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Ask Dr. Mendoza - Questions About the COVID-19 Vaccine

Dr. Mendoza is the Chief Medical Officer at ACS.

View more information about the COVID-19 vaccine and its distribution in New York City.


New Questions (Updated 08/19/2021)

Are Booster Shots Being Made Available to New Yorkers Yet?

People who are moderately to severely immunocompromised (meaning they have a weakened immune system) are now eligible for a third dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. On August 18, public health and medical experts from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced that the U.S. will be prepared to offer booster shots for all Americans beginning the week of September 20 and starting 8 months after an individual's second dose. This is because there is increasing evidence that COVID-19 antibodies produced by the immune system decrease significantly after 8 months. Note that antibodies are not the only lines of defense that are triggered by the vaccines. There are other components of your immune system, such as memory cells and killer cells, that help defend your body from an infection and are part of the response to the vaccine. For more information, please visit the DOHMH's website.

At the Height of the Pandemic, NYC Encouraged People With Underlying Medical Conditions to Quarantine and Avoid Coming Into the City if Possible. Now That We Are Seeing an Increase in COVID-19 Cases, What Advice Would You Give Staff That Fall Into This Category?

The best advice for this group of people is to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Vaccines will protect you from getting very sick and potentially dying from COVID-19, especially if you are in a higher risk category. After you are fully vaccinated, then the consistent use of facial coverings in all indoor spaces, and crowded outdoor gatherings is strongly recommended. Strict use of facial masks is also recommended when using public transportation, in addition to frequent hand hygiene. If you do have any underlying conditions that make you more susceptible to an infection, it is still advisable to avoid indoor crowds whenever possible, and to limit close contact with any group whose vaccine status is unknown.

Are There Any Safety Concerns With Getting Tested Weekly? Particularly, Are There Any Concerns With Using a Q-Tip Each Week?

As anyone who has already been tested for COVID-19 knows, testing can result in discomfort from a nasal or oral swab. Weekly testing can, therefore, be quite irritating and uncomfortable. However, the health care workers are trained well to avoid any injuries and precautions are taken to avoid any spread of disease. Keep in mind that aside from the time and inconvenience that the weekly testing entails, every trip to a testing site also means added exposure to others who may be infected and are also getting tested. To avoid all of these, and to fully protect yourself and your loved ones, specifically those with underlying conditions and those who are not yet eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine (i.e., younger children), the best choice is to receive a vaccine.


Other Questions

Is the COVID-19 Vaccine Safe?

Many of you asked me whether the COVID-19 vaccine was safe, which is a reasonable and important question to ask! You'll be happy to know that I can answer each of you in just one word: yes!

For those of you who want more information, I can assure you that all vaccines currently used in the United States are incredibly safe and effective and have undergone extensive scientific testing on tens of thousands of people, before they are approved, including the COVID-19 vaccine. In fact, researchers have been working on vaccines for coronaviruses for years, so they did not start from scratch. You should know that the vaccine does not contain the COVID-19 virus; it teaches your body's immune system how to fight the COVID-19 virus so that your body can aggressively fight back if you're exposed.

Are There Side Effects?

This is another common question. Common side effects include: soreness in the arm where you got the shot, headache, body aches, tiredness and low grade fever. After the first vaccine dose, I experienced some pain and tenderness in my arm which went away after 3 days. I will be sure to let you know what happens after the second dose! The CDC and the FDA continue to monitor for any adverse reactions and so far, the only serious safety concerns relate to very rare allergic reactions which have occurred in about 1 per 100,000 vaccine recipients. If you have any questions or concerns, you should speak directly with your health care provider. As a reminder, side effects can be unpleasant, but getting vaccinated helps protect you from the COVID-19 virus.

Should I Get the Vaccine if I Already Had COVID-19?

Yes. Since it is possible to get COVID-19 again, you should still get vaccinated. Also, the vaccine is safe and may boost the protection your body has already built up. However, if you tested positive for COVID-19 within the past 90 days, consider waiting to get vaccinated, since it is very unlikely that you will get COVID-19 again during this time. As always, you should speak directly to your health care provider if you have questions.

Does It Matter if I Get the Pfizer Vaccine or the Moderna Vaccine?

