COVID-19 and Vaccines: Frequently Asked Questions

COVID cells with a blue hue on a reddish background

What you need to know about tests, masks, vaccines, boosters and more

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Tests FAQ

Private insurance must now cover the cost of at-home COVID-19 tests.

  • The federal government announced that insurance companies and health plans must cover eight over-the-counter tests a month for each covered person. A family of four could have 32 tests paid for each month.
  • The government is adding incentives to let people buy tests online or from a store or pharmacy with no upfront cost or need to file reimbursement claims. It's a good idea to save your receipt in case you need to get reimbursed, though.

Learn more about insurance coverage for tests.

Every U.S. household can order four free COVID-19 tests from the federal government this winter at covid.gov/tests or by calling 1-800-232-0233 (TTY 1-888-720-7489). Orders start shipping by U.S. mail the week of Dec. 19, 2022.

The National Institutes of Health has set up a website, MakeMyTestCount.org, where you can report your test result without using your name. Sharing test results keeps our communities safer by helping public health teams understand where and how fast COVID-19 is spreading

The CDC recommends that you get tested if you:

  • Have symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Come in close contact with someone with COVID-19.
    • If you are fully vaccinated, isolate yourself and get tested 5-7 days after exposure.
    • If you are unvaccinated, get tested right away. Isolate yourself and get tested again 5-7 days after exposure.
  • Plan to travel.
  • Plan to attend an indoor event.

If you use an at-home rapid antigen test and get a negative result, the FDA recommends that:

  • If you have COVID-19 symptoms, you test again at least 2 times over 3 days, waiting at least 48 hours between each test.
  • If you do not have COVID-19 symptoms, you test again at least 3 times over 5 days, waiting at least 48 hours between each test.

Data show that repeating tests after a negative result increases the chance of an accurate result. That can help keep people from spreading the virus without realizing it.

Free at-home tests

Every U.S. household can order four free COVID-19 tests from the federal government this winter at covid.gov/tests or by calling 1-800-232-0233 (TTY 1-888-720-7489).

  • Each residential address is limited to one order.
  • Each order includes four rapid antigen tests.
  • Orders will start shipping by U.S. mail the week of Dec. 19, 2022.

Learn more:

There are two types of tests: viral tests and antibody tests.

To find out if you are infected, you need a viral test. Viral tests detect SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

There are two types of viral tests:

  • Rapid antigen tests look for antigens (proteins) related to the coronavirus. Rapid tests are fast and easy to use. Self-tests can be used at home. They are more likely to give false negative results, especially if you don’t have any symptoms.
  • Laboratory PCR tests look for genetic material from the virus. They take longer to produce results and must be done by a clinic or pharmacy. They are more accurate than rapid tests.

Learn more:

Only rapid antigen tests can be used at home.

Here are some tips to help you choose a test:

  • PCR tests are best for knowing if you are infected. They are more accurate than rapid antigen tests.
  • If you are using at-home tests, consider taking them multiple times over several days. A negative result means only that the virus was not detected. You can be infected and test negative, sometimes more than once.
  • Consider taking both tests. The rapid test will give you quick results while you wait for confirmation from the PCR test.
  • Either test is much better than no test.

Learn more:

The CDC shares how to interpret your COVID-19 test — and what to do next, both for positive and negative results.

Children and COVID-19 FAQ

Getting a COVID-19 vaccine for children under age 5

Yes. Children who are at least 6 months old can get vaccinated for COVID-19.

Yes. We strongly recommend that you vaccinate your child.

  • The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been studied carefully in young children. These studies show they are safe and effective.
  • Children younger than 5 are at higher risk for severe disease and hospitalization from COVID-19 than children age 5 to 11.
  • Your child cannot get COVID-19 from any COVID-19 vaccine.
  • COVID-19 vaccines do not affect fertility or DNA.

Pfizer: Children ages 6 months through 4 years get three doses. Each dose is one-tenth of an adult dose. Children get two doses three weeks apart, then a third dose eight or more weeks after the second one. The third dose, Pfizer’s bivalent vaccine, helps protect against earlier forms of the coronavirus and omicron variants

Moderna: Children ages 6 months through 5 years get two doses. Children who are moderately or severely immunocompromised get 3 doses. Each dose is one-quarter of an adult dose. They are each given four weeks apart.

Yes. The FDA and CDC authorized these vaccines for children 6 months to 5 years after rigorous study. They agree that for young children, the benefits of both COVID-19 vaccines outweigh the possible risks.

Moderna’s clinical trials include children 6 months to under 6 years. Their data show:

  • Two doses created a strong antibody response in children that was equal to the protective antibody responses in adults.
  • Two doses were effective in preventing COVID-19 infections with symptoms.
  • Among children who got a placebo, 0.2% had a severe reaction. That compares with 0.5% of children who got the vaccine.
  • Side effects such as high fever and pain at the vaccination site were more common in the vaccinated group (7.7% vs. 4.1%).
  • Most side effects lasted 1-2 days.
  • There were no deaths.

Pfizer’s clinical trials include children 6 months to under 5 years. Their data show:

  • Three doses created a strong antibody response in children that was equal to the protective antibody responses in adults.
  • Three doses were effective at preventing COVID-19 infections with symptoms.
  • Among children who got a placebo, 1% had a severe reaction. That compares with 1.5% of children who got the vaccine.
  • Side effects such as high fever and pain at the vaccination site were slightly more common in the vaccinated group.
  • There were no deaths.

We recommend you get your child the first vaccine available to you. Both vaccines will lower your child’s risk of infection, severe symptoms and hospitalization.

Here is information to consider:

  • To be protected, children who are not moderately or severely immunocompromised (with weakened immune systems) need:
    • Three doses of the Pfizer vaccine (11 weeks between dose 1 and 3) or
    • Two doses of the Moderna vaccine (4 weeks between dose 1 and 2)
  • The Moderna series protects your child faster. If your child has an underlying medical condition that makes them more vulnerable to COVID-19, you may want to choose Moderna.
  • The Moderna dose is higher and slightly more likely to cause side effects such as fever. If your child has a history of seizures triggered by fevers, you may want to choose Pfizer.
  • The third Pfizer dose is the updated bivalent vaccine, which protects against earlier forms of the coronavirus and omicron variants.

Learn more:

The CDC recommends that children get the vaccine dose for their age group, even if the dose size changes.

For the Pfizer vaccine: Your child can get the dose for ages 6 months through 4 years, and the dose ages 5-11 for the second dose after they turn 5.

For the Moderna vaccine: Your child can get the same dose both times. The Moderna vaccine is approved for ages 6 months through 5 years, and 5-year-olds were included in the vaccine studies.

The CDC, after reviewing the vaccine trials, found that both Pfizer and Moderna are effective in preventing COVID-19 infections with symptoms.

OHSU is offering Moderna at vaccine events for two reasons:

  • Moderna will protect young children faster because it takes just two doses to reach a similar level of protection as three doses of Pfizer.
  • The CDC has more confidence in Moderna’s efficacy data than in Pfizer’s at this time.
    • Moderna’s efficacy after two doses in children ages 6 months to 5 years is consistent with the efficacy in all other age groups.
    • Pfizer’s efficacy is hard to interpret due to small numbers and limited follow-up time after the third dose.
  • We know that some families may prefer the Pfizer vaccine. You can search for a Pfizer vaccine for your child at vaccines.gov.

