Earlier this month, President Joe Biden made a surprising announcement.
He directed all states to make every adult eligible to get the Covid-19 vaccination, with May as the deadline for the vaccine to become available to all. That’s exciting news for young adults who have anxiously waited their turn to get inoculated. As you gear up to roll your sleeve up, here’s everything you need to know before May 1.
Inverse spoke to two experts, George Rutherford, Director of the Prevention and Public Health Group and professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at University of California San Francisco, and Stefan Baral, a physician epidemiologist and an associate professor at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.
Will I be able to get vaccinated in May?
Rutherford tells Inverse that while it’s definitely possible all millennials will be eligible for vaccination in May, the reality will depend on your state’s resources and the vaccine supply, as well as the decisions your state government ultimately makes about tiers — that is, who gets vaccinated when, and in what order.
The reason why is to do with how the federal government relates to state and local governments. Just because President Biden has directed states to allow all adults to be eligible, taking that directive and proceeding is up to state and local governments, not the administration.
“States might decide to add tiers regardless, like for high density, low-income communities regardless,” Rutherford tells Inverse.
How can I sign up to get vaccinated?
One website which purports to match you up with a Covid-19 vaccine is VaccineFinder. Built by researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital, the site lets users search for available vaccines in their area — users search using their zip code.
The site gives users information about which local pharmacies have vaccines available and even the brand of vaccine(s) each pharmacy offers to customers. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has a link on its website to VaccineFinder and links to different states’ health departments. Users can search their home state’s health department, where they can find information specific to their state.
VaccineFinder only shows the availability of vaccines given to pharmacies by the federal government, so it’s absolutely worth checking the state government’s health department website, too.
What is the best Covid-19 vaccine for young adults?
“It’s important to note that the time to full protection is not so dissimilar from the two-shot formulations for the other vaccines,” Baral tells Inverse.
“I think the single-shot formulations are particularly important for people with inflexible working schedules, including shift workers and those who cannot work remotely or cannot easily take time off to get a vaccine,” Baral says.
Rutherford agrees. He thinks the Johnson & Johnson vaccine might be particularly useful for certain groups, including the homeless and people in county jails, who are often incarcerated for a short period of time. He adds that Johnson & Johnson is currently doing trials to see if one or two doses of their vaccine are better and that ultimately, “Johnson and Johnson might become a two-dose vaccine anyway.”
But either way, both experts stress that the best vaccine is the first one to which you have access.
How effective are mRNA vaccines like Moderna and Pfizer?
In clinical trials, both mRNA vaccines were found to be highly efficacious.
Moderna was shown to be 94.1 percent effective at protecting against Covid-19; for Pfizer, efficacy in preventing disease was reported to be 95 percent — for context, these efficacy levels beat the flu vaccine handily.
In fact, the CDC recently released exciting data showing that both vaccines appear to be 90 percent effective in preventing Covid-19 following both doses. Even one dose of the vaccine offers a staggering amount of protection; the CDC says that 14 days after the first dose, but before the second shot, the vaccines are 80 percent effective at preventing Covid-19.
Ultimately, however, it is important to get both doses — the clinical trials backing these efficacy levels up tested people who received both doses, after all.
Are young adults at risk for severe Covid-19?
Much has been written about how the risk of developing a severe case of Covid-19 increases with age. But Rutherford is unequivocal: Young adults can still get severe cases of Covid-19 and should get vaccinated at their first opportunity.
Baral adds that the young adults most at risk of developing a severe case of Covid are often those who are also “immunocompromised, may have pre-existing lung disease, kidney disease, hypertension, be overweight, etcetera.” Essentially, conditions “that may predispose them to more serious clinical courses.”
But there’s another important reason to get vaccinated: the likelihood of you transmitting the virus to someone who is more vulnerable seems to plummet if you’ve been vaccinated (more on that below).
How much does the Covid-19 vaccine cost?
You should not have to pay to get a coronavirus vaccine.
The CDC says Covid-19 providers cannot charge you for the vaccine. The government will reimburse all providers from taxpayer dollars — so if you pay taxes, you have (sort of) already paid your way.
