Frequently Asked Questions
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect our daily lives, it’s important to be knowledgeable about the tools, such as vaccines, boosters and masks, that can help us to protect ourselves. You can check this page for updates and science-based answers to frequently asked vaccine questions.
To date, two vaccines have been granted full approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)–the Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty® COVID-19 vaccine that received full approval for individuals 16 and older on August 23, 2021, and Moderna’s Spikevax COVID-19 vaccine that received full approval for individuals 18 and older on January 31, 2022. The FDA has also given emergency approval authorization (EUA) to the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and the Novavax COVID-19 Vaccine, Adjuvanted, for individuals 18 and over and the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for children over 6 months.
While all of these vaccines were shown to be safe and effective through clinical trials, it’s natural to have questions about them. Below you’ll find information on how the vaccines were approved, how safe they are, booster shots and how vaccines have performed against the original coronavirus and several variants.
How do I know the COVID-19 vaccines are safe?
All approved COVID-19 vaccines (J&J, Moderna, Pfizer and Novavax) went through all the required stages of clinical testing needed to prove two things: that they’re safe and work to protect against COVID-19.
Real-world data supports this. Hundreds of millions of doses have been administered in the United States and billions have been administered around the world. Very few serious reactions have been reported.
Four conditions have occurred in vaccinated people. Some individuals developed anaphylaxis (a strong allergic reaction). Others developed myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle). Some people who received the J&J vaccine have reported a certain type of blood clot called thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) or Guillain Barré Syndrome, a condition in which the immune system attacks the nerves.
You can keep up with the latest data on these events on the CDC’s website. But keep in mind that of the millions of people who were vaccinated, only a small percentage have developed any of these conditions. Out of every one million vaccinated people, about five people went into anaphylaxis. The CDC continues to monitor cases of myocarditis, and most people responded well to treatment and felt better quickly, per the CDC. For each one million doses of the J&J vaccines administered, four developed TTS. Rare cases of Guillain Barré Syndrome have also been reported following the J&J vaccine largely among men over 50 years of age.
The risk of experiencing these complications is extremely low. Meanwhile, there are serious risks associated with COVID-19, including severe illness or hospitalization.
The CDC takes safety very seriously and continues to monitor these vaccines calling the effort “the most intense safety monitoring” in U.S. history.
Do vaccines protect people in the real world?
Yes! One especially notable study was released in September 2021 by the CDC. The study followed 3,689 people between March and August 2021. The results showed that the Moderna vaccine was 93% effective against hospitalization, the Pfizer vaccine was 88% effective against hospitalization and the J&J vaccine was 71% effective against hospitalization. This study evaluated the efficacy against the original coronavirus variant.
The Novavax COVID-19 Vaccine, Adjuvanted, was evaluated in a randomized, blinded, placebo-controlled study conducted in the United States and Mexico. The study evaluated the efficacy of the Novavax vaccine against the original coronavirus variant. It found that Novavax was 90.4% effective in preventing mild, moderate or severe COVID-19 among people 18 years and older. The vaccine was 78.6% effective in the subgroup of individuals 65 years of age and older.
Vaccines are still protective against severe COVID-19 caused by the Omicron variant and its subvariants, now dominant in the United States, but a booster shot is needed to ensure protection. One study released in March 2022 followed patients from 21 U.S. medical centers between March 2021 and January 2022. During the Omicron surge, the study found that people who received three mRNA shots (a course of Pfizer or Moderna, plus a booster) were 94% less likely to die from COVID-19.
Do I need a booster shot if I am already vaccinated?
The original coronavirus vaccines still protect against severe illness and death, but the CDC has now authorized booster shots for everyone over the age of five. Given the contagious nature of Omicron and its subvariants, now dominant in the U.S., boosters are essential to provide sufficient protection.
A CDC study released in January 2022 shows just how important this is. One study looked at the rate of severe and hospital-grade COVID cases in eight states, across over 300,000 people. Getting a third mRNA vaccine was 90% effective in preventing hospitalizations from COVID-19 caused by Omicron. Data from 21 U.S. medical centers collected between March 2021 and January 2022 found that people who had received three mRNA shots were 94% less likely to die when infected with Omicron.
