What to Know About the COVID-19 Vaccines

At Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, we are committed to the health and safety of our patients, their families and our staff. We know that you have many questions about the COVID-19 vaccines and when they will be available to children. Below is a list of frequently asked questions and answers from our team of infectious disease experts. We will update this page with the latest information as it becomes available.

Frequently Asked Questions

When will a COVID-19 vaccine be available to children?

According to recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the COVID-19 vaccines are being distributed in a phased approach. We are currently in Phase 1A, which includes adults who are 65 and older and their caregivers, healthcare workers, long-term care facilities staff and residents, law enforcement, fire personnel, dispatchers and 911 operators. Phase 1B will include essential workers who perform job tasks across critical infrastructure sectors. Phase 1C will include individuals ages 16 to 64 with medical conditions that increase the risk for severe COVID-19.

The Pfizer vaccine is currently only approved for people age 16 and older and the Moderna vaccine is approved for those 18 and older. Because children and teens aren't typically at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19, even teens who are old enough to receive Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine will likely be in the final group to receive it. If your child is a Children's patient who is age 16 or older and has a CDC-defined chronic health condition, we will notify you when a vaccine becomes available for them.

Clinical trials involving some adolescents are ongoing at various locations through private clinical research companies. Interested individuals can search clinicaltrials.gov for enrolling and active trials. If a parent or child is interested in participating in a clinical trial, they may send an email to be placed in a database of pediatric volunteers. 

Will parents and caregivers be eligible to receive a vaccine through Children's?

Children's continues to follow the guidance of the Georgia Department of Public Health on who is eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. We are also limited by the amount of vaccine distributed to our facility by the state. Within this framework, Children's continues to proactively plan how we can facilitate vaccination of those groups of people who are eligible to receive a vaccine at this time.

Is there a chance that a COVID-19 vaccine will cause multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C)?

One of the goals of clinical trials in children is to assess for rare post-infectious events, such as MIS-C. It is possible that children who have had MIS-C and recovered will be enrolled in COVID-19 clinical trials for children to help us understand the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in these children. The study designs and inclusion criteria for children are being developed.

Where can I get a COVID-19 vaccine?

The locations and availability of COVID-19 vaccine are constantly changing as supplies and recommendations change. Please refer to the Georgia DPH website for the most up-to-date list of vaccine locations.

Should I get vaccinated if I've already had COVID-19?

Yes. Because there are severe health risks associated with COVID-19 and it is possible to be re-infected, vaccines are recommended even for those who have already had COVID-19.

Experts do not yet know how long someone may be protected from contracting COVID-19 again after recovering from it. Natural immunity varies from person to person, and some early evidence suggests that it may not last very long. As we get more data on how well the vaccines work, we will learn more about how long immunity by vaccination lasts.

Can I stop wearing a mask when vaccine distribution starts?

No. The CDC continues to recommend wearing masks and avoiding close contact with others to help prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19, even as vaccines roll out across the state and the country.

Experts are still learning about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide. Community spread and vaccination rates where you live can affect how risky it is to skip safety measures like mask-wearing and social distancing even after you have been vaccinated. We also don't know yet whether people who have been vaccinated can still spread the virus that causes COVID-19 to others.

While experts gather data and investigate these questions, it is important that you continue to follow these recommendations to protect yourself and others:

  • Wear a mask over your nose and mouth.
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from others.
  • Avoid crowds.
  • Avoid poorly ventilated spaces.
  • Wash your hands often.

What is an mRNA vaccine, and is it safe?

Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines have been developed using technology that has been around for almost 20 years. Scientists have used this technology as part of efforts to make vaccines against a number of infectious diseases.

In general, vaccines stimulate our bodies to develop an immune response against an infection without us having to actually get the disease. Different vaccines use different strategies to generate this immune response. MRNA vaccines do this by teaching our cells how to make a protein—or even just a piece of a protein—that triggers an immune response inside our bodies. That immune response, which produces antibodies, is what protects us from getting infected if we are exposed to the real virus. MRNA vaccines do not affect or interact with our own DNA. Once the mRNA has provided the body the instructions to make the protein, the mRNA is degraded completely by the body. Read more about COVID-19 vaccines on the CDC website.