No, it doesn't matter which vaccine you receive. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are both mRNA vaccines, meaning no part of the actual virus is injected. mRNA vaccines teach our cells to produce a protein similar to a protein in the virus. This protein then results in an immune response so that the body knows how to fight the virus if it is later exposed to the actual virus. In clinical trials, both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were shown to be safe and greater than 94% effective at preventing symptoms and decreasing severe COVID-19 infection among study volunteers. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines each require two doses, through shots in the arm, at least 21 days (Pfizer) or 28 days (Moderna) apart.

If I Already Have Antibodies Should I Still Get the Vaccine?

Since we do not know how long the antibodies last after recovery from a COVID infection, the CDC still advises that even those who have had a previous infection should still receive the COVID vaccine. However, the recommendation is to wait at least 3 months after a positive COVID-19 test before receiving a vaccine. Based on the clinical trials, the 2 mRNA vaccines have consistently resulted in an immune response that leads to at least a 94% protection, something we cannot predict will happen after an infection. In addition, though rare, there are documented cases of re-infection with COVID-19 after a previous infection.

How Important Is It to Take the Second Dose Within the Exact Timeframe? Would It Be Less Effective?

Right now, the CDC is stating that you can still take the second dose up to 6 weeks after the first dose. Theoretically, it shouldn't matter if there is a delay in getting the second dose by a few weeks, however, the Clinical Trials did not test for such a situation. If and when possible, I would suggest getting the second dose within the suggested timeframe, though I sympathize that there have been difficulties in getting appointments because of supply and logistical barriers. The City is working really hard to get the vaccine supplies we need for all eligible New Yorkers.

Is It Necessary to Get Approval From Your Medical Provider Before Getting Vaccinated?

It's not required that you get approval from your medical provider; however, it is always a good idea to consult with your doctor - especially if you have any medical concern, long-standing medical diagnoses, or are receiving treatment for an ongoing medical condition. If you are receiving the vaccine as someone with an underlying condition, you will need to bring either: a doctor's letter, medical information as evidence that you have the condition; or a signed certification determined by a local government or government agency.

Does the Vaccine Affect Underlying Conditions?

The vaccine does not generally have negative effects on those with underlying conditions. In fact, it can protect those with underlying conditions from experiencing severe symptoms if infected with the SARS CoV-2 virus, the virus that causes COVID-19. Even those with histories of allergies may receive the vaccine, as long as they do not have an allergy to any component of the vaccine itself. Please consult your doctor if you have any underlying conditions, or if you are not sure about your allergies, before receiving the vaccine.

What's the Youngest a Person Can Be To Get the COVID-19 Vaccine?

Currently, the minimum age to get the COVID-19 vaccine is 16. The Pfizer vaccine is approved for individuals aged 16 years and older, and the Moderna vaccine is approved for those 18 years old and above. Studies are currently being conducted on vaccines for youth as young as 12 years old, but it is unclear when we will have the results and when these vaccines will be approved for use. It is, therefore, very important that as many eligible adults get vaccinated as soon as possible to avoid transmission to children who will not be eligible for at least a few more months or years.

Read more for information about the COVID-19 vaccine and its distribution in New York City. If you'd like to submit to "Ask Dr. Mendoza," please e-mail: vaccinequestions@acs.nyc.gov.

Have You Gotten Your Second Shot? If Yes, Did You Have Side Effects?

I received my second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on the first week of February. As expected, I experienced more side effects than after the first dose: headache, body aches and fatigue. These lasted less than 24 hours. I was actually quite excited that I was experiencing those symptoms, because it meant that my immune system was working really hard in response to the introduction of the mRNA and subsequent production of the virus-like spike protein. It felt like my antibodies were flexing their virus-fighting muscles!

What Can I Do to Minimize Vaccine After-Effects?

The night before the vaccine appointment, get a full night's sleep and eat a nice dinner. On the day of the vaccine, make sure to drink lots of fluids, get some rest, and if you experience pain or fever, you can take some regular Tylenol. Remember that if you are taking any medications to manage the after-effects, you should take those medications after you receive the vaccine, not before.

How Long Do the Vaccines Last?

We do not yet know how long the vaccines will protect people from COVID-19. Studies continue to be conducted, but at this time protective immunity is being shown to last up to 6 months after completing the vaccine series (2 weeks after the second dose of any of the mRNA vaccines and 2 weeks after the single J & J vaccine). This is based on our experience from the clinical trials and from the time the vaccine was made available to the public.

