*Last Updated: Wednesday, May 11th, 2022
Questions on COVID-19? Email ResourceCenter@mdausa.org
COVID-19 Vaccine FAQs
Are the COVID-19 vaccines safe and effective? Do the benefits to receiving the vaccine outweigh the risks?
Experts widely agree that FDA approved or-authorized vaccines are safe and effective and are recommended for all individuals ages 5 and older.
With over 200 million Americans now vaccinated, real-world evidence further confirms the effectiveness of the vaccines. Data from around the world show substantial decreases in the infection, symptomatic illness, severe illness, and death rates of those who are vaccinated compared to those who are not.
Do the vaccines work against the variants?
Research is ongoing, but scientists believe the vaccines lose some of their effectiveness against the Omicron variant. Some estimates place the effectiveness of a standard 2-dose regimen of an mRNA vaccine at approximately 35 percent effectiveness against infection. However, the standard dosing regimen of available vaccines still do a good job at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations, and death against this variant.
Even better, those with a booster dose are even more protected against Omicron. Some estimates published by the makers of the vaccines estimate a booster dose of the vaccine restores effectiveness against infection to approximately 75 percent. Protection against severe illness is even stronger.
In addition, the current vaccines provide strong protection against the Delta variant. Although breakthrough infections can occur, being vaccinated will protect against severe disease and hospitalization.
Which vaccines are fully FDA approved for adults?
Both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have received full FDA approval for adults and are the primary vaccines recommended. The J&J vaccine has received emergency use authorization and is only recommended for those who cannot or will not take the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines. However, data show all three vaccines are both safe and effective. We recommend talking to your doctor about which vaccine is the best for you.
If I got the vaccine, should I get a booster shot?
For anyone who originally received the J&J vaccine, a booster shot is recommended two months after your original dose. For those who originally received the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, booster shots are recommended five months after your second dose.
In addition, the CDC authorized a 4th dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines for those who over 50, immunocompromised, or have underlying conditions . Please talk to your doctor about whether a 4th dose is recommended for you.
NOTE: At this time, booster shots are only recommended for those who are 12 years or older.
While it is always wise to consult with your doctor before seeking any vaccine (including a COVID-19 booster shot), the waning effectiveness of original vaccine regimens coupled with the strong restoration of protection against COVID-19 infection by a booster shot provide a strong justification for seeking a booster.
Can my booster shot be a different brand than my original vaccine?
Yes, the FDA has allowed booster shots to be a different brand from a patient’s original vaccine. We recommend consulting with your doctor to decide which brand is the best for you.
Are the vaccines still protective in those who are immunocompromised? Should they still get the vaccine?
Studies are ongoing as to whether the FDA-approved or authorized vaccines are protective in those who are immunocompromised. However, early evidence points to a lessened antibody response in those with weakened immune systems, and consequently potentially a lessened protectiveness against COVID-19. Therefore, health authorities have recommended those who are immunocompromised receive a 3rd and 4th dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. In addition, the CDC also suggests those with compromised immune systems also employ additional protective measures such as avoiding crowds, physical distancing, and mask wearing.
Now that the vaccines are widely available, how should I obtain the vaccine?
Vaccines are widely available at a variety of facilities, including doctors’ offices, pharmacies, grocery stores, government-run clinics, and more. You can go to https://www.vaccines.gov/ to find a vaccination site near you.
With multiple COVID vaccines approved or authorized by the FDA, which one should I get?
Currently, FDA recommends adults receive either the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines. The Agency only recommends the J&J vaccine if the person cannot or will not take the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines.
We recommend talking to your doctor about which vaccine is right for you.
What are the side effects? Will they affect my neuromuscular condition?
The known sides effects of currently approved or authorized COVID-19 vaccines are generally similar to those of the annual flu vaccine. These include muscle soreness at the injection site, fever, tiredness, body aches, and headache. In very rare cases, reports of myocarditis have been reported in individuals receiving the J&J vaccine. The COVID-19 vaccines do not have a different or more serious set of side effects for NMD patients, and with many individuals with an NMD now having received the vaccine, MDA is not aware of any increased incidence of side effects in individuals with an NMD. You should talk to your doctor about the possibility of more serious side effects of a COVID-19 vaccine for you. But it is widely agreed that potential side effects of the vaccine are substantially dwarfed by the protective benefits they bring, particularly to at-risk communities.
