Update: On Tuesday, April 13, federal officials recommended a “pause” in the administration of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to investigate reports of potentially dangerous blood clots. Read the latest on this here.
As the COVID-19 vaccine rollout continues across Texas and the United States, there are understandably many questions about the vaccines regarding not only how to get one but are they safe and how effective are they at preventing illness.
Answers to the questions below are from local health authorities in North Texas, as well as the Texas State Department of Health Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
If you have a question that you don't see listed here, send us an email with the question and we'll do our best to get it answered.
COVID-19 VACCINE FAQs
Why should I get the COVID-19 vaccine?
The Texas DSHS recommends the vaccine for a very simple reason: "Getting this vaccine once it is available to you represents one step that you can take to get the Texas economy, and our day-to-day lives, back to normal."
Additionally, taking the vaccine provides you with protection against infection, will help keep our communities healthier and will help reduce the load on our health care system.
How much does the COVID-19 vaccine cost?
The vaccines are free to everyone. The doses of vaccine are being purchased with U.S. taxpayer dollars. Vaccine providers are allowed to charge an administration fee which can be covered by insurance. None of the county health departments in Texas are known to be charging any fees associated with the administration of the vaccine.
How do I get a COVID-19 vaccine?
To get the COVID-19 vaccine, you'll need to register with a provider and get on their waitlist. In many cases, the provider is a county health department but it could also be a local provider like a pharmacy, hospital, or doctor.
If you do not currently have a health care provider, you should register for the vaccine with a county health department. The county health departments are receiving the vast majority of doses -- so you're likely to receive the vaccine more quickly through one of the county-managed large-scale vaccine hubs.
County Waitlist Links: Collin - Search Waitlist | Dallas | Denton | Tarrant
The county waitlists for the vaccine can be long and people are recommended to get on multiple lists to increase the chance of getting the vaccine more quickly. If you live in Tarrant County but can drive to Denton County, you should register to receive the vaccine in both counties. You do not need to be a resident of a particular county to register for a COVID-19 vaccine in that county -- vaccine registrations at DSHS hubs are open to anyone in Texas. To see a statewide list of vaccine hubs with links to register for the vaccine at those hubs, click here. To see a list of other providers and their current supply of vaccines, see the distribution map at the bottom of this page.
Do not show up at a hospital, vaccine hub or clinic looking for a vaccine. You must register, get on a waitlist and receive an appointment from the provider. People with appointment confirmation emails for other people will be turned away.
In Texas, the COVID-19 vaccines are currently is currently available to anyone over the age of 16, regardless of in which phase they had previously been grouped. President Biden said on April 6 the vaccine should be available to all Americans, in all states, by April 19. The vaccines are still not approved for children however -- those trials are ongoing.
Can I register by phone?
For those without internet access, Tarrant County is also taking registrations by phone at 817-248-6299. In Dallas County, call the DCHHS vaccine hotline at 1-855-IMMUNE9 (1-855-466-8639). In Denton County, call 940-349-2585.
Who is in Phase 1A or 1B?
Those in Phase 1A are frontline health care workers or residents of long-term care facilities. Phase 1B includes those who are over the age of 65, or those over the age of 16 with a chronic medical condition that puts them at risk for severe illness. More details from the state on group phases can be found here.
On March 3, vaccine availability was expanded to include teachers, school staffers and child care workers.
Who is in Phase 1C?
Phase 1C includes adults aged 50 to 64 years old and went into effect on March 15.
How do I register to receive a vaccine at one of the FEMA Community Vaccination Centers?
Three Community Vaccination Centers are now open in Texas, one in Dallas, one in Arlington and one in Houston. The centers expect to be able to vaccinate more than 10,000 people per day and reservations for the vaccination centers will be pulled from county waitlists. Reservations are required.
What do I need to get vaccinated?
Please bring a photo ID card, a copy of your appointment confirmation and any required paperwork mentioned during the scheduling.
Masks are required to be worn to be vaccinated and no one should show up at a vaccination site without an appointment.
When will the general public be able to get the vaccine?
In Texas, the COVID-19 vaccines are currently is currently available to anyone over the age of 16, regardless of in which phase they had previously been grouped.
After being vaccinated against COVID-19, will I still need to wear a mask and practice social/physical distancing?
Yes. None of the vaccines are 100% effective. The state health department and CDC both recommend everyone continue to use the tools to protect themselves and their loved ones from getting and spreading the virus.
