Covid-19 Vaccine Overview

COVID-19 vaccination will help protect you from getting sick from COVID-19. To date, vaccines from three different companies have been approved for use. Pfizer and Moderna require two separate shots to be the most effective. Both shots must be of vaccine from the same manufacturer, for example, two Moderna shots or two Pfizer shots. The Janssen vaccine, also known as the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine only requires a single shot.

Do not get more than one vaccine. If you have had both Pfizer or Moderna shots or the single Johnson & Johnson shot, do not go get one of the other brands of vaccines. There is no evidence that getting multiple vaccinations gives you any more protection. As we learn more about COVID and vaccines, booster shots may be recommended in the future. Stay informed about vaccines even after getting fully vaccinated.

After your vaccine you may have some side effects, which are normal signs that your body is building protection. These side effects may affect your ability to do daily activities, but they should go away in a few days. Peak protection from the vaccine occurs about two weeks after receiving any of the vaccines.

In Washington State, everyone age 12 and older is eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Vaccine Approved for . . . # of Doses
Pfizer Everyone age 12 and older 2 doses 21 days apart
Moderna Everyone age 18 and older 2 doses 28 days apart
Johnson & Johnson Everyone age 18 and older 1 dose only

Watch this video on how vaccines are developed:

Watch this video that explains how vaccine and antibody studies can move so quickly and still be safe.

Getting vaccinated is one of many steps you can take to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.  Protection from COVID-19 is critically important because for some people, COVID-19 infection can cause severe illness or death. Other steps, like wearing face coverings such as cloth or surgical masks and social distancing, help reduce your chance of being exposed to the virus or spreading it to others. Together, COVID-19 vaccination and following public health recommendations to protect yourself and others will offer you the best protection from COVID-19.

Protect yourself and others

Remember – it takes time for your body to build protection after any vaccination. You do not reach maximum protection from the COVID-19 vaccine until two weeks or more after your final shot.

It’s important for everyone to continue using all the tools available to help stop this pandemic as we learn more about how COVID-19 vaccines work in real-world conditions. Cover your mouth and nose with a mask when around others from outside of your household, stay at least 6 feet away from others outside of your household, avoid crowds, and wash your hands often.​

How vaccines work

Building immunity from a virus is all about how your body reacts when protein from a virus gets into your body. Your immune system recognizes that the protein should not be there. It builds white blood cells that protect you from infections. They also remember the protein in case the virus ever enters your body again. Vaccines work by introducing harmless levels or harmless pieces of a virus’ unique protein into your body.

Watch this video on how vaccines work in your body:

The COVID-19 vaccines teach your immune system to recognize and develop antibodies against a protein from the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. You get protection against the disease without having to get sick. Because the coronavirus and these vaccines are so new, it is not yet known whether this immunity will be lifelong.

Vaccine types

Two COVID-19 vaccine types are currently approved for use are being developed and tested. The Pfizer-Biontech and Moderna vaccines are both mRNA vaccines. mRNA vaccines contain a small bit of genetic material from the COVID-19 virus that tells your body how to make a harmless copy of the protein on just the spikes on the outside of COVID-19 virus cells. Your body builds immunity to that protein. This prevents virus spikes from attaching and transferring the virus into your cells to make you sick.

Click here for more information on how the mRNA vaccine works.

The J&J vaccine is known as a viral vector vaccine. Viral vector vaccines use a modified version of a different virus (the vector) to deliver important instructions to our cells. For COVID-19 viral vector vaccines, the vector (not the virus that causes COVID-19, but a different, harmless virus) will enter a cell in our body and then use the cell’s machinery to produce a harmless piece of the virus that causes COVID-19. This triggers our immune system to begin producing antibodies and activating other immune cells to fight off what it thinks is an infection. At the end of the process, our bodies have learned how to protect us against future infection with the virus that causes COVID-19.

Click here for more information on how the viral vector vaccine works.

Neither mRNA nor viral vector vaccines can give someone COVID-19 or other infections. Also, neither vaccine type interacts with or affects our body’s DNA.

How many shots required

Both the Pfizer-Biontech and Moderna vaccines require two shots for full effectiveness. The J&J vaccine only needs one shot for full effectiveness.

Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine is authorized for emergency use in persons aged 12 years and older. This is a two-dose vaccine, given 21 days apart. Clinical trial data show the vaccine is 95 percent effective at preventing COVID-19 infection starting seven days after the second dose. Individuals will not be considered fully protected until one to two weeks after they receive the second dose.

Download the Pfizer-BioNTec FDA Fact Sheet at: Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine EUA Fact Sheet for Recipients and Caregivers (

Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine is authorized for emergency use in individuals aged 18 years and older. This is a two-dose vaccine, given 28 days apart. Clinical trial data shows the vaccine is about 94 percent effective after two doses, and no serious safety concerns were found.

