COVID-19 Vaccine Information

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Your good health is our priority. The availability of COVID-19 vaccines is a positive turning point in a public health crisis that has impacted all of us. MedStar Health is pleased to vaccinate residents of any state and the District of Columbia, ages 12 and older. The FAQ below is intended to help provide you with the most up-to-date information on COVID-19 vaccines.

COVID-19 Vaccine FAQS


Get Vaccinated

A: MedStar Health is pleased to vaccinate residents of any state and the District of Columbia, ages 12 and older.

Most MedStar Health primary care practices are offering the COVID-19 vaccine same day, on demand. If you are a current MedStar Health primary care patient, please contact your primary care provider’s office or send a message via the myMedStar patient portal.

If you are not a current MedStar Health primary care patient, please click here to view which primary care practices are offering COVID-19 clinics. Please call the practice to schedule an appointment.

District of Columbia
D.C. residents can also register for a vaccine appointment at or call 855-363-0333.

Maryland residents can visit the Maryland government website or call 855-634-6829.

Virginia residents can also visit the Virginia Department of Health website or call the Virginia Department of Health hotline at 877-275-8343.

Residents from any region can also find a convenient location by using Vaccine Finder at
A: Some of our sites know in advance which vaccine they will have. You may call the practice in advance to inquire. All the approved COVID-19 vaccines have proved to be extremely effective in reducing severe COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations, and deaths and you should feel very comfortable receiving any of the vaccines.

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Vaccine Availability

The District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia are now administering vaccinations to anyone 12 years of age and older.

A: Studies on children under 12 are well underway, and we expect to learn more about approvals for younger children later this summer.
A: Many of our MedStar Medical Group primary care practices are now offering the COVID-19 vaccine. Please call your primary care practice or send a message through the myMedStar patient portal. If you have questions about the vaccine and your specific situation that are not addressed here in these FAQs, please login to the MedStar Health patient portal to submit your question to your provider. Or, click on the feedback button at the bottom of our webpages and submit your question.

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Vaccine Safety

A: Yes. Large scale studies with a broad range of race, gender, and ethnicities have demonstrated that currently available COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. Each vaccine was studied in its own research trial with 30,000 to 40,000 volunteers and met the FDA’s rigorous scientific standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality needed to support emergency use authorization (EUA). Study participants were tracked for two months following vaccination to monitor for long-term side effects, and none were noted. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has now fully approved the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for those ages 16 years and older; the vaccine continues under EUA for ages 12 to 15 years old and for booster doses for immunocompromised patients.

Since the vaccine research trials were completed, more than 230,000 million doses of the available vaccines have been administered under the most intense safety monitoring in U.S. history. Results from this monitoring are reassuring. Some people have no side effects. Others have reported common side effects after the COVID-19 vaccination, such as:
  • swelling, redness and pain at injection site,
  • fever,
  • headache,
  • tiredness,
  • muscle pain,
  • chills,
  • and nausea.
These reactions are common. A small number of people have had a severe allergic reaction (called “anaphylaxis”) after vaccination, but this is extremely rare. If this occurs, vaccination providers have medicines available to effectively and immediately treat the reaction.

You can read more at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID-19 vaccine safety site here.
A: COVID-19 vaccination can help protect your child from getting COVID-19. Although fewer children have been sick with COVID-19 compared to adults, children can be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, can get sick from COVID-19, and can spread the virus that causes COVID-19 to others. Getting your child vaccinated helps to protect your child and your family. Vaccination is now recommended for everyone 12 years and older. Currently, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine is the only one available to children 12 years and older.
A: Yes. Studies show that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. Like adults, children may have some side effects after COVID-19 vaccination. These side effects may affect their ability to do daily activities, but they should go away in a few days. Children 12 years and older are now eligible to get vaccinated against COVID-19. COVID-19 vaccines have been used under the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history, including studies in children 12 years and older. Your child cannot get COVID-19 from any COVID-19 vaccine.
A: Yes. After a careful and detailed medical review, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and CDC recommend vaccination with the J&J/Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine resume among people 18 years and older due to the benefit outweighing this exceedingly rare complication.
A: Experts have stressed that all three vaccines (Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson) are highly effective against serious COVID-19 disease. All studies showed zero deaths and very few to no hospitalizations among fully vaccinated individuals.

Remember, even with a COVID-19 vaccine, you should continue to wear a face mask, wash your hands often, and practice physical distancing, since you can temporarily carry the virus and transmit it to other people.
A: No. None of the authorized and recommended COVID-19 vaccines or COVID-19 vaccines currently in development in the United States contain the live virus that causes COVID-19. This means that a COVID-19 vaccine cannot make you sick with COVID-19.