The DSHS recommends people, "wear a mask or cloth face-covering whenever you are out in public or when around people who don’t live in your household. These masks or face coverings help when you can’t avoid being in the same space as others. Wearing a mask or cloth face-covering does not mean you don’t need to stay a safe distance from others. Social distancing, or staying at least 6 feet apart from others, is still necessary to keep you and others safe."
Who decides how many vaccines are sent to Texas?
The CDC decides how many doses of vaccine are allocated to the state each week based on population. The state health department then decides where those vaccines will be sent across the state. The DSHS's weekly allocation list is released every Friday. The most recent allocation table for North Texas can be found below.
Do I need to keep my vaccination card?
Yes! In many cases, the vaccination card may contain information about your follow-up appointment for the booster -- the second of the two doses required to achieve maximum protection from the vaccine. It also serves as a record of your vaccination against the virus, the date it was administered and the vaccine manufacturer.
Do I have to get the second shot?
A single shot of either the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines do not provide maximum protection. A second dose is required to get the 95% efficacy expected from the vaccine. The second dose of the Pfizer vaccine should be given three weeks after the first dose; the second dose of the Moderna vaccine should be given about a month after the first dose.
The Texas DSHS recommends that even if you feel like you missed your window for the second shot that you definitely still get the second shot and that you do it as soon as possible. There is no maximum time between the first and second shots, but you should not get the second dose earlier than recommended.
Do I have to make an appointment to get my second dose?
You do not need to register again for a second dose. Information should be provided to you when you get your first dose of the vaccine about how to get your second dose. It is a good idea to ask those administering your first shot for that information before leaving your vaccination appointment.
Providers should receive an adequate supply of second doses for those who received the first dose, often you will be asked to return to the site where you got your first dose at about the same time on the date specified. In the event you need to find a second dose at a different site, be sure the dose is from the same manufacturer as your first dose and have it administered at the recommended interval and not before.
At Dallas County's Fair Park hub, the county says "you do not need to re-register or schedule an appointment to get your second dose. You received a vaccination card when you got your first dose that included the date you need to come back for your second dose. Unless you hear otherwise, you should come to Fair Park on the date indicated on your vaccine card around the same time of day that you received your first dose. You will need to bring your vaccine card and show it to the security at the gate." The county has made available a FAQ with answers to common questions related to the Fair Park site, including what gate to enter (Gate 8 for second shots). Read the county's FAQ here.
In Tarrant County, health officials said they will provide information on second doses when people go to get their first dose and that "information will be provided to everyone who receives the COVID-19 vaccine to ensure they receive the correct second dose."
In Denton County, the vaccination card provided will include information about the follow-up appointment. Additionally, the Denton County Public Health Department will send text and email reminders to registrants when they are due for their second shot.
In Collin County, the health department said on their website "if you received a first vaccine dose from Collin County or one of its vaccine partners (City of McKinney, Texas Health Resources), you will be contacted when it is time to schedule your second dose."
How much protection does the vaccine offer?
Once vaccinated, people are expected to get some level of protection within a couple of weeks after the first shot, but full protection may not happen until a couple of weeks after the second shot. Even when fully vaccinated, it's still possible to become infected by the virus since the vaccines do not offer 100% protection. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines show approximately 95% efficacy at preventing mild and severe symptoms of COVID-19.
Are the current vaccines being offered effective against COVID-19 variants?
New variants of the novel 2019 coronavirus have not been around long enough to be tested, but experts believe they are effective against the known variants of the virus.
Do I get to choose which vaccine I get?
Maybe. You may have some control over which vaccine you get based on where you register for the vaccine. Most local providers do not have the capability to store the Pfizer vaccine and will be distributing the Moderna vaccine. This is true for most local health departments, though there are exceptions.
You can consult the vaccine allocation list above (five questions above this one) to see which providers have been given which vaccines this week, with the understanding that it could change in the future. This may be even more unpredictable once more vaccines are on the market.
No matter which vaccine you get, the most important factor is making sure you get both doses to achieve maximum protection.
Can the vaccine make me sick with COVID-19?
No. Neither the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or other vaccines in development in the United States, contain the live virus that causes COVID-19, which means it cannot make you sick with COVID-19.
While it won't make you sick with COVID-19, you may feel side effects from the vaccine. See the question below.
What are some of the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine?
The Texas DSHS said most side effects from the vaccines are mild, but they could include pain or redness at the injection site, fatigue, headache, body aches and fever.
