Frequently Asked Questions: COVID-19 and Vaccines

COVID cells with a blue hue on a reddish background

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

Quick links

Fast facts about COVID-19 and vaccines

  • You can order a free at-home test from the federal government at COVIDTests.gov.
  • Insurance companies are now required to cover at-home COVID-19 tests.
  • OHSU offers free testing options, including tests that use a swab, and tests that use a spit (saliva) sample.  

See more in the COVID-19 tests section.

  • The CDC recommends that you wear the most protective mask that fits well and that you will stick with.
  • The White House will give away N95 masks at many retail pharmacies and community health centers starting late the week of Jan. 23.
  • N95 masks no longer need to be reserved for health care workers.
  • The CDC advises that N95 masks offer the most protection; and that surgical and KN95 masks offer more protection than cloth masks.
  • In Oregon, masks are required in indoor public spaces.

See more in the masks section.

Omicron variant:

  • The omicron variant was identified in November 2021. 
  • Compared with previous variants, it spreads faster, evades vaccines more easily, and is infecting a higher portion of vaccinated people.
  • Health experts are worried the omicron surge could overwhelm hospitals and health care workers.
  • The omicron variant appears to cause less-severe illness, but experts have warned against underestimating it.
  • OHSU and the CDC recommend vaccines and booster shots for all who qualify.

Delta variant:

  • The delta variant spreads more easily than previous forms of the coronavirus. It is about as contagious as chickenpox.
  • It was identified in India in December 2020 and in the U.S. in March 2021.
  • It may cause more serious illness than previous forms of the coronavirus.
  • Vaccinated people rarely get seriously ill, but they can carry and spread the variant to others.

See more in the variants section.

See more in the children and COVID-19 section.

  • OHSU is contacting patients with weakened immunity who are eligible for an additional primary shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, free of charge.
  • The FDA and CDC have authorized booster shots for:
    • Ages 12 and older who completed Pfizer vaccination at least five months ago.
    • Ages 18 and older who completed Moderna vaccination at least six months ago.
    • Ages 18 and older who completed Johnson & Johnson vaccination at least two months ago.
  • Mixing and matching is allowed for booster shots for ages 18 and older.
  • OHSU offers booster shots free of charge. Look for a booster shot.

See more in the booster shots/additional primary shots section.

  • COVID-19 is the illness caused by the coronavirus.
  • The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11, 2020. As of Jan. 5, the coronavirus had infected 300 million people worldwide, including 58 million in the U.S.; 5.5 million had died, including more than 830,000 in the U.S.
  • The coronavirus spreads through the air, in respiratory droplets from coughs, sneezes, shouting, singing, talking and breathing.
  • Getting vaccinated, wearing a mask and limiting interactions with people you don’t live with are the top ways to protect yourself.

See more in the COVID-19 section.

  • Vaccines are safe and effective. More than 200 million people in the United States have been fully vaccinated, under extensive safety monitoring. Complications are very rare.
  • Every Oregonian age 5 and older is eligible for a vaccine.
  • Vaccines are free of charge.
  • If you missed the recommended time frame for your second dose, schedule it as soon as you can. There is no maximum time between doses.
  • If you lost your vaccine records, you can replace them.

See more in the vaccines section.

  • The FDA has authorized the first pill, Paxlovid, to treat mild to moderate COVID-19.
  • Monoclonal antibody therapy has FDA authorization, most often for people after they have tested positive or been exposed to COVID-19.
  • Paxlovid and monoclonal antibody therapy are not substitutes for vaccination.
  • Both therapies are authorized only for specific uses.

See more in the COVID-19 treatments section.

Tests FAQ

The  White House announced plans to buy 1 billion rapid at-home COVID-19 tests to mail out free.

  • American households can to order tests at COVIDTests.gov.
  • Tests will be mailed within 7-12 days.
  • To start, each address can receive four tests.

Learn more about the free-test program.

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.

