Three COVID-19 vaccines have been authorized for use in the U.S. by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA): Pfizer-BioNTech (Pfizer), Moderna and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen (Johnson & Johnson). These vaccines have been shown to be very safe and effective in protecting people from severe COVID-19 illness, hospitalization and death. As of March 1, tens of millions of doses of vaccine have been administered in the U.S.
These vaccines are the best protection we have against COVID-19. No matter how old you are, COVID-19 can lead to complications and death. Even if you had COVID-19, it is important to get vaccinated because it lowers your risk of getting COVID-19 again and may prevent you from passing it on to others.
Also, getting vaccinated may protect those around you, particularly people who cannot get the vaccine, such as children. Vaccination, along with other prevention measures, can help us end the COVID-19 public health emergency.
Below is information about the vaccines, including how they work, when and where to get vaccinated, and what to expect when you get vaccinated.
Some people, such as many health care workers and first responders, can get vaccinated by their employer. People who live or work in a group living facility, such as a nursing home, can likely get vaccinated on site.
Vaccines are also available at some hospitals, community clinics and pharmacies, and at City- and State-run vaccination sites around the city. Many sites, including all City-run sites, require an appointment. Appointments are added regularly, so check back often if you do not see one open.
To find a vaccination site:
Do not make an appointment unless you are 12 years of age or older.
Access for People with Disabilities
New Yorkers with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including Down syndrome, are eligible for vaccination.
Many vaccination sites are accessible to people with disabilities. On the NYC Vaccine Finder, accessible sites are noted with a physical accessibility icon next to the address. The lack of a symbol does not mean the site is inaccessible, just that its accessibility information is not available. Whenever possible, call ahead for access questions.
See the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities website for answers to frequently asked questions the disability community may have about vaccination access.
Diagnostic/Antibody Testing Not Required Before Vaccination
You do not need to be tested for COVID-19 infection before being vaccinated.
You also do not need to take an antibody test, which checks whether you may have had COVID-19 in the past. Vaccination is recommended for people who previously had COVID-19 even if they test positive for antibodies. It is possible to get COVID-19 again and vaccination may boost your natural immunity.
No Payment or Social Security Number Required for Vaccination
You can get the vaccine at no cost. You will not need to provide your social security number to get vaccinated.
You will not be charged, even if you do not have health insurance. If you have insurance, bring your insurance card. Your insurance may be billed by the vaccination provider; however, you will not be charged a copay or any other fee.
If someone tries to charge you a fee or asks for your credit card information or social security number, then it is likely a scam or fraud and you should go elsewhere for vaccination.
Proof of Eligibility
Anyone who is 12 years of age or older is eligible to be vaccinated in NYC. You must bring proof of
Prepare for Your Vaccine Appointment
There is nothing special you need to do prior to getting vaccinated. Reschedule your appointment if you have any symptoms of COVID-19 or are not feeling well.
Remember to wear a face covering to your appointment and bring:
How Vaccine Is Given
COVID-19 vaccines are intramuscular vaccines. They are given through a shot in the arm, similar to most other vaccines. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses several weeks apart. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires only one dose.
Choosing a Vaccine
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.
Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is just one dose. 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 was higher levels of COVID-19 transmission, and in countries that have high levels of the new variants of concern. Even under these circumstances, the vaccine prevented hospitalizations and deaths.
A key difference among the vaccines is that only the Pfizer vaccine is authorized for people ages 12 to 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 NYC Vaccine Finder shows the type of vaccine given at each site.
Getting the Second Dose
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses. Both doses should be of the same vaccine. If you receive the Pfizer vaccine, you should get a second dose of the Pfizer vaccine 21 to 42 days after your first dose. If you receive the Moderna vaccine, you should get a second dose of the Moderna vaccine 28 to 42 days after your first dose. You should not get the second dose earlier than recommended.
If you cannot get your second Pfizer or Moderna dose during the recommended interval, get it as soon as possible after. No matter how much time has passed, you should still get the second shot. If you get your second shot before or after the recommended interval, you will still only need two shots in total.
