COVID-19 Booster Information Boosted is Better!
Inova’s mission is to provide world-class healthcare while reducing the effects of COVID-19. With a new COVID-19 variant spreading across the world, there is no better time than now to protect our community against this variant and others to come.
We know that the most effective way to prevent severe illness from COVID-19 is to be fully protected through vaccination and a booster.
Thank you for taking this important step to protect yourself and our community from the next wave of COVID-19.
Where to Get Your COVID-19 Booster Shot
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
I already got a booster shot. Do I need another to be up to date with COVID-19 vaccination?
A person is up to date with COVID-19 vaccination after getting their first booster dose. Getting a second booster dose is not necessary to be considered up to date at this time. The FDA and CDC recently authorized a second booster for immunocompromised individuals and those 50 years and older. If you have questions about a second booster shot, talk to your healthcare provider.
Who should receive a booster dose?
The latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that all individuals age 12+ should receive booster shots. This recommendation is for anyone who has received the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 vaccine.
Why should I get a booster at all, if the vaccine is still protecting me?
The COVID-19 vaccines remain highly effective in preventing severe illness and keeping you out of the hospital, but because the initial protection from the first doses can wane over time, the booster is key. Your protection is significantly enhanced by a third dose – the booster – and can not only reduce the risk of severe illness, hospitalization or death, but can lessen your symptoms if you are infected.
When should I receive a booster dose?
- Those who are eligible should receive a booster dose only after being fully vaccinated. Those who have completed a primary vaccine series (i.e., two-dose mRNA vaccine series or a single dose of the J&J vaccine) are considered fully vaccinated ≥2 weeks after completion of the primary series.
- For those who received the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in their first series, boosters are available to those who are eligible at least 5 months after their second dose.
- For those who received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, booster shots are available to those who are eligible at least two months after their first dose. The CDC will provide the most up-to-date information on groups eligible for a booster shot.
Recommended Vaccine Scheduling
|Primary Series Manufacturer||Age Group||# of doses in primary series||#of booster doses||Interval between 1st and 2nd dose||Interval between primary and booster dose|
|Pfizer||5-11 years||2||N/A||3 weeks||N/A|
|Pfizer||12+ years||2||1||3-8 weeks*||≥5 months|
|Moderna||18+||2||1||4-8 weeks*||≥5 months|
*An 8-week interval may be optimal for some people ages 12 years and older, especially for males ages 12 to 39, to reduce risk of vaccine-related myocarditis. A shorter interval (3 weeks for Pfizer; 4 weeks for Moderna) between the first and second doses remains the recommended interval for people who are moderately or severely immunocompromised, adults 65 years and older, and others who need rapid protection due to increased concern about community transmission or risk of severe disease.
What type of booster should I receive?
- You may choose which COVID-19 vaccine you receive as a booster shot. Some people may prefer the vaccine type that they originally received and others may prefer to get a different booster. The CDC's recommendations now allow for this type of mix and match dosing for booster shots.
- Mixing products may be considered for the booster dose only.
- If you have questions about which booster is right for you, please speak your healthcare provider to help you weigh the risks and benefits of each option.
What is the difference between a booster shot and an additional dose?
About the COVID-19 Vaccine
Since December 2019 when the first case of COVID-19 was announced in Wuhan, China, SARS-CoV-2 virus, has spread around the world. To date, in the United States, there have been a reported over 25 million cases and more than 400,000 deaths (with numbers still rising). To put this in context, the case fatality rate (number of people who have a disease and then die due to the disease) is 3.1% for COVID-19 while it is only 0.1% for the flu.
Granted, many more people survive than die from COVID-19 infection, but there are other health conditions that can develop as part of COVID-19 infection or subsequent to COVID-19 infection including heart, lung, brain and nerve problems, kidney injury, and whole body inflammation syndromes which occur in both adults and children. There are also longer term problems that we are just beginning to unravel including persistent symptoms after COVID-19.
