Covid-19 Vaccines

Answers to Your Vaccine Questions

Currently more than 150 million people — almost half the population — are eligible to be vaccinated. But each state makes the final decision about who goes first. The nation’s 21 million health care workers and three million residents of long-term care facilities were the first to qualify. In mid-January, federal officials urged all states to open up eligibility to everyone 65 and older and to adults of any age with medical conditions that put them at high risk of becoming seriously ill or dying from Covid-19. Adults in the general population are at the back of the line. If federal and state health officials can clear up bottlenecks in vaccine distribution, everyone 16 and older will become eligible as early as this spring or early summer. The vaccine hasn’t been approved in children, although studies are underway. It may be months before a vaccine is available for anyone under the age of 16. Go to your state health website for up-to-date information on vaccination policies in your area

You should not have to pay anything out of pocket to get the vaccine, although you will be asked for insurance information. If you don’t have insurance, you should still be given the vaccine at no charge. Congress passed legislation this spring that bars insurers from applying any cost sharing, such as a co-payment or deductible. It layered on additional protections barring pharmacies, doctors and hospitals from billing patients, including those who are uninsured. Even so, health experts do worry that patients might stumble into loopholes that leave them vulnerable to surprise bills. This could happen to those who are charged a doctor visit fee along with their vaccine, or Americans who have certain types of health coverage that do not fall under the new rules. If you get your vaccine from a doctor’s office or urgent care clinic, talk to them about potential hidden charges. To be sure you won’t get a surprise bill, the best bet is to get your vaccine at a health department vaccination site or a local pharmacy once the shots become more widely available.

Probably not. The answer depends on a number of factors, including the supply in your area at the time you’re vaccinated. Check your state health department website for more information about the vaccines available in your state. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are the only two vaccines currently approved, although a third vaccine from Johnson & Johnson is on the way.

That is to be determined. It’s possible that Covid-19 vaccinations will become an annual event, just like the flu shot. Or it may be that the benefits of the vaccine last longer than a year. We have to wait to see how durable the protection from the vaccines is. To determine this, researchers are going to be tracking vaccinated people to look for “breakthrough cases” — those people who get sick with Covid-19 despite vaccination. That is a sign of weakening protection and will give researchers clues about how long the vaccine lasts. They will also be monitoring levels of antibodies and T cells in the blood of vaccinated people to determine whether and when a booster shot might be needed. It’s conceivable that people may need boosters every few months, once a year or only every few years. It’s just a matter of waiting for the data.

Employers do have the right to compel their workers to be vaccinated once a vaccine is formally approved. Many hospital systems, for example, require annual flu shots. But employees can seek exemptions based on medical reasons or religious beliefs. In such cases, employers are supposed to provide a “reasonable accommodation” — with a coronavirus vaccine, for example, a worker might be allowed to work if they wear a mask, or to work from home.

If you have other questions about the coronavirus vaccine, please read our full F.A.Q.

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Highlights

  1. Photo
    CreditNiklas Halle'n/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

    What You Can Do Post-Vaccine, and When

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    Here’s Why Vaccinated People Still Need to Wear a Mask

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    1. PhotoDr. Anthony S. Fauci in March. “We really don’t know what the real number is,” he said recently.
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      How Much Herd Immunity Is Enough?

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Britain's Rollout

  1. PhotoGreta Thunberg, with a School Strike for Climate sign, outside the Swedish Parliament in Stockholm last year.
    CreditJonathan Nackstrand/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
  2. PhotoIsraelis showing their “Green Pass” before entering a concert in Tel Aviv last month.
    CreditDan Balilty for The New York Times
  3. PhotoAdministering the AstraZeneca vaccine at the Museum of Science and Technology of Milan last month.
    CreditAlessandro Grassani for The New York Times
  4. PhotoReceiving Covid-19 vaccinations this month at the Central Mosque of Brent in North London.
    CreditAndrew Testa for The New York Times
  5. PhotoSpraying alcohol and dancing on Miami Beach’s popular Ocean Drive last month.
    CreditChandan Khanna/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine

  1. PhotoDr. Pui-Ying Iroh Tam, right, outside makeshift Covid-19 wards at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre, Malawi, this month.
    CreditThoko Chikondi for The New York Times
  2. PhotoA teenager receives a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in New York on Tuesday. The companies asked to expand their vaccine’s emergency use authorization to include adolescents ages 12 to 15.
    CreditShannon Stapleton/Reuters
  3. PhotoKatalin Kariko at her home in Jenkintown, Pa., in February. Dr. Kariko’s early research into mRNA eventually led to development of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines.
    CreditHannah Yoon
  4. PhotoMembers of the toner vaccination team vaccinating a staff member, organizing paperwork and preparing injections of the Covid-19 vaccine in January.
    CreditChristopher Occhicone for The New York Times
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    CreditOctavio Jones/Getty Images

Moderna Vaccine

  1. PhotoA vaccination drive in Bangkok in March. Countries struggling to obtain vaccines from wealthier countries may be able to make NDV-HXP-S for themselves or acquire it at low cost from neighbors.
    CreditAdam Dean for The New York Times
  2. PhotoA mass vaccination site at the Kentucky State Fair and Exposition Center in Louisville this month.
    CreditJon Cherry for The New York Times
  3. PhotoA nurse preparing vaccine syringes in Munich last week. Only about 10 percent of Europeans have received a first dose.
    CreditLaetitia Vancon for The New York Times
  4. PhotoPresident Biden touring Pfizer’s manufacturing plant in Kalamazoo, Mich., last month. Pressure is growing for the United States to share its vaccine stock.
    CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times
  5. PhotoA 9-year-old participant receiving the first shot in a clinical trial of Pfizer’s vaccine in children under 12, at Duke University in North Carolina.
    CreditShawn Rocco/Duke Health