We recommend you get your child the first vaccine available to you. Find all COVID-19 vaccination options near you at vaccines.gov.

Getting a COVID-19 vaccine for a child

Yes. When a vaccine is approved for a new age group, that means studies show it is safe and effective. COVID-19 vaccines are being used under extensive safety monitoring. Your child cannot get COVID-19 from any COVID-19 vaccine. COVID-19 vaccines also do not affect fertility or DNA.

Here are options:

It is true that most cases of COVID-19 in children are mild. But some children do get very sick from the virus. According to the CDC:

  • As of November 2022, more than 12,000 children had been in a hospital with COVID-19 in the U.S., and more than 1,540 had died.
  • Children can develop serious complications, such as multisystem inflammatory syndrome.
  • Unvaccinated children were 10 times more likely than fully vaccinated children to need hospital care during the delta surge.

Vaccination can also:

  • Prevent passing the virus to others who may be more at risk, such as grandparents and babies.
  • Help avoid disruptions such as missing school and other activities.

Learn more:

COVID-19 Vaccines for Children and Teens, CDC

Yes. Children with weakened immunity (immunocompromisedare at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. A vaccine is the best way to protect them.

COVID-19 vaccines available in the U.S. are not live vaccines. This means they are safe for people with weakened immunity. We encourage you to get your child vaccinated as soon as a vaccine is available for their age group.

Yes. Vaccine research included children with previous COVID-19 infections. The studies show that the COVID-19 vaccine protects kids from infection, even if they already had COVID-19.

We do know that COVID-19 infection within 3 months of a previous infection is uncommon. You may choose to wait 3 months after an infection before getting your child vaccinated. If your child has a medical condition or is at high risk, we don’t recommend waiting.

See: How long after having COVID-19 can I get a vaccine?

Children should not get a booster dose while they have COVID-19. If they had their second dose of COVID vaccine or a booster at least two months ago, they can get a booster after they finish their 10-day isolation and have no more symptoms.

A COVID infection provides immunity that lasts for several months and makes it unlikely to get COVID again. An OHSU study published in January 2023  found that "hybrid immunity" from getting both infected and vaccinated increases with more time between infection and vaccination.

Infection alone does not protect children from a new infection as well as the vaccine does. Children who have had COVID should get a booster for extra protection.

Find a vaccine or booster for ages 6 months and older.

No. The CDC recommends that children get vaccinated, even if they have severe allergies to food, pets, venom, pollen, latex or oral medication. If your child has a history of severe allergic reactions, let medical staff know at their vaccine appointment.

Your child should not get the COVID-19 vaccine if they are allergic to any of its ingredients, such as PEG (polyethylene glycol).  

Learn more:

COVID-19 Vaccines for People with Allergies, CDC

Please vaccinate your child now. The COVID-19 virus is still circulating, and your child needs protection as soon as it is available.  Also, the vaccine was tested in kids ages 5-11 and results show that the lower dose provided just as much immune response as the higher dose did in people ages 16-25, but with less side effects.

If your child turns 12 between doses, they will get the second dose appropriate for their age (the higher dose).   

No. But once your child recovers, they should get vaccinated.

See: How long after having COVID-19 can I get a vaccine?

Yes. This winter, OHSU experts are seeing:

  • High rates of flu
  • High numbers of RSV cases that need medical attention
  • An increase in COVID-19 cases as people move mostly indoors

OHSU experts encourage everyone who is eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine or booster and a flu vaccine. It is safe to get both at the same time, one in each arm.

Children can get:

  • Primary doses of COVID-19 vaccine if they are ages 6 months and older
  • Bivalent boosters of COVID-19 vaccine if they completed vaccination or had a booster at least 2 months ago and are:
    • Ages 5 and older for the Pfizer booster
    • Ages 6 months and older for the Moderna booster

Find a vaccine or booster for ages 5-11.

Vaccine safety and effectiveness in children

Yes. The FDA and CDC authorized the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 6 months to 15 years after rigorous study. The FDA has given the vaccine full approval for ages 16 and older. It is safe and effective.

  • Experts from Oregon, Washington and California reviewed the data and agreed with the FDA's and CDC’s conclusions.
  • Your child cannot get COVID-19 from any COVID-19 vaccine.
  • COVID-19 vaccines do not affect DNA or fertility.

Learn more:

Pfizer tested two 10-microgram doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in children ages 5-11. (People 12 and older get two 30-microgram doses.) More than 4,600 children took part, and 3,100 got the vaccine. The results show:

  • The vaccine is 90.7% effective at preventing COVID-19 infection.
  • Children had a similar antibody response to people ages 16-25 who got the adult dose.
  • No serious sides effects were detected.

Mild side effects

Children have similar side effects to the vaccine as adults. Just like in adults, mild side effects are normal signs that your child’s body is building protection against the infection the vaccine is targeting.

Some children have no side effects. For those who do, they should go away within a few days. The most common side effects are:

  • Pain, redness or swelling on the arm where they got the shot
  • Tiredness
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Nausea

Your child may have side effects for a day or two. In the clinical trial that tested the Pfizer vaccine in children ages 5-11, the most common side effects were a sore arm, tiredness and headache.

Many children can go to school right away, even with minimal side effects (such as a sore arm). If you are concerned about child care or missed school, schedule your child’s vaccine on a Friday or Saturday.

Masks and children

When it comes to wearing masks at school, each family should decide what works best for them. Here are some things to consider:

  • While wearing a mask isn't required, it can still provide protection from the virus.
  • If there are children in your school or community who have medical conditions or who are too young to be vaccinated, wearing a mask will help protect them.
  • If there are immunocompromised or vulnerable people in your home, masking and testing will help protect them.

Talk with your children about the fact that some kids will wear masks and some kids won’t. Help them practice an answer for when other kids ask why they’re choosing to wear a mask or choosing not to.

To continue to keep schools safe:

  • Children should stay home when they’re sick.
  • Children may need to wear a mask when they are exposed to COVID-19.
  • Children may need to wear a mask when they return to school after being sick with COVID-19.
  • Families can access free testing for children with COVID-19 symptoms.

Children and COVID-19

The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar in children and adults. However, children with confirmed COVID-19 usually have mild symptoms. Common symptoms in children include:

  • Fever
  • Runny nose
  • Cough
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Some children have more severe symptoms, including trouble breathing, confusion and chest pain. If your child has any symptoms, talk to their health care provider.

Call your child’s health care provider if your child has a fever, cough, vomiting, diarrhea or just doesn’t feel well. Tell the provider if your child has been near someone with COVID-19. They can help you decide if your child should get tested for the coronavirus and how best to treat your child.

Go to an emergency room if your child has:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Confusion, dizziness or difficulty staying awake
  • Chest pain or severe stomach pain
  • Cold, sweaty, pale or blotchy skin

If exposed to COVID-19, children have a similar risk of infection as adults. Infected children are less likely than adults to be severely ill, and more likely to have mild symptoms or no symptoms.

Children who have medical conditions such as chronic lung disease or heart disease, or who have impaired immunity (immunocompromised), are at risk of severe sickness if infected with COVID-19.

Yes. Children are more likely than adults to have mild coldlike symptoms or no symptoms when infected with the coronavirus. But studies have shown they can still spread the virus to others.