  • OHSU provides PCR tests free of charge, by appointment. Options at our Parking Garage D site include both swab and spit (saliva) tests. See OHSU testing options.
  • See the Oregon Health Authority's test-site finder.

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.

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.

Here are some tips to help you choose a test:

  • A PCR test is best for knowing if you are infected.
  • If you are using self-tests, consider taking them multiple times over several days.
  • 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:

    Masks FAQ

    • Oregon requires masks in indoor public spaces for people 5 and older; and on public transit for ages 2 and older. 
    • The CDC recommends that people wear a mask in indoor public settings in areas with “substantial” or “high” spread. Check spread levels by county.
    • The CDC says people with weakened immune systems or at higher risk of severe illness might want to wear a mask indoors regardless of the area's level of spread. The same applies if you live with someone at higher risk.

    It’s also important to know:

    • OHSU hospitals and clinics have continued requiring masks for everyone ages 2 and older; see our visitor policy.
    • You need to follow local rules on masks, including guidance for workplaces and businesses. Some businesses may ask that you wear a mask.

    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. OHSU experts asks that unvaccinated adults stay home and limit community interactions as much as possible.   

    Learn more:

    The CDC updated mask recommendations Jan. 14, 2022. The agency advises:

    • Masks are a vital part of stopping the spread of COVID-19.
    • Any mask is better than no mask.
    • Wear the most protective mask that fits well and that you will stick with.
    • N95 masks offer the most protection. People no longer need to save N95s for health care workers. Only specific "surgical N95s" should be reserved for health care. 
    • Well-fitting surgical or KN95 masks offer more protection than cloth masks.
    • Wear a mask that has no gaps that can let droplets in or out.

    When you need more protection:

    • When caring for someone with COVID-19
    • In a job with a lot of public contact, such as driving a bus
    • On public transportation
    • In crowds when you can't stay 6 feet from others, indoors or out
    • If you are not fully vaccinated

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

    The White House has announced that it will give away 400 million N95 masks at pharmacies and community health centers starting late in the week of Jan. 23.

    Masks will be sent to pharmacies in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, which includes chains such as CVS, Walgreens and Rite-Aid. Find pharmacies by state on this CDC page.

    In many cases, yes. Oregon requires masks for everyone 5 and older in indoor public spaces to protect against the highly contagious delta variant.

    You should also wear a mask:

    • If required under local rules, including guidance for workplaces and businesses, and if a business asks you to.
    • On public transit and at travel hubs such as airports and bus stations.
    • When going to the doctor, and at hospitals and long-term care facilities. (Masks are required at OHSU hospitals and clinics, for example.)
    • In group settings such as homeless shelters, jails and prisons.

    Variants FAQ

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

    It’s important to understand that there is much to learn. But experts are concerned for reasons that include:

    • Omicron spreads more easily than previous forms of the coronavirus.  One infected person may transmit it to seven other people. As of early January, about 95% of new cases in the U.S. were caused by omicron.
    • COVID-19 cases are surging across the U.S. and Oregon.
    • Evidence suggests that omicron causes milder disease for many — but not all — people. But faster spread means many more people will get infected than in earlier waves. So even if a smaller portion become severely ill, the total number could be high, and hospitals could see another crush of cases.
    • Omicron, unlike delta, will affect many vaccinated as well as unvaccinated people. Omicron is better able to dodge vaccines. (Studies suggest vaccines protect against severe disease, though.) Booster shots appear to help, but less than 40% of Oregon and U.S. adults have had one. Many children also remain unvaccinated.
    • Health care workers themselves are at risk, adding to their stress and exhaustion. Illness among workers could stretch already-shorthanded hospitals.
    • The surge can once again delay other patient care, increasing backlogs at OHSU and other hospitals.

    The CDC recommends:

    • Everyone age 5 and older should get vaccinated.
    • Anyone eligible should get a booster shot.
    • Wear a mask in indoor public settings anywhere with “substantial” or “high” spread. Check your county. (Oregon requires masks in indoor public settings for ages 5 and older.)
    • Stay 6 feet from others.
    • Avoid large gatherings.
    • Wash your hands often.
    • Follow the CDC’s travel recommendations.