Download the Moderna FDA Fact Sheet at: Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine EUA Fact Sheet for Recipients and Caregivers (

Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine is authorized for emergency use in individuals aged 18 years and older. This is a single-dose vaccine. Clinical trial data shows the vaccine is about 85 percent effective in preventing severe/critical COVID-19 occurring at least 28 days after one dose. No serious safety concerns were found.

Download the J&J FDA Fact Sheet at:

Vaccine side effects

The appearance of side effects after taking the vaccine suggest your body is building immunity. Not everyone experiences side effects. That does not necessarily mean your body is not building immunity. Vaccines affect everyone differently.

The most common side effects of the vaccine are similar to many other routine vaccines, including a sore arm, tiredness, headache, and muscle pain. Data from clinical trials showed the following in people younger than 55:

  • About 80 percent reported pain at the injection site
  • About half reported tiredness and headache
  • Less than one-third (30 percent) reported muscle pain
  • Most side effects occur within two days of getting the vaccine and last about a day
  • Side effects are more common among people 55 years or younger than among those older than 55
  • Side effects are more common after the second dose than the first dose.

Side effects may feel like flu and even affect your ability to do daily activities, but they should go away in a few days. If you have pain or discomfort, talk to your doctor about taking an over-the-counter medicine, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

To reduce pain and discomfort where you got the shot:

  • Apply a clean, cool, wet washcloth over the area.
  • Use or exercise your arm.

To reduce discomfort from fever:

  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Dress lightly

When to call the doctor

In most cases, discomfort from fever or pain is normal. Contact your doctor or healthcare provider:

  • If the redness or tenderness where you got the shot increases after 24 hours
  • If your side effects are worrying you or do not seem to be going away after a few days

None of the COVID-9 vaccines cause COVID-19 disease, nor do they cause a positive COVID-19 PCR test. Click here for more information on how to tell if your reaction is a side effect or possibly a non-COVID illness.

You may see some rumors about untrue side effects online or on social media. Make sure any time you see a claim about a side effect that you check the source of that claim. This video has tips on how to figure out if a claim online is true or not:

Vaccine Cost

The federal government will pay for the full cost of the vaccine. If you have public or private health insurance, your vaccine provider may bill them to get reimbursed for the vaccine administration fee. If you do not have insurance, the federal government offers a program that will pay the provider to administer your vaccination.

You should not be charged out of pocket costs or receive a bill from your provider for the COVID-19 vaccine administration fee. This applies to people who have private insurance, have Medicaid, have Medicare, or are uninsured. 

Vaccine mandates

No mandates for taking the COVID-19 vaccine have been enacted by the federal government, State of Washington, or Lewis County. However, some employers or schools could require it.

When you have been fully vaccinated

Remember – it takes time for your body to build protection after any vaccination. In general, people are considered fully vaccinated:

  • 2 weeks after their second dose in a 2-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or
  • 2 weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine

If you don’t meet these requirements, regardless of your age, you are NOT fully vaccinated. Keep taking all precautions until you are fully vaccinated.

If you have a condition or are taking medications that weaken your immune system, you may NOT be fully protected even if you are fully vaccinated. Talk to your healthcare provider. Even after vaccination, you may need to continue taking all precautions.

The approved COVID-19 vaccines are effective at protecting you from getting sick. Based on what we know about these vaccines, people who have been fully vaccinated can start to do some things that they had stopped doing because of the pandemic.

CDC guidance for people who have been fully vaccinated currently states:

  • If you are fully vaccinated, you can resume activities that you did prior to the pandemic.
  • Fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.

For the most current information on CDC recommendations for fully vaccinated people, go to:

If exposed to COVID-19 after vaccination

  • If you’ve been around someone who has COVID-19, you do not need to stay away from others or get tested unless you have symptoms.
  • If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you should get tested and stay home and away from others.
  • If you live in a group setting (like a correctional or detention facility or group home) and are around someone who has COVID-19, you should still get tested, even if you don’t have symptoms.

Adverse event reporting

The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) is a national system that collects reports on adverse or unexpected events after being vaccinated. Reports may be submitted by healthcare professionals, vaccine manufacturers, and the general public. Events that appear to happen more often than expected, or have unusual patterns, are followed up with specific studies by the CDC and U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Submit a VAERS Report:

V-safe after vaccination health checker

V-safe is a smartphone-based, after-vaccination health checker for people who receive COVID-19 vaccines. V-safe uses text messaging and web surveys from CDC to check in with vaccine recipients following COVID-19 vaccination. V-safe also provides second vaccine dose reminders if needed, and telephone follow-up to anyone who reports medically significant complications. Because the COVID-19 vaccine testing periods were much shorter than normal, participating in the v-safe program helps build longer-term data that will help ensure vaccine safety and effectiveness. Ask for a V-safe information sheet from your provider when you get your vaccination. It will include instructions for downloading the app and signing up.

For more information about COVID-19 vaccines:
Washington State Department of Health:
General questions can be sent to:

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

U.S. Food & Drug Administration: