COVID-19 Vaccination Information and Resources

Covid Vaccine Information

The Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine received an Emergency Use Authorization for use in people age 16 and older on December 11, 2020. A vaccine made by Moderna received this authorization for use in people 18 and older on December 18, 2020.

Under guidance from the New York State Department of Health (DOH), we are providing vaccines to eligible groups of people, including health care workers, and residents and staff of nursing homes. As of Tuesday, January 12, certain groups of essential workers and everyone 65 and older will be eligible for vaccination. Mount Sinai Health System is working with the DOH to develop procedures and locations for offering vaccination to members of these groups and will contact eligible patients for vaccine scheduling once it becomes available. Please do not contact us for scheduling at this time. We are committed to providing vaccinations to eligible groups and will continue to share information on our website as we learn more.

To check your eligibility for the vaccines, visit the NYS DOH webpage: https://am-i-eligible.covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov/. Mount Sinai South Nassau has not yet been issued dosages for individuals classified in group 1B, so you will only see “Mount Sinai South Nassau” in the scheduling platform once the vaccine has been supplied to us. If you are eligible, the site will direct you where you can go to receive the vaccine. The State Department of Health will continue to announce as the vaccine is made more widely available.

As COVID-19 vaccines are being developed and reviewed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Mount Sinai Health System will keep this page updated with the most current information on their safety, effectiveness, and availability.

There are a lot of myths on the internet about COVID-19 vaccines. Mount Sinai is working with a company called NewsGuard to provide the most accurate information. If you’ve heard something that sounds questionable and want to know if it’s true or not, you can look it up in NewsGuard’s report on the top COVID-19 vaccine myths.

Frequently Asked Questions About the COVID-19 Vaccine

Because information about the development of COVID-19 vaccines changes often, we are regularly updating answers to the most frequently asked questions.

Are COVID-19 vaccines widely available in New York State?

Not immediately. They are currently in very limited supply and available only to certain groups of people, such as health care workers, essential workers, and people 65 and older. Vaccines will become available to other parts of the public in the coming months.

Vaccine Rollout

To check your eligibility for the vaccines, visit the NYS DOH webpage: https://am-i-eligible.covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov/. If you are eligible, the site will direct you where you can go to receive the vaccine. The State Department of Health will continue to announce as the vaccine is made more widely available. Mount Sinai South Nassau has not yet been issued dosages for individuals classified in group 1B, so you will only see “Mount Sinai South Nassau” in the scheduling platform once the vaccine has been supplied to us. (updated 1/12/21)

How will vaccines be distributed?

Mount Sinai Health System is working closely with the New York State Department of Health (DOH) to provide vaccine to our faculty, staff, trainees, students, and voluntary physicians and their staff. Other eligible groups of people, such as health care workers, essential workers, and people 65 and older should check the New York State and New York City vaccine websites for information about where to get vaccinated.

Please note that New York State is now requiring proof of residency or employment in the state in order to be vaccinated here. For more details on the document requirements, click here. (Updated 1/19/21)

Should I take the vaccine if I am pregnant or considering pregnancy?

Pregnant and breastfeeding persons are encouraged to speak to their health care providers about the potential benefit of vaccination, especially if they are a health care worker or an essential worker, or have underlying medical conditions.

Can I choose which vaccine I get?

Most vaccination sites are not allowing for patient choice at this time. We recommend that you accept whichever vaccine you are offered and not wait for another vaccine to become available. (Updated 1/14/21)

What Is an Emergency Use Authorization?

In the United States, vaccines must be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before they can be used. The FDA bases its decision on data from clinical trials. In a clinical trial, the vaccine is given to volunteers—sometimes tens of thousands of them—while others get a placebo, meaning an injection that doesn’t contain any vaccine. Scientists observe whether the people who got the vaccine get fewer cases of the disease than those who got the placebo. This means that the vaccine appears to work in those people; this is called the vaccine’s “efficacy.” The scientists also watch out for unexpected side effects that the vaccine might have caused. This is called the vaccine’s “safety.”

If the clinical trial data shows enough evidence of efficacy and safety, the FDA will approve the vaccine and license it for use in the United States.

Sometimes, the FDA will allow a medical product that has not yet been fully approved to be used in an emergency to diagnose, treat, or prevent a serious illness. This is called “emergency use authorization” or “EUA”.

An EUA may be issued when the FDA determines that the product “may be effective” against the disease based on all the available scientific evidence. This is a lower standard than required for full approval of a product; it uses early data gathered from clinical trials.