    Learn more:

    It’s too early to know if symptoms from the omicron variant differ much from those of earlier forms of the coronavirus.

    So far, the CDC says these are the most common symptoms for people who get the omicron variant:

    • Cough
    • Fatigue
    • Congestion or runny nose

    These are among the same symptoms for COVID-19 caused by other variants:

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

    Yes. Omicron is spreading faster than any previous variant, the World Health Organization’s director-general said Dec. 14. As of January, new omicron cases are breaking daily records across the U.S. and Oregon.

    No, according to early evidence — but with many unknowns. Studies and observations suggest that omicron causes less-severe illness than earlier forms of the coronavirus.

    A study from South Africa, for example, found that the risk among adults of needing hospital care was 30% lower than with the original coronavirus. Doctors there have also reported seeing patients with mild symptoms and fast recoveries.

    Omicron has infected younger people in South Africa, however, and many have had COVID-19 before. Outcomes may be different in other areas.

    WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus cautioned Dec. 14 “that we underestimate this virus at our peril.”

    “Even if omicron does cause less severe disease,” he said, “the sheer number of cases could once again overwhelm unprepared health systems.”

    WHO officials noted that the longer-term effects of omicron remain unknown. And, they said, a virus that spreads easily can do a lot of harm, especially among vulnerable people.

    Yes and no, depending on what you look at. It’s important to note that studies are early, and some relied on lab tests, not real-world data.

    • Early studies indicate that being fully vaccinated with Pfizer or Moderna (two shots) or Johnson and Johnson (one shot) offers less protection against omicron infection compared with other forms of the virus.
    • Being fully vaccinated may still protect against severe illness or death — a main goal of vaccines. 
    • Early results suggest that being fully vaccinated with Pfizer or Moderna, and then getting a booster shot of either vaccine, greatly increases protection.

    Vaccine makers are testing their vaccines against omicron. Pfizer’s CEO said that, if needed, the company could have an omicron-targeting version in March.

    But Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, said Dec. 15 that he doesn’t think that will be needed. “Our booster vaccine regimens work against omicron,” he said. “At this point, there is no need for a variant-specific booster.”

    He added: “The message remains clear: If you are unvaccinated, get vaccinated. And particularly in the arena of omicron, if you are fully vaccinated, get your booster shot.”

    Viruses change (mutate) as they spread. A new form is called a variant.

    The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has thousands of variants. But only a few, including omicron, have changes that make much difference.  The CDC and WHO classify omicron, like delta, a “variant of concern” because it has changes that could make it more infectious and/or severe.

    Differences between omicron and other variants include:

    • Omicron has about 50 mutations — more than usual.
    • About 30 involve a gene for the spike protein. These include changes that could help the virus attach to human cells. That could be why it’s more contagious.
    • The omicron variant spreads faster than any other variant, according to the WHO. 
    • Omicron seems to evade vaccines more easily, leading to more infections.

    Learn more:

    The delta variant is a newer form of the coronavirus. Viruses change (mutate) over time. A new form is called a variant.

    The World Health Organization and U.S. officials are tracking variants. They include “variants of concern,” such as delta, and “variants of interest.”

    For public ease, the WHO names some variants after Greek letters. Variants also have scientific names; delta’s is B.1.617.2.

    Yes. It is about twice as contagious as previous forms of the coronavirus, and about as contagious as chickenpox.

    An infographic that gives a visual comparison between the contagiousness of the original COVID-19 strain and the Delta variant.

    Evidence suggests that it is, the CDC says. A study in Scotland found that people infected with delta were about twice as likely to need hospital care as those infected with an earlier variant. Studies in Canada and Singapore also found evidence of more serious illness.

    Get vaccinated: The vaccines available in the United States offer excellent protection against severe illness and death from the coronavirus, including the delta variant. Find a vaccine.