Checkups and other vaccinations

Yes. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends keeping and not delaying well-child visits for all ages (infants, children and teens). Vaccinations are essential to protecting children against dangerous, preventable diseases such as:

  • Measles
  • Meningitis
  • Whooping cough

The AAP recommends:

  • Well-child visits should take place in person whenever possible, with the providers who routinely see your children.
  • Clinics that care for children should call families who have missed an in-person visit to reschedule.
  • Families should not delay visits to their child's doctors/health care providers.
  • Children and youths who see specialists should  continue. Those who are referred to specialists should complete these visits.

The AAP says some well-child visits can start through a virtual visit (by video or phone) but that parts of these visits must be done in person. At Doernbecher clinics, we do well-child visits in person.

Learn how OHSU keeps patients, visitors and staff safe.  

Masks FAQ

Public transportation: The CDC recommends wearing masks on public transportation and at transportation hubs.  

Schools: The Oregon Health Authority notes that school settings bring together people who are vaccinated, unvaccinated and at high risk of severe illness. See OHSU guidance on deciding for your child.

Health care: Oregon still requires masks in health care settings, such as hospitals and doctor's offices. See a full list. OHSU also requires masks in health care settings for everyone ages 2 and older. See our visitor policy.  

CDC recommendations: The CDC has switched to a new system in which most Americans no longer have to wear masks or stay 6 feet from others. The system ranks each U.S. county at low, medium or high risk of COVID-19 spread. People in areas with low or medium risk no longer need to wear a mask; people in medium-risk areas who have weakened immunity should talk with a provider. See the risk in your area.

If you are not fully vaccinated: The CDC lists ways to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. They include wearing a mask in public places and staying 6 feet from others.

The CDC has updated mask recommendations. The agency advises:

  • Wearing masks in areas with high risk of COVID-19 spread.
  • Wearing the most protective mask that fits well and that you will stick with.
  • Choosing well-fitting N95 or KN95 masks, which offer the most protection. "Surgical N95s" should be reserved for health care. 

When you need more protection:

  • When caring for someone with COVID-19
  • In a job with a lot of public contact
  • On public transportation
  • If you are not fully vaccinated

See the CDC's Types of Masks and Respirators page for details.

Masks are available at pharmacies in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, which includes chains such as CVS, Walgreens and Rite-Aid. Find free masks near you.

Variants FAQ

Viruses change (mutate) over time. A new form is called a variant.

The World Health Organization has identified thousands of coronavirus variants. Only a tiny portion have changes (mutations) that affect how the virus behaves. The WHO names some variants after Greek letters, in addition to their scientific names, to make them easier to talk about. Variants that have caused waves of infections in the U.S. include alpha, delta and omicron.

The WHO and the CDC created categories to track variants, from least concerning to most:

  • Variants being monitored: These variants have changes that scientists suspect could affect virus traits in a way that could pose a future risk. 
  • Variants of interest: These variants have changes that scientists know or predict will affect traits such as how easily the virus spreads or how sick it makes people. 
  • Variants of concern: These variants have shown evidence of changes that make them more contagious or severe. They may spread more easily, be better at getting past vaccines, or cause illness that’s harder to treat. 
  • Variants of high consequence: No variants are in this category. This kind of variant could evade tests and vaccines, cause severe illness and/or resist more than one therapy.

Learn more:

The World Health Organization named omicron, a coronavirus variant, on Nov. 26, 2021, after it emerged suddenly. It was first identified in South Africa.

The WHO classified omicron as a “variant of concern.” That means omicron, also known as B.1.1.529, shows signs of changes that could make it more contagious or severe. The WHO names some variants after Greek letters to make them easier to discuss.

  • The omicron variant spreads more easily than other variants, according to the WHO. 
  • Omicron seems to evade vaccines more easily, leading to more infections.
  • Scientists are monitoring more than 300 subvariants of omicron. Boosters released in 2022 targeted the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants, which were spreading widely that year. As of January 2023, a new subvariant called XBB.1.5 is spreading in the U.S. and is considered the most contagious one yet.

Learn more:

Yes

In 2022, Pfizer and Moderna updated their boosters with a bivalent (two-part) formula. These boosters targeted omicron's BA.4 and BA.5 variants, which were spreading in the U.S. at the time.

The CDC released research in December showing that adults who got the updated boosters were half as likely to:

  • Go to the emergency room for COVID
  • Be in the hospital with COVID

Health officials say the updated boosters should also give some protection against the XBB.1.5 variant now spreading in the U.S.

XBB.1.5, BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 are subvariants of the omicron variant. They were reported in late 2022 and are spreading in the U.S. this winter.

According to the World Health Organization, XBB.1.5 is the most contagious omicron variant yet. But health experts say it does not seem to cause more severe illness.

The CDC recommends:

Learn more:

Booster doses/additional primary doses FAQ

Additional primary dose: Primary doses are the first doses a person needs to become fully vaccinated. The Pfizer, Moderna and Novavax vaccines each require two primary doses, while the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has one primary dose. People who have a weakened immune system (are immunocompromisedmay not have a full immune response to their first doses. They are advised to get an additional dose of vaccine, called an additional primary dose.

Booster dose:  A booster is an additional dose of vaccine that is given after the protection from the primary doses starts to wear off. The booster re-energizes the immune response. Pfizer and Moderna updated their boosters in 2022 with a bivalent (two-part) formula that targets the earlier form of the coronavirus and its BA.4 and BA.5 omicron variants. Health experts say the updated boosters should also give some protection against the XBB.1.5 variant.

Pfizer and Moderna have updated their boosters with a bivalent (two-part) formula that protect against both the earlier form of the coronavirus and its BA.4 and BA.5 omicron variants. The updated boosters are expected to also give some protection against the XBB.1.5 variant.

You qualify for a bivalent booster if you:

  • Are age 6 months to 4 years, and completed vaccination with Moderna at least two months ago, for the Moderna booster (no Pfizer booster for this group).
  • Are age 5 or older, and completed vaccination or had an original booster at least two months ago, for the Pfizer or Moderna booster.

Find a booster.

If you were treated with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma:

Wait 90 days before you get a  booster.

If you had COVID-19 symptoms:

You can get a booster after all of the following:

  • It’s been at least 10 days since your symptoms appeared.
  • You’ve had no fever for at least 24 hours, without using fever-reducing medication.
  • Other symptoms are improving (not including loss of taste or smell, which can last weeks or months).

If you tested positive for COVID-19 but did not have symptoms:

  • You can get a booster if it’s been at least 10 days since your positive test.

An OHSU study published in January 2023  found that in people who got infected and vaccinated, the resulting "hybrid immunity" grew stronger with more time between infection and vaccination.

The FDA has authorized an additional primary dose of vaccine for some people ages 5 and older with weakened immune systems (immunocompromised). Doses are available to people who have had an organ transplant or who have similarly impaired immunity. This could include people in cancer treatment or taking medications to suppress immunity. 

Data shows that vaccines have been less effective in people with weakened immune systems. This has made them more likely to have a breakthrough infection (getting COVID-19 after vaccination).

The FDA is allowing additional primary doses of Pfizer (for ages 5 and older) and Moderna (ages 18 and older). The doses are considered safe.

Thousands of OHSU patients with impaired immunity qualify for an additional primary dose of vaccine. OHSU is contacting patients we think would benefit. OHSU pharmacies and community pharmacies may be able to provide a dose if you qualify as immunocompromised. You do not need a prescription or note from a doctor.

The CDC considers you immunocompromised if you:

  • Are receiving treatment for cancer or tumors.
  • Are receiving treatment for an autoimmune disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis or inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Have had an organ transplant and are taking medication to suppress your immune system.
  • Have had a stem cell transplant or CAR T-cell therapy in the past two years, or are taking medication to suppress your immune system.
  • Are taking high-dose steroids or other medications that can suppress your immune system.
  • Have an advanced or untreated HIV infection.
  • Have a moderate or severe immune system disorder.

See the CDC’s recommendations for first and second boosters, including for those who are 12 or older and moderately to severely immunocompromised. If you aren’t sure if you are considered immunocompromised for getting a booster, talk with your doctor.

Wait to get an additional primary dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine until it's been at least 28 days since your second dose.

Booster doses: 

The FDA and CDC have authorized mixing and matching of boosters for ages 5 and older. However, the FDA is limiting use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to those who can't or won't get Pfizer or Moderna.

Pfizer and Moderna have updated their vaccines with bivalent (two-part) formulas that protect against earlier forms of the coronavirus and some of its omicron variants:

  • Pfizer: The bivalent vaccine is being given as:
    • A booster for ages 5 and older
    • The third of three primary doses for ages  6 months through 4 years. Children who completed their primary Pfizer doses and are under 5 are not eligible for a booster at this time.
  • Moderna: The bivalent vaccine is being given as a booster for ages 6 months and older.

The original Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are now being given only as primary doses. 

Additional primary doses:

Health experts recommend that you get a dose of the same vaccine you had before. So if you had two doses of the Moderna vaccine, you would get a third dose of Moderna. If the same vaccine isn't available, though, it's OK to get a third dose of another mRNA vaccine. For example, you could follow two doses of Moderna with a dose of Pfizer. 

For most people, vaccines are doing what they were designed to do: keeping people from getting severely sick or dying.

  • Even amid the omicron wave, CDC data showed that those who were vaccinated were much less likely to end up in a hospital.
  • CDC studies show that being vaccinated and boosted greatly reduces the risk of serious illness from COVID-19.

Pfizer: 

  • This vaccine has full FDA approval for vaccinating ages 12 and older.
  • It has emergency authorization for vaccinating ages 6 months to 11 years.
  • It  has emergency authorization for additional primary doses in people 5 and older with impaired immunity (immunocompromised).
  • An updated booster with a bivalent (two-part) formula has emergency authorization for ages 5 and older who completed vaccination or a booster at least two months ago.

Moderna: 

  • This vaccine has full FDA approval for vaccinating ages 18 and older.
  • It has emergency authorization for vaccinating ages 6 months to 17 years.
  • It has emergency authorization for additional primary doses for people 18 and older with impaired immunity (immunocompromised).
  • An updated booster with a bivalent (two-part) formula has emergency authorization for ages 6 months and older who completed vaccination or a booster at least two months ago.

Johnson & Johnson: 

  • This vaccine has emergency authorization for use in ages 18 and older, but the FDA on May 5, 2022, limited use to those who can't or won't get Pfizer or Moderna. The vaccine carries a risk of rare but serious blood clots.
  • The vaccine has emergency authorization for boosters for people ages 18 and older who completed vaccination with Pfizer or Moderna at least five months ago, or who completed vaccination with Johnson & Johnson at least two months ago — again for those who can't or won't get one of the others.
  • It has emergency authorization as a booster for ages 18 and older who have weakened immunity (immunocompromised) if they can't or won't get another vaccine. See CDC guidelines.

Novavax: 

  • This vaccine has emergency authorization for vaccinating ages 12 and older. 
  • It has emergency authorization as a booster for ages 18 and older who completed vaccination at least six months ago.

What’s the difference between emergency authorization and full approval? 

The FDA granted emergency authorization to three vaccines after reviewing data from large clinical trials. The trials, with tens of thousands of participants, showed the vaccines are safe and highly effective.

Full approval involves reviewing much more data from over a longer time — hundreds of thousands of pages instead of tens of thousands. The FDA also inspects facilities where vaccines are made.

The CDC has relaxed mask guidelines, advising them only in areas with high risk. But it recommends that people with weakened immunity (immunocompromisedwho live in a medium-risk area talk with a provider.

OHSU strongly encourages you to get vaccinated

No. The CDC considers you fully vaccinated once you receive the recommended first dose or doses. 

However, the CDC considers you "up to date" once you have all recommended first doses, plus all boosters recommended for you. 

Most people are fully vaccinated after having: 

  • Two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine
  • One dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine

If you were vaccinated outside the U.S.: You are considered fully vaccinated if you had all the recommended doses of one of the following vaccines, listed by the World Health Organization for emergency use:

  • Bharat Biotech Covaxin
  • CanSino Convidecia
  • Johnson & Johnson Janssen
  • Moderna Spikevax
  • Novavax Nuvaxovid
  • Pfizer/BioNTech Comirnaty 
  • Oxford-AstraZeneca Vaxzevria
  • Serum Institute of India Covishield
  • Serum Institute of India Covovax
  • Sinopharm Covilo
  • Sinovac CoronaVac

If you received another vaccine or did not receive all the recommended doses of one of the vaccines listed above, you may be offered a vaccine available in the U.S.

COVID-19 FAQ

If you are sick, stay home except to get medical care. Most people have mild or moderate symptoms and can recover at home.

  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Take over-the-counter medicines, like acetaminophen or ibuprofen, to reduce fever.
  • Stay away from others in your home as much as possible. If you must be near others, wear a mask.
  • Monitor your symptoms. If they get worse, call your primary care provider for advice.

Please do not come to the hospital unless you have an emergency warning sign. See question below: "When should I seek medical help for COVID-19?"

If your symptoms are mild or moderate but getting worse, call your primary care provider for advice.

If you have an emergency warning sign, call 911 or your emergency department. Signs of emergency are:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion
  • Inability to awaken or to stay awake
  • Bluish lips or face
  • Other severe symptoms

Simply, the coronavirus is the virus, and COVID-19 is the illness it can cause.

The virus itself is called SARS-CoV-2, short for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. Coronaviruses are part of a large group of viruses. Some coronaviruses cause mild illness, such as the common cold. Others can cause serious illness.

An illustrative example showing various examples of people experiencing typical covid-19 symptoms
Infographic: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Symptoms can appear 2-14 days after exposure:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

If you see emergency signs, call 911 or your emergency department. They are:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion
  • Inability to awaken or to stay awake
  • Bluish lips or face
  • Other severe symptoms

Studies show that people are contagious starting 2-3 days before they have symptoms of COVID-19. On average, people are no longer contagious about a week after symptoms start. People with weakened immunity may be contagious for longer.

The CDC has guidelines for isolation:

Positive test, no symptoms: Isolate (stay away from others) for at least five days after your first positive test. Wear a mask around others for five more days. If you develop symptoms, isolate five days after symptoms start and wear a mask around others for five more days.

Mild symptoms: Isolate for at least five days after symptoms appear. You must be fever-free for at least 24 hours (without the use of fever-reducing medication) before ending isolation. Wear a mask around others for five more days.