CDC research has shown that booster shots are safe. It’s normal to feel fatigue or head and muscle aches after a booster, but these symptoms are less common after a booster than after a second mRNA shot, a February 2022 CDC study suggests.
As of late May, the CDC recommends immunocompromised individuals 12 years of age and older and everyone 50 and older to receive the second booster shots at least 4 months after their first booster. Adults of any age who received a J&J primary vaccine and booster may receive a booster shot. In that case, the CDC recommends opting for an mRNA booster shot.
If I Received the Pfizer or Moderna Vaccine, Am I Eligible For a Booster Shot?
If you are older than 18 and received the second Pfizer or Moderna shot 5 or more months ago you can now receive a booster shot according to the latest CDC guidance. You can receive a booster shot made by J&J, Moderna, or Pfizer regardless of which shot you had already received.
Children over age 5 may also receive a booster made by Pfizer.
If I Received the J&J Vaccine, Am I Eligible For a Booster Shot?
If you are 18 and older and received the J&J shot 2 or more months ago, you are eligible to receive a booster shot made by J&J, Moderna, or Pfizer. The CDC recommends that people who received a J&J original shot opt for mRNA booster shots in the future, based on research suggesting that mRNA shots provide more robust protection.
If I Received the Novavax Vaccine, Am I Eligible For a Booster Shot?
No, a booster shot is not yet recommended at this time.
If you are 18 and older and received the first Novavax shot, you should get your second dose 3 to 8 weeks after receiving the first. You are fully vaccinated and up to date 2 weeks after your second dose in the primary series. The Novavax vaccine is not authorized for use as a booster dose at this time.
Can You Mix and Match Booster Shots?
Adults 18 and older may receive a booster shot made by Pfizer, Moderna, or J&J. The Novavax vaccine is not authorized for use as a booster dose at this time. Children over age 5 are only eligible for booster shots made by Pfizer. Boosters are not yet available for children 6 months to 5 years of age.
For example, if you first received a Moderna vaccine and are eligible for a booster, you can receive a booster shot made by Pfizer or J&J. You would receive that booster at least 5 months after getting your second dose. That said, the CDC recommends that you opt for an mRNA vaccine as a booster shot, as opposed to the J&J.
Here’s another example. If you received a J&J vaccine and are eligible for a booster, you can receive one made by either Pfizer or Moderna. You would receive your booster 2 months after your first shot.
The CDC has been studying the safety of booster shots. A February 2022 study evaluating 721,562 adult booster shot recipients found that the most common side effects were fever and pain–both common reactions to vaccination. Those who got booster shots different from their original shots were more likely to report side effects compared to people who stuck with the same brand. But the CDC still notes that mixing and matching boosters is safe.
Is It Safe to Mix and Match Booster Shots?
Several studies speak to the safety of booster shots. The first followed over 700,000 people 18 and older who had received a booster shot between September 2021 and February 2022 and reported their side effects to the CDC. Ninety-two percent of those reports were not deemed serious. Medical care was rarely sought after receiving a booster shot.
The most common side effects were headache, fever, and pain. These symptoms were slightly more common among people who received a different booster shot from the shot they already received. But side effects are more likely to occur after the second dose of a vaccine compared to after administration of the booster.
That said, the CDC recommends that you opt for an mRNA vaccine as a booster shot, as opposed to the J&J.
If I Already Had a COVID-19 Breakthrough Infection, Do I Need to Get a Booster Shot?
If you have confirmed with a PCR test that you have contracted COVID-19, you should wait until your symptoms resolve and you’ve ended your isolation period to get a booster shot. You may consider delaying your next vaccine dose by 3 months from symptom onset or a first positive test, as reinfection is less likely in the first weeks or months following a COVID-19 infection. You should consider your personal risk of developing severe disease and the infection rates in your community when making the decision.
After that, though, it is critical to restore protection with a booster shot as vaccines offer added defenses to your immune system. The CDC reports that people who had a COVID-19 infection and did not get vaccinated after recovery are more likely to get reinfected than those who were vaccinated.
The CDC also recommends that adults and children who have multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS) should wait to get vaccinated until they recover from being sick or after 90 days after their diagnosis with MIS-A or MIS-C.