COVID-19 vaccines teach our immune systems how to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19. Sometimes this process can cause symptoms, such as fever. These symptoms are normal and are signs that the body is building protection against the virus that causes COVID-19. Learn more about how COVID vaccines work.

It typically takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity (protection against the virus that causes COVID-19) after vaccination. That means it’s possible a person could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination and still get sick. This is because the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection.

If you develop symptoms of COVID-19 after vaccination, or think you are having severe side effects to the vaccine, call your healthcare provider right away.
A: Pfizer reports that about 10% of the more than 40,000 volunteers in its safety and effectiveness trials for this vaccine identified as Black or African American, and one in four identified as Hispanic or Latino. These participants included men, women, and children between the ages of 12 and 75. Also, the vaccine was shown to be more than 94% effective in adults over 65 years of age.

The Moderna vaccine was studied in more than 30,000 volunteers over the age of 18; 25% were 65 years of age or older, 1 in 5 were Hispanic or Latino, one in 10 were African American. Demographic characteristics were similar among participants who received Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine and those who received placebo.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was a global study that included nearly 44,000 participants living in the United States, Brazil, South Africa, and other Latin American countries. Because of its global outreach, a higher percentage of Latino or Hispanic participants were enrolled in this study (44% globally; 14% in the U.S.). Additionally, 17% identified as Black or African American, 4% as Asian, and 8% as Native American (1% in the U.S.). Median age of study participants was 51, with an age range of 18-100, and 40% of participants had at least one medical problem (comorbidity), including obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
A: The efficacy of a vaccine is determined by its ability to prevent cases of a disease, such as COVID-19. For the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, efficacy was defined as the ability of the vaccine to prevent cases of COVID-19 a certain number of days after vaccination. The studies also looked at whether the vaccines prevented hospitalization and death, among other things. Vaccine efficacy is calculated by comparing the number of disease cases among people who received the vaccine to the number of disease cases among those who didn’t (the placebo group).

95% efficacy against COVID-19 means that the vaccinated individual has a 95% lower risk of getting COVID-19 than those who weren’t vaccinated. It does NOT mean that 5% of those who are vaccinated will get COVID-19—far from it. For comparison, the efficacy of the childhood vaccination we all get against measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine is 97% against measles and 88% effective against mumps. The efficacy of the seasonal flu vaccine is between 40% and 60%. In contrast, the efficacy against severe COVID-19 disease is 95% in Moderna and Pfizer, and 85% in Johnson & Johnson, all very high, and all considered to be extremely effective by experts.

It’s important to know that vaccine efficacy has NOT been determined for cases where someone has the infection but is not aware because they don’t have symptoms. This means that vaccinated individuals may still become infected with the virus and possibly spread it to others, even if they don’t get sick themselves. Until enough people in our community are vaccinated (to achieve herd immunity), we must continue to practice physical distancing and mask use to prevent the spread of the virus.
A: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must determine that a vaccine is safe and effective before it approves it. As part of the process, the vaccine company must conduct clinical trials. During these trials, participants are watched carefully for any side effects, and scientists, physicians, and nurses collect information about everything that happens. Before the vaccine is approved, this information is reviewed by an independent group of scientists who do not work for the company making the vaccine or the government. The independent group shares results of its review with the company, which must use this information when they apply to the FDA for approval.

See information from the FDA about approval for COVID-19 vaccines here.

Learn more about how CDC is making COVID-19 vaccine recommendations here.
A: Scientists have been working on the technology used in the currently available vaccines for years. The unique nature of the COVID-19 pandemic prompted urgency and a critical need for private and public sectors to increase time, funding, and expertise devoted to this vaccine. These additional resources allowed the vaccine to be developed more quickly, while ensuring safety. Read more about this FDA process here.
A: To help quickly end the global pandemic, multiple pharmaceutical companies worked to develop a vaccine that would prove effective against COVID-19. There were dozens started, seven that are promising, and three to market so far. Some of these vaccines have different mechanisms, but all target the virus that causes COVID-19. It is not uncommon for multiple medications and vaccines to be developed that act differently to treat or prevent the same condition. It is possible that more vaccines will be approved to help prevent COVID-19, and those may also work differently than the ones that have already been approved. Having a range of vaccines that work in different settings helps the local, statewide, and national teams who are focused on vaccination target their approach to outreach, and will help control the pandemic faster than if there were only one available.
A: Do NOT take the Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson vaccine if you have:
  • A fever above 38°C (100.4°F).
  • Tested positive for COVID-19 within the last 10 days; 20 days from testing positive if you were hospitalized due to COVID-19.
  • A severe allergy or anaphylaxis to any substance containing polyethylene glycol (PEG) (for the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine) including bowel prep (e.g., GoLytely), or polysorbate (Johnson & Johnson).
  • If you have severe allergic reactions (requiring Epi-pen),talk with your doctor before scheduling.
A: Yes, if you are pregnant, you might choose to be vaccinated. Based on how COVID-19 vaccines work, experts think they are unlikely to pose a specific risk for people who are pregnant. However, there are currently limited data on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant people because these vaccines have not been widely studied in pregnant people. Systems are in place to continue to monitor vaccine safety, and so far, they have not identified any specific safety concerns for pregnant people. Clinical trials to evaluate the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant people are underway or planned.

