COVID-19 Vaccine FAQs

Page last updated: March 23, 2022, at 5:30 p.m.

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Vaccine Safety and What to Expect

Is the vaccine safe?

Vaccines must pass some of the toughest safety measures in medicine. The process to approve and monitor vaccines has been around for decades. It’s the same process used to develop vaccines for measles, mumps, pertussis (whooping cough), and the seasonal flu.

The process to bring a safe and effective vaccine to you begins with clinical trials. Trials are ongoing for COVID-19 vaccines under development. Throughout vaccine development and distribution, there are numerous safety measures. These include:

  • The Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorizes and monitors the trials.
  • Two other independent advisory committees provide oversight and monitor for safety during vaccine development and testing. 
  • Another committee continues to monitor for safety and adverse effects when a safe and effective vaccine is ready for distribution. 

As vaccines receive Emergency Use Authorization or approval from the FDA, Washington State, along with other western states, does an independent review of the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines. 

What should I expect when I get vaccinated?

You might have mild reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine, like fatigue or soreness where the vaccine was injected. As with any vaccine, serious reactions have been rare during vaccine testing, and the benefits of getting vaccinated greatly outweigh any risk.

  • If you have had serious reactions to vaccines in the past or severe allergies, talk with your healthcare provider about getting vaccinated for COVID-19.
  • Read this full list of possible reactions.
  • This fact sheet from the Washington State Department of Health has more information about who should get the vaccine, what you might experience, and what you should do after you get your shot. The same information in additional languages can be found under the vaccine drop-down menu on DOH’s resources page.

How much will it cost?

The vaccine will be covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and most private insurance. 

The federal Health Resource and Services Administration (HRSA) has been reimbursing vaccine providers for the costs of vaccinating uninsured people. However, funding will end for vaccination on April 5 and uninsured people will need to pay out-of-pocket at most locations. 

Because Whatcom County Health Department vaccination pop-up clinics are funded through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), these clinics will continue vaccinating uninsured persons at no out-of-pocket cost. Visit our vaccination page to see the weekly pop-up clinic list.

When am I considered "fully vaccinated"?

You’re considered fully vaccinated two (2) weeks after you’ve gotten the last shot in your vaccination series, so two (2) weeks after your second shot of Moderna or Pfizer or two (2) weeks after one shot of Johnson & Johnson. All shots in your primary series must be from the same brand. 

If you completed your vaccination series with Moderna or Pfizer and you’re moderately or severely immunocompromised, you may need a third dose. If this is the case, you aren’t considered fully protected until two (2) weeks after your third dose; however, for any vaccination verification purposes, you are still considered fully vaccinated after your second dose. More information about third doses here.

You must be fully vaccinated before you can be eligible for a booster, but booster doses don’t need to be the same brand as your first, second, or third dose. You’re considered fully vaccinated whether or not you choose to get a booster. More information about booster doses here

What can I do once I'm fully vaccinated?

For more information on what to do after you’re vaccinated, please refer to: 

How to Have Vaccine Discussions

As we work to vaccinate our community, we know that it will be a team effort, and that team includes you. You may have people in your life who are unsure about whether to get the vaccine. If you'd like to talk to them about the vaccine, you can find some tips in the health department's vaccine confidence discussion guide, with more information about the vaccine in our COVID vaccines fact sheet. Also visit our Vaccine Questions page, which covers common misconceptions about the vaccines.