COVID-19 Vaccine FAQ

Good news! Vaccines are now available to protect people from COVID-19. Scientists and other health experts agree that the COVID-19 vaccines approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are safe and effective. It’s important for people to get the vaccine so we can safely get back to our normal lives. 

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

What is the COVID-19 vaccine?

The COVID-19 vaccine will help keep you from getting COVID-19. The vaccine helps your body develop immunity to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. We encourage our members to get vaccinated when they are eligible.

You cannot catch COVID-19 from the vaccine. However, after you receive any vaccine, you may have mild side effects. This is normal and a sign that the body is building immunity to help fight infection. If you do have side effects after getting the COVID-19 vaccination, they will be similar to the symptoms that many other common vaccines often cause. This may include soreness in your arm, fever, chills, tiredness and headache.

Why should I get the COVID-19 vaccine?

People who get the COVID-19 vaccine are less likely to get sick from the virus. They also are less likely to get seriously ill if they do get sick. It also protects people at high risk for serious and life-threatening illness. That includes immune-compromised people and seniors.

By getting a vaccine, you can help us reach herd immunity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), herd immunity occurs when enough people in a community have been vaccinated or have gotten the disease that it protects the community from the disease. When we reach herd immunity, it will be harder for COVID-19 to spread from person to person.

How much does the vaccine cost?

The COVID-19 vaccine is being provided free of charge to the public. There are no costs, including out-of-pocket fees or copayments (if your plan has cost sharing), for Tufts Health Plan members as well as those who have private insurance, MassHealth or One Care plans with other insurers, or no insurance. All health care provider sites that receive COVID-19 vaccines must agree not to charge patients any out-of-pocket fees or deny anyone vaccination services.

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

There are no out-of-pocket costs for Tufts Health Plan members for either the COVID-19 vaccine or for the cost of administering it.

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 will be provided free of charge to the public. All health care provider sites that receive COVID-19 vaccines must agree not to charge patients any out-of-pocket fees or deny anyone vaccination services.

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

What’s the FDA approval process for vaccines?

The FDA has granted emergency use authorizations to three COVID-19 vaccines that were rigorously tested. Vaccines must go through clinical trials that show they meet strict criteria for safety and effectiveness before they’re approved. Once the FDA receives a request for emergency use authorization, its experts evaluate the evidence to make sure the vaccine meets required criteria.

Can I get COVID-19 from the vaccine?

There is no possible way for the COVID-19 vaccine to give you COVID-19.

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-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use authorization. These vaccines had high success rates during clinical trials.

Other COVID-19 vaccines are undergoing clinical trials and some will likely apply to the FDA for approval. All vaccines that receive FDA approval will be covered. These vaccines will have dosage recommendations and will contribute to herd immunity. The provider who gives you the vaccine can tell you if you need a second shot.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two shots, and it is important to get both doses to get the full protective benefit of the vaccines. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires only one dose.

Early in 2021, people were unable to choose which vaccine they received. It is unclear whether people will be able to choose which vaccine they receive in the future.

I’ve heard that the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines are better than the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Is that true?

No. All three vaccines protect you against severe illness due to COVID-19, which may lead to hospitalization and death. Their effectiveness numbers are slightly different for many reasons, including:

  1. They were tested among different populations and in different countries.
  2. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was tested when there was widespread transmission of more contagious and deadly variants of the virus.
  3. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was tested when there was a different, and perhaps higher, level of transmission in the community, which may have impacted the test results.

To remain healthy, it’s important to get the first vaccine that you are eligible to receive in your state or community. This will help protect you, and potentially your loved ones, from the virus.

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

Yes. Though we have data that the vaccination protects the person getting vaccinated, we do not yet have guidance on if vaccination prevents that person from spreading COVID to others. Those who are vaccinated should continue to wear masks and social distance in social settings and continue precautions around loved ones. As we learn more from ongoing studies and the CDC on this, guidance will be updated.

Please keep in mind as well that the vaccine does not have enough time to protect you immediately on the day of your vaccination. It takes a few weeks to start working in your body, and you should still be cautious.

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

No. The FDA has safety checks in place to make sure that vaccines it approves are safe and effective. To help the country address the pandemic, drug companies started manufacturing the vaccines while they were being tested, knowing that if they weren’t safe, they’d have to throw them out. That means they were able to ship vaccines as soon as the FDA approved them.

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

You should refer to trusted sources for health and safety information. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Massachusetts Department of Public 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 considering all the information on how much risk pregnant women face from COVID-19 and the limited, but positive, information about 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, which could lead to ICU admission and death. Pregnant women with COVID-19 also have increased risk for premature birth.
  • No safety concerns were raised during an animal study of subjects receiving the Moderna vaccine before and after pregnancy. Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine studies in this area aren’t finished. Johnson & Johnson plans to test its vaccine in pregnant women as well.
  • Neither vaccine contains the virus that causes COVID-19. Experts believe they’re they aren’t likely a risk to pregnant women and their fetuses. But this hasn’t been studied yet. 

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 lactating. 