While there are still many unknowns about COVID-19, we have learned a lot in the year since the pandemic began and have developed new treatments and now vaccines to fight back against COVID-19.
In December 2020, the FDA authorized two vaccines for emergency use. The first doses manufactured by Pfizer-BIONTECH rolled out to hospitals on Dec. 14, 2020. Since then, Inova has given more than 100,000 shots to healthcare workers throughout the Washington, DC region, and will now assist in vaccinating the local community based on the CDC guidelines.
However, despite this success, some people still may have concerns about being vaccinated. We understand that in order to stop the rapid spread of this infection, people need to be protected against it. The best way to be protected against an infection is immunization. It is estimated that about 80% of the human population will need to be protected in order to stop the pandemic.
Many people still have questions about the vaccine including questions about the development of the vaccine, its safety and efficacy, side effects and its impact on those with certain health conditions. Below, we answer many of these questions and provide links to resources for more information. If you still have questions, it is best to discuss these with your primary care doctor.
Why should I get vaccinated for COVID-19?
The COVID-19 vaccine helps protect you from getting sick, and is very likely to limit your ability to spread the virus. This will also help protect those around you in your community – your family, friends and neighbors – who may not be able to be vaccinated because of their age or certain health conditions.
Is there anyone who should not get a COVID-19 vaccine?
Only people with a history of severe allergic reactions (e.g. anaphylaxis) to an ingredient in the vaccine should not get the vaccine. Talk to your doctor if you have questions or concerns about getting the vaccine. For pregnant women or women trying to conceive, the CDC says there is no reason pregnant or lactating women should not receive the vaccine.
Carefully review the information below and discuss with your practitioner if you are unsure:
Vaccinating Pregnant and Lactating Patients Against COVID-19 (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists)
Should I get the COVID-19 vaccine even if I've already had COVID-19?
Can I catch COVID-19 from the vaccine?
No, you cannot catch COVID-19 from the vaccine. The vaccine does not use the virus like the flu shot. It helps your body build its own defense against the SARS-CoV-2 virus by using a synthetic form of the virus’s spike protein code called messenger RNA (mRNA).
The mRNA primes your immune system to recognize and respond to the virus spike protein. It teaches your immune system to recognize the virus as “foreign” and fight to block its spread. It uses mRNA to start the process and help remember the virus spike protein so it can get a quick start in fighting it off. The mRNA does not change anything in your cells.
Can the COVID-19 vaccine cause a false positive COVID-19 test?
The vaccine has no effect on the viral tests (PCR or antigen based nasal/oral swabs) used to diagnose COVID-19. For tests that are not used to diagnose active COVID-19 disease, like tests for antibodies in your blood, it will appropriately cause some of these to become positive.
How soon after vaccination will I be safe from getting COVID-19 infection?
The current vaccination process requires two shots to be sure you are capable of successfully fighting off the virus. After the first injection, there may be some immunity, but you will need the second to achieve a high level of protection. After your second shot, the immune system is fully activated to fight the virus approximately one to two weeks afterwards.
Please remember, until your immune system has been fully activated (has enough information to fight of the SARS-CoV2 infection) which happens after your second dose of the vaccine, you can still catch COVID-19. The more people who are vaccinated, the more quickly we can achieve herd immunity (which means 80% of people are vaccinated against COVID-19) and get back to “normal”, but until then we need to continue to wear a mask, wash our hands frequently, and socially distance even after our second shot.
Did the government cut corners to get the vaccine out so fast?
No. Research using mRNA in a vaccine has been ongoing since the 1990s.
The vaccines being given at Inova were tested in more than 70,000 people worldwide. Everyone who receives the vaccine is being monitored afterwards, so if there are any problems, they can be addressed immediately. Inova has seen minimal side effects in the 100,000+ doses we have administered so far.
Were all races and ethnicities well represented in these vaccine trials?
How can I get vaccine verification assistance?