It may be that a vaccine is needed annually (like a flu shot) or that an additional shot or booster shot is needed (like with a tetanus shot). It is also possible that no additional vaccine will be needed after the first two doses of the mRNA vaccines or the single dose of the J & J vaccine. This uncertainty makes it all the more essential that we all receive the vaccine as soon as possible now that all adults are eligible!

Continued research and time will tell us how long the vaccines' protection last and whether additional doses are needed. People who participated in the clinical trials will continue to be monitored and we will learn more over time from the millions of people being vaccinated in the U.S. and around the world. We will share information about this as soon as we know.

Will an Annual Shot(s) Be Required Similar to the Flu Vaccine?

It has not yet been determined whether annual COVID-19 vaccines would be necessary in the future. One of the predictors for the need for annual vaccinations is the number of SARS CoV-2 variants and the speed in which they emerge. The best way to slow down the emergence of new variants is by vaccinating as many people as possible, as soon as possible. We continue to monitor the pandemic and the effects of the vaccines in controlling the spread of disease. It is still a possibility that annual shots, or at least one booster shot, will be needed and we will share information about this as soon as we know.

What Side Effects of The Vaccine Should I Expect if I Previously Had COVID? Will There Be a Stronger Reaction?

There is no evidence that having had COVID-19 will cause a person to have a bad reaction to the vaccines. Most people report some side effects from the vaccines, which are usually signs that the body is building protection. Common side effects include soreness or swelling on the arm where you got the shot, headache, body aches, fatigue and fever. For the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, you should get the second shot even if you have side effects after the first shot, unless your health care provider tells you not to do so. Side effects:

  • Usually are mild to moderate;
  • Usually start within the first three days after vaccination (the day after vaccination is the most common) and last for about one to two days after they begin;
  • Are less common in older adults; and
  • Are more common after getting the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines than after getting the first dose

How Is the Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Different From the Pfizer And Moderna Vaccines?

All three vaccines are very safe and effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death. The most important thing is to get vaccinated, with whatever vaccine is available to you, since the best vaccine is the one that you can get! Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is just one dose at this time. All three vaccines cause similar mild to moderate side effects.

It is hard to directly compare the vaccines effectiveness since they were tested at different times and in different locations. Johnson & Johnson trials were conducted more recently, when there were higher levels of COVID-19 transmission, and in countries that have high levels of the new variants. Even under these circumstances, the vaccine effectively prevented hospitalizations and deaths.

A key difference among the vaccines is that only the Pfizer vaccine is authorized for people ages 16 and 17. The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are authorized for people ages 18 and older. Another difference is how the vaccines can be stored and distributed. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is more stable and can be kept in a refrigerator, making it easier to transport and reach people who cannot travel to a vaccination site. For now, most vaccination sites have only one type of vaccine. The type of vaccine you get will depend on where you go. The 150 William Street Vaccine POD is currently administering Moderna. The NYC Vaccine Finder shows the type of vaccine given at each site.

Would You Recommend Getting the Johnson and Johnson Vaccine?

You may already know that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just recently granted an emergency use authorization (EUA) for the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. This vaccine has been shown to have 85% efficacy in preventing severe COVID-19 illness across clinical trial populations in different regions. Overall efficacy against lab-confirmed, symptomatic COVID disease was 66.3% and efficacy against hospitalization is 93%.

It is difficult to compare efficacy of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine against the mRNA vaccines because the trials were not done in the same geographic locations. They were also done during a different time. These can affect the results because the infection rates and predominant variants vary according to time and location, thus affecting efficacy rates as well.

I strongly recommend the Johnson & Johnson vaccine with the same enthusiasm as I have recommended the mRNA vaccines. Since we are still dealing with limited supplies and the COVID pandemic continues to cause unprecedented deaths, the best vaccine is the one that is available to you!

If I Don't Have Side Effects, Does That Mean the Vaccine Did Not Work?

No, it does not mean that. Reactions vary individually but common side effects are soreness/swelling on the arm where you got the shot, headache, body aches, tiredness and fever. Side effects are more common after the second dose and less common in older adults, but it does not mean that older adults are less protected against COVID after being vaccinated.