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

Federal and state researchers have identified many racial inequities that jeopardize the health of minority groups. Some of these issues are even worse during the COVID-19 pandemic. These are some of the inequities that hamper access to health care, including access to vaccinations: 

  • Location and density of neighborhoods
  • Household size
  • Job type
  • Reliance on public transportation 
  • Economic stability 

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has pledged to set aside 20 percent of the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 vaccine supply specifically for minority communities. The administration is also targeting the 20 hardest hit cities in the commonwealth with additional resources and funding. 

When is the vaccine going to be available to me?

Based on the CDC recommendation, early supplies of the COVID-19 vaccine were offered to health care personnel and long-term care facility residents followed by frontline essential workers.

Each state has issued a phased approach to prioritize its high-risk community members. As vaccine availability increases in each state, the timelines of distribution will expand to include more individuals. This link will let you know where you fit into Massachusetts’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution timeline. The goal is for everyone to be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as large quantities are distributed and available.

How do I get the vaccine?

Once you are eligible (see Massachusetts COVID-19 vaccination phases), you can visit the state’s website and:

  • Use the interactive map to find a location where you can get a vaccine or download a list of sites: COVID-19 Vaccination Locations MS Word | Excel download
  • Search by your zip code or town at: vaxfinder.mass.gov/
  • Visit the websites for the locations near you. You may have to fill out a form to get an appointment for a vaccine.
  • Fill out and sign your Self Attestation form and be prepared to present it at your appointment. By using this form, you are confirming that you are eligible to receive the vaccine.
Where can I get the vaccine?

Once the vaccine is widely available, the plan is to have it administered in doctors’ offices, select retail pharmacies, hospitals and federally qualified health centers. The state’s interactive map has up-to-date info on where you can get vaccinated when you are eligible. You can also check with your local health department for details about where you can get vaccinated.

If my doctor doesn't have it, can I go to anyone?

When the vaccine becomes available to the general public, public vaccine clinics will be available in each state. You can find locations in Massachusetts by visiting the state’s interactive map. You can also check with your local health department for information on additional locations.

Can I get help with transportation to my vaccine appointment?

All MassHealth members and people eligible for MassHealth Health Safety Net (including MassHealth Limited) can get free transportation to and from their COVID-19 vaccine appointment. Tufts will work with you to secure transportation, or if you prefer to secure your own transportation, you can call MassHealth Customer Service at 800-841-2900 to request transportation services.

Are there any vaccines that do not require two doses?

The first two vaccines approved by the FDA require two doses to be fully effective. The third approved vaccine, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, requires only one dose. All vaccines that receive FDA approval will be covered. These vaccines will have dosage recommendations and will contribute to herd immunity. The provider who gives you your vaccine can tell you whether 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 normal sign that your body is building protection. Temporary soreness in your arm, fever, chills, tiredness and headache are all normal. For more info, the CDC provides details on what to expect after getting the 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 a few weeks to work, and a few people nationwide have gotten COVID-19 from the community around the same time they got a vaccination. 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 a COVID-19 illness.

I get sick from the flu shot. Will the COVID-19 vaccine make me sick?

Like many other vaccines, you may experience side effects while your body is building immunity. Temporary soreness in your arm, fever, chills, tiredness and headache are all normal and should go away after a few days. If you have side effects that concern you and that don’t go away after a few days, we urge you to contact your health care provider.

How often will I need to get the vaccine?

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

How do I get on the list to get the vaccine, and how will I get it?

See where you fit into the state’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution timeline. When you are eligible for a vaccine, see the state’s interactive map to find a vaccine location near you.

If you want to stay informed, sign up to receive vaccine alerts from the state and have the most up-to-date information sent to you.

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 facility and provide vaccines to long term care staff and residents.

Will members have the choice of getting the vaccine(s) from either a medical provider or pharmacist (when available)?

Yes. Once you are eligible, you will be able to choose where you get the vaccine by visiting the state’s interactive map.

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

Each state has its own plan for deciding who will be vaccinated first and how they can receive vaccines. Massachusetts has developed a three-phase timeline for vaccine distribution. This COVID-19 vaccine distribution timeline link will tell you which phase you are in. You can sign up to receive vaccine alerts to have the most up-to-date information sent to you.

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

To make an appointment for a vaccine, you need to fill out and sign an attestation form. This form confirms that you are in one of the groups eligible for the vaccine. You may be asked to show an insurance card if you have health insurance. You may also be asked for identification (ID), such as:

  • An ID card from your employer
  • A license or government-issued ID
  • A recent paystub from your job

You can get a vaccine even if you do not have health insurance, citizenship status, a driver’s license or a Social Security number.

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 they seek an extension of stay or change of immigration status. This is true even if Medicaid or other federal funds are used to pay for the vaccine. Everyone is encouraged to get a vaccine when they are eligible, regardless of their immigration status.

How will any information I provide be used?

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health is keeping an electric record of those who receive the COVID-19 vaccine. This information is kept private like a patient’s medical record. You may be asked to provide your race, ethnicity or preferred language. This information is used by providers to understand who is getting the vaccine and to identify inequities in vaccine distribution plans.

How can a member get on the "high priority" list?

If this is related to your medical conditions, we recommend that you contact your primary care provider. If you are on a high priority list based on your occupation, you should contact your employer to understand your options for vaccination.