What about the variants? Does the vaccine protect against them too?
The Omicron variant and its various subtypes are the dominant forms of SARS-CoV-2 in the U.S. as of August 2022.
Protection Against Omicron
There is evidence that existing two-dose vaccine regimens are less effective against Omicron than they were against Delta and the original coronavirus. However, booster shots can help restore protection. A January 2022 study of over 300,000 people showed that an mRNA booster shot was 90% effective against hospitalization with Omicron.
More recent research contains more good news. A March 2022 study from 21 U.S. medical centers found that a three-dose mRNA vaccine regimen could reduce both the chances of ventilation (an extreme form of care) and of death from Omicron by 94%.
While protection is still high, it can wane over time. A CDC study published in February 2022 showed that 2 months after the first shot vaccines were 90% protective against hospitalization. Four months after the third shot, that protection dropped to 78%. (This data was collected during the Omicron wave in early 2022.) The best course of action, per the CDC, is to get vaccinated and get your booster if you are eligible.
Protection Against BA.5 (Omicron subvariant)
The Omicron subvariant BA.5 is the dominant form of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the United States and is potentially the most contagious strain of the virus to date. (The latest breakdown of variant proportions is available on the CDC website).
Symptoms for BA.5 are similar to the earlier version of Omicron including cough, runny nose, sore throat, fatigue, headaches or muscle pains. Patients are more likely to present with upper respiratory infections and less likely to lose their senses of taste and smell or experience shortness of breath.
Vaccines provide durable protection against severe illness including hospitalizations and deaths and limited protection against symptomatic disease caused by Omicron and its variants. Boosters help restore protection against symptomatic disease, although it wanes within months of receiving them.
Should I get a vaccine if I’ve already had COVID-19?
The short answer is yes.
While you may have COVID-19 antibodies (proteins that bind to the virus and tell the body to vanquish it) in your body after you recover, we don’t know how long immunity gained from natural infection lasts.
If you had COVID-19 recently, you may consider delaying your next vaccine dose by 3 months from symptom onset or a first positive test, as reinfection is less likely in the first weeks or months. You should consider your personal risk of developing severe disease and the infection rates in your community when making the decision.
Some studies suggest as many as one-third of mild COVID-19 cases don’t leave behind protective antibodies. One CDC study from September 2021 followed 72 people, most of whom had mild cases. About 36% of them did not develop antibodies.
It’s possible more severe cases of COVID-19 may leave behind more antibodies, but these cases are very risky. Even if the case doesn’t lead to hospitalization or death, there could be long-term consequences from the condition.
The most reliable way to train your immune system to fight COVID-19 is to get vaccinated, rather than risking a so-called “natural infection.” You don’t need to risk short-term or long-term consequences of the virus to protect yourself.
Getting sick with one variant also doesn’t guarantee protection from another. Some early research suggests that Omicron is more likely to cause re-infection than Delta is.
There’s one more reason to get vaccinated: You can help protect others by reducing your chances of being hospitalized. The Omicron variant and its subtypes are more contagious than the original coronavirus. This means it is even more critical to get vaccinated and boosted to keep hospitals from becoming overwhelmed.
If I already got one Pfizer/Moderna/Novavax shot, why do I need to get the second one?
Real-world research has shown that immunity is improved after two shots. For instance, the effectiveness of one Pfizer or Moderna vaccine against the original coronavirus was 64% in a study of U.S. health care workers done by the CDC. But two shots raised the efficacy to around 94% in that study.
In light of new variants such as Omicron, it’s even more important to get both doses of your COVID-19 shot and stay up to date on the boosters.
Should I get the vaccine if I’m pregnant or want to become pregnant?
You should talk to your doctor if you are pregnant and are worried about getting a COVID-19 vaccine. However, the CDC now strongly recommends pregnant people (or those who want to become pregnant) get the COVID-19 vaccine.
One study published in the New England Journal of Medicine followed over 35,000 pregnant women who got vaccinated. The study found no signs that the vaccine was linked to any complications. Studies from Norway, Israel and the U.S. showed that mRNA vaccines were also not linked to an increased risk of miscarriage, preterm birth or other adverse outcomes.
