the rare but serious blood clots that occurred in a small number of people who received the J&J vaccine.

Are certain symptoms I’m having after the vaccine a sign of COVID itself instead of vaccine side effects?

As noted above, the vaccine cannot give you COVID-19. However, the vaccine takes two weeks to work, and a few people in the U.S. have gotten COVID-19 around the same time they got a vaccine. Some COVID-19 symptoms that are not vaccine side effects include cough, runny nose, and loss of taste and smell. Please refer to the CDC guidance here on what symptoms are more likely to be from COVID-19 illness.

Remember, you should call your provider if you experience severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain or shortness of breath within three weeks of getting the J&J vaccine. These may be signs of the rare but serious blood clots that occurred in a small number of people who received the J&J vaccine.

How often will I need to get the vaccine?

We don’t know yet. Because the virus is so new, researchers need time to monitor its response to decide how long the vaccine protects you from the virus.

Can the vaccine be administered in my long-term care (LTC) facility instead of at the pharmacy?

During phase 1, the federal government contracted with Walgreens and CVS to go to each LTC facility and provide vaccines to long-term care staff and residents.

Will members have the choice of getting the vaccine(s) from either a health care provider or pharmacist?

Yes. You can choose where you get your shot by visiting the Rhode Island COVID-19 Information Portal.

When will I be able to get the vaccine? What is the order of priority?

In Rhode Island, everyone 12 and older is now eligible to get the vaccine.

What personal information do I need to give when I get a vaccine?

You may be asked for proof of residency if you get a vaccine in high-risk areas where residents are given priority. Please note, you can get the vaccine whether or not you have health insurance.

Does getting a vaccine affect my immigration status?

No. The federal government will not consider whether people got COVID-19 treatment (including a vaccine) when making immigration-related decisions. This is true even if Medicaid or other federal funds are used to pay for the vaccine. Rhode Island health officials do not ask about immigration status when you get the vaccine. They share no vaccine information with immigration officials. Federal and state health officials urge people to get a vaccine when they are eligible, regardless of their immigration status.

Will I receive anything to serve as proof of my vaccination?

At your vaccine appointment, you will receive a COVID-19 vaccination record card. The card will show your name, date of birth, which COVID-19 vaccine you received, where you received it and the date of your vaccination appointment. If you need to return for a second dose of the vaccine, the card will serve as a reminder. Make sure you bring the card to your second appointment.
Please do not post pictures of your vaccination record card on social media or share proof of your immunization publicly. This is considered sensitive information that may put you at risk for vaccine scammers and identify theft.

We encourage you to hold on to your vaccine card and keep it with your personal records. The CDC offers tools to help you keep your vaccine records up to date.