Woman wearing a mask with a germ in the background

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Vaccines

A vaccine is a major component of preventing COVID-19. In an unprecedented effort to curb the pandemic, scientists from around the world have come together to condense a 10-year research and development timeline into roughly 10 months. There are over 200 vaccines in development, and dozens are in clinical trials. In the United States, two vaccines have received emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

To move at such a rapid pace, researchers explored new vaccine platforms, like mRNA. Manufacturers produced batches of vaccines without waiting for final clinical trial results in order to have them immediately ready if proven safe and effective. In spite of the speed, safeguards like data and safety monitoring boards remained in place throughout the process. A vaccine is only FDA-authorized once it is proven to be safe. 

Learn the Basics of Getting Vaccinated

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Which vaccines are currently available?

    In the U.S., there are currently two vaccines with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) emergency use authorization: the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine and Moderna vaccine. There are large-scale Phase 3 clinical trials in progress or being planned for three additional COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S.: AstraZeneca’s vaccine, Janssen’s (Johnson & Johnson's) vaccine, and Novavax’s vaccine​.

  • Are the COVID-19 vaccines safe?

    The available COVID-19 vaccines underwent extensive safety and regulatory processes. In order for the vaccines to receive FDA emergency use authorization, each clinical trial was subjected to review from a panel of scientists who are independent of Pfizer and Moderna. These scientists are members of data and safety monitoring boards (DSMB) that review clinical trials of drugs and vaccines. DSMBs have vetted drugs and vaccines for decades.

  • When can I get the COVID-19 vaccine?

    The COVID-19 vaccine will be distributed in phases. The first phase prioritizes healthcare workers, residents of assisted living facilities, essential workers, older adults, and adults with certain medical conditions. Phase 1 distribution has already begun, and experts believe it may run until April, May, or June 2021. Phase 2 will prioritize schools, correctional facilities, homeless shelters, and more. Phase 3 will include children and young adults. Ultimately, state and county health departments determine who is eligible to currently receive the COVID-19 vaccine, so eligibility may vary.

  • How do I sign up to get vaccinated?

    The best place to start is your county’s health department website. Vaccines are being distributed locally, and eligibility to sign up may vary. Some counties have vaccine registration portals available, while others are only providing information and phone numbers at this time. Many states are encouraging residents to go to their local county health departments for specific information about making an appointment.

  • What are the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine?

    Public health officials say to expect largely mild side effects. You may feel pain and redness at the injection site, fatigue, a headache, joint and muscle aches, and/or a fever. New reports suggest if you have a history of severe vaccine reactions, you may experience a similar reaction if you get the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. A very rare symptom may include a temporary weakness or paralysis of the facial muscles called Bell’s Palsy.

  • Should I get the vaccine if I’ve already had COVID-19?

    Even if you’ve previously been infected with COVID-19 and recovered, experts recommend getting vaccinated. Your natural immune response may not be strong enough to protect you from future infections. The CDC says you may delay vaccination for 90 days after initial infection—since you are considered immune and unlikely to be reinfected for at least this duration of time—in order to give others a chance at protection. But if you currently have an active case of COVID-19, wait until after the isolation period is over to make your appointment to prevent spreading the virus at the vaccine site. 

  • Should I get the vaccine if I'm pregnant?

    While the vaccines were not tested on pregnant women or those who were breastfeeding, federal health officials are allowing pregnant women to receive the vaccine if they choose. Pregnancy is considered a risk factor for severe COVID-19 illness by the CDC. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that pregnant and breastfeeding individuals who fall into COVID-19 vaccine priority groups should be able to receive the shot. Federal officials are leaving this decision up to the individual, and recommend you seek advice from your healthcare provider.  

  • Will the vaccines be able to protect against new strains of COVID-19?

    New research found that both the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines will protect against the U.K. and South African variants of the virus. Moderna and Pfizer are also both developing booster shots to help increase immunity against virus variants. Scientists say the virus would have to mutate extensively to escape the vaccine response. They believe the vaccines will still be protective against new strains that are not significantly different from the original virus.

  • How long will immunity from the vaccine last?