Since the Full Protection of the Pfizer and Moderna Vaccines Require 2 Doses and There Is a 21-28 Day Wait Period Before Receiving the 2nd Dose, Can a Person Get Infected Between Doses?

Yes, you can still get infected between doses of the mRNA vaccines. You will not have full (94-95%) protection from the vaccine until one to two weeks after your second dose. It is always important to continue to practice prevention measures: stay at least 6 feet from others, wear your proper-fitting face covering, and wash your hands often.

Are They Ever Going to Give Your Primary Doctor the Vaccine to Administer to Their Patients?

Primary care physicians play an important role in educating their own patients about the need to vaccinate against COVID-19 and primary care practices will eventually be given COVID-19 vaccine supplies so that they can administer the vaccine! From the very beginning, all adult care practices were encouraged to request the vaccines through the Citywide Immunization Registry. In fact, some primary care practices, specifically FQHCs (Federally Qualified Health Centers) located in medically underserved communities have already begun administering vaccines to their patients. However, the limited supply nationwide necessitated a more centralized approach to ensure that vaccines are first given to those individuals with highest risks for transmission and complications from a COVID-19 infection. The long-term plan, of course, is to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to everyone by the summer of 2021, so we might expect supplies to reach primary care physicians within the next 2 months.

Is There a Way to Find Out Which Sites Are Administering the Johnson and Johnson Vaccine?

Typically, when making an appointment, the website will tell you which vaccine is being administered at that site. However, please remember that all three vaccines are very safe and effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death. The most important thing is to get vaccinated, with whatever vaccine is available to you. Bottom line - the best vaccine is the one that you can get!

I Saw That the CDC Said if You Are Fully Vaccinated You Can Visit With Other Fully Vaccinated People Indoors Without Wearing Masks; However, I Thought That Even if We're Fully Vaccinated, We Should Continue to Wear Masks. Can You Clarify?

It was indeed welcome news for all when the CDC released guidelines about what we can do once fully vaccinated. Remember that people are considered fully vaccinated for COVID-19 greater than or equal to 2 weeks after they have received the second dose in a 2-dose series (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna), or greater than or equal to 2 weeks after they have received a single-dose vaccine [Johnson and Johnson (J&J)/Janssen]. All fully vaccinated people can now visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing. They can also visit with unvaccinated people from a single household who are at low risk for severe COVID-19 disease indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing.

However, at this time, even fully vaccinated individuals should still:

  • Wear a well-fitted mask and practice physical distancing in public
  • Wear masks, practice physical distancing, and adhere to other prevention measures when visiting with unvaccinated people who are at increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease
  • Wear masks, maintain physical distance, and practice other prevention measures when visiting with unvaccinated people from multiple households
  • Avoid medium- and large-sized in-person gatherings
  • Practice hand hygiene

What Should I Do to Treat the Side Effects I May Get From the Vaccine?

All vaccines have side effects, and these are not unique to the COVID-19 vaccine. Side effects indicate that the vaccine is strengthening your body's immune response, which is the goal of all vaccines. The night before the vaccine appointment, get a full night's sleep and eat a healthy dinner. On the day of the vaccine, make sure to drink lots of fluids, get some rest, and if you experience pain or fever, you can take some regular Tylenol or Advil. Remember that if you are taking any medications to manage the after-effects, you should take those medications after you receive the vaccine, not before. To reduce pain and discomfort where you got the shot, you can also apply a clean, cool, wet washcloth over the area.

Common side effects are mild and consist of: soreness or swelling on the arm where you got the shot, headache, body aches, tiredness and fever. Side effects are more common after the second dose and less common in older adults. Side effects usually are mild to moderate, start within the first three days after vaccination (the day after vaccination is the most common), and last about one to two days after they begin. Call your health care provider if you have any side effects that concern you or do not go away after a few days, or if the redness or soreness where you got the shot increases after 24 hours.

Are Side Effects From the Vaccine Worse if You've Had COVID-19?

As noted above, vaccine side effects are usually mild-moderate and only last for a few days. They mimic the initial symptoms of an infection (e.g., fever, headache, body aches) which are the result of an immune system that is actively fighting the cause of the infection. Vaccines work by preparing your immune system to fight disease by creating antibodies and by training other immunity-enhancing cells to recognize and neutralize germs such as viruses and bacteria. The more prepared and trained your immune system is, the more pronounced these symptoms may become.