New York State requires people to get their first dose and second dose at the same location.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires only one dose.
After receiving your first shot, you will receive a card with your name, date of birth, the vaccine you received, and the place and date you received it. Your vaccination card is an important medical record. Keep it in a safe place and make a photocopy or take a picture just in case you lose it.
Bring your vaccination card with you when you go for your second shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. If you forget to bring the card or lose it, the vaccination provider can look up your name in a computer to verify your first vaccination.
If you lose your card, your health care provider can get and print proof of vaccination from the Citywide Immunization Registry. The registry contains records of people vaccinated in NYC, and some records of NYC residents vaccinated outside of the city.
If you have an IDNYC card, you can access your own vaccine record (and your minor children’s records) on the My Vaccine Record website.
Possible Side Effects
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, tiredness and fever. For the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, get the second shot even if you have side effects after the first shot, unless your health care provider tells you not to.
Some symptoms, such as cough, shortness of breath, sore throat and loss of taste or smell, are not reactions to the vaccine. These symptoms could mean you got COVID-19 or another infection prior to being vaccinated or shortly afterwards. If you have one of these symptoms, you should get tested for COVID-19, stay home (except for medical care), monitor your health and contact your health care provider if needed.
You cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccines.
Managing Side Effects
To reduce pain or swelling at the injection site, put a clean, cool, wet cloth over the area and use or exercise your arm. 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.
You can also talk to your provider about taking an over-the-counter medicine such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) to relieve pain or discomfort. You should not take these medicines before vaccination as a way to prevent side effects, as it is not known how they may impact how well the vaccine works.
Reporting Side Effects
It is helpful to report side effects so public health experts can monitor the effects of the vaccine. This is especially important with a new vaccine. You can report side effects through the CDC’s V-safe smartphone app. You can also report side effects online to the CDC and FDA’s Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) or by calling 800-822-7967.
Allergic Reactions Are Uncommon
Allergic reactions to the vaccines are uncommon.
Every person is observed for at least 15 minutes following the shot as a precaution. People with a history of severe allergic reactions (such as anaphylaxis) for any reason are observed for 30 minutes.
Allergic reactions generally start within a few minutes to an hour of getting the shot. Signs of a severe allergic reaction can include difficulty breathing, swelling of the face and throat, fast heartbeat, a severe rash all over the body, dizziness and weakness.
If you think you are having a severe allergic reaction, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital.
When Vaccine Protection Starts
You will get the most protection from a vaccine usually starting about two weeks after your second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or your only dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
COVID-19 Test Results
The vaccines do not cause people to have a positive COVID-19 diagnostic (viral) test result. However, it is possible the vaccine can cause you to have a positive antibody test result, since part of the way the vaccines work is to teach your body to produce antibodies to the virus that causes COVID-19.
Keep Taking Precautions
Getting vaccinated is the most important way to protect yourself from symptoms, hospitalization and death from COVID-19 infection.
We need to be cautious until more people are vaccinated and until there has been more time for us to better understand how the vaccines prevent infection without symptoms, and whether they protect people around us who have not been vaccinated. As such, you must still practice prevention measures even after being vaccinated:
Medical and Personal Information Protected
Your personal information is strictly protected. Basic information about you (such as your name, address, phone number, date of birth, race, ethnicity, vaccination date and vaccine received) will be shared with the NYC Health Department as required by law, but there are strict laws in place to make sure your information remains confidential. Your social security number is not collected or shared, nor is immigration status.
The NYC Health Department is required to send vaccination data to the CDC. Only people’s date of birth, ZIP code, race, ethnicity and gender are shared with the CDC. We will not share any other personal-identifying information, including your name.
Safety Evidence and Monitoring
The authorized vaccines were shown to be safe through clinical trials. These trials involved testing the vaccine on tens of thousands of volunteers. The process was monitored closely by the FDA and other organizations.