Moderate symptoms (respiratory symptoms): Isolate for 10 days after you first have symptoms. You must be fever-free for at least 24 hours (without the use of fever-reducing medication) before ending isolation.

Severe symptoms (requiring hospital care): Isolate for at least 10 days and up to 20.

The incubation period is the time between infection and the start of symptoms. It is important to know that you may be contagious at any time during the incubation period.

Data suggests the incubation period for the omicron variants is 2-4 days, shorter than prior variants.

Long COVID-19 FAQ

You have long COVID-19 if you still have symptoms at least a month after testing positive for COVID-19. Long COVID-19 is also called post-COVID-19 or post-acute sequelae of COVID-19 (PASC).

Studies show that long COVID-19 affects about 25% of people who get COVID-19. It is important to know that we can’t predict who will have long COVID-19 or how long it will last. Everyone who gets COVID-19 is at risk, including children and people who had mild cases or no symptoms when they tested positive.

We are still learning more, but so far these groups seem to be more at risk: 

  • Older adults 
  • Women 
  • People with chronic conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes or depression
  • People who had more severe COVID-19 illness 
  • People who did not get a COVID-19 vaccine 
  • People who live in economically disadvantaged communities

Long COVID-19 that greatly limits a person's daily life can be considered a disability under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

We  offer a program and team of specialists to help you manage this condition.

  • Questions? Call 833-647-8222.
  • Refer a patient: Visit our Referral Service site to find a Long COVID referral checklist and more information. 

Symptoms of long COVID-19 vary widely and can affect almost every organ system. They are unlikely to be dangerous or require hospitalization, but long COVID-19 can be very draining and make normal daily activities impossible.

Extreme fatigue

The most common symptom of long COVID-19 is post-exertional malaise (PEM). PEM is extreme tiredness about 12 to 48 hours after physical or mental effort. For someone with long COVID-19, this exhaustion can last for days and may happen after a normal day of activity. During PEM, other symptoms are often worse, like shortness of breath or irregular heartbeat. 

Brain fog

Brain fog is also very common for people with long COVID-19. Brain fog is cognitive difficulty or weakness. This can mean you have trouble with memory, concentration, thinking or finding the right words. 

Emotional challenges

Long COVID-19 takes a toll on your emotional well-being. The most common mental health symptoms are depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Low energy, appetite changes and suicidal thoughts are also symptoms of mental health issues. Emotional challenges may come from how the coronavirus affects your brain, the emotional toll of long-term sickness, or both.

Other symptoms

The other most common symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath 
  • Chest pain or discomfort 
  • Irregular heart rate or sudden changes in heartbeat 
  • Difficulty sleeping 
  • Irritable bowel or other gastrointestinal symptoms 
  • Headache 
  • Loss of sense of smell or taste 
  • Visual changes 
  • Nerve pain
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Tremors

We know that most patients recover over time, but speed of recovery varies widely. We see patients whose symptoms fade within months and we now see patients who have had symptoms for more than a year.

It is impossible to know how quickly you will recover. Understanding your condition, getting support, resting, and avoiding activities that trigger symptoms can help you recover sooner.  

Vaccines FAQ

Both vaccination and infection can build immunity against the coronavirus. 

  • An OHSU study published in January 2023 found that "hybrid immunity" from being vaccinated and infected grows stronger with more time between vaccination and infection.
  • A CDC overview from October 2021 compared vaccine responses with “natural immunity” after infection. It found:
    • Both tend to give people at least six months of strong protection.
    • Vaccines, especially Pfizer and Moderna, tend to provide a stronger, more consistent first response.
    • Growing evidence shows that getting vaccinated after having COVID-19 greatly increases protection.
  • A CDC study released in September 2021 found that infection does not guarantee immunity. More than one-third of people in the study did not develop antibodies, the proteins that protect against infection.
  • A CDC study published in August 2021 looked at Kentucky residents who’d been infected. Those who were unvaccinated were more than twice as likely as those who were fully vaccinated to get infected again.

If you lost your vaccine card, you can use your vaccine record as proof. OHSU cannot provide replacement CDC vaccine cards.

Here's how to find and print your vaccine record.

If you got your vaccine at an OHSU site (except for the Oregon Convention Center):

  • Log into your MyChart account.
  • Click “Your menu.” Under “My Record,” click on “COVID-19.” You can also type “covid” in the search box to quickly find the COVID-19 menu item.
  • If you don’t have a MyChart account, call 833-647-8222 to have your record printed and mailed to you on letter-size paper. Wallet-size cards are not available. Please note: We may not be able to access your vaccine record if you did not get your vaccine at an OHSU site.

If you got your vaccine at the Oregon Convention Center:

  • Log into your Legacy MyHealth account. Go to the menu.  Under "My Record," you will find COVID-19 with your vaccination record. 

OHSU students and employees:

  • Log into the OHSU Occupational Health Portal  and look for “Print COVID Record.” Please note that if you want your COVID record to be included in your overall medical records, you will need to share it with your primary care provider.

Others:

More information: 

  • Log into your MyChart account.
  • Click “Your menu.” Under “My Record,” click on “COVID-19.” You can also type “covid” in the search box to quickly find the COVID-19 menu item.
  • If you don’t have a MyChart account and you were vaccinated at an OHSU site, call 833-647-8222 to have your record printed and mailed to you on letter-size paper. 

OHSU students and employees:

  • Log into the OHSU Occupational Health Portal  and look for “Print COVID Record.” Please note that if you want your COVID record to be included in your overall medical records, you will need to share it with your primary care provider.

Yes. The CDC recommends that you get vaccinated:

  • It's possible to get COVID-19 again, risking serious illness. 
  • Some people don’t develop immunity after infection, studies show.
  • Studies suggest that vaccines provide better, longer protection than infection.
  • An OHSU study published in January 2023 found that "hybrid immunity" from being vaccinated and infected grows stronger with more time between infection and vaccination.

Learn more: How long after having COVID-19 can I get a vaccine?

All vaccines used in the U.S. spur the body to make antibodies that specifically fight the coronavirus. Antibodies are made by white blood cells and are part of the immune system — the body’s system to fight infection.

Pfizer and Moderna:

These vaccines send a snippet of genetic material from the coronavirus — instructions called messenger RNA or mRNA — into cells. The instructions tell the cells to make a harmless spike protein like the one on the coronavirus.

The body’s immune system recognizes that this protein doesn’t belong. It activates white blood cells to form infection-fighting antibodies. The immune system also remembers the spike protein, so it's ready to fight the real coronavirus should it enter the body.

Once the proteins are made, the body destroys the mRNA.

Johnson & Johnson: 

This is a viral vector vaccine. Specifically, it’s a type called an adenovirus vector vaccine or an adenovector vaccine.

Like the mRNA vaccines, the vaccine uses a snippet of genetic material from the coronavirus to tell cells to make spike proteins. The spike proteins activate the immune system.

In this case, instructions are in DNA delivered in a virus called an adenovirus. Normally, this virus causes the common cold. It is not the coronavirus.

The adenovirus is genetically altered. The virus cannot make copies of itself, and it cannot cause illness. The virus is just a carrier (vector). The DNA cannot change your DNA.

Novavax: 

This is a protein-based vaccine. It teaches the body’s immune system to recognize the spike-shaped protein on the coronavirus. The immune system activates white blood cells that make antibodies against the spike protein. 