    Get a booster shot: The CDC recommends that anyone eligible for a booster shot get one. Find a booster shot 

    Wear a mask:

    • Oregon requires masks in all indoor public spaces for everyone older than 5; and on public transit for those older than 2. 
    • The CDC recommends wearing a mask in indoor public spaces anywhere the virus spread is “substantial” or “high.” 

    Yes. Of 469 people infected in a delta-fueled outbreak in Massachusetts in July, 74% were fully vaccinated . A study of the outbreak also found that vaccinated people could carry the virus in their nose and throat, and spread it to others.

    The CDC recommended mask-wearing in public again, even for those who are vaccinated, partly because of this data.

    You are much less likely to become seriously ill if you are vaccinated. Wearing a mask in public indoors will help protect you and those around you.

    OHSU's COVID tests show whether you have COVID, but not what variant. An additional test to sequence the virus can tell the variant, but it takes several days. Most labs don't sequence all tests; some samples are sequenced to estimate the prevalence of variants in the community.  

    In any case, if you get COVID, it’s highly likely it’s the delta variant. It’s the most common form of the coronavirus in Oregon and across the U.S.

    Regardless of which form of the virus you were infected with, recommendations for treatment and isolating yourself from others are the same. Sequencing might become more common if treatment recommendations change with the type of COVID.

    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.

    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: There is no variant is in this category. A variant here would be able to evade tests and vaccines, cause severe illness and/or resist more than one therapy.

    Learn more:

    Children and COVID-19 FAQ

    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 some options:

    • OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital
      • Appointments for children ages 5-11
      • Appointments for Black/African American, Asian, Latino, Pacific Islander, Native American, and Slavic children ages 5-11, and children with disabilities ages 5-11
    • VaccineFinder, CDC
      • Text your ZIP code to 438829 (GETVAX) for a list of nearby locations with vaccines. Learn more at Vaccines.gov.
    • Vaccine Locator Map, Oregon Health Authority

    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 in August 2021:

    • More than 8,300 children had been in the hospital with COVID-19 in the U.S.
    • Hospitalization rates went up fivefold during the delta variant surge.
    • 30% of children who needed hospital care for COVID-19 had no underlying health issue.

    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

    Vaccines for children younger than 5 could become available in 2022. 

    Pfizer tested two low doses in children 6 months to age 5. On Dec. 17, they reported that children younger than 2 had good immune response, but children 2 and older did not. There were no safety concerns.

    They are now testing a third low dose in children these ages. They do not plan to test a higher dose in young children.

    It's not clear how long the study will take. If it goes well, Pfizer said it will seek FDA authorization in the first half of 2022 for a three-dose series.

    Now, Pfizer’s vaccine is authorized for use in people ages 5 and older. The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are authorized for ages 18 and older.

    Yes. Children with weakened immunity (compromised immune system) are 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. Research has not yet shown how long previously infected children are protected from getting COVID-19 again. But we do know that the COVID-19 vaccine protects kids from infection, even if they already had COVID-19.

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

    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. Your child may get a COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as other vaccines, such as the flu shot.

    Vaccine safety and effectiveness in children

    Yes.  The FDA and CDC authorized the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5-15 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 and CDC’s conclusions.
    • Your child cannot get COVID-19 from any COVID-19 vaccine.
    • COVID-19 vaccines do not affect DNA or fertility.
    • Of about 3,100 children ages 5-11 who received the vaccine in ongoing testing, none had a serious side effect.

    Learn more:

    Pfizer tested its vaccine in children ages 5-11. Their results showed the vaccine is 90.7% effective at preventing COVID-19 infection.

    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

    Because of the highly contagious delta variant, the CDC recommends that all students in K-12 schools wear masks. Oregon also requires that people 5 and older (2 and older on mass transit) wear masks in indoor public settings.

    Wearing a mask is safe for all children 2 years of age and older, with rare exceptions. Masks:

    • Protect your child from others who may have the coronavirus.
    • Help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, especially since most children are not yet vaccinated.
    • Do not reduce oxygen intake or trap carbon dioxide.
    • Do not affect your child’s lung development.