What impacts will the vaccine have on my genetic therapies or other medication?
MDA is not aware of any evidence that any of the three FDA approved or authorized COVID-19 vaccinations will have any effect on current or future neuromuscular disease treatments, including gene-based therapies. However, it never hurts to consult with your clinician directly. Upon the FDA authorization or approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, the FDA did not name any contraindications pertaining to genetic therapies or other medications particularly important to the neuromuscular community. Should there be any contraindications that accompany future Agency decisions, we will update our information accordingly. However, given the many different neuromuscular disorders and courses of treatment, this question can best be addressed by your clinician. For more information on the FDA authorizations, please visit: https://www.fda.gov/emergency-preparedness-and-response/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19/covid-19-vaccines.
Will the COVID-19 vaccine be covered by my health insurance? What if I don’t have health insurance?
All individuals regardless of insurance coverage should receive a COVID-19 vaccine free-of-charge. The CARES Act, enacted by Congress in the Spring of 2020, mandated all Medicare beneficiaries and individuals with private insurance obtained through their employer or ACA marketplaces receive the COVID-19 vaccine entirely free of charge. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, also passed by Congress in 2020, similarly required state Medicaid plans to cover the vaccine free of charge. For those who are uninsured, any provider who is participating in the COVID-19 vaccination program must provide all individuals regardless of insurance status with a free vaccine. Similar free coverage requirements are in place for the VA, Department of Defense, and Federal employees. For more information, please visit: https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/issue-brief/vaccine-coverage-pricing-and-reimbursement-in-the-u-s/
Is the vaccine safe for the pediatric population?
The FDA has granted Emergency Use Authorization to the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine for children ages 5 and older. To obtain this authorization, Pfizer/BioNtech had to show its vaccine is both safe and effective for children in this age range. We encourage you to contact your child's doctor to see if the vaccine is right for them.
Clinical trials are ongoing for all three vaccines in children. Pfizer is currently testing its vaccine in children ages 6 months to 4 years old. Moderna is testing its vaccine in children ages 6 months to 4 years old, 5 to 11 years old as well as 12 to 17 years old, and J&J is also testing their vaccines in children ages 12 and older with plans to expand their trials to younger children shortly.
Booster shots of the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine have been authorized by the FDA for all children ages 12 to 17.
When can my child get the vaccine?
The Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine is widely available for children ages 5 to-17. We’re hopeful the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccine will finish their clinical trials soon and be available to this same age group in the near future.
Pfizer and Moderna are hoping for authorization of their vaccine for children 6 months and older shortly. J&J is a little further behind but hopes to have their vaccines authorized for pediatric use in the near future.
MDA will update these FAQs and the community as soon as access to a COVID-19 vaccine is opened for more children in the neuromuscular community.
Is a prescription needed to get the COVID-19 vaccine?
No, a prescription will not be necessary to obtain a COVID-19 vaccine, though the process of obtaining a COVID-19 vaccine.. It is the general intention of Federal and state authorities to make a COVID-19 vaccine similarly accessible as other vaccines, such as the flu shot, that generally do not require a prescription.
What did MDA do to ensure that the NMD community got priority access to COVID-19 vaccines?
MDA engaged with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as state and local public health officials to ensure that decisionmakers were aware of the needs of the NMD community to be able to have the earliest possible access to FDA approved COVID vaccine(s). In October 2020, MDA contacted the CDC asking that individuals with neuromuscular diseases should be included in the early phases of vaccination. In December 2020, MDA joined 19 other neuromuscular disease advocacy groups in contacting every state and jurisdiction asking for phase one access to the vaccine for the neuromuscular community. In February of 2021, MDA joined partnering organizations to urge CDC to provide further guidance to jurisdictions on including individuals with rare diseases during the “high-risk condition” phase.
Additional Information on COVID-19 vaccines
- Resources provided by American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy (ASGCT) on mRNA vaccines for COVID-19, which includes a short video, FAQ, and an infographic.
- Visit CDC’s Vaccine Information page to learn more about vaccine safety for you and your family.
- CDC is making coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccination recommendations for the United States based on input from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). ACIP is a federal advisory committee made up of medical and public health experts who develop recommendations on the use of vaccines in the U.S. public. ACIP holds regular meetings, which are open to the public and provide opportunity for public comment.