 Novavax contains a spike protein made from moth cells. This version of the spike protein cannot cause disease. It does not include any genetic material. 

 Novavax also contains an adjuvant made from tree bark. An adjuvant helps increase the body’s immune response. This means the vaccine can be given in a smaller dose. 

After vaccination with any of these vaccines:

  • If you contract the coronavirus, your immune system is better able to attack it, making you less likely to develop COVID-19.
  • If you do develop COVID-19, you will be less likely to become seriously ill.
  • Your immune system knows how to fight the coronavirus without being exposed to it.

Learn more:

COVID-19 vaccines do not contain fetal tissue or fetal cells.

Vaccine makers do use fetal cell lines to make vaccines. These cell lines come from lab-grown cells that trace back to cells from a fetus aborted in the 1970s or ‘80s. The cells used today are thousands of generations removed from the original cells.

Pfizer and Moderna did use fetal cell lines in early testing of their vaccines. Johnson & Johnson makes its vaccine using a fetal cell line. Novavax says it uses no fetal cell lines, cells or tissue in developing or making its vaccine.

Learn how vaccine makers use fetal cell lines.

Religious leaders agree that getting a vaccine does not mean you are OK with abortion.

Pope Francis, for example, said people have a moral duty to get vaccinated. A Vatican statement said all vaccines are morally acceptable.

You might find these resources useful:

Novavax has received emergency authorization as:

  • A primary vaccine for ages 12 and older.  It is given in two doses about three weeks apart.
  • A booster for people ages 18 and older who finished vaccination at least six months ago.

Novavax is a protein-based vaccine. It is made like vaccines that have been used for decades to prevent diseases like hepatitis B and whooping cough.

Learn how COVID-19 vaccines work, why OHSU experts are confident they’re safe, and why they recommend getting one.

We use a sterile, disposable needle and syringe for each dose. The needle size is based on arm size. We thoroughly clean our hands before preparing and giving a vaccine.

We prepare vaccines in a clean, designated area away from where we give doses. This prevents contamination as we transfer the vaccine from vials into syringes.

Like most vaccines, the COVID-19 vaccine is given into a muscle. Muscles have many blood vessels that can quickly carry the vaccine into the bloodstream.

To start your protection as soon as possible, you should be vaccinated as soon as possible. 

For most people, that means getting the Pfizer, Moderna or Novavax vaccine. Because of a risk of rare but serious blood clots, the FDA on May 5, 2022, restricted use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to those who can't or won't get Pfizer or Moderna. 

All four vaccines have been found to be highly effective. The FDA also continues monitoring vaccines for safety and effectiveness; that's why the agency limited use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

If you were treated with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma:

Wait 90 days before you get a COVID-19 vaccine.

If you had COVID-19 symptoms:

You can be vaccinated after all of the following:

  • It’s been at least 10 days since your symptoms appeared.
  • You’ve had no fever for at least 24 hours, without using fever-reducing medication.
  • Other symptoms are improving (not including loss of taste or smell, which can last weeks or months).

If you tested positive for COVID-19 but did not have symptoms:

  • You can get vaccinated if it’s been at least 10 days since your positive test.

An OHSU study published in January 2023  found that "hybrid immunity" from getting both infected and vaccinated increases with more time between infection and vaccination.

Yes. If you got a first dose of the Pfizer, Moderna or Novavax vaccine, it’s important to get your second dose. This makes sure that your vaccination is as effective as possible. Schedule your second dose as soon as you can. (The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is just one dose.)

It’s also important to know:

  • There is no maximum time between doses.
  • OHSU has no limit on how long after a first dose people can get a second.
  • OHSU recommends second doses:
    • 19-35 days after your first Pfizer dose (Pfizer recommends three weeks, or 21 days).
    • 25-35 days after your first Moderna dose (Moderna recommends four weeks, or 28 days).
    • Novavax recommends three weeks, or 21 days.
  • The CDC updated its guidelines to recommend second doses — when a delay is unavoidable — up to six weeks (42 days) after the first dose.
  • Even if you miss all these windows, you don’t have to start over by repeating a first dose. Just get your second dose.
  • There is little data on how well mRNA vaccines (like the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines) work when the second dose is more than six weeks after the first. That means it’s not known whether waiting longer makes the vaccine more effective, less effective or causes no change.

Learn more:

  • You are considered fully vaccinated if you had all the recommended doses of one of the following vaccines, listed by the WHO for emergency use:
     
    • Bharat Biotech Covaxin
    • CanSino Convidecia
    • Johnson & Johnson Janssen
    • Moderna Spikevax
    • Novavax Nuvaxovid
    • Pfizer/BioNTech Comirnaty 
    • Oxford-AstraZeneca Vaxzevria
    • Serum Institute of India Covishield
    • Serum Institute of India Covovax
    • Sinopharm Covilo
    • Sinovac CoronaVac
       
  • If you received the recommended doses of Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson, see if you qualify for an additional primary dose or a booster.
  • If you received the recommended doses of one of the other vaccines, you do not need any more doses. 
  • If you received one dose of Pfizer or Moderna outside the U.S., you do not need to start over. Just get your second dose as close to the recommended time as possible. See "I missed the recommended time frame for my second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. Should I still get it?" for details. 
  • If you received a vaccine not listed here, or if you did not receive all the recommended doses of one of the vaccines listed above: You may be offered a vaccine available in the U.S.  

You will NOT be charged anything for a vaccine, and you do not need health insurance to get a vaccine.

If you do have health insurance, though, providers are allowed to charge your insurance company an administration fee. This fee may temporarily appear in your MyChart account as it is processed. You will NOT be billed.

Vaccine safety FAQ

Yes. The FDA approved the vaccines only after rigorous clinical trials (tests on people). Tens of millions of Americans have been vaccinated, and only a tiny fraction have had a serious complication. Health experts say the benefits far outweigh the risks.

Health officials are also monitoring vaccine safety. As of May 5, 2022, the FDA had limited use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to those who can't or won't get Pfizer or Moderna. The FDA concluded that the risk of rare but potentially severe blood clots makes it less preferable. The decision offers reassurance that federal officials are ready to act if a problem is spotted. The agency said only the following people should get Johnson & Johnson:

  • Those who can't get Pfizer or Moderna either because they're not available or because they are not "clinically appropriate," say for someone who had a severe allergic reaction.
  • Those who otherwise would not get a vaccine dose at all.

The Pfizer vaccine has full FDA approval. Even to get emergency-use authorization, though, vaccines went through three phases of clinical trials involving tens of thousands of participants — far more than is typicalThis gave researchers a lot of data quickly on safety and effectiveness. Clinical trials also must follow rigorous rules for safety and oversight. 

In addition, the Moderna, Novavax and Johnson & Johnson vaccines were developed with help from Operation Warp Speed. The program used federal taxpayer dollars to pay for research, development and millions of early doses. It’s one reason vaccines were ready to ship the instant they were approved.

The FDA, CDC and other government agencies have many systems to monitor the vaccines for any safety issues that didn’t turn up in clinical trials. Tools include v-safe, which lets people use a smartphone to report any side effects to the CDC.

It's true that the vaccines were developed in months instead of years. But Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, is among health officials who say speed did not sacrifice safety. “The speed was the reflection of extraordinary advances in the science of vaccine platform technology,” Dr. Fauci told ABC.

