10 Common Questions about the COVID-19 Vaccine by Dr. Wilma Wooten


(Credit: County of San Diego)

Our trusted messenger, San Diego County’s Public Health Officer, Dr. Wilma Wooten, is here to answer some of your most commonly asked questions about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Learn more about Dr. Wilma Wooten here.

Question #1: This vaccine was developed quickly. Is it safe? 

Yes. All vaccines go through clinical trials and meet rigorous FDA standards to ensure that they are safe and effective. They are continuously monitored for side effects not detected during the regular clinical trials. The COVID-19 vaccines were developed faster, but no safety steps were skipped. 

Question #2: Will the vaccine give me COVID-19? 

No. None of the COVID-19 vaccines contain the live virus that causes COVID-19. 

Question #3: Do I have to get two doses? 

Yes. For the current vaccines that are available, the first dose is designed to train your body to recognize the virus and ramp up the immune system. The second shot strengthens that response. We know at least one future potential vaccine will require only a single dose, but we are waiting for the FDA to approve this vaccine. With what we are using currently Pfizer's vaccine is 52% effective after the first shot, and 95% effective after the second dose. Moderna's vaccine is also just over 50% effective after the first shot, and 94.5% effective after the second dose. 

Question #4: How will I know it's my turn to get vaccinated? 

Vaccination eligibility is broken down into categories based on California's vaccine priority list. You need to know where you fall on that list so when your turn is up, you can book an appointment. The complete list can be found at www.coronavirus-sd.com. 

Question #5: Where can I get the vaccine? 

Your health care provider may contact you when they have the vaccine available. If they are not administering the vaccine, the County is supporting locations across the region and has mobile teams also in place all sites require an appointment. You can go to the county website for more information. 

Question #6: How much will it cost? What if I don't have health insurance? 

The COVID-19 vaccines are provided at no cost and available whether you have insurance or not. However, a non-county provider may charge an administration fee. 

Question #7: What about the side effects and are they the same for both doses? 

Common side effects include soreness or swelling in the arm where you receive the shot. You may also experience mild flu-like symptoms; a fever, chills, tiredness, or even a headache. These should all go away in a few days. 

Question #8: Why do I have to provide personal information like my address and birth date to get the vaccine? 

The county is required to enter the information into the immunization registry to track adverse reactions, address safety issues, and measure the vaccine's effectiveness in different populations. It also provides a way for you to be contacted if needed. 

Question #9: Once I get the vaccine, do I still need to wear a mask or will I be fully protected?

Well, you will be protected but not one hundred percent protected and it's unclear whether or not people who receive the COVID-19 vaccine can be asymptomatic spreaders. It also takes time to develop herd immunity to stop the spread of the disease, so you will still need to follow the CDC safety guidelines and practice the three w's. Wash your hands. Watch your distance. Wear a mask. 

And last question #10: What is herd immunity and how do we achieve it? 

Herd immunity is when the majority of a population is protected because they've already had COVID-19 or they have been vaccinated. Herd immunity makes it difficult for the disease to spread person to person and it even protects those who cannot be vaccinated, like newborns for instance. Experts don't know yet what it will take to achieve herd immunity with COVID-19 but research is still being conducted.

Read more Frequently Asked Vaccine Questions here.

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Together Against COVID is an initiative led by the Multicultural Health Foundation (MHF) in partnership with the County of San Diego. MHF's mission is to bring health justice and wellness to the multicultural communities of San Diego County by focusing resources on the most vulnerable populations with community-based wellness strategies, social-clinical interventions, and research that will lead to the elimination of racial and ethnic health disparities. For more information, please contact us at (619) 915-6734.