Learn about COVID-19 vaccines

Last updated May 19, 2022.

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All Coloradans age 5 and older can get a COVID-19 vaccine. Find a vaccine clinic near you.

 

How COVID-19 vaccines work

COVID-19 vaccines teach your body how to fight COVID-19. They do this by training your immune system to fight a small part of the virus called a spike protein. Once your body knows how to target the spike protein, it can fight off the whole virus before you get sick. Getting vaccinated makes it much less likely that you’ll get very sick or need to be hospitalized from COVID-19.

 

Different types of COVID-19 vaccines

There are three different types of COVID-19 vaccines available in Colorado.

Pfizer

Right now, the Pfizer vaccine is the only vaccine available for both children and adults. Anyone 5 years old or older can get vaccinated with Pfizer. Children age 5 to 11 get a smaller dose (one third of the strength) than people age 12 and older.

If you get the Pfizer vaccine, you’ll need to get three doses for the highest level of protection. Some people may need four or five doses. The number and timing of follow-up doses depend on your age, medical conditions, and other factors.

Learn more about follow-up doses, or use our calculator to find out how many doses you may need.

Pfizer’s vaccine uses genetic code called mRNA to teach your body how to fight COVID-19. Once your body has learned how to target the virus, this genetic code goes away.
 

Moderna

The Moderna vaccine is available for adults age 18 and older. If you get the Moderna vaccine, you’ll need to get three doses for the highest level of protection. Some people may need four or five doses. The number and timing of follow-up doses depend on your age, medical conditions, and other factors.

Learn more about follow-up doses, or use our calculator to find out how many doses you may need.

Moderna’s vaccine uses genetic code called mRNA to teach your body how to fight COVID-19. Once your body has learned how to target the virus, this genetic code goes away.

 

Johnson & Johnson

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is available for adults age 18 and older who can’t get vaccinated with Pfizer or Moderna due to medical or accessibility reasons, or who would otherwise remain unvaccinated against COVID-19. Both Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines work better to protect you from COVID-19. There is also a very rare but serious side effect associated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. This side effect is called thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome, or TTS. It can cause blood clots with low platelets, which can be dangerous. Women age 18 to 49 are more likely to get TTS after getting vaccinated, though it’s still very rare. Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines haven’t been found to cause this problem.

If you get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you’ll need to get another dose two months after you first get vaccinated. We recommend that you get Pfizer or Moderna for this second dose if possible. Some people may also need third and fourth doses after starting with Johnson & Johnson. 

Learn more about follow-up doses, or use our calculator to find out how many doses you may need.

Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine uses DNA inside a harmless adenovirus to teach your body how to fight COVID-19. Once your body has learned how to target the virus, the DNA and the virus both go away.

 

Safety and effectiveness

The COVID-19 vaccines are safe and work well to protect you from COVID-19. Medical researchers have to show that any vaccine is safe and effective before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will let doctors give it to people. The COVID-19 vaccines are no different.

Millions of people in Colorado and across the United States have safely received a COVID-19 vaccine. Getting a vaccine is the best and safest way to protect yourself from COVID-19.

Testing vaccines for safety and effectiveness

Once a company develops a vaccine, it has to test it to make sure the vaccine is safe and works well. The company then submits the results of the tests to the FDA. These scientific tests include multiple clinical research trials.

People volunteer to take part in these trials. Each trial is meant to make sure the vaccine is safe The trials also show researchers how well the vaccine works. As the research goes on, the group of volunteers gets bigger. A bigger group of volunteers helps researchers learn how well the vaccine works for different kinds of people with different life circumstances. A diverse group of people volunteered for every part of the clinical trials for the COVID-19 vaccines. This includes people who have been especially affected by COVID-19 because of inequities like racism and low income.

The FDA looks at the results of these tests to see if the vaccine is safe and works well. It then decides whether doctors can start offering the vaccine to patients. All vaccines  go through this rigorous scientific process in the United States. The FDA held the COVID-19 vaccines to the same safety standards as other vaccines.

 

Why you should get vaccinated

To protect yourself and other people from getting COVID-19.

Getting the COVID-19 vaccine is the best way to protect yourself  from getting really sick or dying from COVID-19. It also reduces the chance of spreading COVID-19 to others.

The vaccines are free whether or not you have health insurance or are a U.S. citizen.

The vaccines are free. Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance will cover the cost of the COVID-19 vaccines. People who don’t have insurance can also get vaccinated for free. You won’t be turned away because you can’t pay for the vaccine or don’t have health insurance. You also don’t need an ID to get vaccinated.

State and local public health agencies will never share your information for any immigration or law enforcement purposes. Receiving the COVID-19 vaccine will not count against you in any public charge determinations.

 

What to expect at your vaccine appointment

At your appointment, you should receive an FDA fact sheet that tells you more about the specific COVID-19 vaccine you will receive. You should also receive a vaccination card or printout that tells you which COVID-19 vaccine you received, the date you received it, and the location you received it. Keep this card to remind you when you’ll need to get your follow-up doses, and in the event that you need to provide proof that you have been vaccinated.

You may have side effects, especially after receiving the second or third dose of the vaccine. These symptoms are normal and show that your body’s immune system is responding to a vaccine. These side effects typically go away on their own after a few days.

For more information, see the following links:

 

Reporting adverse events

If you are experiencing a medical emergency, seek immediate assistance from a healthcare provider or call 9-1-1. 
The CDC and FDA are closely monitoring COVID-19 vaccine(s) for new risks and serious side effects. We highly encourage the public to report possible side effects (called adverse events) to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). This national system collects the data to look for adverse events that are unexpected, appear to happen more often than expected, or have unusual patterns of occurrence. Anyone can submit a report, including parents, patients, and health care professionals. Reporting to VAERS helps the CDC monitor the safety of vaccines. 