A person vaccinated in Virginia can visit vaccinate.virginia.gov to obtain their free vaccination record with QR code, which can then be saved to a phone gallery, printed on paper, or stored in a compatible account. If you cannot access your records via the Search for your Vaccination Record self-service portal, it could be because your profile needs additional information added, like a phone number. If you are experiencing this issue, please call the Virginia Immunization Information System help desk at 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-829-4682) Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. for assistance. We apologize, this is not something Inova can correct.
COVID-19 Vaccine Fact Sheets for Recipients and Caregivers
Vaccine Side Effects
I heard the side effects from the vaccine can make me really sick. Is this true?
Most of the reported side effects (soreness at the site of injection, mild headache, body aches, low fever or chills) have been reported as mild to moderate and occur about 12-24 hours after the shot, and last no more than seven days (most are only for 24-48 hours). The second dose often produces more of these symptoms so it is suggested that you plan your work schedule around your second dose so that you can consider taking the day off after receiving the second dose of vaccine.
Remember, if you develop side effects, this is not a bad thing, it just means your immune system is working well. If you don’t develop side effects, this doesn’t mean that your immune system isn’t working, it just means our bodies react differently when we get the vaccine.
I am worried about having an allergic reaction to the vaccine. Should I be worried?
What am I supposed to do if I have side effects?
Everyone who gets the vaccine is asked to sign up for V-Safe, a program run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help track side effects. V-Safe will deliver a text message to you every day for about one week after you get the vaccine to check in to see how you are doing. If the responses you submit to V-safe are concerning, a representative from the CDC will call you to ask more questions. If you are experiencing mild side effects, you can take medication that you normally may take when you have a headache or body aches such as ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol). You also can contact your primary care physician who can help you with any questions you may have.
It is important to recognize that shortness of breath, cough, loss of taste, and loss of smell are not vaccine side effects and should prompt a phone call to your physician.
How do I tell the difference between vaccine side effects and COVID-19?
These may be similar, in that both may be associated with fever, muscle aches, headache, and fatigue. The vaccine side effects are usually mild and last 36 hours or less. However, if you are concerned and or if your symptoms persist, contact your primary care provider for their advice on next steps.
The vaccines do not cause sore throat, cough, shortness of breath, or lack of taste/smell. If you develop any of these symptoms and have concerns about possible COVID-19 infection, you should talk to you healthcare professional.
Can I take antipyretic or analgesic medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen prior to vaccination?
It is not recommended to take prophylactic medications such as Advil or Tylenol for the purpose of preventing symptoms due to lack of information on the effect of antibody response. However, you may take these medications after vaccination to treat post-vaccination symptoms if they occur.
Vaccines & Protection from COVID-19
How protected am I between the first and second shot?
You will have some immunity about 10 days after the first shot. This is not adequate to protect you from infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus but you may experience a milder illness. People over 65 years of age may have less protection than younger people during the interval between the first and second shots. It is important to get both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and for now, you must continue to demonstrate safety precautions including masking, social distancing and hand hygiene to protect yourself and others who have not been or are not able to be vaccinated due to age or medical condition.
If I catch COVID-19 after being vaccinated will the symptoms likely be milder?
Yes. The vaccine is designed to prevent symptomatic and serious disease.
What happens if I don’t get my second shot or I am late getting my second shot?
It is important to get both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and you should try to get the second dose within the window you were told when you got your first shot. However, being a few days late in getting your second shot should not be concerning. It is important to get the entire vaccine series to provide protection against COVID-19. Right now, one dose of the vaccine is not enough to provide full protection.
I have heard the vaccines may not work against the new COVID-19 variants, is this true?
Currently, the vaccines still protect against the new virus variants (mutants). The changing of the virus is expected, as this is what viruses do, so it is best to get your vaccine when it is your turn. In order to stop the coronavirus from mutating, we need to stop it from infecting people and the best way to do that is to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Can I get other vaccinations (for example: shingles vaccine, pneumonia vaccine, flu vaccine) at the same time as my COVID-19 vaccination?