The vaccine teaches your body how to recognize and fight the virus. Many people report few symptoms after the first dose, but report mild symptoms after the second dose. This is normal and is a sign that your body is building protection against the virus.
The CDC reminds that it takes a few weeks for your body to build up immunity after receiving a vaccine and that it is possible to get infected with a virus, including COVID-19, after getting a vaccine if the body has not had enough time to provide protection.
The CDC recommends that if you experience severe side effects after receiving the vaccine or have side effects that do not go away in a couple of days, contact your healthcare provider for further instructions on how to take care of yourself.
If I have already had COVID-19, do I need to get the vaccine?
Yes. According to the CDC, "Due to the severe health risks associated with COVID-19 and the fact that reinfection with COVID-19 is possible, you should be vaccinated regardless of whether you already had COVID-19 infection. If you were treated for COVID-19 symptoms with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma, you should wait 90 days before getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Talk to your doctor if you are unsure what treatments you received or if you have more questions about getting a COVID-19 vaccine."
"Experts do not yet know how long someone is protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19. The immunity someone gains from having an infection, called “natural immunity,” varies from person to person. It is rare for someone who has had COVID-19 to get infected again. It also is uncommon for people who do get COVID-19 again to get it within 90 days of when they recovered from their first infection. We won’t know how long immunity produced by a vaccination lasts until we have more data on how well the vaccines work."
Are COVID-19 vaccines safe?
According to the CDC, all COVID-19 vaccines in use have gone through rigorous studies to ensure they are as safe as possible. "The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted Emergency Use Authorizations for COVID-19 vaccines that have been shown to meet rigorous safety criteria and be effective as determined by data from the manufacturers and findings from large clinical trials. Watch a video describing the emergency use authorization.
Does the vaccine react with any medications or prescriptions?
Check with your healthcare provider about whether your medication will interfere with being vaccinated against COVID-19.
What are the ingredients in COVID-19 vaccines?
According to the CDC, the two COVID-19 vaccines currently available in the United States do not contain eggs, preservatives, or latex. For a full list of ingredients, please see each vaccine’s Fact Sheet for Recipients and Caregivers:
• Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine
• Moderna COVID-19 vaccine
After getting a COVID-19 vaccine, will I test positive for COVID-19 on a viral test?
No. Because the vaccines do not contain live viruses you would not test positive on a viral test due to the vaccine. However, you could have been infected with the virus after receiving the vaccine (see question above) and then test positive on a viral test.
After the vaccine, if your body develops an immune response, you could test positive on some antibody tests which indicate you may have some level of protection against the virus.
Which lasts longer, immunity after getting COVID-19 or protection from a vaccine?
The CDC said natural immunity, obtained after having the infection, varies by disease and from person to person. Because the virus is new, there is not enough data to say with any certainty how long natural immunity may last, however, the CDC said current evidence suggests that getting the virus again within 90 days is uncommon.
Will a COVID-19 vaccine alter my DNA?
No. According to the CDC, "COVID-19 mRNA vaccines do not change or interact with your DNA in any way. Messenger RNA vaccines—also called mRNA vaccines—are the first COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in the United States. mRNA vaccines teach our cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response. The mRNA from a COVID-19 vaccine never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA is kept. This means the mRNA cannot affect or interact with our DNA in any way. Instead, COVID-19 mRNA vaccines work with the body’s natural defenses to safely develop immunity to disease. Learn more about how COVID-19 mRNA vaccines work. At the end of the process, our bodies have learned how to protect against future infection. That immune response and making antibodies is what protects us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies.
Can I get a COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as another vaccine?
The CDC recommends waiting at least 14 days between different vaccines, including the COVID-19, flu or shingles vaccines.
Is there a risk of a severe allergic reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine?
The CDC says severe problems from vaccinations can happen, but that they are rare. The CDC said they have learned of reports where a very small percentage of people have experienced anaphylaxis after receiving the vaccine. In these cases, treatment with epinephrine or an EpiPen can help the patient recover.
If you get a COVID-19 vaccine and you think you might be having a severe allergic reaction after leaving the vaccination site, seek immediate medical care by calling 911. Additionally, you can report side effects and reactions using either V-safe or the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS.)
Is it safe for me to get a COVID-19 vaccine if I have an underlying medical condition?