 

Sign up for v-safe

CDC’s v-safe is a new smartphone-based, after-vaccination health checker for people who receive COVID-19 vaccines. When you receive your vaccine, you should also receive a v-safe information sheet telling you how to enroll in v-safe. If you enroll, you will receive regular text messages directing you to surveys where you can report any problems or adverse reactions you have after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. V-safe is available in English, Korean, simplified Chinese, Spanish, and Vietnamese.

 

Where can I get vaccinated? 

 

Frequently asked questions

  • Adults age 18 or older should get either the Pfizer or the Moderna vaccine. These are the safest and most effective vaccines available.
  • Children age 5 to 17 can only get the Pfizer vaccine.
  • If you are unable to get the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, you can get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 
  • No. None of the vaccines contain the virus that causes COVID-19 disease. 
  • Because COVID-19 is a global emergency, medical researchers around the world worked as hard as they could to create vaccines that would save people’s lives. Researchers had to work quickly, but not at the risk of anyone’s safety. They did not skip any steps. Safety and effectiveness were the top priorities. 
  • The timeline for developing COVID-19 vaccines was possible for several reasons: 
    • Researchers relied on years of previous research on other viruses and vaccines to help develop COVID-19 vaccines. COVID-19 is similar in some ways to other viruses, so scientists already had some information about how the virus behaves and how to fight it. They didn’t have to start from scratch.
    • Everyone involved dedicated all their resources and time to developing a COVID-19 vaccine. This includes research institutions, pharmaceutical companies, government agencies, and philanthropic organizations. 
    • Many governments around the world, including the U.S. government, and private funders invested in the vaccine, which allowed pharmaceutical companies to focus on research right away. 
    • Because of the financial support, researchers were able to conduct different parts of the development process on parallel tracks instead of one after another. No steps were skipped in the process of developing the COVID-19 vaccines.
  • Vaccines must be proven to be safe and effective before they are given to people. The COVID-19 vaccines are no different. These vaccines are being proven safe every day. Millions of people in Colorado have safely received a vaccine. Nationally, hundreds of millions of people across the United States are vaccinated as well.
  • The FDA requires that vaccines undergo a rigorous scientific process before they allow doctors to give a vaccine to their patients. This process includes three phases of clinical trials. The COVID-19 vaccines are subject to the same safety standards as other vaccines. 
  • People volunteer to take part in clinical research studies. All study volunteers must go through a process called informed consent that ensures they understand all of the risks and benefits of being in a study. Those volunteers are reminded that they may leave a study at any time without losing any of their rights or benefits. 
  • Each clinical trial emphasizes the safety of the vaccine on people. As the research moves through to the next phase, the group of volunteers becomes bigger to include more diversity in people and circumstances. 
  • A diverse group of people volunteered to participate in every phase of the clinical trials, including populations disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 due to generations of systemic inequities. For example, in Pfizer’s clinical trials, about 42% of volunteers identified as Asian, Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino/a, or Native American. About 37% of volunteers for Moderna’s trials identified as Asian, Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino/a, or other.
  • Today’s vaccines use only the ingredients they need to be as safe and effective as possible. Each ingredient in a vaccine serves a specific purpose: provide immunity (protection) and keep the vaccine safe and long-lasting.
  • For a full list of ingredients, please see each vaccine’s fact sheet (Moderna, Pfizer, or Johnson & Johnson). 
  • Johnson & Johnson vaccine includes ethanol, a form of alcohol, as an inactive ingredient.
  • None of the currently authorized vaccines contain human cells or tissue. However, some human cell lines were used in the production of Janssen’s vaccine. Pfizer and Moderna used human cell lines to test their vaccines.
    • Human cell lines are sometimes used in the early stages of vaccine development because viruses from which those vaccines are made need living cells to reproduce. These cell lines originally came from fetal tissue more than 30 years ago. None of the original tissue remains today: all descended cells are grown in labs. No new fetal tissue is required in the ongoing development and production of vaccines.
    • As with all viral vector vaccines, multiple purification steps ensure that cells are not in the final vaccine product.
    • For more information about human cell lines, please see the College of Physicians of Philadelphia’s webpage Human Cell Strains in Vaccine Development.
    • For a full list of ingredients, please see each vaccine’s fact sheet (Moderna, or Pfizer, or Janssen). 
    • If you have ethical concerns about the vaccines, we encourage you to talk about them with your faith leaders.
  • Yes. Getting a COVID-19 vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and your baby during the pandemic.
  • Pregnant people are more likely to get very sick if they become infected with COVID-19. Getting sick with COVID-19 can lead to serious pregnancy complications, including complications that can result in death.
  • COVID-19 vaccines are safe for pregnant people and people who are trying to become pregnant. The vaccines help keep you from getting sick. They won’t harm your baby or make it harder for you to get pregnant.
  • Learn more about vaccines and pregnancy at the CDC’s website.
  • It takes about two weeks after your last dose for your body to protect itself against illness.
  • Scientists are working to learn more about COVID-19 variants. Current research suggests that the currently authorized vaccines are effective against the variants, though perhaps to varying degrees depending on the strain. Learn more about the COVID-19 variants
For more frequently asked questions about the vaccines, visit our FAQ page.

For more information on the COVID-19 vaccine, please call:

1-877-CO VAX CO (1-877-268-2926)
Available Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.;
Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Answers available in multiple languages.

The call center will be closed on Nov. 25, Dec. 25, and Jan. 1 for the holidays.