    For most children with health conditions, the benefits of wearing a mask outweigh any risk. Wearing a mask is safe, even if your child has:

    • Asthma, cystic fibrosis or other lung conditions
    • Rashes, sensitivity or other skin conditions

    We understand that wearing a mask can be hard for young children and children with:

    • Autism or other sensory issues
    • Severe anxiety, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), or behavioral issues

    Helping your child learn to wear a mask is important for their health. Check out these tips from the Oregon Pediatric Society.

    For more support, ask your child’s school to add mask-wearing as one of their educational goals. You can also talk with your child’s doctor for help.

    Your child should not wear a mask if:

    • They are younger than 2 years old.
    • They have a condition, such as cerebral palsy, that makes them physically unable to remove their mask.

    Yes. In Oregon, masks are required for ages 5 and older in indoor public settings, and for ages 2 and older on public transit. 

    Because of the highly contagious delta variant, the CDC also recommends that everyone ages 2 and older, even if vaccinated, wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas with “substantial” or “high” spread

    The CDC has also recommended that teachers, staff, students and visitors to schools wear a mask indoors, regardless of vaccination status.

    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, 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.  

    Booster shots/additional primary shots FAQ

    Additional primary shot: When someone with a weakened immune system gets an additional shot of vaccine, it is not a booster. It is part of the first series of shots needed for the person to be fully vaccinated. Many people with impaired immunity did not have a full response to their first shots.

    Booster shot: An additional dose is a booster when someone had a full response to vaccination, but effectiveness wanes over time. The booster re-energizes their immune response.

    The CDC recommends that all who qualify get a booster shot.

    You qualify for a booster shot if you are:

    • Age 12 or older and you completed Pfizer vaccination at least five months ago.
    • Age 18 or older and you completed Moderna vaccination at least six months ago.
    • Age 18 or older and you completed Johnson & Johnson vaccination at least two months ago.

    Mixing and matching is allowed for ages 18 and older.

    Find a booster shot.

    If you were treated with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma:

    Wait 90 days before you get a  booster shot.

    If you had COVID-19 symptoms:

    You can get a booster shot 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.

    The FDA has authorized an additional primary shot of vaccine for some people ages 5 and older with weakened immune systems. Shots 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 shots of Pfizer (for ages 5 and older) and Moderna (ages 18 and older) under expanded emergency authorizations. The shots are considered safe.

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

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

    Booster shots: 

    The FDA and CDC have authorized mixing and matching of booster shots. As of Oct. 21, the FDA said people should get a booster of the same vaccine they had before. But it also said it's acceptable to get a booster with a different vaccine. 

    Additional primary shots:

    Health experts recommend that you get a shot 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 as the delta variant surged across the U.S., those falling seriously ill were overwhelmingly unvaccinated.

    • A CDC study released Sept. 10 found that unvaccinated people were more than 10 times as likely to die or need hospital care for COVID than fully vaccinated people. The study data came from more than 615,000 cases in April-July. 
    • A CDC study published Aug. 24 looked at more than 43,000 COVID infections in Los Angeles County from May 1 to July 25 among people 16 and older. It found that unvaccinated people were five times more likely to be infected and 29 times more likely to need hospital care compared with those who were fully vaccinated.

    The FDA has granted full approval to the Pfizer vaccine for ages 16 and older. Before, all vaccines were in use under FDA emergency authorization.

    Now:

