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Which COVID-19 vaccine should I get? Are COVID-19 vaccines safe and effective? How were they tested and approved?

Last Updated: 05/13/2021

All currently authorized COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective, and will help protect you from getting COVID-19.

In clinical trials for all three authorized vaccines, there were zero cases of hospitalizations and zero deaths among fully vaccinated individuals.

The CDC does not state a preference. All the vaccines that are currently available were studied in different trials, among different people and different timelines. They were not studied in head-to-head comparisons or trials; therefore, they should not be compared to each other.

You are encouraged to take the first vaccine available to you, but if you decide to wait for a specific type of vaccine the State will respect your choice.

NOTE: Under the FDA's emergency use authorizations, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is recommended for individuals 12 years of age and older, and the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are recommended for individuals 18 years and older.

On May 10th, the FDA expanded the emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to include adolescents ages 12 through 15. On May 12th, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) also recommended the expanded use of the Pfizer vaccine and the CDC accepted these recommendations. The State of New Jersey is now moving forward with vaccinating adolescents. For all vaccinations, consent from a parent or guardian is required for minors.

What to Know About Available COVID-19 Vaccines

COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective, and will help protect you from getting COVID-19. Millions of people in the United States have received COVID-19 vaccines under the most intense safety monitoring in U.S. history.

  • COVID-19 vaccines will not give you COVID-19. The vaccines cannot give you COVID-19. None of the COVID-19 vaccines currently in development use the live virus that causes COVID-19.
  • COVID-19 vaccines will not cause you to test positive on COVID-19 viral tests. Vaccines won't cause you to test positive on viral tests, which are used to see if you have a current infection.
  • Receiving an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer and Moderna) will not alter your DNA. mRNA (messenger ribonucleic acid) can most easily be described as instructions for how to make a protein or even just a piece of a protein. mRNA is not able to alter or modify a person's genetic makeup (DNA).
  • Even after getting vaccinated, you still need to wear a mask and follow all safeguarding methods until enough individuals are vaccinated to produce community protection. The vaccine keeps you from getting sick, but we do not yet know if the vaccine prevents a person from spreading the virus.
  • COVID-19 vaccines are not interchangeable with each other or with other COVID-19 vaccine products. The safety and efficacy of a mixed-product series has not been evaluated. Both doses of the series should be completed with the same product.
  • It takes time to produce the vaccine, and the production capacity of each vaccine is increasing.
  • People who have gotten sick with COVID-19 may still benefit from getting vaccinated. At this time, experts do not know how long until someone is protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19. The immunity someone gains from having an infection (natural immunity) varies from person to person. Some early evidence suggest natural immunity may not last very long. Further information from the CDC on mRNA vaccination of persons with current or prior history of SARS-CoV-2 infection, exposure, or treatment can be found here and should be discussed with your healthcare provider.
  • Getting vaccinated can help prevent getting sick with COVID-19. There is no way to know how COVID-19 will affect you. If you get sick, you also may spread the disease to friends, family, and others around you while you are sick. COVID-19 vaccination helps protect you by creating an immune response without having to experience sickness.

Vaccine Trials and Testing

COVID-19 vaccines that are authorized for use have gone through clinical trials involving tens of thousands of participants to determine their safety and efficacy.

The known and potential benefits of approved vaccines outweigh the known and potential harms of becoming infected with COVID-19.

Currently, the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson's Janssen COVID-19 vaccines are being administered in New Jersey.

Federal officials recommended a pause in the administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on April 13 out of an abundance of caution. However, on April 23, the FDA "determined that the available data show that the vaccine's known and potential benefits outweigh its known and potential risks in individuals 18 years of age and older."

The FDA and CDC are confident that this vaccine is safe and effective in preventing COVID-19. At this time, the available data suggest the chance of a rare blood clot occurring is very low, but the FDA and CDC will remain vigilant in continuing to investigate this risk. For more information, visit the CDC.

This process should demonstrate for the public that the federal vaccine safety monitoring system is strong and should instill confidence in receiving any of the three approved vaccines.

More information from the FDA about these three vaccines can be found here:

For the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, please consult these FDA fact sheets:

For the Moderna vaccine, please consult these FDA fact sheets:

For the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine, please consult these FDA fact sheets:

Clinical Trials

The FDA has issued Emergency Use Authorizations for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and for the Moderna vaccine, and Johnson & Johnson's Janssen vaccine. Additional vaccines are in Phase 3 clinical trials For more details on the vaccine approval process, refer to this infographic and this fact sheet.

Clinical trials are research studies performed in people that are aimed at evaluating a medical, surgical, or behavioral intervention. They are the primary way that researchers find out if a new treatment, like a new drug, vaccine, or medical device is safe and effective in people.

Currently, clinical trials are evaluating COVID-19 vaccines in many thousands of study participants to generate scientific data and other information for the FDA to determine their safety and efficacy. These clinical trials are being conducted according to rigorous safety standards. For detailed information, visit this CDC 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.

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.

Source: https://www.state.nj.us/health/cd/documents/topics/NCOV/Public_FAQ.pdf; https:/www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/safety.html