COVID-19 Vaccine Information

Walk-in COVID-19 Vaccines for Washington, D.C. Residents Ages 18+
The Arena Stage, MedStar Washington Hospital Center, and MedStar Georgetown University Hospital will be accepting walk-ins for the COVID-19 vaccine the following dates and times:

Starting May 1: Arena Stage: Thursday through Sunday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed from noon to 1 p.m.)
Starting May 3: MedStar Washington Hospital Center: Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
MedStar Georgetown University Hospital: Monday through Wednesday, 7 a.m. to noon

Starting May 17: MedStar Washington Hospital Center: Monday through Wednesday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
MedStar Georgetown University Hospital: Monday through Wednesday, 7 to 11 a.m.

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Your good health is our priority. The arrival of COVID-19 vaccines is a positive turning point in a public health crisis that has impacted all of us. Information about the vaccines is changing rapidly. We know you have a lot of questions about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines, as well as how you can obtain a vaccine. The FAQ below is intended to help provide you with the most up-to-date information on COVID-19 vaccines as it becomes available.

Remember: Continue to stay safe with face mask wearing, good hand hygiene, and physical distancing measures, even after vaccination.

COVID-19 Vaccine FAQS


Vaccine Availability
A: The District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia are now administering vaccinations to anyone 16 years of age and older. Follow the instructions below to schedule your vaccination today. If you would like to receive a COVID-19 vaccine from MedStar Health, you may request a vaccination appointment by clicking here. Register now and we will send you an email to schedule your appointment as appointments and vaccine become available. You will not have to keep checking our site.

If your COVID-19 vaccine appointment has been confirmed at one of our MedStar Health Community Vaccine Locations, click on one of the following links to view directions and public transportation information based on your location. District of Columbia: DC residents can also register for a vaccine appointment at or call 855-363-0333.

Maryland: Maryland residents can visit the Maryland government website to find a non-MedStar Health location that is convenient to you and request an appointment.

Virginia: As a resident of Virginia, you are required to receive your vaccine there. MedStar Medical Group at Alexandria receives a very limited vaccine supply from the City of Alexandria Department of Health to vaccinate a small number of our eligible patients each week. Beyond this location, MedStar Health has not received supply to vaccinate patients in Virginia. However, we continue working with the local government with the goal and anticipation to vaccinate our Virginia patients at other select MedStar Health Virginia locations in the future. In the meantime, we encourage you to take advantage of all vaccine options available to you in the state of Virginia. Please visit the Virginia Department of Health website or call the Virginia Department of Health hotline at 877-275-8343 if you would like to register for the vaccine in Virginia.
A: Yes. If you live in Maryland, call 888-821-8988. If you live in the District of Columbia, call 833-205-1553. Also, many of our MedStar Health primary care practices are now offering the COVID-19 vaccine. Contact your primary care provider’s office or send a message via the myMedStar patient portal.
A: As is normal for most new vaccines intended for all ages, adults were studied first. Studies to determine safety and efficacy in adolescents (12-15 years old) have been submitted to the FDA for review, and decisions are expected in the next few weeks. Studies on children under 12 are also well underway, and we expect to learn more about approvals for younger children 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 log-in 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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Did you know you can call MedStar Health to schedule your COVID-19 vaccine? If you live in Maryland, call 888-821-8988. If you live in the District of Columbia, call 833-205-1553.


Vaccine Request (D.C. and Maryland)

A: Maryland
You may request a vaccination appointment by clicking here. If you are receiving the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, you will be able to schedule an appointment for the second vaccine dose during your first dose appointment. If you are receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you only need one dose to be fully vaccinated.

If you are a resident of Maryland, you also can go to to find an alternate location that is convenient.

District of Columbia
If you are a resident of the District of Columbia, you may request a vaccination appointment by clicking here. If you are receiving the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, at the time of your first dose, you will be able to schedule an appointment for your second vaccine dose. If you are receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you only need one dose to be fully vaccinated.

MedStar Health Community Vaccine Location Directions: If your COVID-19 vaccine appointment has been confirmed at one of our MedStar Health Community Vaccine Locations, click on one of the following links to view directions and public transportation information based on your location.
A: In most cases, no, we are not able to reschedule appointments. If you contract COVID-19 prior to your first or second dose, you can cancel and reschedule your appointment. Follow the instructions in your e-mail or text appointment reminder.
A: You will receive an email with instructions on how to schedule your first dose appointment if you are receiving the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or your single, full dose vaccine if you are receiving Johnson & Johnson. Once you register with us, you do not need to keep checking the site.
A: Unfortunately, the way vaccines are distributed doesn’t allow for this kind of flexibility. The local and regional health departments provide vaccine to us as it is available. We cannot select nor do we control the doses we receive from the manufacturer. We schedule vaccine appointments based on availability of vaccine supply and cannot accommodate specific vaccine manufacturer requests. 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 Safety

ALERT: MedStar Health is following the CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) recommendation to resume the use of Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen (J&J/Janssen) COVID-19 Vaccine resume after a temporary pause. For additional questions, refer to the Vaccine Safety section below.

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.

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: 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 and women between the ages of 16 and 75. Also, the vaccine was shown to be more than 94% effective in adults over 65 years of age. There is not yet any data on the safety or efficacy of the vaccine in children under 16 years of age.

The Moderna vaccine was studied in more than 30,000 volunteers; 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),
  • Had any other vaccine within the last 14 days.
  • 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.
A: Since there is no information on the impact of other vaccines, do not get any other vaccines:
  • For two weeks prior to any dose of any of the COVID-19 vaccines
  • In between your first and second doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines
  • For two weeks after your final dose of the COVID-19 vaccine (after the final dose of Moderna and Pfizer, and after the single dose of Johnson & Johnson).

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Receiving the Vaccine

A: It is estimated that we need between 70 and 85% of our community members to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity. 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 online with MedStar Health, yes, you will be contacted. You will receive an email notification to schedule your second vaccine on the day of your first vaccination. If you scheduled your first dose appointment by phone, you should plan to schedule your second vaccine appointment when you check-in to receive your first dose at your MedStar Health Community Vaccination Center.

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: Yes. It will remain essential for us all to continue to maintain proper precautions even after receiving the vaccine. This is for two important reasons. First, we do not yet have enough information from ongoing vaccine trials to prove that receiving the vaccine prevents you from being a carrier of the virus, and experts believe you may still be able to transmit the disease to others who haven’t been vaccinated if you are not wearing a mask or physically distanced.

Second, while the vaccines are highly effective, like all vaccines, there is a small chance you could still become sick with the disease after receiving the vaccine. Months from now, once most of the population has been fully vaccinated, these recommendations may change.

This is why masking, physical distancing, and hand hygiene continue to be critical.
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.

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 April 29, 2021, 9:00 a.m.