    • Pfizer: 
      • This vaccine has full approval for use in ages 16 and older.
      • It has emergency authorization for use in ages 5-15.
      • It  has emergency authorization for additional primary shots in people 5 and older with impaired immunity.
      • It has emergency authorization for booster shots for people ages 12 and older who completed Pfizer vaccination at least five months ago; ages 18 and older who completed Moderna vaccination at least six months ago; or ages 18 and older who completed Johnson & Johnson vaccination at least two months ago.
    • Moderna: 
      • This vaccine has emergency authorization for use in ages 18 and older.
      • It has emergency authorization for additional primary shots for people 18 and older with impaired immunity.
      • It has emergency authorization for booster shots for people ages 18 and older who completed vaccination with Pfizer or Moderna at least six months ago, or who completed vaccination with Johnson & Johnson at least two months ago.
    • Johnson & Johnson: 
      • This vaccine has emergency authorization for use in ages 18 and older.
      • It has emergency authorization for booster shots for people ages 18 and older who completed vaccination with Pfizer or Moderna at least six months ago, or who completed vaccination with Johnson & Johnson at least two 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. The FDA’s Peter Marks, director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, told The Washington Post the agency would review hundreds of thousands of pages, up from tens of thousands. The FDA also planned to inspect facilities where vaccines are made.

    It’s a good idea to take steps to prevent infection. The delta variant is easier to spread than earlier forms of the coronavirus.

    OHSU advises everyone to:

    • Wear a mask indoors with people outside your household. A mask provides extra protection. 
    • Limit gatherings. If you do gather, do it outside.
    • Stay 6 feet from others whenever possible.
    • Limit interactions with others. Keep distance between your unvaccinated child and other people in public.

    If you are unvaccinated, OHSU recommends:

    • Get vaccinated. It's still possible to be infected with COVID-19 after vaccination, but you will be much less likely to become seriously ill or to need hospital care.
    • If you’re an unvaccinated adult, stay home and limit community interactions as much as possible.

    Yes. You should continue following safety recommendations after a third or additional primary shot. That means:

    • Wear a mask in public.
    • Stay 6 feet away from people you don’t live with.
    • Avoid crowded and poorly ventilated spaces until your provider says otherwise.

    OHSU strongly encourages you to get vaccinatedIn Oregon, masks are required in indoor public spaces. 

    No. For people who do not have impaired immune systems, being fully vaccinated means it has been at least two weeks since:

    • A second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine
    • One dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine

    For people 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 WHO for emergency use:
       
      • Moderna (two doses)
      • Pfizer (two doses)
      • Johnson & Johnson (one dose)
      • Oxford-AstraZeneca (two doses; includes versions such as Covishield and Vaxzevria)
      • Sinopharm (two doses)
      • Sinovac (two doses)
         
    • 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 Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

    No. OHSU does not recommend testing to check the level of antibodies in your blood. Health experts do not yet know the level needed to prevent infection.

    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

    OHSU does NOT recommend ivermectin to treat COVID-19. Merck, the maker of ivermectin, warns against using it for COVID-19. In addition, the FDA and National Institutes of Health have not endorsed using it for COVID-19. Clinical trials (tests on people) have not shown that it’s effective for COVID-19.

    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:

    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

    Coronavirus tests

    These tests detect the virus itself. A sample is taken, usually by inserting a swab into the person’s nose to collect mucus. Tests on the sample show if there’s any genetic material from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

    The tests show if someone is infected with the coronavirus. If someone has symptoms, the tests can show that the coronavirus is the cause. 

    Antibody tests

    Antibody tests detect antibodies to SARS-CoV-2. Antibodies are tiny proteins that the body’s immune system releases into the bloodstream to fight infection.

    If someone has antibodies, it means the person had enough exposure to the coronavirus to have an immune response, with or without symptoms. For this test, a person gives a blood sample. These tests are also called serum tests or serology tests.

    OHSU recommends against getting an antibody test unless:

    • There is a clear medical reason.
    • There is a plan for how your health care provider will use the results.

    OHSU also recommends against having an antibody test to:

    • Decide if you should get a COVID-19 vaccine.
    • Try to determine how you will respond to a vaccine.

    Vaccines FAQ

    Both vaccination and infection can build immunity against the coronavirus. But studies suggest vaccines give stronger, longer-lasting protection.

    • 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.

    Yes. The CDC recommends that you get vaccinated:

    • It's possible to get COVID-19 again, risking serious illness. 
    • It’s not clear how long immunity after infection lasts.
    • Some people don’t develop immunity after infection, studies show.
    • Studies suggest that vaccines provide better, longer protection than infection.
    • Getting vaccinated after having COVID-19 greatly increases protection, evidence suggests.