Getting vaccinated while pregnant can even help protect newborn children from COVID-19. A CDC study released in February 2022 analyzed data from 20 pediatric hospitals in the U.S. Vaccination among pregnant mothers was linked with a 60% reduction in the risk of infants (younger than 6 months old) being hospitalized with COVID-19.
Meanwhile, evidence also shows that pregnant women who get COVID-19 are at higher risk of getting very sick from the virus itself compared to non-pregnant women of the same age. This means protecting against the virus with a vaccine is even more important.
Does the vaccine affect fertility?
You may have heard some misinformation suggesting that the vaccines might impair a woman’s ability to get pregnant. Scientists have debunked this claim.
In a joint statement, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine said there is no evidence the vaccine impacts women’s fertility. The idea that there could be fertility loss due to vaccination was “scientifically unlikely,” the statement read.
Another major study released in 2022 confirms that the COVID vaccines are not linked to fertility issues. The study followed over 2,000 females who provided information on their efforts to conceive and the vaccination status of their partners. Fertility rates among women who had received at least one vaccine didn’t differ from unvaccinated women. The pattern held for men as well. The Mayo Clinic also notes that there is “no evidence” that COVID-19 vaccines can cause fertility problems.
Are children eligible for the vaccine?
On June 19, the CDC recommended that everyone over 6 months old gets vaccinated against COVID-19. Children get a smaller dose of the vaccine compared to adults and the coronavirus vaccine may be given to children at the same time as other vaccinations.
Children between 6 months and 5 years of age may receive the primary vaccine series made by either Pfizer or Moderna. For children between 6 months and 4 years old, the Pfizer primary series has three doses of the vaccine and the Moderna primary series has two doses. Five-year-old children are eligible to receive a two-dose primary vaccine series produced by either Pfizer or Moderna.
Children aged 6 and older are eligible for Pfizer’s two-dose coronavirus vaccine. If your child is 12 or older, they will receive the same version of the vaccine given to adults. If they are between 5 and 11, they receive a slightly lower dosage.
As of May 2022 children aged 5 and over are eligible for booster shots made by Pfizer. They may receive boosters 5 months after they complete their primary vaccine series.
How safe is the vaccine for children?
The CDC currently recommends that children aged 6 months or older get a coronavirus vaccine. These recommendations were made after studies specifically evaluated the safety of the coronavirus vaccines in children and the data was reviewed by outside experts.
For example, a clinical trial on 2,260 adolescents aged 12 to 15 found no serious adverse effects linked to the Pfizer vaccine. By December 2021, about 8.7 million children aged 5 through 11 had received a vaccine with very few serious side effects reported. Most reactions were mild and included pain in the injection site, fatigue and headache.
The most common side effects reported for children 6 months to 3 years old are pain at the injection site, swollen lymph nodes, irritability or crying, sleepiness and loss of appetite. For kids 4 to 17 years of age, side effects are more common after the second dose and include pain and swelling at the injection site, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, chills and swollen lymph nodes.
Data from the CDC’s vaccine safety monitoring between December 2020 and August 2021 has shown a small but increased risk of myocarditis—inflammation of the heart muscle—in male adolescents and young adults after receiving Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. Rates of myocarditis were highest following the second dose of an mRNA vaccine among males 12 to 24. As of August 11, 2022, 1020 cases have been reported in over 58 million doses of vaccine administered in children and teens under 18, and 667 have been verified as myocarditis.
Side effects for booster shots were mild as well, per a March CDC study. The most common side effects were injection site pain, fatigue, headache and muscle pain, which usually manifested the day after getting a booster.
How effective is the vaccine for kids?
Children 6 months and older are eligible to receive coronavirus vaccines. The FDA evaluated data provided by Pfizer and Moderna for vaccine safety and efficacy. Data from 5,400 children under 5 years old showed that Moderna’s regimen was 50.6% effective in preventing COVID-19 in children 6 to 23 months and 36.8% effective for kids between ages 2 and 5.
