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COVID-19 Vaccine Answers

Last updated 04/19/2021

Protection against COVID-19 is finally here! Choosing to get vaccinated will help protect you and your family and friends from the virus. This guide prepared by Community Service Society collects trustworthy information from government health authorities so New Yorkers can make an informed decision about getting vaccinated.

Who can get the vaccine?

The vaccine is being distributed in phases with the focus of making it available to the most vulnerable populations and those that are at high risk of contracting. Currently, the vaccine is available in New York for people who are:

  • Age 16 and older AND
  • Reside, work, OR study in New York State

Why should I get vaccinated?

It is not legally required that you get vaccinated.  Most employers are not requiring employees to get vaccinated.  However, the only way of ending the pandemic is if enough people get vaccinated.  The vaccine is crucial in protecting you from contracting COVID-19. It will “teach” your body how to fight against the virus for the future. Becoming vaccinated will not only protect you but also those around you.

Do I have to pay for the vaccine?

No. The vaccine is free for everyone. If you have insurance, it may be billed but you will not be responsible for payment. If you don’t have insurance, the vaccine will still be free for you.

Are the vaccines safe?

According to the CDC, yes.  The COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson were created with methods that have been in development for years, so the companies could start the vaccine development process early in the pandemic. The vaccine developers didn’t skip any testing steps but conducted some of the steps on an overlapping schedule to gather data faster. They have gone through extensive clinical trials to ensure its efficacy and safety. The trials were reviewed by the FDA and independent organizations. You cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccine.

Does it matter which type of vaccine I get?

No.  The Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) COVID-19 vaccine was approved by the FDA on February 27.  It is just as effective as the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines in preventing hospitalization and death.  You may have heard that the clinical trials for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine found that it was only 67% effective in preventing COVID-19, as opposed to 95% for Pfizer and Moderna.  However, this is not a fair comparison because the Johnson & Johnson effectiveness statistic was based on clinical trials done in multiple countries, some of which were impacted by different variants of the virus and other confounding factors.  The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is 85% effective in preventing severe illness from COVID-19, which is essentially the same as the other two, given the margins of error.

One major advantage of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is that it requires only a single shot, not two like the other two vaccines.  In addition, it can be more easily distributed in rural areas because it doesn’t require as much refrigeration.

Effective 4/13/21, New York has paused administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine out of an abundance of caution due to a very small number of serious side effects (6 people out of the 6.8 million who have received the J&J vaccine had blood clots).

If you have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the past three weeks and are having any of the following symptoms, contact your health care provider:

  • Severe headache
  • Abdominal pain
  • Leg pain
  • Shortness of breath

Will I get sick from the vaccine?

It is common to experience side effects after the first or second dose of the vaccine. Normal side effects include soreness on your arm where you got the shot, headache, or tiredness. Consult with your health care provider to find out more.

What if I have existing health conditions?

In general, you can still get the vaccine if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, if you have an underlying medical condition, if you are immunocompromised or if you have allergies. However, you should check with your healthcare provider first to make sure. If you are currently sick with COVID-19 or have recently been exposed to someone with COVID-19, you should wait until you recover or until you have quarantined for 10 days before getting vaccinated.

How do I get the vaccine?

You need to make an appointment to get the vaccine (with one exception; click here to learn more).  Vaccines are available at hundreds of pharmacies, hospitals, local health departments, and State-run sites throughout the state.  Eligible New Yorkers can find locations near them and make appointments online at vaccinefinder.nyc.gov or by calling 877‐VAX4NYC for assistance in multiple languages.  For State-operated vaccine sites, visit am-i-eligible.covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov or call 833-NYS-4-VAX.  There are no “walk-ins” at any vaccine administration site; you always need an appointment.

Local pharmacies are also giving COVID-19 vaccines. You can schedule appointments at pharmacies by visiting their websites (e.g., https://www.cvs.com/immunizations/covid-19-vaccine, https://www.walgreens.com/findcare/vaccination/covid-19, https://www.riteaid.com/Covid-19).  Not all pharmacies are making vaccines available to all eligible groups, so check eligibility before scheduling an appointment.

The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines consists of two injections, given about 3-6 weeks apart.  When you get your first shot, a second dose will automatically be ordered for you.  You must get your second shot at the same location where you got your first shot.  Your appointment for the second shot will be scheduled when you get your first shot.  After your first shot, you will be given a COVID-19 vaccine card, which you need to bring to your second appointment.  This card will be your proof that you have been vaccinated.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine consists of one injection, so you only need one appointment.

NEW: Walk-in Vaccines for Seniors and their Caregivers

New Yorkers age 50 and over plus one eligible New Yorker of any age are now able to get vaccinated together without appointments at 31 sites throughout NYC.  These include three sites that are open 24/7.

What documentation do I need to get vaccinated?

You must provide proof that you are in one of the groups who are eligible to receive the vaccine at this time.  Because all New Yorkers age 16 and up are now eligible for the vaccine, this generally means that you only need to provide proof of identity. Sufficient identification includes a driver’s license, passport, or any legal proof of your date of birth and residency.

Note that non-NYS residents may be vaccinated if they work or attend school in NYS.

For individuals under the age of 18, a parent or legal guardian must provide consent for vaccination. A parent or legal guardian must provide verbal consent either in person, or by phone, at the time of vaccine appointment.

Documentation of age is required, and can be a Driver’s license or non-driver ID; Birth certificate issued by a state or local government; Consulate ID; Current U.S passport or valid foreign passport; Permanent resident card; Certificate of Naturalization or Citizenship; Life insurance policy with birthdate; or Marriage certificate with birthdate.