    Learn more:

    All three vaccines 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.

    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:

    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 shot. 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 shots. 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. This means getting any of the vaccines that are available to you. 

    The CDC recommends the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines over the Johnson & Johnson vaccine because of a risk of rare but serious blood clots (57 confirmed cases out of nearly 17 million doses in the U.S. as of Dec. 16, 2021). Women ages 18-49 are most at risk. The FDA says, however, that the benefits of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine far outweigh the known risks.

    The Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines have all been found to be highly effective. In addition, any new vaccine must be found to offer good protection against COVID-19 to win FDA emergency-use authorization or full approval. The FDA also continues monitoring vaccines to see how they perform.

    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.

    All three vaccines are highly effective. The three vaccines did report different efficacy rates, though. 

    • Johnson & Johnson reported an efficacy rate of 66%. Pfizer and Moderna reported rates of about 95%. The efficacy rate is the reduction in any severity of illness, during clinical trials, among those who got the vaccine compared with those who didn’t.
    • But health experts say the vaccines can’t be compared apples-to-apples. The vaccines were tested in different ways and at different times. Johnson & Johnson’s was tested later, for example, after more-contagious variants had emerged.
    • On the most important measures — preventing hospitalization and death — Johnson & Johnson had a 100% efficacy rate. That means no one who received the vaccine in clinical trials died or needed hospital care because of COVID-19. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine also had an 85% efficacy rate for preventing severe illness.

    The Johnson & Johnson vaccine also offers some advantages:

    • It is one dose. That makes it convenient for anyone who wants to be fully protected after one visit.
    • It does not need ultra-cold storage, making it an option for more areas.

    The CDC recommends the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines over the Johnson & Johnson vaccine because of a risk of rare but serious blood clots (57 confirmed cases out of nearly 17 million doses in the U.S. as of Dec. 16, 2021). Women ages 18-49 are most at risk. The FDA says, however, that the benefits of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine far outweigh the known risks.

    Studies suggest that booster shots of Pfizer or Moderna offer more protection than a Johnson & Johnson booster. The picture of how well each vaccine does against the omicron variant is still taking shape.

    Dr. Dawn Nolt, an OHSU expert on infectious diseases, addresses the effectiveness of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in a clip from a March 9 presentation.

    Yes. If you got a first dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, it’s important to get your second shot. 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 shot 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).
    • 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:
       
      • Pfizer (two doses)
      • Moderna (two doses)
      • Johnson & Johnson (one dose)
      • Oxford-AstraZeneca (two doses; includes versions such as Covishield and Vaxzevria)
      • Sinopharm (two doses)
      • Sinovac (two doses)
         
    • If you received the recommended doses of Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson, see if you qualify for an additional primary shot or a booster shot.
    • If you received the recommend 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 Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

    Medical gloves are in short supply worldwide. Oregon would need millions of additional pairs if gloves were used for all vaccinations.

    In addition, under Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations, providers are not required to wear them for COVID-19 vaccinations. Except in special cases, providers can clean their hands between each recipient instead.

    The CDC and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices agree that hand hygiene can replace glove use.

    Learn more: 

    The Reason Why Nurses Don’t Wear Gloves When Giving COVID-19 Vaccine Explained

    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.

    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 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. They can act quickly if a problem is spotted. 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:

    Although mRNA vaccines have not been widely used against an infectious disease before, researchers have used them for years in studies of the flu, Zika and other illnesses. They have also been used in cancer treatments. 

    The mRNA vaccines for COVID-19 have been developed with the same rigorous standards applied to all vaccines.

    Viral vector vaccines have been studied since the 1970s. Two Ebola vaccines are viral vector vaccines. The vaccines have also been used in clinical trials against viruses that include the Zika virus, HIV and flu viruses. 

    In addition, all COVID-19 vaccines cleared for use in the U.S. were developed with the same rigorous standards applied to all vaccines.