A small vaccine efficacy study of 220 kids by Pfizer evaluated by the FDA found that in children aged between 6 months and 4 years old that the immune response in kids was similar to participants aged 16 to 25. For kids 5 through 11, the CDC estimates that the Pfizer vaccine is 90% effective against COVID-19. That figure was also echoed in Pfizer’s study of the vaccine.
Real-world data has shown that vaccines have already been protecting adolescents, who became eligible to receive their shots earlier than children younger than 12. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in January 2022 found that the Pfizer vaccine was 94% effective in preventing hospitalizations among adolescents aged 12 to 18.
A CDC study released in March on the effectiveness of the vaccines in protecting against infections found that two doses of the Pfizer vaccine reduced the risk of infection from Omicron by 31% in children 5 to 11 years old and 59% in teens 12 to 15 years of age. Another CDC study released in March found that the vaccine was 51% effective against emergency visits in children 5 to 11 years old, between 2 weeks and 2 months post-second shot. Over that time, it was 45% effective in adolescents aged 12 to 15, and 34% effective in teens aged 16 and 17.
However, a booster shot, which is now available for children over 5 years old, restored protection to 81% in teens 16 and older.
You might have heard of terms like “breakthrough infections” or have noted some places have reinstated mask mandates.
While these changes can seem scary, the bottom line is vaccines and boosters are still the best tool we have to protect ourselves and our families from COVID-19. Masks are an additional tool and are even more important in light of the very-contagious Omicron variant.
Even in a world with safe and effective vaccines, public health researchers are constantly studying SARS-CoV-2 and the coronavirus variants. This work will inform the other safety precautions we may need to take, which means that guidelines can change as scientists learn more. Here is what we know so far about breakthrough infections and masks.
What is a breakthrough case?
A “breakthrough case” occurs when a person tests positive for COVID-19 at least 14 days after they have completed their primary vaccine series or received a booster. You are deemed fully vaccinated after receiving two doses of Moderna, Pfizer and Novavax vaccines and one dose of J&J’s vaccine.
The best way to lower the chance of getting a breakthrough case is to get vaccinated (unvaccinated people are 5 times more likely to get a COVID-19 infection than vaccinated and boosted people, per CDC research) and get a booster shot when eligible. The booster can increase protection against new variants like Omicron.
People with breakthrough infections can spread the SARS-CoV-2 virus to others. If you do get a breakthrough infection, it is important to self-isolate, wear masks around others, monitor your symptoms and get tested. The CDC suggests isolating for at least 5 days after a positive test.
How common are breakthrough cases?
Due to incomplete data, it’s impossible to know for sure how common breakthrough cases are. The CDC has compiled data from jurisdictions that represent 60% of the U.S. population that showed that at least 9% of vaccinated individuals in these states had a recorded breakthrough infection since April 2021.
Many states are also tracking cases on their own. You can check your state health department website for up-to-date information on breakthrough cases in your area. But be aware that, with Omicron surging and at-home testing becoming more common, even those numbers may not be perfectly accurate.
Individuals who received booster shots had the lowest incidence of infection when compared to people vaccinated with the primary series or the unvaccinated. According to the latest data compiled by the CDC, unvaccinated people over the age of 5 were 2.8 times as likely to test positive for COVID-19 in June 2022 when compared to people vaccinated with the primary series of the vaccine.
Unvaccinated people over the age of twelve, were 2.3 times as likely to test positive for COVID-19 in June 2022 when compared to people vaccinated with a booster and a primary series of the vaccine.
Are breakthrough cases dangerous?
The majority of the individuals who got COVID-19 after being fully vaccinated, experienced less severe symptoms, the CDC notes. Thus far, evidence suggests that the risk of severe illness from Omicron is also low, though scientists are still studying new variants.
Vaccinations and boosters significantly decrease one’s risk of getting very sick and dying from a breakthrough infection. Based on the data compiled by the CDC from jurisdictions that represent 60% of the U.S. population, unvaccinated people aged 12 and older had a 9-fold increase in the risk of dying from COVID-19 compared to people vaccinated with the primary dose and booster in May 2022. Individuals over the age of 5 that were vaccinated but not boosted were 6 times less likely to die from COVID-19 when compared to unvaccinated people.