    Experts believe immunity from the virus will likely last at least a year, and Moderna reports its vaccine will provide immunity for at least that period of time. It’s possible you may have to receive the shot annually like a flu shot in order to boost waning immunity. But more research needs to be done before experts can know for sure.

  • Do I still need to wear a mask after I get vaccinated?

    Experts are recommending you practice safety precautions like wearing masks and staying away from large gatherings until herd immunity is achieved, or a larger portion of the population—at least 70% based on some of Dr. Fauci’s estimates—is vaccinated. More research needs to be done to learn about the duration of COVID-19 immunity and whether transmission is possible after vaccination. 

  • Will the coronavirus vaccine be mandatory?

    Experts believe it’s unlikely the government will institute a COVID-19 vaccine mandate to protect public health. Instead, the government will likely release recommendations and national standards for the vaccine. Vaccination requirements may be implemented through employers and schools—both of which have instituted vaccine requirements in the past.

How the Vaccine Works in the Body

Explore interactive models that show how the human body responds to a COVID-19 vaccine, and what the body of a vaccinated person would do if exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

woman drinking wine looking at tablet
Does Alcohol Reduce COVID-19 Vaccine Effectiveness?
Close up of someone's hands holding a blank COVID-19 vaccination card.
You Got Your COVID-19 Vaccine. Now What?
An illustration of a group of people of mixed race and age wearing face masks.
New Report Outlines 5-Point Plan for Vaccine Equity in Communities of Color
Moderna vials
Moderna in Conversation with FDA to Add Doses to COVID-19 Vaccine Vials
A blizzard
What to Do if Your COVID-19 Vaccine Appointment Is Canceled or Delayed
Nurse giving flu vaccine to a senior patient in the hospital.
COVID-19 Vaccines May Now Be Available at Your Local Pharmacy
Pregnant woman receiving a vaccine.
COVID-19 Vaccine Considerations to Discuss with a Doctor During Pregnancy
A composite x-ray of a right and left breast on a mammogram.
Swollen Lymph Nodes After COVID-19 Vaccines May Cause Mammogram Confusion
Photo of Vincent Ganapini
'I Saw What the Virus Can Do': Physician Shares Experience Receiving COVID-19 Vaccine
young adult male taking selfie with phone while wearing a mask
A Verywell Report: Why Young Adults Say They Won't Get a COVID-19 Vaccine
line of cars at Petco Park for covid vaccine
How Stadiums and Amusement Parks Are Converted Into COVID-19 Vaccination Sites
vaccine hunters no logo
Vaccine Hunters Are Crossing State Lines for a COVID-19 Shot
Healthcare professional with gloves and face mask injecting a vaccine into the arm of an unseen person who is obese.
How Does Obesity Affect COVID-19 Vaccine Immunity?
Woman wearing a face mask getting a vaccine.
Here's Why Your Symptoms May Be Worse After Your Second COVID-19 Shot
A colorful illustration of a woman of color with a face mask on a blue back ground with COVID-19 virus particles around her.
Without Women, COVID-19 Vaccination Efforts in the U.S. Would Fail
vaccine graph
COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Tracker: Week of Feb. 8
Doctor in personal protective equipment vaccinating a patient.
CDC: Fully Vaccinated People Don't Need to Quarantine After COVID-19 Exposure
Young Asian businesswoman with protective face mask to protect from viruses/air pollution, using smartphone while commuting in the city, against energetic and prosperous downtown city street with urban skyscrapers
How to Use Social Media to Secure Your COVID-19 Vaccine Appointment
Conceptual image of a gloved hand holding a syringe.
What Does COVID-19 Vaccine Efficacy Mean?
Walmart storefront
COVID-19 Vaccines Set To Ship To Retail Pharmacies Across the Country
vaccination certificate
Better Business Bureau: Don't Post COVID-19 Vaccine Card on Social Media
woman pulling down her mask to take a pill
NSAIDs (Advil, Motrin) May Dampen the Antibody Response to COVID-19 Vaccines
Google maps vaccine finder.
Google Maps Now Displaying COVID-19 Vaccination Locations in Certain States