To ensure the safety of the vaccines:
Reactions to vaccines usually occur within a few days after vaccination. Based on evidence from other vaccines that have been in use for decades, delayed reactions are unlikely and usually occur within two months of vaccination.
Study volunteers in vaccine clinical trials are monitored for at least two months before a vaccine manufacturer can apply for authorization or approval. The study volunteers in the COVID-19 vaccine trials continue to be monitored.
Allergic/Adverse Reaction Tracking
Health care providers are required to report serious events following vaccination (such as anaphylaxis, hospitalization and death) to a national reporting system, called Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), managed by the CDC and FDA.
Reports of anaphylaxis after getting the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are rare, and the risks of serious health effects from COVID-19 infection is far greater. Most of the deaths reported after COVID-19 vaccination have been among older adults and nursing home patients. In those cases, the cause of death was not attributed to vaccine but rather to underlying medical conditions, such as dementia and pneumonia.
Serious allergic reactions after getting the Johnson & Johnson vaccine were rare in clinical trials.
People can also self-report side effects or other reactions to VAERS online or by calling 800-822-7967.
The CDC has also created a smartphone app called V-safe that people can use to report reactions to a COVID-19 vaccine. The app helps the CDC track side effects to learn more about their frequency and severity.
All three vaccines are very safe and effective across all gender, age, race and ethnicity groups included in the clinical trials. In the trials, no participants who received a COVID-19 vaccine died from COVID-19 infection.
The effectiveness of the three authorized vaccines cannot be compared to each other since the trials for each vaccine were separate and differed in time and location. The three vaccines were also tested against different circulating variants and in settings with different levels of COVID-19 infection.
People who are trying to become pregnant now or who plan to try in the future should get vaccinated. Vaccines do not cause infertility, and there has been no reported evidence showing otherwise.
Misinformation has spread on the internet and claims of infertility are based on a misunderstanding of the science. The COVID-19 vaccines — similar to many other vaccines — work by teaching our body to create antibodies to fight the virus. Concerns of infertility are based on the misconception that the antibodies developed after COVID-19 infection or vaccination will attack a protein in the placenta. However, the proteins on the virus that causes COVID-19 and the protein in the placenta are very different, and our immune systems are smart enough to tell the difference. There is no evidence these antibodies will cause any problems in pregnancy, including development of the placenta.
If the antibodies attacked the placenta or cause infertility, there would be evidence of fertility problems among the tens of millions of women who have had COVID-19 — there is no such evidence.
Vaccine Cannot Cause COVID-19
None of the authorized vaccines contain the virus that causes COVID-19. It is not possible to get COVID-19 from the vaccines.
How the Pfizer and Moderna Vaccines Work
Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines. mRNA is a molecule that contains the blueprint for making proteins. These are the first mRNA vaccines to be authorized, but the technology has been studied for over 30 years.
Here is how mRNA vaccines work:
In short, mRNA is similar to email that gets sent to your body with instructions on how to identify and destroy the virus. Your body uses those instructions and then deletes the email completely.
mRNA does not interact with or change a person's DNA.
How the Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Works
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is an adenovirus vector vaccine. Johnson & Johnson has been researching adenovirus vector vaccines for other infections for decades, including the company’s Ebola vaccine, which is already in use.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine works similarly to the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines, though it uses a different type of messenger to deliver instructions for making an immune response. To make the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, scientists took a gene from the virus that causes COVID-19 and put the gene into an adenovirus. Adenovirus are viruses that cause the common cold. The adenovirus used in this vaccine has been modified so that it cannot multiply in humans or cause disease.
Here is how the Johnson & Johnson vaccine works:
Pfizer and Moderna Vaccine Ingredients
In addition to mRNA, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines contain the following types of ingredients:
The vaccines do not contain:
Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Ingredients
In addition to the harmless adenovirus, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine contains the following types of ingredients:
The vaccine does not contain:
How Long the Vaccines Work
We do not yet know how long the vaccines will protect people from COVID-19. We do not know yet whether the vaccines will be needed annually, similar to a flu shot, or if an additional shot or booster shot is needed, such as with a tetanus shot. It is also possible that no additional vaccine will be needed after the first two doses.