    No. The Pfizer, Moderna 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 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).

    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. No one has died.
    • 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.

    Federal health officials stress that the benefits of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine far outweigh the risks.

    The FDA has added warnings to the vaccine’s fact sheets for very rare complications. The updates are a reassuring sign that national vaccine safety monitoring is working well to identify potential complications.

    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.

    Blood clots:

    The CDC recommends the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines over the Johnson & Johnson vaccine because of a risk of rare but serious blood clots. As of Dec. 16, 2021, 57 cases had been confirmed out of nearly 17 million doses in the U.S. Risk is highest among women ages 18-49. At the same time, the FDA says the benefits of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine far outweigh the known risks.

    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.

    COVID-19 treatments FAQ

    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.

    In addition, Paxlovid is not recommended for those with severe kidney or liver disease.

    No. Paxlovid is not a substitute for vaccination. It can be used only for certain people at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19, and only after they have tested positive.

    Monoclonal antibody therapy is a treatment that uses lab-made antibodies to fight disease. The antibodies circulate in your blood, like antibodies made by your body’s immune system.

    Monoclonal antibody medication for COVID-19 is given under FDA emergency-use authorization. The antibodies target the coronavirus spike protein, blocking the virus from entering cells and spreading in your body.

    Studies have shown it:

    • Reduces the risk of developing COVID and symptoms after exposure.
    • Reduces the risk of severe illness and hospitalization after infection.

    The therapy is more effective the sooner it’s given.

    Monoclonal antibody therapy is not a replacement for a vaccine. The FDA allows only specific uses.

    No. Monoclonal antibody therapy is not a substitute for a vaccine. Some types can be used only after a positive test or exposure and/or only for those at high risk of severe illness. 

    In addition:

    • Monoclonal antibody therapy does lower risk of severe illness, but it is not a guarantee you won’t become dangerously ill.
    • Monoclonal antibody therapy offers protection against COVID-19 for only a few weeks or months. Vaccines can last much longer.
    • Some monoclonal antibody therapies can be used only after infection or exposure. Vaccines help protect you from getting the virus in the first place.
    • Monoclonal antibody therapy does not stop viruses from spreading and changing (mutating) into new variants. Only vaccines can end the pandemic.

    OHSU strongly encourages you to get a vaccine. It’s the single best thing you can do to protect yourself and those around you.

    There is more than one type of monoclonal antibody therapy. Who can receive therapy varies by type.

    The FDA allows some types for people who:

    • Have tested positive. 
    • Have mild to moderate symptoms that started less than 10 days before.
    • Are not in the hospital, and don’t need oxygen therapy for COVID-19. (Exception: Patients ages newborn to 2 years may be in the hospital.)
    • Are at high risk of severe disease.

    It also allows some types to prevent COVID-19 for people who:

    • Have been exposed to COVID-19 or are at high risk of exposure because they live in a group setting (nursing home or prison, for example) with someone who is infected. 
    • Are at high risk of severe disease.
    • Are not fully vaccinated; or are vaccinated but have impaired immunity.

    The FDA allows a type for people who:

    • Are at least 12 years old and weigh at least 88 pounds.
    • Are not infected with COVID-19, and have not been recently exposed to it.
    • Have weakened immunity or a history of bad reactions to vaccines.

    OHSU offers monoclonal antibody therapy for COVID-19. To be eligible, you must:

    • Qualify under FDA guidelines.
    • Be a patient of OHSU or OHSU Health Hillsboro Medical Center, and have a referral from an OHSU or Hillsboro Medical Center provider.
    • Be at least one of the following:
       
      • Unvaccinated
      • Not fully vaccinated (only one dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine)
      • Vaccinated with the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine
      • Immunocompromised (with weak immunity from disease or treatment)

    For questions about qualifying or making an appointment: Call our hotline at 833-647-8222.

    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 mother and 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 all people ages 12 and older, including those 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. 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

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

    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 or Moderna 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 shot 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.

    OHSU videos

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

    Claim your shot

    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 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.