Vaccine Resources for Children 5-17
Videos for Parents
Preparing For Your Child's Vaccine
Pain Management Tools
Videos for Kids
COVID-19 Vaccine for Kids: A Guide for Parents
COVID-19 Vaccine for Children and Teens
Are the COVID-19 vaccines safe for children?
Yes. The data we have seen make us confident that the vaccines authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are safe for children and adolescents. The Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is authorized for use in people 5 years old and older.
The vaccine’s safety was studied in approximately 3,100 children ages 5 through 11 who received the vaccine and no serious side effects have been detected in the ongoing study.
Very rarely, people have had allergic reactions to the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine (estimated to be less than 2 – 4 people per million). This reaction can be treated. For more information, refer to the CDC’s guidance.
Are there side effects after getting the COVID-19 vaccine?
Commonly reported side effects in the clinical trial included injection site pain (sore arm), redness and swelling. Fatigue and headache were reported as most common whole body side effects. Less commonly seen in 5 – 11-year-olds were muscle and/or joint pain, chills, fever, swollen lymph nodes, nausea and decreased appetite.
More children reported side effects after the second dose than after the first dose. Side effects were generally mild to moderate in severity and occurred within two days after vaccination, and most went away within one to two days. The side effects appear to be less common in 5 – 11-year-olds than in older children/adolescents and young adults.
There were no identified cases of myocarditis or pericarditis in the clinical trials of 5 – 11-year olds.
Are the COVID-19 vaccines effective in children?
Yes. Immune responses of children 5 through 11 years of age were comparable to those of individuals 16 through 25 years of age. In addition, the vaccine was found to be 90.7% effective in preventing COVID-19 in children 5 through 11.
How many doses will my child need?
The Pfizer vaccine is given in two doses, with the second dose approximately three weeks after the first.
How much will the vaccine cost me?
The vaccine does not cost you any money. A vaccine administration fee may be charged to your insurance company. Inova will not bill you directly for this.
Will the vaccine affect my child’s future fertility?
There is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine or any vaccine affects fertility. Women undergoing fertility treatment or who are planning to get pregnant should get vaccinated if they are eligible. Since the vaccine is not a live virus, there is no reason to delay pregnancy attempts because of vaccination administration or to defer treatment until the second dose has been administered.
Should my child get the COVID-19 vaccine if my child is currently sick with COVID-19?
No. People with COVID-19 can get the vaccine after they are feeling better and meet the criteria to stop isolation. Read the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidelines on when you can be around others after having COVID-19. For more information, refer to the CDC’s guidance.
My child has already had COVID-19. Do they still need the vaccine?
Yes. Your child should get the vaccine even if they have already had COVID-19. Even though having had COVID-19 may provide some protection from getting sick again, we do not know how long that protection will last.
My child is scared of needles. What does Inova offer for pain management? How is Inova making the vaccine experience kid-friendly?
Inova’s certified child life specialists are an integral part of making the vaccination experience as anxiety- and pain-free as possible. We have onsite pain management tools, like Buzzy and Shotblocker, to help reduce discomfort associated with vaccine administration. We also have videos on our website and social media channels to help you prepare your child for the best possible experience. When you arrive to check in, please alert the staff if your child may need a quiet space or additional distraction. You can also reach out to the child life department if you have specific questions about making the vaccine the best possible experience.
Can someone get the COVID-19 vaccine if they’ve had multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children or adults (MIS-C or MIS-A)?
Yes. The CDC recommends that people diagnosed with MIS-C or MIS-A recover from their illness, wait at least 90 days, and have return of normal cardiac function before getting their COVID-19 vaccines.
Can my child get a COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as other vaccines?
Yes. The CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics have recommended that people who would otherwise fall behind on routine vaccines can get the COVID-19 vaccines at the same time or within 14 days of other routine vaccines.
For children 5 – 11 years old who are going to receive 2 or more vaccines in a single limb, the outer thigh muscle (vastus lateralis muscle) is the preferred site.