Continued research and time will tell us how long the vaccines’ protection last and whether people may need additional doses. Participants in the clinical trials will continue to be monitored, and we will learn more over time from the millions of people being vaccinated around the world.
Impact on Disease Transmission
The clinical trials showed the authorized vaccines are all effective at preventing symptoms of COVID-19 and severe illness due to COVID-19. There are ongoing studies of the impact on transmission that should provide more information later this year.
Herd immunity is when enough people in a population have immunity (protection) against a contagious disease that the disease is unlikely to spread. As a result, even people who are not vaccinated are at lower risk for infection. The percent of the population that needs to have immunity to reach herd immunity is different for different diseases.
For COVID-19, experts do not yet know what percentage of people would need to be vaccinated to reach herd immunity. However, even before we reach herd immunity, having a large number of people vaccinated will lower the number of people who get sick and are hospitalized or die from COVID-19.
New Variants/Strains of the Virus
It is normal for a virus to mutate (change) over time and for new variants to occur. Several variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 have been identified. Some of these variants seem to spread more easily and quickly than others and may cause more severe disease. This may lead to more COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths. The presence of these variants makes it even more important to get vaccinated.
The vaccines are expected to protect against variants detected to date, though their protection may not be as strong against some variants. Scientists are working to learn more about these variants and how they affect vaccines.
People ages 12 and older are eligible for vaccination in NYC.
Immigration Status Does Not Matter
COVID-19 vaccines are available to people of all immigration statuses. You will not be asked about your immigration status at the vaccination site.
Getting vaccinated will not negatively impact you or your family’s immigration application.
Age Restrictions and Availability for Children
People ages 12 and older can be vaccinated.
People ages 12 to 17 can only get the Pfizer vaccine. The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are authorized only for people ages 18 and older. Vaccination for people ages 12 to 17 requires child assent and parental consent.
Studies are ongoing to see if the vaccines are safe and effective for younger children. If a vaccine is shown to be safe and effective for children, the FDA can authorize its use for children.
Most allergies are not a concern for COVID-19 vaccination. You can get vaccinated if you have a history of allergic reactions not related to vaccines or injectable medicines — such as allergies to food (including eggs), antibiotics or other medicine that you take by mouth, pet dander, venom, dust mites, pollen, mold, cigarette smoke, or latex — or if you have a family history of allergic reactions.
If you have a history of severe allergic reactions (such as anaphylaxis) to anything, let the vaccinating provider know so that they can monitor you more closely.
The following history of allergic reactions should be considered in vaccination decisions:
Currently Sick with COVID-19
If you have recently tested positive for COVID-19 or have symptoms of COVID-19, you should wait until you have recovered and completed isolation to avoid exposing other people at the vaccination site while you are contagious.
This means you should not be vaccinated until all the following are true:
Previously Sick with COVID-19
It is possible to get COVID-19 more than once. So even if you previously had COVID-19, you should get vaccinated. Also, the vaccine may boost the protection your body has already built up.
There is no evidence that having had COVID-19 will cause a person to have a bad reaction to the vaccines.
Recent Exposure to COVID-19
If you were recently in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 (within 6 feet for at least 10 minutes over a 24-hour period), you should wait to get vaccinated until after you have quarantined for 10 days since you were last exposed.
You should get your COVID-19 vaccine at least 14 days before or after receiving any other vaccines.
Everybody should get both a flu vaccine and a COVID-19 vaccine.
Pregnant or Breastfeeding
People who are pregnant or breastfeeding may choose to be vaccinated.
There is little data on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in people who are pregnant, as pregnant people were not part of the clinical trials, except for a few people who were pregnant and did not know it or later became pregnant. However, based on current knowledge, experts believe that the authorized vaccines are unlikely to pose a risk to the pregnant person or the fetus.
Similarly, people who were breastfeeding were not included in the clinical trials. However, data suggest COVID-19 is not transmitted through breast milk, and the COVID-19 vaccines are not thought to be a risk to the breastfeeding infant.