Learn more:

No. The Pfizer, Moderna, Novavax and Johnson & Johnson vaccines do not contain live virus. That makes it impossible to get COVID-19 from a vaccine.

No. DNA is in the nucleus of cells, protected by the nuclear membrane. The mRNA in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines does not enter the nucleus, and it does not affect or interact with DNA. In addition, mRNA from a vaccine cannot be made into DNA that could change a person's DNA.  

The genetic material (DNA) in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine does enter the cell’s nucleus. But the cell only reads the instructions. The DNA cannot interact, alter or combine with your DNA.

The Novavax vaccine has no genetic material.

The COVID-19 vaccines have as few ingredients as possible, and each ingredient has a purpose. All COVID-19 vaccine ingredients are safe. Most of the ingredients are also found in many foods.

The mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) also contain a harmless piece of messenger RNA. This teaches your body how to create an immune response to the virus that causes COVID-19.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccines also contain a vector virus. The vector virus cannot reproduce itself and cannot cause COVID-19. It teaches your body to create an immune response to the virus that causes COVID-19.

The Novavax vaccine contains proteins made by moth cells. It also contains an adjuvant, which helps increase the body’s immune response. The adjuvant in Novavax is made from tree bark.

See the full list of vaccine ingredients:

The CDC investigated whether rare cases of myocarditis and pericarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle and surrounding tissue) are related to COVID-19 vaccines.

A small number of people nationwide have developed these conditions after getting an mRNA vaccine (the type made by Pfizer and Moderna) or Novavax.

It’s important to know:

  • Reported cases of myocarditis and pericarditis after vaccination are very rare.
  • Most cases are mild, treatable and leave no lasting effects. 
  • The benefits of getting vaccinated far outweigh the risks, according to the CDC and the Department of Health and Human Services.

Anyone with these symptoms should get medical care right away, regardless of whether they got a vaccine:

  • Chest pain
  • Chest tightness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Heart racing

If you have questions or concerns about the vaccine or potential side effects, including myocarditis or pericarditis, talk to your primary care provider or another trusted health care professional.

Blood clots:

Federal health officials have limited use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine because of the risk of rare but serious blood clots.

The FDA on May 5, 2022, said the vaccine can be used only by:

  • Those who can't get Pfizer or Moderna because they're not available or because they are not "clinically appropriate," say for someone who had a severe allergic reaction.
  • Those who otherwise would not get a vaccine dose at all.

The FDA confirmed 60 cases of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome, including nine deaths, among 18 million doses given.

Guillain-Barré syndrome:

In July 2021, the FDA added a warning of a higher risk of Guillain-Barré syndrome. This rare condition can damage nerve cells, causing muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis.

There were reports of 100 cases in the U.S. among nearly 13 million people who had received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at that point. In most cases, symptoms began within six weeks of getting the vaccine.

Most people who develop the syndrome each year in the U.S. fully recover, though some have permanent nerve damage.

What should you do if you get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine?

  • See the fact sheet for people who get the vaccine. It outlines possible complications and when to seek care.
  • See the fact sheet for health care providers. It includes how to identify and treat adverse reactions.
  • Anyone who has health issues after getting a vaccine can call our hotline at 833-647-8222.

Side effects and after-vaccination FAQ

You can expect mainly mild to moderate side effects such as:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Muscle aches and pains

In clinical trials, side effects tended to be higher after the second dose, and less for those older than 65.

Side effects can be managed with:

  • Rest
  • Drinking fluids
  • Fever-reducing medication, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)

Call your health care provider if you have side effects that bother you or that don't go away.

Learn more:

Possible Side Effects After Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine, CDC

Call 911 or go to the nearest hospital if you have a severe allergic reaction such as:

  • Swelling of the throat and mouth
  • Trouble breathing
  • Lightheadedness
  • Confusion
  • Blue skin or lips
  • Fainting

Call your health care provider if you have side effects that bother you or that don’t go away.

Learn more:

What to Do If You Have an Allergic Reaction After Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine, CDC

Health officials are tracking side effects as part of widespread efforts to monitor vaccine safety. You can report side effects to:

  • The FDA/CDC Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS): Visit the VAERS website or call 1-800-822-7967.
  • V-safe: Learn how to use the CDC’s v-safe smartphone tool.

Pregnancy, breastfeeding and women's health FAQ

The CDC strongly recommends that you get vaccinated to prevent serious illness and pregnancy complications. The agency says the benefits to you and your fetus of being vaccinated far outweigh any risks. 

The CDC said pregnant people who get COVID are at much higher risk of severe illness or death. They also face a higher risk of having a premature birth or a stillbirth, or of their newborn needing ICU care for COVID.

In addition:

  • Data from vaccine-monitoring systems found no safety concerns among 35,000 people in their third trimester. Early findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
  • A study found no increased risk of miscarriage among about 2,500 people who got an mRNA vaccine (such as Pfizer or Moderna) right before or during pregnancy.
  • Early data suggests that getting an mRNA vaccine during pregnancy reduces the risk of getting COVID-19.
  • Getting an mRNA vaccine during pregnancy builds antibodies that might protect the baby. Antibodies have been found in umbilical cord blood.

Learn more:

COVID-19 Vaccines While Pregnant or Breastfeeding, CDC

The CDC recommends that people who are breastfeeding get vaccinated. 

Breastfeeding people were not part of clinical trials, but experts believe COVID-19 vaccines are safe and recommend them for people who are breastfeeding. COVID-19 vaccines cannot cause COVID-19 in anyone, including people who are breastfeeding or their babies. People who are breastfeeding may pass antibodies to their infants in their breast milk.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine recommend that people who are breastfeeding get vaccinated and continue breastfeeding.  

Learn more:

COVID-19 Vaccines While Pregnant or Breastfeeding, CDC

Yes. There is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccination causes any fertility issues (problems trying to get pregnant) for women or men. Many people have become pregnant after getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

A recent study compared women who got a COVID-19 vaccine, had a COVID-19 infection, or had neither. The study found no differences in their pregnancy success rates.

Planning for pregnancy, CDC

For some people, getting a COVID-19 vaccine is followed by swelling in lymph nodes under the arm where they got the vaccine.

The swelling is a normal sign that your body is building protection against COVID-19. It could cause a false result on a mammogram, though. If you are due for a mammogram, we recommend that you:

  • Get your mammogram before your vaccine.
  • Or wait at least four weeks after your Johnson & Johnson vaccine, or after your second dose of the Pfizer, Moderna or Novavax vaccine.

recent study found that people who menstruate may experience a small but temporary change in the length of their menstrual cycle after getting vaccinated.

The average change in length is less than one day during the menstrual cycle when the vaccine was given. People who receive two doses of a vaccine during one menstrual cycle may have a two-day change.

The changes appear to resolve quickly, as soon as the next menstrual cycle. Researchers did not identify any long-term health or reproductive issues linked to the changes.

Read about OHSU's expertise in the study.

You can plan to have a baby after getting a COVID-19 vaccine. In fact, the CDC recommends getting vaccinated if you plan to become pregnant. That’s because pregnancy increases your risk of severe symptoms of COVID-19.

A COVID-19 vaccine will also protect your baby from complications while you are pregnant.

There is no evidence that a COVID-19 vaccine will affect your fertility. Many people have become pregnant after getting vaccinated.