It is, therefore, reasonable to expect that people who have had a COVID-19 infection may have more prominent symptoms because their immune response will be more intense. This is also the reason behind more reports of side effects after the second dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. Even so, these vaccine-related symptoms cannot be compared to the severity and duration of symptoms from a COVID-19 infection and the potential complications which may even lead to death.

Are Teenagers Eligible for the Vaccine?

Currently, in New York, the Pfizer vaccine can be administered to young people 16 years and older. Those teenagers eligible for the vaccine include: youth in congregate care settings, youth with underlying conditions/comorbidities, youth who work in settings that are currently eligible to receive the vaccine (such as: a waiter at a restaurant, grocery store worker, etc). Clinical trials for children between the ages of 12 and 17 may yield results by the fall. Clinical trials for younger children are expected to conclude by early 2022.

In the Last Week I've Received Emails About the Need for Blood Donations in the City. I Received the First Shot of the Vaccine Almost Two Weeks Ago. Would Giving Blood Now Adversely Affect the Efficacy of the Vaccine? Similarly, How Long Should I Wait After Having the Second Shot Before Donating Blood?

That's great that you are interested in donating blood! The vaccine does not affect the ability to donate blood at any time after it is received. This is true for the vaccines currently available in the US. If you've received a COVID-19 vaccine, you'll need to provide the manufacturer name when you come to donate. In most cases, there is no deferral time for individuals who received a COVID-19 vaccine as long as they are symptom-free and feeling well at the time of donation. If you experience any side effects from the vaccine, it would be best to wait until those symptoms have resolved.

Also, blood donations will not affect the efficacy of the vaccine for someone who is vaccinated, no matter how close or remote to the time during which the vaccine is received. It will be best to donate blood 14 days after the second dose of a mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna) or the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) vaccine, so you are fully protected in case you are exposed while at the blood donation facility. Please continue to volunteer for blood donations, as times like these often result in shortages of life-saving supply.

I'd Like to Know if We Have Data Regarding What Typically Happens When You Get Exposed to COVID After You've Been Vaccinated? If I Get Exposed, Will the Vaccine Prevent Infection or Serious Illness?

The vaccine, after full vaccination (2 doses for mRNA vaccines and 1 dose for the J & J vaccine), gives 100% protection from severe disease and hospitalization after COVID exposure. These are the results of the Clinical Trials. Since the vaccines are not yet approved for children under 16 years old, completing COVID-19 vaccinations is the best way that adults can protect all children from getting infected with the SARS CoV-2 virus.

Should You Consult With Your Doctor About the Vaccine if You Have Allergies?

An allergy to any component or ingredient of the COVID vaccines and a previous severe adverse reaction to the COVID vaccine are the only contraindications to receiving the vaccine. All other allergies of any kind (asthma, food allergies, environmental allergies to dust or pollen) do not exclude you from the vaccine. In fact, those with asthma are at high risk for developing fatal complications, even death, from a COVID-19 infection. Only you, with the advice of your doctor, can determine whether you are allergic to a component of any of the vaccines.

I Read That That They Are Beginning Clinical Trials on a Vaccine for the COVID-19 Variant That Originated in the UK. Any Idea on How Long It Would Be Before It Would Be Released to the Public if It Proves Effective and Safe? Do You Know If They Are Working On Vaccines for the Other Variants?

Yes. The vaccine manufacturers are now busy developing vaccines specifically targeting emerging variants. It is likely that we will not have results of the Clinical Trials until 2022, or later this winter. Since we have no way of predicting whether or not we will need new vaccines to protect against the variants in the future, it would be premature to state whether such vaccines will be made available in the US. At this time, the three approved vaccines provide reliable protection against severe disease from the circulating variants, including the UK variant (B.1.1.7) in the United States. We need to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible in order to combat the rise and predominance of new variants.

I Saw News Stories Recently That Suggests Pregnant People Who Get the Vaccine Can Pass the Antibody on to Their Baby. Is That True?