More information on EUAs is available from the FDA website.

How do I know a vaccine is safe?

The FDA reviews all vaccines for safety before allowing them onto the market. In New York State, the Governor’s Clinical Advisory Task Force will also offer an independent opinion about each vaccine’s safety and efficacy. This Task Force, which includes highly respected scientists like Adolfo García-Sastre, PhD, Irene and Dr. Arthur M. Fishberg Professor of Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, reviewed the data independently and recommended approval of the Pfizer vaccine on Thursday, December 10, and the Moderna vaccine on Friday, December 18.

Will taking this vaccine give me COVID-19?

No. It is NOT possible to get COVID-19 from the vaccines made by Pfizer or Moderna, or any of the other vaccines in advanced clinical trials.

Are we taking the federal government’s word for it that a vaccine is safe?

No. The Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices (ACIP), a group of medical and public health experts that advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), also assesses the safety and efficacy of vaccines. They will also develop recommendations on COVID-19 vaccine use.  Additionally, in New York State, the Governor’s Clinical Advisory Task Force will independently review the vaccines as they are made available.

According to the Governor’s plan, “The Task Force’s independent review of any federally authorized COVID-19 vaccine will help address publicly reported concerns about the scientific process and rush to market. The Task Force will rely on numerous data sources including public information and the findings of expert third party independent organizations.”

What do we know about the side effects of the first vaccines?

Like all vaccines, the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine can cause side effects. These rarely interfere with daily activities, and often go away with over-the-counter pain medications. It is common to have these types of side effects after a vaccination. They mean your immune system is working and making antibodies as it’s supposed to.

The following side effects to the Pfizer vaccine are very common, meaning that they may affect more than 1 in 10 people:

  • pain at injection site
  • tiredness
  • headache
  • muscle pain
  • chills
  • joint pain
  • fever

Other side effects, like enlarged lymph nodes, were uncommon, affecting up to 1 in 100 people. These are not all the possible side effects you may have when taking the vaccine. If you experience any side effects not listed here, tell your health care professional.

Moderna has also released data that suggest their vaccine is safe. We’re still waiting for complete data from their phase 3 clinical trials to know more about their side effects.

How many shots do I have to get if I want to be protected against COVID-19?

Some of the vaccines that are being developed—including the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines—require two doses three to four weeks apart. It is very important that you get both doses at the recommended times.

We do not yet know how long the protection from these vaccines will work. It is possible that you will need to get additional shots in the future.

Should I take the vaccine if I have severe allergies?

Do not get the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine if you have had a severe allergic reaction (i.e., anaphylaxis) to vaccines or the components of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. If you have a history of severe medication allergies, please discuss with your health care provider.

If I already had COVID-19, should I get vaccinated?

If you have had COVID-19 and recovered, it is still worthwhile to get a COVID-19 vaccine. While most people are protected from getting COVID-19 again after they’ve recovered, we don’t know how long that protection lasts.

If I get vaccinated, can I stop wearing masks and socially distancing?

If you get a vaccine, you should still protect yourself by wearing a mask and social distancing. We don't know how effective the vaccine is going to be. It’s possible, for example, that the vaccine will protect you from getting very sick with the virus, but it will not prevent you from spreading the virus to other people. Until we have a better idea of that and know how many people are going to receive it, you should still practice social distancing, wear a face mask, and wash your hands often and well. We're going to have to do all of this for a little while longer until we know more and until the pandemic is more under control.

Do the clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccines include people from the most affected groups?

Yes.

While vaccines work the same in people of different races or ethnicities, it is important to make sure vaccines are tested in diverse population groups before they are released. The phase 3 clinical trials conducted by Pfizer and Moderna included significant numbers of participants from the population groups most at risk for COVID-19.

In Pfizer’s U.S. trial, 13.1 percent of participants are Hispanic/Latinx, 10.1 percent are Black, 5.5 percent are Asian American, and 1 percent are Native American. About 45 percent of U.S. participants are 56-85 years of age.

For comparison, in the most recent estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau, 18.4 percent are Hispanic/Latinx, 12.8 percent are Black, 5.7 percent are Asian American, and 0.9 percent are Native American. The Census uses slightly different age groups than the drug companies, but says that 27.4% of Americans are between ages 55 and 84.

Moderna did not report precise numbers for its trial, but said that of its 30,000 U.S. trial participants, more than 6,000 participants, or 20 percent, identify as Hispanic or Latinx, and more than 3,000 participants, or 10 percent, identify as Black or African American. Moderna also said that its trial included more than 7,000 Americans, or 23.3 percent, over the age of 65 (compared to 16.5 percent in the general population), and more than 5,000 Americans, or 16.7 percent, who are under age 65 but have high-risk chronic diseases, such as diabetes, severe obesity, and cardiac disease.