Photo of Michael Crowley.
'Similar to a Flu Shot': Healthcare Worker Shares Experience Receiving COVID-19 Vaccine
vaccine graph
Verywell COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Tracker: Week of Feb. 1
Young woman takes photo with COVID-19 vaccine card.
'It's an Act of Love': Chicago Teacher Shares Experience Receiving COVID-19 Vaccine
A pregnant white woman receiving a vaccine by a Black female healthcare professional. Both are wearing face masks.
WHO: Both COVID-19 Vaccines OK If You're Pregnant
Black older man receiving a vaccine shot.
Why Are Black Americans Receiving the COVID-19 Vaccine at Lower Rates?
A gloved hand holding a syringe.
AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine Might Help Curb Virus Spread
vaccine decisions logo
A Verywell Report: How Americans Feel About COVID-19 Vaccines
nursing home staffer with resident
Why Are COVID-19 Vaccination Rates So Low Among Nursing Home Staff?
ask an infectious disease expert makeda robinson
Ask an Infectious Disease Expert: Will COVID-19 Vaccines Work Against New Variants?
vaccine technician wearing mask and glasses and patient wearing mask and glasses
More COVID-19 Vaccines Available to Community Health Centers
COVID vaccine distribution tracker no text grand journey
Verywell COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Tracker
vaccine graph
Verywell COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Tracker: Week of Jan. 25
older man in mask receiving a vaccine from woman
Communities Step Up to Help Seniors Register for COVID-19 Vaccines
Scientist adding vaccine dose to a syringe.
Merck Discontinues Its COVID-19 Vaccine Candidates
child wearing mask receiving vaccine from healthcare worker with face shield
Children Could Begin Receiving COVID-19 Vaccinations This Spring
young female healthcare worker taking a break
Study Explores Which Healthcare Workers Are Apprehensive of a COVID-19 Vaccine
A 24 hour pharmacy sign.
Don't Loiter At Pharmacies Hoping For a COVID-19 Vaccine
Someone receiving a vaccine short in their arm.
Moderna Developing COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Shot To Address Variants
Older woman receiving a vaccine shot from a nurse.
Can You Get the COVID-19 Vaccine if You're Undocumented?
online registration
How To Sign Up For a COVID-19 Vaccine In Every State
state vaccine distribution
COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation: How it's Changing for States
Joe Biden at podium putting on mask
President-Elect Biden Outlines Expanded COVID-19 Relief Plans
illustration of people in line for a vaccine
A Verywell Report: Why Half of Americans Aren't Sure About a COVID-19 Vaccine
Human Services Secretary Alex Azar
HHS Expands COVID-19 Vaccine Eligibility to People 65 and Older
Older woman receiving a vaccine shot in the arm.
How Long Will COVID-19 Vaccine-Induced Immunity Last?
vaccine graph
COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Tracker: Week of Feb. 15
Masked woman getting COVID-19 vaccine
Effective Immunity and the COVID-19 Vaccines
vaccine and variants
Pfizer Says Vaccine Can Handle New COVID-19 Variants
Older woman with diabetes wearing mask.
Experts Explain Why People With Diabetes Should Get the COVID-19 Vaccine
Woman receiving a vaccine while wearing a face mask.
Can Immunocompromised People Safely Receive the COVID-19 Vaccine?
homeless man at night
How Will COVID-19 Vaccines Be Distributed To the Homeless?
Woman getting vaccinated while wearing mask.
Experts Outline 5 Ways To Promote the COVID-19 Vaccine
covid-19 vaccine
CDC Panel Recommends Next COVID-19 Vaccine Priority Groups
Doctor preparing a vaccine syringe.
Extra Doses in Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine Vials Are Normal and Good News, Experts Say
Doctor filling syringe with vaccine dose.
COVID-19 Vaccines Ingredients
Older hispanic woman receiving a vaccine from a nurse.
Can Older Adults Visit Family After Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine?
Nurse gives older adult healthcare worker the Covid-19 vaccine
Should You Get the COVID-19 Vaccine if You’re Currently Infected?
Page Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Different COVID-19 Vaccines. Updated December 28, 2020.

Additional Reading