Yes, a study in Massachusetts demonstrated that the COVID-19 vaccines confer protective immunity to newborns through breast milk and the placenta. Of course, this is quite good news for pregnant and lactating women. The side effects after vaccination were rare and comparable across the study participants. In addition, a comparison of antibody responses showed higher antibody levels after vaccination compared to levels after a COVID-19 infection.

Since the CDC states that pregnant women are more likely to suffer severe complications from a COVID-19 infection and may be at increased risk for adverse pregnancy outcomes, this study further supports the importance of vaccinating pregnant women, and women who may become pregnant. The vaccine may not only save the pregnant individual's life, it may also be life-saving for the infant, knowing that the vaccine is not yet approved for use in young children.

Do Vaccines Help COVID-19 Long Haulers?

Most people who have COVID-19 completely recover, but some have lasting symptoms and health problems. These people sometimes describe themselves as "long haulers" and the condition has been called post-COVID-19 syndrome or "long COVID-19."

Some people who have spent months suffering from long-haul COVID-19 are reporting their symptoms disappearing after their vaccinations, leaving experts chasing yet another puzzling clinical development surrounding the disease caused by SARS CoV-2.

One small study not yet submitted for peer review concluded that people with long-term symptoms who get vaccinated are more likely to see their problems resolve or not worsen than people who have not been vaccinated. Several theories have emerged, although researchers have barely begun to explore them. One theory is that the coronavirus vaccine could be triggering an immune response sufficient to eliminate any viral holdouts. More studies are needed to know for sure.

The potentially long-lasting problems from COVID-19 make it even more important to reduce the spread of the disease by following precautions such as wearing masks, avoiding crowds, postponing travel, keeping hands clean and getting vaccinated!

More information on Post-Acute COVID-19 Syndrome

Do the Vaccines Cause Fertility Issues?

Infertility has not been found to be a problem in women who have had COVID-19, so it would not be expected to be an issue for the vaccine. Furthermore, the vaccines do not contain the SARS CoV-2 virus or any part of the virus. People who are trying to become pregnant now or who plan to try in the future can be vaccinated. Vaccines are monitored and tested closely before being authorized for use and afterwards, while it is being administered to the public. There is no evidence that fertility problems are a side effect of COVID-19 vaccines, or of any other vaccines.

Claims of infertility are based on a misunderstanding of the science. The COVID-19 vaccines, like many other vaccines, work by teaching our body to create antibodies to fight the virus. Concerns of infertility are based on the idea that the antibodies will attack a protein in the placenta that has a few things in common with a protein found in the COVID-19 virus. However, the two proteins are very different, and our immune systems are smart enough to tell the difference. There is currently no evidence that these antibodies will cause any problems in pregnancy, including development of the placenta.

Is the Same Dosage Administered in Both Moderna/Pfizer Shots? Is the Vaccine the Exact Same In Shot 2 as in Shot 1?

It is the same dose for both shots of the same vaccine and the same exact formulation for both doses. The Moderna vaccine has a slightly higher dose than the Pfizer vaccine. As a reminder, both doses should be of the same vaccine. If you received Moderna for your first shot, you must get Moderna for your second; and if you received Pfizer for your first shot, you must get Pfizer for your second. You will get the most protection from a vaccine usually starting about two weeks after your second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine.

Do You Have Recommendations on How to Speak With Friends and Family Who Are Still Hesitant About Getting the Vaccine?

If you already received the vaccine, it may be helpful to speak about your experience with your friends and family members who are hesitant. You can speak about why it was important for you to get the vaccine, whether you experienced any side effects, and how you managed these side effects. Most side effects are really quite mild and cannot be compared to the risk of complications from a COVID-19 infection, which can include death. You might also want to ask your friends and family about why they are hesitant, and then share factual information that might address their concerns. Many family members actually do trust other family members, especially if they are speaking from experience. Please let your loved ones know that getting the vaccine is the best way you can protect each other, especially those who are too young to receive the vaccine at this time. The highest increase in new cases in recent weeks has been from younger populations. Of course, always make sure to share information from reliable sources, like the DOHMH website or even the Ask Dr. Mendoza columns!

What May Be the Outcome of a Person Taking One Dose of the Vaccination and Refusing to Take the Second Dose?