For individuals over 50, who are now eligible to receive the second booster, unvaccinated people had 29 times the risk of dying from COVID-19 and recipients of only one booster had 4 times the risk of dying from the disease when compared to people vaccinated with two boosters and a primary series of the vaccine.
Ultimately, the risks of getting very sick from COVID-19 are far higher if you are not vaccinated. Even if you are vaccinated and boosted, it is still important to stay home if you have any symptoms of COVID-19. While the risks of getting very sick are low, if you are infected with Delta or Omicron, you could risk passing on a case to someone else.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU WERE EXPOSED
You may have noticed more people testing positive for COVID-19. If you are exposed to the virus or test positive yourself, there are plenty of simple steps you can take to protect yourself and your community. Below, you’ll find the latest guidance on testing, isolation and treatment.
What Are the Symptoms of COVID-19?
Per the CDC, the symptoms of COVID-19 include:
– Shortness of breath
– Muscle or body aches
– New loss of smell or taste
– Sore throat
– Nasal congestion
– Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
If you experience any of these symptoms, you can confirm if you have COVID-19 by getting tested.
What Should I Do if I Am Exposed to Someone with COVID-19?
If you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, you should wear a mask as soon as you find out about your exposure. Count the day of the exposure as Day 0 and continue precautions until the end of Day 10. You should wear a mask when around others for 10 days and watch for symptoms of COVID-19.
If you develop symptoms, you should isolate yourself immediately, get tested and stay home.
On Day 6 after your exposure, you should get tested even if you’re not exhibiting symptoms. If you test negative, you should continue taking precautions and wear a well-fitting mask for 10 days while around others.
If you test positive, isolate immediately. While you are isolating, keep an eye out for symptoms.
Isolation is counted in days:
– If you had no symptoms, Day 0 is the day you were tested. If you do not develop symptoms, you may end isolation after Day 5.
– If you develop symptoms, Day 0 is the first day of symptom onset. If your symptoms are improving and you’re fever free for 24 hours, you may end isolation after Day 5. If your symptoms do not improve by Day 5, continue isolation until they improve. If you had moderate illness (you had shortness of breath or had difficulty breathing), severe illness (you were hospitalized) due to COVID-19, or you have a weakened immune system, you need to isolate through Day 10.
You should continue wearing your mask through Day 10 after you have ended isolation. You may remove your mask sooner than Day 10 if you have two sequential antigen negative tests 48 hours apart.
How Do COVID-19 Tests Work?
There are two types of COVID-19 tests that can tell you if you currently have the virus. One is an “antigen” (sometimes referred to as a “rapid test”) and the other is a “PCR test.”
PCR tests are the gold standard for identifying a case of COVID-19. They are very accurate and are often able to pick up even small amounts of the virus in the body. These tests are most often done at your doctor’s office or a mobile testing site and you might not get results back for hours or days, depending on local conditions.
Antigen tests are not as accurate at detecting low levels of the virus in the body as PCR tests are, but they are good for getting fast results (results can be obtained in 15 to 30 minutes). Most over-the-counter home COVID-19 tests fall into this category.
The CDC cautions these tests aren’t as reliable for people without COVID-19 symptoms but are generally good at catching cases when people are at peak viral load (i.e., when they are likely most infectious).
If you have symptoms but test negative on a rapid test, it is best to confirm with a PCR test.
Do COVID-19 Tests Detect the Omicron Variant?
Both PCR and rapid tests are capable of detecting the Omicron variant and its various subtypes. However, tests can’t tell you which variant you have.
How Do I Know Which At-Home COVID-19 Test To Buy?
The FDA has issued dozens of Emergency Use Authorizations for at-home COVID-19 tests. To find tests that have the agency’s authorization, you can check a list available here on the agency’s website.
What Should I Do if I get COVID-19?
Regardless of vaccination status, you should self-isolate for 5 days if you test positive for COVID-19 according to CDC guidelines. Self-isolation means that you avoid being around others, even within your own home. To calculate the 5 days of isolation, count your first day of symptoms as Day 0 and Day 1 as the first full day after your symptoms began.