Do you need both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine? Does it need to be the same brand of vaccine?
“For now, yes, the recommendation is absolutely to stick to the two-dose formulations for all but Johnson & Johnson,” Baral says.
“There has been lengthening of the interval in some settings to deal with low stock, but shouldn’t be an issue in most places.”
While there is some flexibility in the timing between doses, the CDC says you shouldn’t get the second shot more than six weeks after the first. In the United Kingdom, where the AstraZeneca vaccine is being rolled out, the time between doses stretches as long as 12 weeks.
Baral says the second dose is critical to ensure the same high level of protection observed in the vaccines' clinical trials.
As for whether or not you can get one brand of vaccine for the first shot and a different one for the second, “no one is going to let you do that because it hasn’t been tested,” Rutherford says.
If a health care provider offers you that, it’s an enormous red flag.
What are the Covid-19 vaccine side effects?
There is a range of side effects you may experience after getting the vaccine. Among the most common is:
- Slight soreness in your arm around the vaccine site (you did have a needle in your arm after all)
- Muscle aches
- A slight fever.
Baral says the most likely scenario is that you will feel nothing after the first dose, barring a sore arm or malaise (defined as general discomfort — that vague, gross feeling you get when you’re about to get sick).
Some people will feel more side effects after the second dose — some describe it as akin to when you’re coming down with the flu. But, as we explain below, this feeling shouldn’t last long. If you’ve already had Covid-19, you “may experience more symptoms than others, but this has not been consistently seen,” Baral says.
These side effects can be explained as a happy result of your body creating the appropriate antibodies to fight the SARS-CoV-2 virus — which is true — but if you don’t have any side effects, don’t worry. Bodies are different, and they respond to immunizations differently, too.
How long do the Covid-19 vaccine side effects last?
If you do have side effects from the Covid-19 vaccine, don’t worry. The U.S. CDC says that any side effects from the jab should go away within a few days of receiving the dose.
If any side effects don’t go away after a few days, or if the redness and soreness where you received the shot worsen after 24 hours, you should call your doctor.
How can you prevent Covid-19 vaccine side effects?
“If folks had symptoms with their first shot, they could consider taking a Tylenol or Advil before the second shot to control any pain or potential mild symptoms,” Baral says.
“Again, most don’t need anything and feel very little.”
The CDC also stresses that you shouldn’t take any painkillers or antihistamines prior to getting the shot.
Can you still transmit Covid-19 after being vaccinated? Do you still have to wear a mask?
Both experts Inverse spoke to agree: It’s possible that you may be able to transmit Covid-19 after you are fully vaccinated, but the chances are extremely slim.
A growing number of studies support this conclusion. For example, a study done in the U.K. found that after two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, the transmission of the virus dropped by 86 percent.
As for wearing masks...
The CDC has changed its guidance to allow those who have been fully vaccinated to not wear masks in certain situations. But if you’re around vulnerable people who haven’t been vaccinated, or in public spaces, you should still wear a mask.
“If there’s a child or someone who cannot get vaccinated and they are hanging out with their grandparents, then it is at least critical that the person at great risk is vaccinated,” Baral says.
Can you get Covid-19 after being vaccinated?
Both experts agree that you can but, just like transmission, the odds are low.
“The chances are very slim,” Rutherford says.
“There are likely COVID-19 infections but they are generally subclinical or mild and may resemble the ‘common cold’ type symptoms,” Baral says.
We may never completely eradicate the existence of SARS-CoV-2, but with vaccination, we can significantly decrease how many people have poor outcomes after contracting the disease.
Can you get Covid-19 from the vaccine?
Nope, not even a little bit.
The only way you can get Covid-19 is through exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and the vaccine doesn’t expose you to the virus.
As we outline above, you can become infected despite having been vaccinated, but again, the chances of that are very slim.
“The challenges have been when there is vaccination in the context of outbreaks in long-term care facilities or shelters. The vaccines can be part of an outbreak mitigation strategy,” Baral says.
“However, they provide no benefit in the first 5 to 7 days after vaccination. So if folks are exposed during this time, there was no protective benefit from the vaccine. It really does take about 4 to 6 weeks for the full protection to be in place.”