Two doses provide more protection than just one dose. One dose of a 2-dose vaccine will only give you between 50 to 80 percent protection from severe disease, as opposed to close to 100% with complete vaccination. Why settle for lower efficacy after a single dose when, after 2 doses, you will be more protected from severe disease and possibly, death from a COVID-19 infection?

I Completed My Second Dose of the Moderna Vaccine Two Weeks Ago. Can I Still Contract COVID and Transmit It to Loved Ones at Home, Even While I Myself Am Immune?

You are now completely protected against severe symptoms when and if you are exposed to the SARS CoV-2 virus because it has been 2 weeks since the last dose of a 2-dose vaccine. You could still be infected if exposed, but you will experience milder symptoms for a shorter period of time because your immune system will now know how to fight the virus effectively. This means that the virus will have a harder time multiplying in your cells, hence it means that even if you are infected, you will not be spreading a lot of virus to people around you.

There is still a small chance of spread, which is why you must continue to wear a mask, practice social distancing and wash your hands frequently when around others who are not vaccinated or who have had not had the COVID-19 infection in the last 3 months. Best protection for your whole household, especially for the young children who are still not eligible to receive the vaccine, is to have all your eligible loved ones at home also receive the vaccine.

I Thought the Vaccine Was Only Effective for Up to 6 Months, So How Is the CDC Recommending People Who Have Been Fully Vaccinated to Be Able to Walk Around Mask Less in Some Areas?

As more people are vaccinated, and we have more data as time passes, we are learning that the vaccine continues to provide protection for a longer period of time. A recently published article in the well-respected journal, Science, now shows efficacy up to 8 months. The efficacy of the vaccine will continue to be studied going forward, and we will continue to update you as we get new information!

The vaccination rate in the New York City for all adults is approaching 50% and almost 60% for receiving at least one dose. Positivity rates for COVID testing, new cases, hospitalizations and death rates are at all-time lows, mostly because of vaccinations. Now that younger people are eligible, the best way we can increase everyone's comfort with forgoing masks is by increasing vaccination rates.

If I Dine Indoors at a Restaurant and the Servers/Staff Are Not Fully Vaccinated, Will That Pose a Risk to Me?

Servers and staff who are not fully vaccinated should be wearing face coverings in the restaurant. Although customers who are eating and drinking are likely not wearing their face covering at the table, the customers who are fully vaccinated are much less likely to contract COVID-19 because full vaccinations provide 100% protection from severe disease and hospitalization after COVID exposure. We also now know that fully vaccinated individuals are less likely to transmit the SARS C0V-2 virus to others even if they are infected. It is really important that as many people as possible are vaccinated as soon as possible because this is the only way we can truly stop the transmission of COVID-19 from person to person and feel assured that we are protected while going about pleasurable activities, such as eating out.

If I Don't Have Side Effects From the Vaccine, Does That Mean the Vaccine Did Not Work?

No, it does not mean that. Reactions vary individually but common side effects are soreness/swelling on the arm where you got the shot, headache, body aches, tiredness and fever. Side effects are more common after the second dose and less common in older adults, but it does not mean that older adults are less protected against COVID-19 after being vaccinated.

Can You Reiterate New York City's Guidance on Face Coverings?

Everyone over age 2 who can medically tolerate a face covering must wear one in some settings. However, there is a marked difference in the settings and situations in which you must wear a face covering depending on whether you have been vaccinated against COVID-19!

If you are unvaccinated, you must wear a face covering whenever you are in a shared, indoor space outside your home. Examples include: shopping in stores, seeing your health care provider, dining indoors at a restaurant (when not eating or drinking), going to your place of worship, being in a shared office or attending a gathering; when riding public transportation (including taxis and car services); when around someone who is sick, or if you need to leave home while sick.

Once you are fully vaccinated (two weeks after receiving a single-dose vaccine or your second dose of a two-dose vaccine), you can do most activities without wearing a face covering or physical distancing. However, you must still wear a face covering when riding public transportation (including taxis and car services); when in a store, restaurant or other public space where the owner or operator requires face coverings; when in a school or health care setting; in certain group residential facilities, such as nursing homes and homeless shelters; when around someone who is sick, or if you need to leave home while sick. Even if you are fully vaccinated, our advice is to keep your face covering on indoors until even more people are vaccinated.

As a reminder, all ACS employees must continue to wear a face covering at their work location (except when eating or drinking; or if you are alone in an enclosed office).