If your symptoms resolve after the 5 days of isolation, you can leave your home but should continue wearing a well-fitting mask for 5 more days around others to minimize the risk of infecting people you encounter. You may remove your mask sooner than Day 10 if you have two sequential antigen negative tests 48 hours apart.
However, if you continue to have a fever, stay home until that fever resolves. You should continue isolating until you have been fever-free for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication and until your other symptoms resolve. If you had moderate illness (you had shortness of breath or had difficulty breathing), severe illness (you were hospitalized) due to COVID-19, or you have a weakened immune system, you need to isolate through Day 10.
You should not travel during the 5 days of isolation and avoid travel for 10 full days after the first onset of your symptoms. If you must travel on Days 6 to 10, you should wear a well-fitting mask when you are around others for the entire duration of your travel. Even on Days 6 to 10 you should not go to places where you are unable to wear a mask, such as restaurants, and you should avoid eating around others both inside and outside the home.
How is COVID-19 Treated?
If you are vaccinated, studies suggest your risk of developing severe COVID-19 is low. If you develop mild symptoms and are not at high risk for COVID-19, you should be able to recover at home.
If you are at risk of developing severe COVID-19 there are several drugs that have gained FDA emergency approval. These drugs have been shown to reduce the risk of hospitalization or death.
There are now two prescription COVID-19 oral antiviral therapies available that have received FDA emergency approval to treat mild to moderate disease—Paxlovid developed by Pfizer and molnupiravir developed by Merck. Paxlovid and molnupiravir reduce the risk of hospitalization and death by 88% and 30%, respectively, in patients at high risk for severe COVID-19 when started within 5 days of symptom onset.
Paxlovid is the preferred product and is available for patients 12 years of age and older (over 88 lbs). Molnupiravir should be considered for patients 18 years of age and older for whom alternative FDA-authorized COVID-19 treatment options are not accessible or clinically appropriate. Molnupiravir is not recommended for use during pregnancy.
In January 2022, the FDA also expanded the use of Remdesivir, the only drug with full FDA approval to treat COVID-19, to include use in high-risk non-hospitalized patients.
Another option for people at risk of developing severe COVID-19 is monoclonal antibody treatment. These are man-made antibodies that are delivered using an IV.
In early 2022, some of these monoclonal antibodies had emergency approval revised because they’re less effective against Omicron, which is dominant in the US. In their place, the FDA issued an EUA for a monoclonal antibody called Bebtelovimab. This treatment was approved because of evidence suggesting it can combat the Omicron variant. It has emergency approval for use in children (12 and older weighing at least 88 pounds) and adults with mild to moderate COVID-19 who are at risk of developing more severe disease.
If you test positive and are at risk of developing severe COVID-19, your doctor can determine if these options are a good fit for you.
When Should I seek Care if I Have Tested Positive for COVID-19?
Many people who contract COVID-19 will be able to recover at home. However, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor if you test positive.
In addition, the CDC notes you should seek emergency attention if you exhibit the following symptoms:
– Trouble breathing
– Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
– New confusion
– Inability to wake or stay awake
– Pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds.
This list is not exhaustive. If you are concerned about COVID-19 symptoms, contact your doctor.
Do I need to wear a mask if I am vaccinated?
Depending on local conditions, mask recommendations may differ.
Assuming you are up to date on vaccinations, the CDC currently advises that localities follow three tiers of masking guidelines. You can find your local level of transmission by typing your state and county into this CDC tool. The CDC recommends for everyone to stay up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines and get tested if they have symptoms.
If you live in a place with low levels of new cases and hospitalizations, you can remove a mask if you feel comfortable.
If you live in a place with medium levels of transmission and hospitalizations and are at high risk of getting very sick, wear a well-fitting mask or respirator. If you have social contact with or live with a household member who is at high risk of getting very sick, consider wearing a mask indoors around them and self-testing to detect infection before contact.
If you live in an area with high transmission and hospitalizations, wear a well-fitting mask or respirator indoors while in public. If you are at high risk of getting very sick, consider avoiding non-essential indoor activities in public to limit your exposure.
The CDC also recommends wearing a mask in indoor areas of public transportation (such as planes, trains, buses and ferries) and transportation hubs (such as airports and stations).