Do 5 – 11-year-olds get the same dose of Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine as older children and adults?
No. The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine for children 5 – 11 years of age is administered as a two-dose primary series, 3 weeks apart, but is a lower dose (10 micrograms) than that used for individuals 12 years of age and older (30 micrograms).
What if my 5 – 11 year-old weighs more than a typical 5 – 11-year-old – is the dose of vaccine different?
No. The dose of vaccine is not based on weight, it is based on the age of your child.
What if my 11-year-old is about to turn 12 years? Do I wait for the 12 year old dose or do I get them the 11 year old dose now?
Your 11 year old can get the first vaccine now at the 10 microgram dose. Then if they turn 12 years old before the second dose, they have the option to get either a second dose 3 weeks later at the same dose (10 micrograms) or they can get the 12 year old dose (30 micrograms).
Of note, the 10-microgram dose was studied early on in adults and it showed a good antibody response in non-elderly adults.
COVID Vaccine & Pregnancy
I am pregnant. Should I get the vaccine?
Pregnancy is considered a high-risk health condition. Pregnant people with COVID-19 are at increased risk of preterm birth and might be at increased risk of other adverse pregnancy outcomes, compared with pregnant women without COVID-19. COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for all people 12 years and older, including people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, trying to get pregnant now, or might become pregnant in the future. Evidence about the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy has been growing. These data suggest that the benefits of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine outweigh any known or potential risks of vaccination during pregnancy. Getting a COVID-19 vaccine can protect you from severe illness from COVID-19.
We want to start a family. I heard the vaccine can possibly hurt our chances or hurt the baby. Is this true?
Women undergoing fertility treatment or planning to get pregnant are encouraged to get vaccinated if they are eligible. Since the vaccine is not a live virus, there is no reason to delay pregnancy attempts because of vaccination administration or to defer treatment until the second dose has been administered. There is currently no evidence that any vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, cause fertility problems in women or men.
I am pregnant, and I am afraid the vaccine will hurt my baby. Can this happen?
Evidence about the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy, although limited, has been growing. These data suggest that the benefits of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine outweigh any known or potential risks of vaccination during pregnancy. Vaccines have been studied using many viruses and in all trimesters of pregnancy. No adverse pregnancy-related outcomes, including adverse outcomes affecting the baby, were associated with vaccination in these trials.
If you are pregnant, you might want to have a conversation with your healthcare provider about COVID-19 vaccination. While such a conversation might be helpful, it is not required before vaccination. You can receive a COVID-19 vaccine without any additional documentation from your healthcare provider.
Professional medical organizations such as The American College of OB-GYN, and the Society of Maternal Fetal Medicine who specialize in the treatment and care of pregnant individuals all align with the CDC in encouraging pregnant individuals to get COVID-19 vaccinated.
COVID Vaccine & Surgery
Is it safe to receive the COVID-19 vaccine before a surgical procedure? If so, is there an ideal timeframe?
Yes it is safe to receive the vaccine before a surgical procedure. If the timing of the procedure is flexible then it is recommended to schedule the procedure at least 3 days but no more than a week after a vaccine dose. This guidance is given so that any symptoms such as a fever can be correctly attributed to the side effects of either vaccination or the operation/procedure itself.
How soon after my surgery/procedure can I receive the COVID-19 vaccine?
Will the COVID-19 vaccine impact my surgical procedure? Will the vaccine ingredients interact with anesthesia or any other medications?
No, the vaccine will not impact your procedure and appropriate COVID-19 precautions will still be followed regardless of vaccination status. The components of the vaccine should have no impact on the anesthesia or any medications used in relation to your surgical procedure.
Should I postpone my COVID-19 vaccine to after my surgical procedure? If so, how long should I wait?
We do not recommend postponing vaccination unless it would not be feasible to receive it due to the timing of the procedure or expected procedural recovery. Speak with your surgeon for more information. However, as noted above, it would be advisable to space your surgery date and vaccination date by at least 3 days to allow for the proper assignment of any symptoms that may arise such as fever to either the surgery or the vaccination.
