Know before you go
Staying on top of the latest vaccine information can be overwhelming. And a lot of it can seem confusing. We're here to make it all easier for you. Because the more you know, the more confident you'll be when it's time for you to get vaccinated.
Helpful Terms to Know
Emergency Use Authorization (EUA)
Under an EUA, the FDA may allow the use of unapproved medical products, such as vaccines, in an emergency to diagnose, treat, or prevent serious or life-threatening diseases or conditions. Federal law requires that strict criteria have to be met first, eg, there must be no other adequate, approved, or available options.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Get The Facts
How did COVID-19 start?
Scientists did investigations to find out how the new virus started. They conducted surveys in the community and in health facilities and collected nose and throat samples for lab analyses. These investigations showed them who was infected, when they became sick, and where they had been just before they got sick.
Using this information, scientists determined that the virus possibly came from an animal sold at a market. The new virus was found to be a coronavirus, and coronaviruses cause a severe acute respiratory syndrome. This new coronavirus is similar to SARS-CoV, so it was named SARS-CoV-2. The disease caused by the virus was named COVID-19 (COronaVIrusDisease-2019) to show that it was discovered in 2019.
An outbreak is called an epidemic when there is a sudden increase in cases. As COVID-19 began spreading in Wuhan, China, it became an epidemic. Because the disease then spread across several countries and affected a large number of people, it was classified as a pandemic.
Why did COVID-19 affect some communities more than others?
COVID-19 has been worse for people of color at every stage, including:
- Higher risk of exposure
- Higher rates of hospitalization
- Higher rates of death
Certain conditions and socioeconomic circumstances are more prevalent in some communities and may be contributing to these differences. These may include:
- Other health conditions, like diabetes, heart disease, and lung disease, that can make COVID-19 worse
- Living in homes with multiple family members of different generations
- Living in busy cities and taking public transportation that makes social distancing difficult
- Not having a job that can be done from home; many people of color were designated as essential workers
- Having less access to healthcare
- Racism and discrimination, which can worsen one's health, making a COVID-19 infection more dangerous
Why might BIPOC communities have trouble trusting the US government and health system?
There are many examples in US history of BIPOC people being mistreated, experimented on, and lied to by the medical system.
In the Black community, some examples include:
- Experiments on enslaved people
- Forced sterilizations of Black women
- The Tuskegee syphilis study that did not treat Black men for decades in order to watch how the disease affected their bodies
Additionally, the scientific community has a long history of unethical medical research practices in Native American communities, including:
- Forced sterilizations of Native American women
- The Havasupai "diabetes project" in the 1990s in which researchers told participants they were taking blood samples for diabetes research but used the samples to study schizophrenia instead
In addition to this, Native Americans must also grapple with a US government that has repeatedly lied, misrepresented itself, and broken promises for centuries.
Latinx populations in the US have also had experiences with forced sterilizations among women in prison, including allegedly forced hysterectomies at an ICE facility in 2020.
As a result, BIPOC communities might choose not to visit the doctor at all when they are sick, or they might mistrust the advice they are given when they do visit.
When they decide to visit the doctor, doctors' false beliefs (or implicit biases) might cause them to give poorer care to BIPOC patients than to White American patients. (Examples of poorer care caused by implicit biases can include speaking down to a patient, making them wait longer, or providing better treatment options to White people.)
To help establish greater trust and confidence among BIPOC communities, continued relationship building is key. That's why there is an ongoing effort to reach out to clinicians, community leaders, and healthcare leaders and partners to help provide information and resources on the COVID-19 vaccines for underserved communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
Why should I trust vaccines that were created so quickly?
- A large number of volunteers enrolled in the vaccine studies, which helped scientists perform clinical trials and review data sooner than expected
- Breakthroughs in vaccine technology even before the pandemic enabled pharmaceutical companies to move quickly to respond to the virus
- The EUA from the FDA meant that the vaccines were made available sooner
- Due to the seriousness of the pandemic, the FDA worked to reduce the typical amount of time needed for the clinical trials. The trials were standard in design, but the overall timelines were reduced by overlapping portions of the trials
Will the vaccines change my DNA?
I have no serious diseases and I take care of my health. Can I protect myself against COVID-19 by taking vitamins and supplements?
- Prevent you from getting COVID-19 or from becoming seriously ill or dying due to COVID-19
- Add to the number of people in the community who are protected from getting COVID-19, contributing to herd immunity
Why should I get a vaccine?
COVID-19 vaccines may:
- Help prevent you from getting COVID-19 or from becoming seriously ill or dying due to COVID-19
- Add to the number of people in the community who are protected from getting COVID-19, helping to contribute to herd immunity
What vaccines are available?
Which vaccine is better?
It's important to remember that for the COVID-19 vaccines to get an EUA by the FDA, they have to meet strict legal requirements. Based on all scientific evidence available to FDA:
- it is reasonable to believe that the vaccines may be effective in preventing COVID-19
- the known and potential benefits of the vaccine when used to prevent COVID-19 outweigh its known and potential risks
How will I know when it's my turn?
Can I choose which vaccine I get?
Is it free?
What should I do if I experience side effects?
- By notifying the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), a national system designed to monitor the safety of the vaccines and collect data on side effects that are:
- Appear to happen more often than expected
- Have unusual patterns of occurrence
- By using a new smartphone-based tool called V-SAFE, which can check on people's health after they receive a COVID-19 vaccine. When you receive your vaccine, you should also receive a V-SAFE information sheet telling you how to enroll. If you enroll, you will receive text messages directing you to surveys where you can report any problems or adverse reactions you have after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.
We understand that when it comes to COVID-19 vaccination and vaccine safety, there's a lot of information out there. It can seem confusing at times, especially when it feels like new information is coming out every week.
That's why we want to help you stay on top of the latest news and information.
The CDC is the best resource for a wide range of topics. Go here or click on a specific topic below to get the detailed information you need.
Where can I learn more?
If you have more questions, be sure to talk to your vaccination provider or your doctor. You can also reach out to your state, territorial, tribal, or local health department, especially with any questions about vaccine availability.
You can also find more information online at the following websites:
You can contact your state health department for more information on its plan for COVID-19 vaccination.
Now that you have answers to your questions, let's get you vaccinated.