As the world awaits a promising COVID-19 vaccine, it’s more important now than ever before to learn the importance of vaccination. View commonly asked questions and more information on the much anticipated COVID-19 vaccine.


Frequently Asked Questions about Vaccines

With a COVID-19 vaccine now available, it’s more important now than ever before to learn the importance of vaccination. View commonly asked questions and more information on the much anticipated COVID-19 vaccine.

Information current as of December 5, 2020. For the most recent FAQs, visit our page here.  

This information was reviewed for accuracy by Katie Passaretti, MD.

A safe and effective vaccine is critical in reaching the end of the COVID-19 pandemic and finding a path back to normalcy.

Now that a vaccine is here, let’s explore some frequently asked questions about vaccines:

Question 1: What are vaccines and how do they work?

Answer 1: Vaccines are a way to boost your immune system in an effort to protect against a certain disease. Vaccinations contain dead or weakened forms of viral infections in order to help your body defend itself in case it comes into contact with viruses such as the flu, measles, chickenpox, or another illness already contained by global vaccines. They work by helping your body to build antibodies—or proteins that fight germs—before a full-blown infection develops.  

Q2: Why is it important to get vaccinated against infectious diseases?

A2: Potentially fatal diseases like polio, tetanus, and measles have been contained thanks to widespread vaccination. And although many dangerous illnesses have been suppressed thanks to vaccines, they still exist—that’s why it’s essential to receive the vaccines recommended by healthcare professionals for every age and life stage. 

Even more important is that getting vaccinated against preventable diseases helps to protect vulnerable communities. Young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and otherwise immunocompromised individuals depend on those around them to get vaccinated when they cannot. The flu, for example, may cause short-term illness among a middle aged person, but can be deadly for someone over the age of 75. Vaccines create healthier communities, so it’s important to follow the advice of your healthcare provider when it comes to the vaccines recommended for you.

Q3: What vaccines do I need?

A3: Which vaccines you need will depend on your age and certain risk factors. Pregnant women, for example, aren’t able to get certain vaccines during pregnancy.

Everyone over the age of six months should receive a flu vaccination. Depending on age, other vaccinations that may be recommended to you are:

Before 2 years of age:

  • Chickenpox (varicella) vaccine
  • Diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTaP) vaccine
  • Hepatitis A and B vaccines.
  • Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine
  • Pneumococcal vaccine
  • Polio vaccine
  • Rotavirus vaccine

Children ages 4-6:

  • Chickenpox (varicella) vaccine
  • Diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTaP) vaccine
  • Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine
  • Polio vaccine


  • Human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap)
  • Meningitis


  • Tetanus booster
  • Pneumococcal vaccine
  • Shingles vaccine
  • DTap (during pregnancy for women)

For further information on vaccines, visit guidelines listed by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  

Q4: Will a vaccine give me the disease it’s meant to prevent?

A4: A vaccine will not infect you with the illness it’s created to prevent. They are components of viruses that promote the immune response and cannot be transmitted via vaccine. 

Vaccines undergo rigorous testing through clinical trials to ensure they are safe and effective for those who receive it. Most side effects, if any, are mild—like a sore arm, fatigue, or mild fever. 

Additionally, it’s important to note that rumors of vaccines causing autism or sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) have been proven false time and time again. Research shows vaccines are safe and the pros outweigh any potential risks (which don’t usually extend beyond mild side effects like a sore arm or slight fever).

Q5: What is a COVID-19 vaccine?

A5: One of the most essential steps in reaching the end of the current pandemic is finding a way to reduce the spread from person to person—and a COVID-19 vaccine is one way to accomplish just that. 

Once approved, the COVID-19 vaccine will help boost immune systems against the pandemic-causing coronavirus. The vaccine being created is slightly different from others such as the flu vaccine. While others use a dead form of the virus, the COVID-19 vaccine essentially gives instructions to cells on how to make a small piece of the COVID-19 virus to allow the immune system to create defensive antibodies as a response. While data is continuing to be reviewed, early reports show marked reduction in COVID infection in those who receive the vaccine versus those that receive the placebo. And though a vaccine may not be 100% effective in preventing COVID-19, it may lessen the severity of symptoms and help those exposed to combat symptoms of the virus.

Q6: When will the COVID-19 vaccine be ready?

A6: Currently, there is one approved vaccine available for those who qualify. The approved Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine is offered at Atrium Health, with priority focused on getting clinical facing teammates vaccinated first. As more vaccines become available, we plan to offer vaccines more widely.

There are more than 135 other COVID-19 vaccines being evaluated by vaccine manufacturers. In order for a vaccine to be approved, it must reduce COVID-19 in at least 50% of people receiving the vaccine in large scale trials. 

Q7: What is Atrium Health’s approach to a COVID-19 vaccine?

A7: Once approved, Atrium Health strongly recommends frontline workers and teammates receive the COVID-19 vaccine in order to protect patients and community members we come into contact with. That’s why our team of multidisciplinary experts are consistently evaluating the evolution of COVID-19 vaccine studies and research. When one becomes available, our team will heavily research and analyze the science behind the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness. 

Atrium Health recognizes that recommending vaccination to healthcare workers and patients is a vital step in creating a healthier community and finding a path back to normalcy. However, our team of experts are hard at work ensuring the vaccine is effective and the benefits outweigh any potential risks prior to administering it to employees or patients.

How to Get a Flu Shot

While awaiting a COVID-19 vaccine, it’s more important now than ever before to make sure you have your flu shot.

Getting a flu shot is about more than individual protection—it’s about community members working together to protect each other. Every person over the age of six months should get a flu shot. Not only does it offer added protection to you if you are exposed to the flu, but it also helps to protect vulnerable individuals who are high risk for flu complications and cannot get the shot (those younger than six months of age, the elderly population, and immunocompromised individuals). 

In the year 2020, it’s more important now than ever before to get a flu shot. Though it’s not nearly as deadly as COVID-19, the flu can take a toll on healthy individuals and be life threatening for vulnerable populations. Getting infected with both the flu and COVID-19 simultaneously can prove detrimental even to young, healthy people. 

Flu Shot Locations

Many healthcare facilities are offering drive thru options as a convenient and safe way for individuals to get a flu shot. Additionally, you can get vaccinated safely in a medical office or pharmacy offering shots. 

To schedule a free flu vaccine with Atrium Health, contact your healthcare provider or click for office locations.

Participate in Vaccine Clinical Trials

Founded by Christine B. Turley, MD, Atrium Health’s STRIVE for Healthier Futures vaccine registry is available for community members who wish to participate in upcoming clinical trials. You can read more about Atrium’s STRIVE vaccine research and sign up to be a part of the registry here. By signing up, you may be contacted to participate in COVID-19 vaccine trials in the future.