Am I required to schedule a COVID-19 test before my surgical procedure if I received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine?
Currently, Inova requires a COVID-19 test before some surgeries and procedures. We will continue this requirement until we know more about asymptomatic spread after vaccination.
Am I required to schedule a COVID-19 test before my surgical procedure if I was previously diagnosed with COVID-19?
If you were previously diagnosed with COVID-19 within the previous 90 days, you do not need another COVID-19 test before elective surgery.
The timing of elective surgery after recovery from COVID-19 utilizes both symptom and severity-based categories. Suggested wait times from the date of COVID-19 diagnosis to surgery are as follows:
- 4 weeks for an asymptomatic patient or recovery from only mild, non-respiratory symptoms
- 6 weeks for a symptomatic patient (e.g., cough, dyspnea) who did not require hospitalization
- 8-10 weeks for a symptomatic patient who is diabetic, immunocompromised, or was hospitalized due to COVID-19 infection
- 12 weeks for a patient who was admitted to an intensive care unit due to COVID-19 infection
These timelines should not be considered definitive; each patient’s preoperative risk assessment should be individualized, factoring in surgical intensity, patient co-morbidities, and the benefit/risk ratio of further delaying surgery.
Residual symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath, and chest pain are common in patients who have had COVID-19. These symptoms can be present more than 60 days after diagnosis. In addition, COVID-19 may have long term effects. Speak with your doctor about a preoperative evaluation.
Am I required to show proof of my COVID-19 vaccination before my procedure?
No. Vaccination status will not have an impact on whether or not your surgery/procedure takes place.
Is Inova offering COVID-19 vaccinations to pre-surgical patients?
Having surgery or a procedure is not part of the criteria used when prioritizing patients for the vaccine, however, we encourage everyone to get their vaccine as soon as it is their turn.
COVID Vaccine & Cancer
Should cancer patients receive the COVID-19 Vaccine?
Based on CDC guidance, we are encouraging patients with active cancer to receive the COVID-19 vaccine when available. Active cancer refers to any cancer patient currently being treated or has been diagnosed within the last year. This can be given while on chemotherapy, immunotherapy or radiotherapy.
When should a cancer patient get the vaccine?
Are cancer patients eligible to get the vaccine in Northern Virginia?
Yes. Northern Virginia is currently in phase 1b of COVID-19 vaccine distribution as of January 14. This now includes any person age 65 or older or any person age 16-64 with a high risk medical condition such as cancer.
To properly manage the vaccination process, individuals who have received their initial vaccine dose from Inova should anticipate receiving their second dose at their scheduled follow-up appointment. Inova is currently working with local health departments to receive supply and vaccinate eligible populations. Updates about our supply and eligibility will be made on this page; please check back frequently.
Are there any cancer patients for which the above recommendations do not apply?
Should I let my oncologist’s office know that I have been vaccinated?
After I receive my COVID-19 vaccine, do I still have to take precautions to prevent becoming infected?
COVID Vaccine & Mammograms
Can the COVID-19 vaccine impact my mammogram or ultrasound results?
All vaccines can cause temporary swelling of the lymph nodes, which is a sign that the body is building immunity and making antibodies as intended. In some rare cases, reports of lymphadenopathy; swelling of the lymph nodes, can develop in the arm and neck region 2 to 4 days after COVID-19 vaccination. This can last, on average, 10 days. This temporary swelling can impact mammogram and breast ultrasound readings. Therefore, it is important that you provide an accurate health history including your vaccination status, timing and side (left vs. right arm) of vaccination at your breast imaging appointment.
If possible, we recommend scheduling routine screening mammograms either before your first COVID-19 vaccine or later than 14 days after vaccination (first or second dose). However, if you have any breast symptoms, you should not delay getting a mammogram or breast ultrasound.