If you are pregnant and have received a COVID-19 vaccine, we encourage you to enroll in v-safe, CDC’s smartphone-based tool that provides personalized health check-ins after vaccination. A v-safe pregnancy registry has been established to gather information on the health of pregnant people who have received a COVID-19 vaccine.

Because pregnant women are at higher risk for complications from COVID-19, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine, and MedStar Health obstetricians recommend that COVID-19 vaccines can be given during pregnancy. If you have questions about receiving the vaccine during pregnancy, discuss with your obstetrical provider.
A: All currently available vaccines are considered safe for immunosuppressed people or those on immunosuppressants. Talk with your doctor for help making an informed decision.
A: All currently available vaccines are considered safe for people with a history of bleeding disorders or on anticoagulants. Apply extra pressure after vaccination to the injection site to reduce bleeding.
A: For the safety and protection of our staff and patients, and in accordance with guidelines, you should quarantine for 10 days once you have tested positive for the virus and 20 days from testing if you were hospitalized due to COVID-19.

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Receiving the Vaccine

A: According to the CDC, up to 90 percent of individuals may have to be vaccinated before enough people in the community are immune to the virus so that it doesn’t easily spread. At this time, we have not achieved herd immunity through vaccination. We hope after you have a good vaccination experience you will share this with your friends and family and encourage others to vaccinate as well for the good of the community.
A: Depending on which vaccine you receive, you will receive your second dose either three weeks (Pfizer) or 1 month (Moderna) after your first dose. If you scheduled your appointment with us by calling one our primary care practices, you will schedule both your first and second dose appointments. If you receive your vaccine “on demand,” you should plan to schedule your second vaccine appointment when you check-in to receive your first dose.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is administered in a single dose and your vaccination process is complete.
A: Yes, it is important that you continue to take all medications even on the day of your vaccine appointment. Both the vaccine and your medications will continue to be effective and they will not negatively impact each other.
A: Be sure to have some fluids in your system and if your appointment is around a mealtime, it is perfectly ok to eat something beforehand. You don’t want to go to your appointment hungry or thirsty.

It’s important to know that the vaccine is delivered in your upper arm, so wear clothing that allows a clinician to easily access your upper arm. Consider wearing a short-sleeved shirt, or wear a short-sleeved shirt under a sweater or jacket that can be easily removed.

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After You Receive the Vaccine

A: When you received your vaccine, you were given a handout with information on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) V-safe program. V-safe is a smartphone-based tool that uses text messaging and web surveys to provide personalized health check-ins after you receive a COVID-19 vaccination. Through V-safe, you can quickly tell the CDC if you have any side effects after getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Your participation in this program will provide the CDC with more information about the COVID-19 vaccine. However, this report is for research purposes only, and the CDC does not provide advice to you as an individual based on your report. If you have questions about symptoms, you should contact your primary care doctor.
A: In the first 48 hours (two days) after a vaccine, you can assume that common symptoms (for example, body aches, fatigue, chills, headache) are from the vaccine. If these symptoms last more than 48 hours after the vaccination or if you have symptoms of COVID-19 not typical of a vaccine (such as loss of taste and smell, cough, shortness of breath), or if you have a fever over 100.4º F (even within 48 hours), or other health concerns or questions, contact your healthcare provider.

