Thinking About Getting A COVID-19 Vaccine? Here’s What You Need To Know

It's simple: COVID-19 vaccination will help keep you from getting COVID-19. Vaccines are one of the tools we have to fight the pandemic. And as the CDC reports, studies show COVID-19 vaccines are safe and very effective.

So, how do they work? According to John's Hopkins Medicine, "There are three main types of COVID-19 vaccines: messenger RNA (mRNA), protein subunit and vector. All three vaccine types either deliver, or cause our bodies to make, harmless proteins only found on the surface of the COVID-19 virus. After we are vaccinated, our immune system recognizes these proteins as foreign, and it attacks and blocks the virus if we get exposed to it."

Keep scrolling to learn more about COVID-19 vaccination.

How The COVID-19 Vaccines Compare To Each Other

While people are decided on whether they should get vaccinated for COVID-19, Americans should also understand the difference between the available vaccines. As of March 1, 2021, there are three COVID-19 vaccines authorized for distribution in the United States. They were also approved for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

While all three have similar side effects, doses, time between shots and other elements vary between them. One of them functions much differently than the first two vaccines. Understanding these differences is part of the decision process when if you sign up for an appointment.

Here's what you need to know about each available COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S.


Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine, or just the Pfizer vaccine, was the first vaccine to become available in the United States.

It was made with recent technology where something called messenger RNA (mRNA) is injected into the recipient's body. This mRNA instructs cells to take a piece of COVID-19's "spike protein," triggering your immune system to fight the virus.

In clinical trials, the vaccine was 95% effective. You need two shots in a 21-day span — you get the first shot then 21 days later your return for the second — to gain the vaccine's full effectiveness. After you get the shot in the upper arm redness, swelling, and pain may happen at the injection site.

Possible side effects include fever, chills, tiredness, and headache, but this is more common after the second dose of the vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Most side effects varied from mild to moderate, the agency added. For the ingredient list, click here.


Moderna's vaccine functions the same as Pfizer's with the mRNA method. Compared to Pfizer, Moderna's effectiveness was 94.1% in clinical trials. You also need two shots to get the full effectiveness, but you have to wait 28 days in between your appointments.

You may also experience redness, swelling and pain where you got the shot. Possible side effects include fever chills, tiredness and headache, but these are more common after the second dose, according to the CDC. Most side effects were mild to moderate, they added.

"They might feel like flu symptoms and might even affect your ability to do daily activities, but they should go away in a few days," the agency said.

For the ingredient list, click here.

Johnson & Johnson

The Janssen vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson was recently approved for emergency use by the FDA. This vaccine functions much differently from Pfizer's or Moderna's.

Unlike Moderna and Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson's vaccine requires one dose. The Janssen vaccine also injects a genetically engineered form of the common cold virus into a person's body. This altered virus infects cells and forces the body to build up the immune system, so when the coronavirus invades the body, it may be more equipped to fight it off.

Johnson & Johnson's vaccine had an overall efficacy of 66% with an effectiveness of 72% in the United States. It was 85% effective against severe cases of coronavirus in clinical trials.

If you get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you may experience pain, redness of skin and swelling at the injection site, according to the FDA. Possible side effects include headache, tiredness, muscle aches, nausea and fever. For the ingredient list, click here.

The Black Healthcare Professionals Working To Bring The Vaccines To You

As the world navigates the global distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, there are teams of scientists and professionals working behind the scenes to ensure equity in protection. 

For Black Americans, the coronavirus pandemic has had an undue burden on our community. Data shows that Black people in the United States are three more times as likely to contract the coronavirus and suffer complications after becoming infected. Our community has been ravaged by death directly and indirectly linked to the coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout. 

Racism and discrimination within the medical system have played a role in fueling justified skepticism about the COVID-19 vaccines and wariness of medical facilities that have historically carried out bias towards us. Addressing these concerns is no easy feat given the power of memory and lived experience and the reality that scientists are still learning about the virus’ effect. 

Click HERE to see a few of the Black professionals helping to bring the COVID-19 vaccines and accurate coronavirus pandemic information to Black people across the nation.

Fact Check: The Truth About The COVID-19 Vaccines

MYTH: The COVID-19 vaccines give you COVID-19.

TRUTH: The vaccines do not contain any live strains of the coronavirus, meaning the vaccines cannot infect you with it, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

MYTH: If someone gets one of the vaccines, they will test positive for COVID-19 when given a COVID-19 test.

TRUTH: Since there are no live strains of COVID-19 in the vaccines, you cannot test positive on viral tests.

MYTH: People who get COVID-19 and recover don't need a vaccine.

TRUTH: You can develop some natural immunity after contracting COVID-19, but scientists don't know how long it lasts. According to the CDC, people who contracted COVID-19 once don't usually get it again within 90 days of the initial infection. However, while it's uncommon to contract the virus again, the agency warned "the risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19 far outweighs any benefits of natural immunity." The CDC also has more specific details about vaccination depending on how you were treated for COVID-19.

MYTH: The vaccines are not safe because it was developed quickly.

TRUTH: Improved or new technology-enabled researchers developed the COVID-19 vaccines in response to the pandemic. This does not mean they took any shortcuts or bypassed safety protocols to get it out the door. The Cleveland Clinic said companies "put their vaccines through rigorous clinical trials involving tens of thousands of volunteers." The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and an independent panel of vaccine experts scrutinize the trials and data before making their decision.

Pfizer-BioNTech's, Moderna's, and Johnson & Johnson's vaccines were deemed safe and effective for emergency use. More vaccines are in production or pending review.

Click HERE to see more facts about the COVID-19 vaccines.

Things To Expect After Receiving A COVID-19 Vaccine

Adhere To The Buffering Period

Two of the currently available COVID-19 vaccines require two doses, and it takes time for those two doses to fully protect patients. Specifically, people should take one to two weeks after receiving the vaccine to let fully take effect. In this period, people should still adhere to COVID-19 protocols. This includes wearing masks, social distancing, etc.

Sickness May Come After The Second Dose

Similar to other vaccines and shots, patients could experience cold-like symptoms after receiving the second shot. While these symptoms may arise within the first few days, they typically subside after a few days. If these symptoms linger, please visit a doctor or seek professional medical assistance.

Continue To Follow CDC Protocols

Yes, it may be cumbersome or annoying to follow COVID-19 protocols after receiving the vaccine, but it is necessary for those around you. Simply because you're protected from the vaccine, it doesn't mean that others are as well. Utilize the following recommendation from the CDC:

  • Wear a mask over your nose and mouth
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from others
  • Avoid crowds
  • Avoid poorly ventilated spaces
  • Wash your hands often

For more on what to expect after receiving a COVID-19 vaccination, click HERE!

Next Steps: How Do You Get A COVID-19 Vaccine

Due to the currently limited supply of vaccines, the government is only allowing the most at-risk members of the population — healthcare personnel, residents of long-term care facilities, frontline essential workers, and people aged 75 and older (sometimes younger in some states) — to receive it first. Additionally, each state has its own plan for deciding who will be vaccinated first and how they can receive vaccines.

Click HERE to find out more information on COVID-19 vaccination in your area.

And if you have more questions about the COVID-19 vaccines, check out!

The COVID-19 vaccines are starting to become available across the country, and the Black Information Network wants to know if you plan to get vaccinated. Have you already gotten the vaccine? And what are your thoughts on the vaccine? Let us know! Click HERE to take our survey. You can also take the survey on your cell phone by dialing #250 and saying the keyword RADIO SURVEY. You’ll have the option to receive a one-time auto-dialed text message from iHeartMedia

Photos: Getty Images

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