According to the CDC, "People with underlying medical conditions can receive the FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccines provided they have not had an immediate or severe allergic reaction to a COVID-19 vaccine or to any of the ingredients in the vaccine. Learn more about vaccination considerations for persons with underlying medical conditions. Vaccination is an important consideration for adults of any age with certain underlying medical conditions because they are at increased risk for severe illness from the virus that causes COVID-19."
I need help getting a vaccine for a parent or loved one that lives out of state. How do I begin figuring that out?
NBC News is making finding information on when, how and where to obtain your coronavirus vaccination easier with its Plan Your Vaccine website. Pulling together information from many sources, the site provides a comprehensive source for information on vaccination programs across the country.
PlanYourVaccine.com offers an interactive tool that lets you locate vaccination sites anywhere in the U.S. and see if you're eligible to receive the vaccination based on your location, age, occupation and health risks; find the closest vaccination locations to you, including pharmacies and public health centers; track statewide eligibility with vaccine distribution timelines for each state; and more.
If you live in one state but have relatives you need to help care for in other states, you probably don’t want to fumble through multiple websites to find the information. PlanYourVaccine.com has it all in one place, available in English, Spanish and Mandarin, and you can sign up to receive alerts if changes are made to your state's vaccination plan. Read more about Plan Your Vaccine here.
Is it safe to get a COVID-19 vaccine while pregnant or breastfeeding?
According to the CDC, "People who are pregnant and part of a group recommended receiving the COVID-19 vaccine may choose to be vaccinated. If you have questions about getting vaccinated, talking with a healthcare provider may help you make an informed decision. While breastfeeding is an important consideration, it is rarely a safety concern with vaccines."
"No data are available yet on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in lactating women or on the effects of mRNA vaccines on breastfed infants or on milk production/excretion. mRNA vaccines are not thought to be a risk to breastfeeding infants. People who are breastfeeding and are part of a group recommended to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, such as healthcare personnel, may choose to be vaccinated."
"To make sure that more information is gathered regarding the safety of these vaccines when administered during pregnancy, pregnant people are encouraged to enroll in v-safe, CDC’s new smartphone-based tool being used to check-in on people’s health after they receive a COVID-19 vaccine. If pregnant people report health events through v-safe after vaccination, someone from CDC may call to check on them and get more information. Additionally, pregnant people enrolled in v-safe will be contacted by CDC and asked to participate in a pregnancy registry that will monitor them through pregnancy and the first 3 months of infancy. Learn more about COVID-19 vaccination considerations for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding."
Is it safe to get a COVID-19 vaccine if I would like to have a baby one day?
Yes. The CDC said, "based on current knowledge, experts believe that COVID-19 vaccines are unlikely to pose a risk to a person trying to become pregnant in the short or long term. Scientists study every vaccine carefully for side effects immediately and for years afterward. The COVID-19 vaccines are being studied carefully now and will continue to be studied for many years, similar to other vaccines.
The COVID-19 vaccine, like other vaccines, works by training our bodies to develop antibodies to fight against the virus that causes COVID-19, to prevent future illness. There is currently no evidence that antibodies formed from COVID-19 vaccination cause any problems with pregnancy, including the development of the placenta. In addition, there is no evidence suggesting that fertility problems are a side effect of ANY vaccine. People who are trying to become pregnant now or who plan to try in the future may receive the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available to them."
Can my employer require that I get vaccinated for work?
According to the CDC, the federal government has "not mandated (require) vaccination for individuals. For some healthcare workers or essential employees, a state or local government or employer, for example, may require or mandate that workers be vaccinated as a matter of state or other law. Once the vaccines are fully licensed, different laws may apply. Regardless, getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is another way to protect yourself and others from getting and spreading the virus. Check with your employer to see if they have any rules that apply to you.
In addition to the four largest counties in North Texas, the city of Garland set up its own waitlist for the vaccine as did the Allen Fire Department. The Garland Health Department is one of five vaccine hubs in Dallas County.
If you do not live in any of the above locations, check with your local health department to see if registration has opened where you live.
Texas COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution
Data from the Texas Department of State Health Services shows where COVID-19 vaccines have been sent around the state. Click on a marker to find out information about each location. Use the "plus" and "minus" signs below to zoom in and out of the map.
From the Texas DSHS: Availability of COVID-19 vaccines lilsted on this map are based on shipping information and reporting to the DSHS directly by facilities. Please contact providers in advance to confirm vaccination location and hours, that they have vaccine on hand and that you are eligible for vaccination at that site. Not all providers are vaccinating the public or people in all priority groups. Vaccine is available at no charge, regardless of insurance status.