How well do the first vaccines work?

The FDA reports that the vaccine made by Pfizer had an efficacy rate of 95 percent. That means that under the controlled conditions of the company’s phase 3 trial there were 95 percent fewer cases of COVID-19 in the group of people who got the vaccine compared to the group of people who got the placebo.

A second vaccine, made by Moderna, also has an efficacy rate of 94 to 95 percent, according to preliminary data released by the company.

These are very high efficacy numbers, meaning the vaccines worked well in these trials. Under real-world conditions, the effectiveness of the vaccines may turn out to be different. But this data is very promising.

How do the COVID-19 vaccines work?

Vaccines expose us to pieces of either a bacteria or a virus. Our body mounts an immune response by making antibodies against those pieces. Antibodies are proteins that fight germs like viruses and bacteria by latching onto and disabling them. The goal is that our body will then recognize those pieces and use the antibodies to fight off any future exposure to the real bacteria or virus.

There are several different types of vaccines.

Traditional vaccines include pieces of the virus in them. This causes your immune system to react by making antibodies against those pieces.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are called “messenger RNA” vaccines. They do not contain pieces or proteins from the virus. Instead, they contain instructions for your cells, called “messenger RNA.” This messenger RNA tells your cells to make the COVID-19 spike protein themselves. Once your cells make the spike protein, your immune system will make the antibodies that fight COVID-19 and protect you from getting sick from this virus.

What is “herd immunity” and when will we get there?

Herd immunity means that enough people in a community are immune to a disease that the disease can’t spread easily among them. That helps protect people who are not immune—for example, those who can’t be vaccinated for some reason—from getting sick. In the case of COVID-19, we don’t yet know how many people need to be vaccinated to reach herd immunity. But we are likely still far away from that point.

How do I know what vaccine information online is accurate?

There is a lot of information on the internet about vaccines, and it can be difficult to know which sites to trust. Mount Sinai is providing a tool called NewsGuard, which is a browser extension you can download that will help determine which information about vaccines and other health topics is accurate.

I’ve heard some really hard-to-understand things about COVID-19 vaccines. How can I find out if they’re true?

There are a lot of myths on the internet about COVID-19 vaccines. Mount Sinai is working with a company called NewsGuard to provide the most accurate information. If you’ve heard something that sounds questionable and want to know if it’s true or not, you can look it up in NewsGuard’s report on the top COVID-19 vaccine myths.

Where can I find out more about the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines?

The FDA has publicly released its analyses of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. The Pfizer analysis can be found here and Moderna here.

Were the vaccines tested in children?

Children aged 16 and older were included in the initial Pfizer trial, and Pfizer is now enrolling children as young as 12 for more testing. The Moderna vaccine has been tested only in people aged 18 or older.

Should I get my antibodies tested before the vaccine so that I can tell if the antibodies are from the vaccine or disease?

Testing for COVID-19 antibodies prior to receiving the vaccine is not recommended.

How long does immunity last after the vaccine?

We do not know how long the protection will last. The clinical trials are ongoing with the aim of determining this information.

What blood type is the vaccine the least effective for?

This was not included in the clinical trials, but it is unlikely that blood type would affect vaccine response.

Can I donate blood after receiving vaccine?

At this time, there is no contraindication to donating blood, but you should inform the collecting agency of your vaccination status. If they have any concerns, they will let you know.

How many strains of the virus are there? Does the vaccine protect against all if there is more than one?

Although SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, can develop mutations, there doesn’t seem to be an effect on vaccine effectiveness, which is different from what we see with flu and annual influenza vaccination.

Eventually, once multiple vaccine candidates have been approved, will we be able to choose which one we take?

We encourage you to take a vaccine if you are offered vaccine and not wait for another vaccine to become available.

Do we know if COVID-19 vaccine reacts with other vaccines I may be prescribed?

This is not yet known. You should discuss your COVID-19 vaccination with your primary physician. You and your doctor should then work together to plan how other vaccinations will be spaced around your COVID-19 vaccinations.

Learn More

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Facts and Resources
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Preventive measures for Flu & COVID-19 (English)
Preventive measures for Flu & COVID-19 (Spanish)
How to Wash Your Hands the Right Way (Video)

CDC Resources

CDC Website
Information from the CDC on COVID-19

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