If you are trying to become pregnant, you may get vaccinated and you do not need to avoid pregnancy after getting vaccinated.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it may be helpful to discuss vaccination with your health care provider. However, you do not need clearance from a provider to be vaccinated.
If you are due for a mammogram and have been recently vaccinated for COVID-19, ask your doctor how long you should wait after vaccination to get your mammogram.
The COVID-19 vaccine can cause swelling in the lymph nodes in the underarm near the injection location. This swelling is a normal sign that your body is building protection against COVID-19, but it could cause a false reading on a mammogram. Some experts recommend getting your mammogram before being vaccinated, or delaying your screening until four to six weeks after you get your vaccine.
Autoimmune Disease/Immunocompromised and Underlying Conditions
People who have an autoimmune disease or are immunocompromised (such as from cancer treatment or other medicine) may choose to be vaccinated. However, people who are immunocompromised were not part of the clinical trials, so there is no data on vaccine safety or effectiveness for this group.
Out of the tens of thousands of people who received one of the three authorized vaccines during clinical trials, a few developed Bell’s palsy (facial paralysis). However, the rate of Bell’s palsy seen during the clinical trials was not above the rate expected in the general population.
People who previously have had Bell’s palsy can be vaccinated. If you have had Bell's palsy and have questions about vaccination, talk to your health care provider.
There have been no reported cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome following vaccination among participants in the Pfizer or Moderna clinical trials. In clinical trials, one Johnson & Johnson vaccine recipient had Guillain-Barré, but the overall rate was not above the rate expected in the general population.
People who previously have had Guillain-Barré syndrome can be vaccinated. If you previously have had Guillain-Barré syndrome and have questions about vaccination, talk to your health care provider.
Other Medical Conditions
Several medical conditions put people at increased risk for serious illness if they become infected with COVID-19, making it especially important to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Many people who were part of the clinical trials had underlying health conditions and the vaccine was safe and effective for them. People with any medical condition can get vaccinated, unless they have had certain allergic reactions to a COVID-19 vaccine or its ingredients (see Allergies section).
If you have concerns about an underlying medical condition, discuss getting vaccinated with your health care provider.
Government and Employers
There are no government requirements for you to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
We do not know what employers may require regarding vaccination.
The vaccines are currently not authorized for use in children (except the Pfizer vaccine, which may be given to children ages 12 and older), so they cannot be required for school. We do not know yet what will be required for school attendance should the vaccines be approved for children.
Creation and Testing
The COVID-19 vaccines followed the same development steps as other vaccines: they were developed and tested in a laboratory and then went through clinical trials closely monitored by the FDA.
Clinical trials involve testing the vaccine in people to see if it is safe and effective. The COVID-19 vaccines were each tested on tens of thousands of people of different genders, ages, races and ethnicities who volunteered to be part of the clinical trials.
Development of the COVID-19 vaccines involved an unprecedented amount of resources in order to make the vaccine available as quickly as possible. Billions of dollars have been spent and hundreds of scientists from around the world have been working nonstop on developing vaccines. Scientists built on many years of research from other vaccines, including research on vaccines for other coronaviruses.
The federal government provided special funding to enable development, testing and production of the vaccines to happen at the same time. This allowed companies to start manufacturing vaccines even before they were authorized for use. The federal government, state and local health departments and health care providers have been working for months on plans for storage, distribution, supplies and other logistics. The goal was to deliver and administer the vaccines as soon they were authorized for use.
Emergency Use Authorization
In an emergency, the FDA may allow vaccines, as well as tests and treatments, to be used by granting an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). The Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines have each been granted an EUA.
All vaccines granted an EUA must go through the same clinical trials as all other vaccines. The FDA may grant an EUA only if evidence strongly suggests the benefits of getting the vaccine outweigh any risks to patients.
The FDA also expects manufacturers whose COVID-19 vaccines are authorized under an EUA to continue clinical trials in order to get additional safety and effectiveness information, and to apply for approval (licensure).