Select a language from the options below to translate this page.
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
To schedule children ages 12 to 15 for a COVID-19 vaccine with MedStar Health, we invite you to use our phone scheduling system. Residents of Maryland please call 888-821-8988. Residents of the District of Columbia please call 833-205-1553.
Note: Some of our community vaccine centers offer walk-ins. Please see the callout box at the top of our website for the most up-to-date information.
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.
- DC Locations - Directions & Public Transportation Information
- Maryland Locations - Directions & Public Transportation Information
- Directions to MedStar Health vaccine center at Arena Stage
DC residents can also register for a vaccine appointment at vaccinate.dc.gov or call 855-363-0333.
Maryland Maryland residents can visit the Maryland government website covidvax.maryland.govto 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. 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.
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,
- muscle pain,
- and nausea.
You can read more at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID-19 vaccine safety site here.
Side effect rates of the Pfizer vaccine by age:
- Pain at the injection site
- 16+: 84.1%
- 12-15 yo: 90.5%
- 16+: 62.9%
- 12-15 yo: 77.4%
- 16+: 55.1%
- 12-15 yo: 75.5%
- 16+: 31.9%
- 12-15 yo: 49.2%
- Joint pain
- 16+: 23.6%
- 12-15 yo: 20.2%
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
- 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).
Receiving the Vaccine
After You Receive the Vaccine
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 MedStarHealth.org/eVisit from your desktop or download the MedStar eVisit app from your IOS or Android device.
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.
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.
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.