Will a vaccine give me COVID-19?

No. You cannot get COVID-19 from a COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccines prime your immune system to recognize and fight off viruses and bacteria, but they don't actually cause an infection. Any symptoms that you experience after getting a COVID-19 vaccine, such as arm soreness, fatigue, muscle aches or a headache, are due to your immune system making a response. By making antibodies, your body is learning to recognize a protein on the surface of the virus to help you fight the virus when exposed to it in the future.

None of the COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in the U.S. contain any part of the virus that causes COVID-19. Getting a COVID-19 vaccine will not cause you to test positive on viral tests, which are used to detect a current infection.

How were the vaccines developed so quickly?

The technology for mRNA vaccines has been around for almost two decades. Once the genetic sequence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus became known in early January 2020, scientists around the world began work on vaccine development, building off of previous vaccine development efforts for two other kinds of coronavirus, SARS and MERS. Unlike most other vaccines that require a bacteria or virus to be cultured or grown in the lab, mRNA vaccines are less difficult and time-consuming to develop.

Are the vaccines safe?

Yes. While the COVID-19 vaccines themselves were developed quickly, the clinical trials to examine safety and efficacy were not rushed. These vaccines underwent extensive study involving thousands of volunteers, and the results were carefully reviewed. The research and science thus far show that both vaccines currently available to be very safe and remarkably effective.

Getting vaccinated for COVID-19 is not just about protecting yourself from COVID-19, it's also about preventing spread of the virus to others and preventing infection that can lead to long-term negative health effects. Widespread vaccination protects populations, including those who are most at risk and those who can't be vaccinated.

Are the vaccines effective against all COVID-19 strains?

Like all viruses, SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, will develop small mutations over time. The Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccine trials tested the effectiveness of their vaccines against a number of variant strains of the virus, including variants containing the mutation (N501Y) found in the rapidly spreading strains originating in the U.K. and South Africa. Information to date suggests current COVID-19 vaccines are still effective against the latest reported variations of the virus, but in order to achieve the highest efficacy rate and maximize your protection against COVID-19, it's important to receive both doses of these two-shot vaccines according to schedule.

It will take a couple weeks after getting a vaccine dose for your body to develop its full immune response. This means that it's still possible to contract COVID-19 during that time. It's important to continue wearing masks and practicing social distancing even after getting the vaccine.

Will the vaccines change my DNA?

No. The Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are mRNA vaccines, not DNA-based vaccines, and they do not affect or interact with DNA in any way.

MRNA vaccines do not enter the cell nucleus, and they cannot modify any cell DNA. They don't permanently change our genome or who we are in any way, except to help us build immunity to COVID-19.

Can the vaccines cause miscarriage or infertility?

There is no evidence or scientific backing that receiving a COVID-19 vaccine causes infertility or increases your chances of a miscarriage. In fact, no other viral infection or vaccination inducing immunity by similar mechanisms has been shown to cause infertility.

While there are no formal studies of pregnant women at this time, the best evidence of this comes from women who got sick with COVID-19 while pregnant. During natural infection, the immune system generates the same antibodies to the spike protein that COVID-19 vaccines generate. If COVID-19 affected fertility, we would expect to have already seen an increase in miscarriage rates in women infected with COVID-19, which has not happened.

What ingredients are in the vaccine?

Both Pfizer and Moderna have published the ingredient lists for their vaccines. In addition to the COVID-19 mRNA for the spike protein, both vaccines contain lipids (fats) that help deliver the mRNA into your cells and a few other common ingredients that help maintain the pH and stability of the vaccine.

Despite theories circulating on social media, the vaccines do not contain microchips or any form of tracking device. This is absolutely untrue and has been completely debunked.

How much do the vaccines cost?

There is no cost associated with receiving the vaccine.