You can also schedule a visit with a MedStar Health provider through MedStar eVisit. MedStar eVisit gives you 24/7/365 video access to trusted medical providers, making it easy to get non-emergency medical care, anywhere, anytime. Connect via secured video from your tablet, smartphone, or computer. Sign up for free by creating an account. Visit from your desktop or download the MedStar eVisit app from your IOS or Android device.
A: Side effects typically last 1 to 2 days and can be treated with over the counter (non-prescription) pain medicines, such as acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol) or ibuprofen (e.g., Motrin or Advil), rest, and drinking plenty of water.
A: We don’t know how long protection lasts for those who are vaccinated. What we do know is that COVID-19 has caused very serious illness and death for a lot of people. If you get COVID-19, you also risk giving it to loved ones who may get very sick. Getting a COVID-19 vaccine is a safer choice.

Experts are working to learn more about both natural immunity and vaccine-induced immunity. CDC will keep the public informed as new evidence becomes available.
A: Evidence shows that vaccination offers a great deal of protection against COVID-19, which allows you to safely gather without a mask or physical distancing. However, masking is still required in healthcare settings, as the risk of coming into contact with a vulnerable or immunocompromised patient is higher than in public. In addition, masking may still be required in certain areas, such as on public transportation and other areas.
A: At this time you still need take the same safety precautions. Evidence is emerging that patients with impaired immune systems (for example, transplant recipients and patients on immunosuppressive medications) may not develop full protection after vaccination. Because of this, we are recommending you continue to protect yourself by wearing a mask and practicing physical distancing. Every person is unique, so you should discuss your condition with your doctor.
A: No. None of the authorized and recommended COVID-19 vaccines cause you to test positive on viral tests, which are used to see if you have a current infection. Neither can any of the COVID-19 vaccines currently in clinical trials in the United States.

If your body develops an immune response to vaccination, which is the goal, you may test positive on some antibody tests. Antibody tests indicate you had a previous infection and that you may have some level of protection against the virus. Experts are currently looking at how COVID-19 vaccination may affect antibody testing results.
A: Your immunization record can be printed via the myMedStar patient portal. If you don’t already have an account, you can enroll by visiting and clicking “Enroll in myMedStar.” Once enrolled, go to the Health Record on the left navigation bar and click the option for “COVID Center.” MedStar Health is pleased to offer the COVID-19 vaccine SMART Health Card. In the COVID Center, you will be able to print your vaccine SMART card or take a screenshot of it. Then, you can present the QR code to any entity that accepts SMART Health Cards. When the entity scans your personal QR code, it will receive your COVID-19 vaccination information. It receives only your COVID-19 vaccination information and no other health information about you.

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Booster Doses

A: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently approved the emergency use authorization (EUA) for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine as a single booster dose. This dose can be given at least six months after the completion of both doses of the Pfizer vaccine only to those who meet the following criteria:
  • All individuals 65 years of age and older
  • Individuals 50 to 64 years of age with underlying health conditions and high risk of severe COVID-19
  • Individuals 18 to 49 years of age with underlying health conditions based on individual risk and benefit
  • Individuals with institutional or occupational risk, including healthcare workers
A booster dose is not yet approved if you’ve received the Moderna or J&J vaccine.

In addition, you can get a third dose if you are immunocompromised as defined by the CDC:
  • Been receiving active cancer treatment for tumors or cancers of the blood
  • Received an organ transplant and are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
  • Received a stem cell transplant within the last 2 years or are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
  • Moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (such as DiGeorge syndrome, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome)
  • Advanced or untreated HIV infection
  • Active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids or other drugs that may suppress your immune response
  • It has been at least 28 days since you received your second Moderna or Pfizer vaccine. Note: There are no recommendations at this time for an additional dose if you received the J&J vaccine.
  • You did not have a serious reaction to the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine
  • You have not received a monoclonal antibody infusion (Regeneron’s casirivimab/imdevimab or Lilly’s bamlanivimab/etesevimib) in the last 90 days for treatment of COVID-19.
  • You do not have a fever >100.4 degrees.
A: The FDA has not approved boosters for patients who received the J&J or Moderna vaccines.
A: No, booster doses currently are only available for patients 18 and above who meet the criteria outlined by CDC (see above response for the criteria).
A: MedStar Health primary care practices are offering the COVID-19 Pfizer booster and immunocompromised third dose to those who meet the above criteria same day, on demand. If you are a current MedStar Health primary care patient, please contact your primary care provider’s office or send a message via the myMedStar patient portal.

If you are not a current MedStar Health primary care patient and you meet the above Pfizer vaccine booster dose criteria or immunocompromised third dose criteria, please visit to find a location that is convenient to you.

Learn More

A: The CDC and FDA websites have good information about the vaccine and the pandemic. Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson also have fact sheets about their vaccines.

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Updated September 28, 2021 4:00 p.m.