A mask is effective in protecting you from infection, even if you are the only one wearing it. A CDC studypublished in February 2022 found that people who reported always wearing a mask in public indoor settings had lower odds of testing positive for COVID-19. Respirators (N95/KN95 masks) were most effective, reducing odds by 83%, followed by surgical and cloth masks at 66% and 56%.
Do kids need to wear masks at school?
Check with your local state or school district to find guidance specific to your area. But if you would like to gauge your risk tolerance levels, you can check the levels of community transmission using this CDC tool. You are always welcome to wear a mask if you feel you are at risk.
Wearing masks in school helps protect immunocompromised students or students too young to be vaccinated. In light of information on the contagiousness of the Delta and Omicron variants, masks will also help slow the spread of COVID-19.
Even after you recover from COVID-19, it’s normal to have questions about long-term recovery, vaccination and other issues. Below we’ll tackle some common FAQs about post-COVID living.
What Is Long COVID?
A typical “acute” case of mild COVID-19 might last 1 or 2 weeks. Long COVID, by comparison, is a lingering condition that appears after the fact.
The World Health Organization’s definition notes that Long COVID usually appears within 3 months of a confirmed or probable COVID-19 case. But the CDC’s definition says that symptoms appearing 4 weeks after your initial COVID case dissolves may signal that you are experiencing Long COVID. Symptoms may last weeks, months or years.
Individuals who had severe COVID-19 experience Long COVID more often than others, although anyone who has been infected with the virus (even with mild, asymptomatic, or undiagnosed cases) may experience Long COVID symptoms. People who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 may be at a higher risk of developing Long COVID per the CDC.
A CDC study published in May 2022 reported that one in five adults has a condition that may be related to a previous COVID-19 infection. These may include neurologic or mental health conditions, kidney failure, blood and vascular issues, musculoskeletal, cardiovascular or respiratory conditions.
What Are The Symptoms Of Long Covid?
There are many symptoms of Long COVID, and people with the condition report different combinations of them. However, cases of Long COVID may involve:
– Shortness of breath
– Fatigue that interferes with daily life
– Symptoms that get worse after physical or mental effort (post-exertional malaise)
– A feeling of “brain fog” or confusion
– Difficulty concentrating or thinking
– Dizziness when you stand up
– Chest or stomach pain
– Heart palpitations
– Pins and needles
– Sleep problems
– Joint or muscle pain
– Mood changes, depression or anxiety
– Change in smell or taste
– Changes in menstrual cycles
These are only some of over 100 different symptoms linked to Long COVID. A major review of 50 studies on Long COVID, however, helps pinpoint some of the most common issues. That study notes that many Long COVID cases share symptoms usually seen in acute COVID-19, like respiratory symptoms, pain, fever, chest pain and headaches. But over time, common Long COVID symptoms may grow to include cognitive impairments (brain fog), fatigue, muscle and nerve pain, difficulty sleeping, mobility impairments and mood symptoms (like anxiety and depression).
If you suspect you have Long COVID, reach out to your health care provider. It may be useful, as well, to keep a journal of your symptoms and see what fluctuations occur, or if any activities aggravate them. The CDC also has a helpful checklist that can help you organize your symptoms and come up with questions for your health care provider.
Do Vaccines Protect Against Long Covid?
People who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 may be at a higher risk of developing Long COVID per the CDC.
Vaccines lower the risk of developing Long COVID after a breakthrough infection by 15% according to a study published in Nature Medicine in May 2022. The study reviewed 13 million records in the national health care databases of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The researchers also found no difference in the severity of symptoms, such as brain fog or fatigue in vaccinated and unvaccinated people for up to 6 months post-infection.
An earlier study followed over one million people who used a COVID symptom tracker phone app. Ultimately, people who had received two vaccine doses (a full dose, in this case), had half the risk of developing COVID symptoms 4 weeks after infection. That study suggests that vaccination lowers the risk of Long COVID.
Another review of eight studies summarized by the UK Health Security agency suggests that vaccination reduces the chances of getting long COVID, even after initial infection.
It is important to note that all of the published studies looked at Long COVID after infections with the original coronavirus or the Delta variant and no information is available yet regarding Long COVID post-Omicron and its strains.
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