If you are not a New York resident, you must bring proof that you work or study in New York State. Proof of NYS employment can be an employee ID card or badge, a letter from an employer or affiliated organization, or a pay stub.

You will be asked for insurance information BUT the vaccine is free and there will never be a charge to you. This information is for administrative use only.

Once you have scheduled an appointment, you will have to complete the New York State COVID-19 Vaccine Form in order to show that you are eligible.  You can complete this form online at https://forms.ny.gov/s3/vaccine.

You will not be asked for your Social Security Number.  If someone asks you for your Social Security Number to get the vaccine, it is a scam.

When you get your vaccine appointment, you should bring your health insurance card (if you have insurance), your proof of eligibility (see above), and if it’s your second appointment, the COVID-19 vaccine card you were given after the first shot.  If you have Medicare, you will need to bring your Medicare card, even if you’re enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan.

Can I get the vaccine if I am not a U.S. citizen?

Yes!  If you are in one of the eligible groups, you can get the COVID-19 vaccine.  It doesn’t matter what your immigration status is.  While you may need to provide proof of employment, age, or residency, you will not be asked for proof of citizenship or immigration status.  The fact that you have been vaccinated against COVID-19 will not be shared with ICE, and will not impact your immigration status.  You will not be considered a “public charge” for receiving the vaccine.

I can’t travel to a vaccine administration site; can I be vaccinated in my home?

In New York City, yes.  Some other counties in NY state have also begun in-home vaccinations; we’ll share that information as we learn more.

In-home COVID-19 vaccinations (Johnson and Johnson) are available for eligible NYC residents who are:

  • Fully homebound,
  • Have not already been vaccinated, and
  • Do not already have access to a vaccination program.

If you are eligible for an in-home vaccination, you can express interest using this form: https://forms.cityofnewyork.us/f/homebound.  The City will use this information to call back to further discuss eligibility for the program.

If you cannot access or fill out the online form, you can get assistance from the Vaccine Reservation Call Center at (877) 829-4692.

In addition, the NYC Department for the Aging, Medicaid health plans and the Housing Recovery Operations office will reach out to thousands of seniors to ascertain their eligibility and enroll them in the program. The Fire Department will then dispatch field teams with nurses to vaccinate individuals age 65 and older in buildings identified by the Department for the Aging and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

NYC also offers free transportation to and from vaccine sites for adults who are over age 65 or have an ambulatory, visual, intellectual, or developmental disability. To reserve transportation, including ambulette and cab options, call 877-VAX-4-NYC. An operator will walk through eligibility and provide other options over the phone based on the caller’s need.

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

Yes! It is still possible to get COVID-19 more than once. The vaccine can even boost the protection you gained after natural infection. If you have tested positive for COVID-19 within 90 days, consult with your health care provider to make sure you get vaccinated at the right time.

I got vaccinated. Can I stop wearing a mask and social distancing?

Sometimes. According to the CDC, if you’ve been fully vaccinated (i.e., 2 weeks after last dose), you now can:

  • Gather indoors with fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask or staying 6 feet apart.
  • Gather indoors with unvaccinated people of any age from one other household (for example, visiting with relatives who all live together) without masks or staying 6 feet apart, unless any of those people or anyone they live with has an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
  • Travel within the United States without getting tested before or after travel or self-quarantining after travel.
  • Travel outside the United States without getting tested first or self-quarantining after travel (however pay close attention to the situation at your international destination; your destination may have different rules, and you may need to show a negative test result before returning to the United States).
  • If you’ve been around someone who has COVID-19, you do not need to stay away from others or get tested unless you have symptoms.

However, even if you’ve been fully-vaccinated, you should still maintain social distance, wear a mask, and avoid crowded/poorly ventilated places whenever you are:

  • In public;
  • Gathering with unvaccinated people from more than one other household; or
  • Visiting with an unvaccinated person who is at increased risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19 or who lives with a person at increased risk

You should also still avoid medium- or large-sized gatherings, wear a mask on public transportation and airplanes, and watch out for symptoms of COVID-19.

How can I protect myself from COVID-19 scams?

As the country begins to distribute COVID-19 vaccines, scammers are taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic. Here’s how you can protect yourself:

  • If anyone else asks you to share your Medicare Number or Social Security Number, or pay for access to the vaccine, you can bet it’s a scam.
  • You can’t pay to put your name on a list to get the vaccine.
  • You can’t pay to get early access to a vaccine.
  • Don’t share your personal or financial information if someone calls, texts, or emails you promising access to the vaccine for a fee.

How can CSS help?

And remember, by getting vaccinated we can protect each other from the COVID‐19 virus and finally bring about an end to this pandemic.

Community Health Advocates can assist you if you encounter any challenges when accessing the vaccine. You can call the Community Health Advocates Helpline at 888-614-5400. The Helpline is open Monday to Friday, 9am until 4pm.

This fact sheet was prepared by CSS based on information obtained from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the New York State Department of Health, and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.  The information in this guide was accurate as of the date at the top of this page, but is subject to change.  For up-to-date information on the COVID-19 vaccine, visit https://covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov or http://www.nyc.gov/vaccinecommandcenter.

Resources

CHA can help answer your healthcare questions.

  • Call our helpline at (888) 614-5400 Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm,
  • or email cha@cssny.org.

CHA can help answer your healthcare questions.

  • Call our helpline at (888) 614-5400 Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm,
  • or email cha@cssny.org.