How Many People in New York Have Been Vaccinated?

As of this week, approximately 50 percent of New York City's population has received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine and about 42 percent are fully vaccinated. In total, approximately 8 million doses have been administered in NYC. Vaccines are widely available and can be administered on a walk-in basis at most sites.

What Side Effects of the Vaccine Should I Expect if I Previously Had COVID-19? Will There Be a Stronger Reaction?

Some people with a previous COVID-19 positive test have reported having side effects similar to those experienced by individuals receiving the second dose of a 2-dose vaccine. However, there is no evidence that having had COVID-19 will cause a person to have a bad reaction to the vaccines. This just means that the body's immune system is easily and readily recognizing the virus protein. Most people report some side effects from the vaccines, which are usually signs that the body is building protection. Common side effects include soreness or swelling on the arm where you got the shot, headache, body aches, fatigue and fever. For the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, you should get the second shot even if you have side effects after the first shot, unless your health care provider tells you not to do so. Side effects:

  • Usually are mild to moderate;
  • Usually start within the first three days after vaccination (the day after vaccination is the most common) and last for about one to two days after they begin;
  • Are less common in older adults; and
  • Are more common after getting the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines than after getting the first dose.

These side effects are nothing compared to an actual COVID infection which can lead to acute and chronic complications, even death!

What Is a COVID-19 Variant?

Viruses constantly change through mutation, resulting in new variants of a virus. Multiple variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 have been documented during the pandemic. By carefully studying viruses and their variants, scientists can learn how changes to the virus might affect how it spreads and how severe the symptoms an infection can be.

Mutations in viruses - including the coronavirus causing the COVID-19 pandemic - are neither new nor unexpected. All RNA viruses mutate over time, some more than others. For example, flu viruses change often, which is why doctors recommend that you get a new flu vaccine every year. Some variations allow the virus to spread more easily or may make it resistant to treatments or vaccines. Those variants must be monitored more carefully.

What Is the Dominant Variant in New York City Right Now?

Currently, B.1.1.7 (alpha) and B.1.617.2 (delta) are the most widespread variants in the city. We are also closely monitoring P.1 (gamma) and B.1.526 (iota), which have been spreading rapidly in the U.S. and other countries.

I Keep Hearing About the Delta Variant. What Is It and How Is It Different From the Other COVID-19?

The Delta variant is slightly different from the original COVID-19 virus that quickly spread in China. That "original" COVID-19 virus was, in fact, itself a variant of the coronavirus that caused SARS in 2003. Delta is the name for the B.1.617.2. variant, a SARS-CoV-2 mutation that originally surfaced in India. The first Delta case was identified in December 2020, and the strain spread rapidly, soon becoming the dominant strain of the virus in both India and then Great Britain. Toward the end of June, Delta had already made up more than 20% of cases in the U.S., according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates. That number is rising swiftly, prompting predictions that the strain will soon become the dominant variant here.

Are the Variants' Symptoms the Same as the Typical COVID-19 Symptoms?

There have been reports of symptoms of the Delta variant that are different and more severe than those associated with the original coronavirus strain, but the research is still very new and the findings are inconsistent. Cold-like symptoms, including headache, runny nose and a sore throat, now top the list in the ongoing study, while more traditional COVID-19 symptoms - loss of smell, shortness of breath, fever and persistent cough - have since moved down. While some variants might cause illness in some people even after they are fully vaccinated, nearly all of the current reported deaths and hospitalizations are of people who have not been vaccinated.

Do the Variants Spread the Same Way That COVID-19 Spreads?

Scientists are studying these variants to learn more about them and to quickly detect new variants. They want to understand whether the current and new variants:

  • Spread more easily from person-to-person (which appears to be the case with the Delta variant)
  • Cause milder or more severe disease in people
  • Are detected by currently available viral tests
  • Respond to medicines currently being used to treat COVID-19
  • Change the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines

Will Being Fully Vaccinated Protect Me From COVID-19 Variants?

While some variants might cause illness in some people even after they are fully vaccinated, nearly all of the current reported deaths and hospitalizations are of people who have not been vaccinated. More mutations, and therefore the possibility of variants, happen as more people are infected. Vaccination remains the best protection against both getting sick and preventing the spread and creation of new variants.