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Are COVID-19 vaccines safe and effective? How were they tested and approved?

Last Updated: 02/15/2023

COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective.

Millions of people in the United States have received COVID-19 vaccines. These vaccines have undergone and will continue to undergo the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history.

COVID-19 vaccines are safe, and meet the FDA's rigorous scientific standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality.

COVID 19-vaccines are effective at preventing severe illness from COVID-19 and limiting the spread of the virus that causes it.

Recent studies have shown that unvaccinated people have a 12.7x greater risk of dying from COVID-19 than people who are up to date with their vaccines including an updated bivalent booster.

Being up to date on COVID-19 vaccines continues to provide strong protection against severe disease, hospitalization, and death in adults.

Are COVID-19 vaccines safe even though they were developed rapidly?

The vaccines were developed using science that has been around for decades.

The vaccines were able to be developed rapidly because of the following:

  • Vaccines have already been created for coronaviruses similar to SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19), so a lot of the work was already done.
  • All vaccines have gone through the same steps to show safety and effectiveness.
  • Many steps occurred at the same time (e.g., vaccines were being made while testing was taking place). No steps were skipped.
  • Collaboration between medical experts and researchers, along with plentiful funding helped to bring vaccines to the public sooner

What vaccines are approved or authorized for use?

The following are the COVID-19 vaccines available in the United States

  • Pfizer/BioNTech/ Comirnaty
  • Moderna
  • Johnson & Johnson's Janssen
  • Novavax

Everyone 6 months or older is eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine in New Jersey and encouraged to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Learn more.

CDC recommends everyone 6 months and older get an updated COVID-19 vaccine to protect against the potentially serious COVID-19 infections this fall and winter. Vaccination remains the best protection against COVID-19-related hospitalization and death. Vaccination also reduces your chance of suffering the effects of Long COVID, which can develop during or following acute infection and last for an extended duration.  If you have not received a COVID-19 vaccine in the past 2 months, get an updated COVID-19 vaccine to protect yourself this fall and winter.

The virus that causes COVID-19 is always changing, and protection from COVID-19 vaccines declines over time. Receiving an updated COVID-19 vaccine can restore protection and provide enhanced protection against the variants currently responsible for most infections and hospitalizations in the United States.

Most Americans can still get a COVID-19 vaccine for free. For people with health insurance, most plans will cover COVID-19 vaccine at no cost to you. People who don't have health insurance or with health plans that do not cover the cost can get a free vaccine from their local health centers or pharmacies participating in the CDC's Bridge Access Program.

For more information, visit the CDC's webpages on:

For FDA fact sheets for authorized vaccines, visit the FDA's "COVID-19 Vaccines" page. For additional resources in over a dozen languages, visit the FDA's multilingual COVID-19 resources page.

Side Effects

After receiving an injection of a COVID-19 vaccine, you will be observed for 15 minutes by healthcare staff to monitor any side effects. Observation may be longer (30 minutes) if you have a history of anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction).

Like many vaccines, a COVID-19 vaccine may cause some temporary discomfort. In addition to a sore arm, side effects of the vaccines may include tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, fever, injection site swelling, injection site redness, nausea, feeling unwell, and swollen lymph nodes.

There is a small chance that vaccines could cause a severe allergic reaction. A severe allergic reaction would usually occur within a few minutes to one hour, which is why all individuals should be observed for at least 15 minutes after vaccination and 30 minutes if they have a history of a severe allergic reaction due to any cause.

There is a remote chance that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine could increase risk of blood clots with low levels of platelets. Nearly all reports have been in adult women younger than 50 years old. After a temporary pause in the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the FDA and CDC determined that the vaccine's known and potential benefits outweigh its known and potential risks and recommended use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine resume.

There have been reports of cases of inflammation of the heart – called myocarditis and pericarditis – happening after mRNA COVID-19 vaccination (Pfizer and Moderna). In most cases, patients have responded well to medications and rest and had prompt improvement of symptoms. Reported cases have occurred predominantly in male adolescents and young adults 16 years of age and older. The CDC continues to recommend COVID-19 vaccination for everyone 12 years of age and older given the greater risk of other serious complications related to COVID-19.

The CDC and FDA are monitoring rare reports of Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) after the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The majority of cases have occurred in males aged 50 and older about two weeks after vaccination, mostly within six weeks.

For more information on vaccine safety, visit and speak with your healthcare provider.

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