Learn more about COVID-19 vaccines and planning for pregnancy, CDC
 
Some fertility rumors trace back to a letter sent to a European medical agency. The letter claimed — wrongly — that vaccines affect a protein needed for pregnancy.

If you get a COVID-19 vaccine while you are pregnant, your body makes protective antibodies that you pass along to your baby. That protection remains after your baby is born. You may also pass along antibodies to your baby if you are vaccinated and choose to breastfeed.

Right away. You do not need to delay pregnancy or fertility treatments after getting a vaccine.

Learn how to be part of our pregnancy and COVID-19 research.

COVID-19 treatments FAQ

OHSU Hospital has four intensive care units with 80 beds. One 16-bed unit is mainly used for COVID-19 patients.

OHSU Health Hillsboro Medical Center has 10 ICU beds, and Adventist Health Portland has 12 ICU beds.

OHSU offers leading care for COVID-19, including:

  • Ventilators to help patients breathe.
  • ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) to support the lungs and heart.
  • The best available medical treatments.
  • Virtual ICU physicians, nurses and respiratory therapists monitoring patients around the clock.

The FDA has granted emergency-use authorization to the first pill to treat COVID-19. The medication, Paxlovid, is made by Pfizer.

Paxlovid treats mild to moderate COVID-19 by stopping the virus from making copies of itself.  Treatment is most effective early, and must start within five days of symptoms beginning.

Patients take three tablets twice a day for five days — 30 pills in all. In clinical trials, Paxlovid greatly reduced the risk of serious illness or death for people at high risk.

To qualify for Paxlovid treatment, you must:

  • Be age 12 or older.
  • Weigh at least 40 kilograms (about 88 pounds).
  • Have tested positive.
  • Be at high risk of severe illness.
  • Have mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19 that do not require hospital care.
  • Have symptoms that started less than five days before.

Paxlovid is not recommended for those with severe kidney or liver disease or for people with weakened immune systems (immunocompromised).

Paxlovid can cause complications for people who take heart-related medications, including some statins (drugs that lower cholesterol) and blood thinners. It's best to talk with your doctor about possible interactions between Paxlovid and heart-related medications. You can stop using some drugs safely during the five-day Paxlovid treatment.

The FDA has granted emergency-use authorization to Lagevrio (molnupiravir), made by Merck, to treat COVID-19.

Lagevrio is an antiviral medication that treats mild to moderate COVID-19. Treatment must start within five days after symptoms begin. It is most effective early.

Patients take four capsules every 12 hours for five days — a total of 40 pills. In clinical trials, Lagevrio reduced the risk of serious illness or death for people at high risk.

You qualify for treatment with Lagevrio if you:

  • Are 18 or older.
  • Have tested positive for COVID-19.
  • Are at high risk of serious illness.
  • Are not in the hospital.
  • Have symptoms that started less than five days before.
  • Are not recommended for or are not able to get other COVID-19 treatments.

No. Paxlovid and Lagevrio are not substitutes for vaccination. They can be used only for certain people at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19, and only after they have tested positive.

The federal government's Test to Treat program offers free testing and prescriptions in one location. Those who test positive and who qualify for treatment can receive a filled prescription for Paxlovid or Lagevrio.

Getting tested early is important. Both medications are given only within five days of the start of symptoms.

Look for a Test to Treat location near you.

As of July 6, 2022, state-licensed pharmacists may prescribe Paxlovid. 

Headache is one of the symptoms of COVID-19. Most people who have this symptom have other symptoms such as fatigue, muscle or body aches, cough or fever.

There are two common types of headaches: migraines and tension headaches.

Migraine headaches are usually:

  • Severe, throbbing pain
  • On one part of the head
  • Worse when you move
  • Associated with nausea or sensitivity to light or sound

Tension headaches are usually:

  • Mild or moderate pain or pressure
  • Felt all over the head
  • Not worse when you move
  • Not associated with nausea or sensitivity to light or sound

You can treat a tension headache with over-the-counter medication such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol).

For a migraine headache, also try:

  • Resting in a dark, quiet room
  • Drinking less caffeine
  • Drinking more water to avoid dehydration
  • Getting more sleep
  • Getting more exercise

If you have frequent headaches (two or more each week) talk to your primary care provider about other treatment options, including medications that help prevent headaches.

OHSU does not recommend ivermectin to treat COVID-19.

  • Merck, the maker of ivermectin, warns against using it for COVID-19.
  • The FDA and National Institutes of Health have not endorsed using it for COVID-19.
  • A large clinical trial published March 30, 2022, in The New England Journal of Medicine showed that early treatment with ivermectin provided no benefit. The study looked at more than 1,300 infected people in Brazil who got ivermectin or a  placebo. The 679 who got ivermectin saw no reduction in the risk of needing hospital care.

Ivermectin is approved for use in people and some animals to treat some parasites. Humans should never take medications meant for animals. Taking ivermectin in any unapproved way could also cause serious harm. 

Learn more:

OHSU videos

See videos about COVID-19 vaccines and why OHSU experts want to make sure you get your dose.

Claim your vaccine

Learn why Dr. Donn Spight, an OHSU surgeon, is doing everything he can to make sure people of color are not left behind.

Benefits and risks

Dr. Dawn Nolt goes over vaccine studies, pluses and minuses so you can make a confident decision.

The facts on vaccines

Dr. Allison Empey is a pediatrician and the Wy’East director of the Northwest Native American Center of Excellence. She discusses why she believes in the COVID-19 vaccine.

Why they got vaccinated

Hear why Oregon health and community leaders got their vaccine.

Vaccines don’t affect DNA

Dr. Chris Evans, an OHSU infectious disease expert, shares why you don’t have to worry about vaccines affecting your DNA.

An Olympian’s take

Galen Rupp encourages fellow Oregonians to protect themselves and one another so we can all “enjoy our great state.”

Mexican/Latin community

Carlos Quesnel Meléndez, lead consul of the Consulate of Mexico in Portland, wants compatriots to know they can get a vaccine for free, without ID and without questions about immigration status.

Overcoming disparities

Learn why Multnomah County’s Charlene McGee is fighting disparities and working toward vaccine acceptance.

Resuming traditions

Learn what Mohamed Alyajouri, an OHSU practice manager and member of the Muslim community, looks forward to.

Simple mRNA explainer

OHSU’s Dr. Chris Evans breaks down how mRNA vaccines, like Post-it Notes, deliver quick instructions.

“Honest answers”

Learn why Jordan Kent, former play-by-play TV announcer for the Portland Trail Blazers, encourages people to talk with the experts.

The day he got vaccinated

Hear why getting a vaccine gave longtime Portland activist Ray Leary “a good, warm feeling.”

“A resilient people”

Virginia Luka, Multnomah County Public Health’s program specialist senior for the Pacific Islander community, shares why vaccines are important to her community.

What are your plans?

Community leaders and health experts look forward to gathering with family and friends, sharing favorite foods, and an “incredible sense of freedom.”

“We rise”

Apostle Levell Thomas explains why the Black community should claim their vaccinations.

Inside OHSU's ICU

"Overwhelmed," by KGW News

Soul 2 Soul event

“Really thrilled”; story and video by KATU

Dr. Donn Spight standing in the Robertson Life Sciences building

Learn how information from OHSU’s Dr. Donn Spight helped a Portland woman decide to get vaccinated.