Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information
Vaccines: What You Need to Know

Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 Vaccines

Does Cincinnati Children's offer COVID-19 vaccinations?

Yes. We offer the first, second, third and booster doses of the Pfizer vaccine to eligible patients at select primary care locations. Schedule a Vaccination.

If kids don’t get that sick from COVID-19, why will they need to get vaccinated?

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association report that over 13 million children have tested positive for Covid-19 since the onset of the pandemic. Tens of thousands of children have gotten so sick from COVID-19 that they had to be hospitalized, and over 1,000 kids have died.

The vaccine is important for the health and safety of children, but also to prevent them from spreading the disease to adults such as parents, grandparents and teachers. It’s much safer to get the vaccine than to contract the disease.

Are the COVID-19 vaccines safe?

Yes. The authorized vaccines, as well as additional vaccines that are in development, have shown a good safety profile during their clinical trials.

Do the vaccines have side effects?

Most of the people who have received the COVID-19 vaccines have had few to no side effects, but some people have experienced headaches, fever and injection-site pain for a few days after receiving it. These side effects are temporary and are a sign that the vaccine is working. There is also evidence that some people will have more side effects with a subsequent dose than with the first.

While we would prefer that no one who received the vaccine had any side effects, we think the benefit of protection against a potentially lethal virus FAR outweighs the possible risks of the vaccine.

Are there any concerns regarding long-term reproductive side effects?

Cincinnati Children's experts want you to know: There is zero scientifically based evidence that COVID-19 vaccines affect fertility. Learn more.

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, should you get the vaccine?

Yes. The American College of Gynecology recommends that women who are pregnant or are breastfeeding mothers get the vaccine when they become eligible. Learn more.

Should immunocompromised individuals get vaccinated?

Yes. We encourage everyone who is eligible to get the vaccine. These vaccines don’t contain a live virus, and the vaccines cannot give you COVID-19. So even if you are immunocompromised, there is no reason to not get vaccinated. If there is any question about the safety of vaccine related to an individual’s health history, we encourage you to talk to your doctor.

Do any of the vaccines use human stem cells?

None of the vaccines contain human cells. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are pure mRNA that was made in the lab. This process does not use any cells at all. The AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines use an adenovirus to bring the spike protein gene to our cells. Viruses need to grow in cells. After the adenovirus used in the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are grown, the virus is collected from the cells and purified. So there ONLY is virus, NO human cells, in the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Do COVID-19 vaccines alter the DNA of the person who receives the vaccine?

The vaccines DO NOT change your DNA. For COVID-19 vaccines made by Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, the main function is to bring messenger RNA, also known as mRNA, into a part of our cell called the cytoplasm. The genetic material known as DNA is in the nucleus of our cells. There is a wall around the nucleus that prevents RNA from getting into the nucleus. Thus, the vaccines have no ability to change our DNA. Also, the mRNA used in these vaccines lasts in our cytoplasm for only a few days, and then our body destroys it. So, the mRNA does its job of having our body make a harmless piece of the spike protein in COVID-19, and then our body starts an immune response against the spike protein. This immune response is what protects us against being infected by COVID-19.

Can I get COVID-19 from the vaccine?

No. The vaccines prompt our body to make a piece of the virus called a spike protein. The body then makes antibodies to the spike protein designed to protect people against COVID-19 should they be exposed to the virus. Because the vaccine does not contain the whole virus, it is impossible to get COVID-19 by receiving it.

How do COVID-19 vaccines work?

The spike protein on the outside of COVID-19 is what allows the virus to attach to our cells and start an infection. If your body can prevent the spike protein from attaching to your cells, then the virus can’t make you sick. So, the goal of all the COVID-19 vaccines is to make antibodies against the spike protein. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use pure spike gene mRNA to get our body to start the immune response. AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines use a common virus called adenovirus to bring the spike protein gene into our body and start the immune response.

Watch Video: Vaccinating the Vulnerable

COVID-19 vaccine vials.

How were these vaccines developed and approved so quickly?

Things moved faster than normal, but we have done everything correctly. The FDA was able to approve an emergency use authorization for Pfizer, Moderna, and Janssen based on their good safety and efficacy profile. We have been very careful in monitoring safety and have taken no short cuts in evaluating the vaccines at Cincinnati Children’s. Almost 40,000 people enrolled in Pfizer clinical trials nationwide, over 30,000 enrolled in Moderna and close to 30,000 for both Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca. Thus, we have a lot of safety data.

Which COVID-19 vaccines have been tested in clinical trials at Cincinnati Children’s?

Cincinnati Children’s has helped conduct clinical trials for the Pfizer vaccine in children and adults, the Moderna vaccine in children, AstraZeneca vaccine in adults, and the CyanVac nasal vaccine candidate in adults.

What can we do in the meantime to protect kids, especially those who have compromised immune systems or chronic conditions?

We recommend that the adults who spend time with your children get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible. Vaccinating the people around a vulnerable person is called cocooning, and it is a valuable tool to protect your family. In addition, continuing with safe distancing, using masks and frequent hand washing are very effective ways to decrease your risk of getting COVID-19. Also, be sure that everyone in your family has a flu vaccine this year. They are available at primary care offices and also at pharmacies for walk-in patients.

Reviewed by Robert Frenck Jr., MD.