Updated May 20, 2022

You may feel hopeful about vaccines and keeping friends and family safe from COVID-19. You may feel worried or have questions about getting a vaccine yourself. 

This page contains answers to common questions and links to more resources to help you find the information you need to decide what is best for you. Share this information, links and images with your friends, family, schools, faith communities, or others you know who have questions about the vaccines.  

About the vaccines

Side effects

Pregnancy and breastfeeding

Vaccines and underlying conditions

More resources and information

About the vaccinesA scientist is looking at vials in a lab

All of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines are effective at preventing serious illness, hospitalization and death. After looking more closely at the vaccines, national experts have decided that mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) are preferred, due to a rare but serious blood clotting disorder that could be associated with the Johnon & Johnson vaccine. People can still get the single dose J&J if they are unable to take a different kind of vaccine. Talk to your doctor if you have specific questions.

COVID Vaccine Graphics: Why Get It, and What Happens Next? (Public Health Collaborative)

Vaccine Success Stories (Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board)

Speed of development

How was the COVID vaccine developed so quickly? Cooperation between researchers, the government and private companies shortened the usual timeline for vaccine development.

The COVID-19 vaccines 

  • are based on decades of existing research. 
  • have gone through all the usual steps for approving a vaccine.
  • have been studied and tested for safety in large-scale clinical trials. 

COVID-19 Vaccine Safety and Development | Arabic | Amharic | French | Somali | Swahili | More languages

Infographic: What Steps Are Taken to Ensure That Vaccines Are Safe? (Public Health Collaborative)

Scientists are still learning two people dressed as scientists having a discussion in a lab

  • how long COVID-19 vaccines can protect people.

  • if additional booster shots will be needed. 

  • how effective the vaccines are against variants of the virus that causes COVID-19. 

The safety of vaccines continues to be monitored after they are given to the public. Two systems monitor vaccine safety, the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), and v-safe, a system established by CDC specifically for COVID-19. 

What is in the vaccines?A magnifying glass enlarges a list of ingredients

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have mRNA and ingredients to help mRNA work in your body: fats, potassium, organic compounds to protect mRNA from too much acid, salt, and sugar. 

Download and watch a video about mRNA Vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna).

The J&J vaccine contains a modified adenovirus with information from the coronavirus on it. It also contains ingredients that help keep the vaccine stable: salts, sugars and other organic compounds.

The vaccines do not contain:

  • pork products, eggs, latex, or chemicals to preserve the vaccine.

  • live virus and can’t give you COVID-19. 

  • *fetal cells, animal products, or microchips.

*Fetal cells were used in the development and manufacturing of some of the vaccines, however the vaccines themselves do not contain fetal cells. 

The vaccines do not change your DNA or genetic material. They do not cause infertility.

Infographic: About the COVID-19 Vaccines (Public Health Collaborative)

General information about Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson (CDC)

Allergic reactions

It is rare, but some people have had a severe allergic reaction within a few minutes of getting vaccinated. That is why everyone is asked to wait for 15 to 30 minutes before you leave after getting the vaccine. someone sitting a chair leading over like they are tired

You can reduce your risk by telling the vaccinators if you have ever had a severe allergic reaction to a vaccine or other injection. 

Side effects

You may experience some side effects, such as sore arm, headache, tiredness, low fever. Side effects are common in any vaccine and are a sign your body is building protection against disease. Side effects usually go away on their own within a few days. If they don’t, call your doctor or clinic. If you don’t have a doctor, call 211 for help finding one.

There is a very rare but serious blood clotting disorder that could be associated with the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. If you get the J&J vaccine, watch for these more serious symptoms for three weeks: 

  • a severe headache or a headache that won’t go away 
  • blurred vision 
  • chest or belly pain 
  • leg swelling or pain 
  • trouble breathing 
  • easy bruising or tiny blood spots under your skin outside of where you got your shot

If you develop any of these symptoms, call 911 or go to an emergency room. It is important to tell them that you had the Johnson & Johnson vaccine so they can take care of you in the right way.

While people of any age or gender could experience blood clots following J&J, women ages 18-49 should be aware of the rare but increased risk.

Symptoms of blood clots generally show up 1-2 weeks after vaccination. Anyone whose last J&J was at least 3 weeks ago no longer needs to watch for symptoms of a blood clot. 

Due to these side effects, national and state health officials have decided that for most adults, taking one of the mRNA vaccines is preferred. People who are unable to receive the mRNA vaccines will still have J&J as an option. Talk to your doctor about risks. 

Find more tips for coping with vaccine side effects.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding and the COVID-19 vaccinea pregnant person stands holding their belly

The COVID-19 vaccine was not tested on pregnant people in the trial phases, however scientists believe that vaccines are safe for these groups. They are continuing to monitor vaccinated pregnant people.

  • Pregnant people are at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 when compared to non-pregnant people. 

  • Vaccines reduce the risk of getting severe COVID. 

  • If you are pregnant, talk to your health care provider about getting the vaccine. Find sample questions for your doctor on our pregnancy and breastfeeding and the COVID-19 vaccine page.

Can I get the vaccine if I am breastfeeding?

Clinical trials for currently authorized COVID-19 vaccines did not include people who are breastfeeding. However, scientists believe that the vaccines are safe for mothers and babies who are breastfeeding. 

  • The COVID-19 vaccines authorized now are non-replicating vaccines, meaning they are able to create an immune response but do not reproduce inside host cells. 

  • Because non-replicating vaccines pose no risk for lactating people or their infants, COVID-19 vaccines are also thought to not be a risk to the breastfeeding infant. 

More information about pregnancy and breastfeeding and the COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccines and underlying medical conditionsa person is asking a medical professional a question

There is limited safety data for people whose immune functions are lowered by HIV, certain medicines, or an autoimmune disease. However, people with these conditions may still get a vaccine if they have no other reason not to. 

If you have an underlying medical condition: 

  • It is generally recommended that you get the COVID-19 vaccine.

  • Talk to your healthcare provider for vaccination advice. 

  • Let the person giving you the vaccination know about all your allergies and health conditions. 

  • Learn more: COVID-19 Vaccines and underlying medical conditions

More questions?

If you are a person of color, you may be wondering if you can trust vaccines from a medical system that has broken trust with your community before. It’s understandable to have concerns. Learn more and get support: 

  • Talk with your doctor or clinic. If you don’t have a doctor, call 2-1-1 or Multnomah County Primary Care Clinics: 503-988-5558 

  • Call or visit Oregon’s Statewide Safe + Strong Helpline for emotional support and resource referral. You don’t need to be in crisis to call the helpline. 1-800-923-HELP (4357)


How the COVID-19 Vaccines Were Developed | Amharic | Arabic | French | Somali | Swahili | More languages

How The COVID-19 Vaccines Protect You | Amharic | Arabic | French | Somali | Swahili | More languages

Diversity in COVID-19 Vaccine Studies |  Arabic | French | Somali | Swahili | More languages

The Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 Vaccine | Amharic | French | Somali Swahili  More languages

You Were Vaccinated for COVID-19, What Now? |  Amharic | Arabic | French | Somali | Swahili | More languages

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