COVID-19 Vaccine Information for Patients
We are offering eligible patients the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines, based on New York State guidelines and our supply of the vaccine. We encourage you to discuss any specific questions and concerns you have about the vaccine with your doctor.
Here are answers to some of your questions about the safety of the vaccines, and who should get vaccinated and why.
How does NYU Langone decide which patients to vaccinate, and how will I find out when I can schedule?
NYU Langone is following the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the New York State Department of Health for the order of people who should be vaccinated. We are notifying patients individually by email and text message that they can schedule their vaccination, based on when they become eligible and our available supply of the vaccine. We are offering the vaccine to as many eligible patients as we can, based on our supply.
How can I be sure the vaccine is safe?
Tens of thousands of people received the COVID-19 vaccine during the clinical trial process. NYU Langone has also been involved in testing COVID-19 vaccines through clinical trials at our Vaccine Center, which is 1 of 10 Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Units in the United States funded by the National Institutes of Health. (The Vaccine Center is a research center and is not involved in giving vaccinations to the general public.)
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration reviewed data from those extensive clinical trials, which showed that the vaccine is safe and that its benefits outweigh its known or potential risks. Since the vaccine received emergency use authorization in December 2020, it has been delivered to millions of people around the country.
Vaccines work by priming the body’s immune system to fight the virus. Vaccine reactions, such as a sore arm or headache, are normal and are signs that the body is responding to the vaccine.
We encourage our patients to talk with your doctor about any questions or concerns you have about vaccination, so you can make an informed decision.
Why do I need two doses of the vaccine?
The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are both approximately 95 percent effective at preventing COVID-19, but this level of protection requires two doses of the vaccine. With the first dose, your immune system starts building protection. The second shot is needed for you to experience the maximum protection provided by the COVID-19 vaccine.
Soon after you receive your first dose, you will receive a notification in your NYU Langone Health MyChart account to schedule your appointment for the second dose of vaccine. You will be directed to schedule within the appropriate timeframe based on the type of COVID-19 vaccine received in your first dose. Please schedule this appointment as soon as possible.
After the second dose, it takes your immune system two to four weeks to achieve maximum vaccination protection. You should continue to wear a mask and adhere to other safety guidelines.
Can I get COVID-19 from the vaccine?
No, you can’t get COVID-19 from the vaccine. Because the vaccines do not contain the virus, the vaccine cannot make you sick from COVID-19. The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines use messenger RNA (mRNA) to help the immune system recognize and respond to the COVID-19 virus.
The mRNA contains a message to the cells on how to make a certain "spike protein" that is unique to the virus that causes COVID-19. The spike protein on its own cannot cause COVID-19. However, its presence triggers your immune system, which recognizes that the protein should not be there. In response, your body creates antibodies to attack the virus’s spike protein.
Then, if you are exposed to the virus in the future, your body already has the antibodies it needs to disable the virus and prevent you from getting sick.
Will mRNA vaccines alter my DNA?
No, mRNA vaccines do not alter DNA. Our DNA, or genetic code, is stored in the nucleus in the center of our cells. Because mRNA never enters the nucleus, the vaccine cannot alter your DNA.
After the mRNA delivers instructions to your cells, the body breaks it down and eliminates it.
Are there any reasons a person should not get vaccinated?
You should not get vaccinated if you have any of the following:
- are currently feeling sick
- have been told by the New York State Department of Health to quarantine or had a positive COVID-19 test in the past 10 days
- received COVID-19 convalescent serum to treat COVID-19 within the last 90 days
- received any other vaccine in the past 14 days
There are no diagnoses or conditions that prohibit a person from being vaccinated, but certain people should consult with their doctor before getting the vaccine. This includes the following:
- people with a history of severe allergy to a vaccine
- people who have a condition that affects their immune system
- people who have been treated with COVID-19 monoclonal antibody infusions or intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) in the past 90 days
- people who are getting radiation therapy or taking medications that affect their immune system
- women who are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant
If you have had COVID-19, there is evidence that immunity continues for at least 6 months, but more research is needed. While we learn more about this, the CDC recommends you get vaccinated if you had COVID-19 more than 90 days ago.
Can pregnant or breastfeeding women get the COVID-19 vaccine?
The CDC recommends that the vaccine be made available to women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Pregnant women were not involved in the vaccine clinical trials, but mRNA vaccines, like the Pfizer–BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, do not contain live virus and are thought to be safe for a developing fetus and the breastfeeding infant.
Contracting COVID-19 during pregnancy can increase the risk of severe illness and preterm birth, and so the benefits of the vaccine could outweigh any risk. While more research is needed, it is possible that vaccination during breastfeeding can provide protection to your child through antibodies present in breastmilk. Women should talk with their obstetrician about whether the benefits of vaccination outweigh any possible risk.
Will the COVID-19 vaccine affect fertility?
There is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine affects fertility in women or men. More than 20 people became pregnant while participating in the vaccine clinical trials. One poor pregnancy outcome was reported, but this was in a person in the control/placebo group, meaning that she did not receive the vaccine.
In addition, there is no data to support that the vaccine or the resulting immune reaction has any effect on conception or fetal development. If the spike protein created by the vaccine caused infertility, an infection with COVID-19 should also, and there is no evidence that it does.
Talk with your doctor about any concerns you have about vaccination and future family planning.
Why do healthy people need to be vaccinated?
The fewer people who get COVID-19, the less likely it is to spread through the community. So even if you are not at high risk for complications, you could spread the infection to people who are.
When will children be able to get vaccinated?
Adolescents ages 16 and up can be vaccinated when it is available to the general public, but vaccine availability for younger children has not yet been approved. Clinical trials of the vaccine in children are still ongoing, and any vaccine for children would require federal approval. That will likely not occur until late 2021 at the earliest.
How can people continue to limit risk of COVID-19?
Until the vast majority of the population is vaccinated, transmission is still possible, so continue to protect yourself and your family by maintaining 6 feet of distance and wearing a mask when around others. Other ways to prevent the spread include washing your hands regularly, avoiding crowded indoor gatherings, staying away from others if you are sick, and routinely cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces.
After vaccination, will people still need to wear masks?
Remaining vigilant about avoiding the spread of COVID-19 is crucial. Vaccines are not cures, and even after receiving the vaccine the body requires time to develop an immune response. As COVID-19 continues to circulate, precautions such as wearing masks and social distancing should continue for everyone.