COVID-19 has changed so many aspects of our lives. Yearning to get back to the way life was before, everyone is looking forward to the introduction of vaccines, a major tool in helping to move past the pandemic.
Yale Medicine is committed to providing up-to-date information on every aspect of this public health crisis. Our goal for this page, which will be updated as we add new articles and videos, is to provide a resource where you can get answers to your vaccine-related questions and also connect to other information about COVID-19.
Will you need a COVID-19 booster shot?
Is a booster shot for your COVID-19 vaccine in your future? While it seems like only yesterday that people were calculating the date they could feel fully protected by their vaccination, now there’s talk that our safety may require another shot in the arm.
In recent weeks, doctors, scientists, government officials, and pharmaceutical companies have been debating whether or not additional COVID-19 shots—or boosters—should be recommended to offer continued protection against the virus. The conversation is gaining urgency as we watch the Delta variant surge among unvaccinated individuals and health officials around the country report low but growing numbers of breakthrough cases in fully vaccinated individuals which, though they tend to be asymptomatic or mild, are of growing concern.
We sat down with Yale Medicine infectious diseases expert Albert Shaw, MD, PhD, who helped explain boosters in general, why they might be needed for COVID-19, and how experts will know if/when we need them.
Johnson & Johnson and Guillain-Barré syndrome: What you need to know
Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is a rare neurological disorder in which the immune system attacks the nerves. It can cause muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis. People usually recover from it, but it can lead to hospitalization and, sometimes, permanent damage to nerve cells.
So, it’s not surprising that people have questions upon hearing that about 100 suspected cases of GBS have been identified among 12.8 million people who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. While this figure is low enough to categorize the occurrences as rare, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has now attached a warning (included in fact sheets for patients and providers) to the Johnson & Johnson shot about the increased risk of developing GBS in the 42 days after vaccination.
The link between myocarditis and COVID-19 mRNA vaccines
Myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, became a trending topic this spring when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that it is monitoring a small number of cases of heart inflammation that have arisen in young adults not long after mRNA COVID-19 vaccination. The side effect is considered important but uncommon—arising in about 12.6 cases per million second doses administered. And now the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced it will place a warning on the mRNA vaccines. It’s important to note that the vaccination is still recommended for everyone who is eligible.
How long with coronavirus vaccines last?
If you are fully vaccinated, you may be excited about gathering with family and friends this summer. But there are still nagging questions about how long protection from the coronavirus vaccines will last. Will it wear off gradually or suddenly? Will you need a booster shot? Unfortunately, we can’t answer these questions with certainty yet. Though researchers know the vaccines have been effective against COVID-19 thus far, there is no track record to provide data for the future, which is the only way to know for sure.
“We can only say that a vaccine is protective as long as we are measuring it,” says Yale Medicine infectious diseases specialist Jaimie Meyer, MD, MS.
In the meantime, there are a few things we do know.
Herd immunity: An explanation
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the term “herd immunity” was possibly something you only heard about during flu season or during reports of upticks in measles cases—if at all.
But COVID-19 has brought that concept—when an infectious disease is less likely to spread because enough people have immunity either through exposure or vaccination—to the front of our minds. Now that we have effective coronavirus vaccines, many are wondering if and when we will reach herd immunity with COVID-19.
Manisha Juthani, MD, and other Yale experts explain herd immunity, why it matters, and what needs to happen to get there.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine and blood clots: What you need to know
In the minds of many, the halt of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in April delivered doubt just as the mass COVID-19 vaccinations were making progress. There are three vaccines authorized for use in the United States, but Johnson & Johnson’s was a particularly important one, partly because its one-shot dose made it seem as though we might achieve herd immunity faster. Then, the government recommended pausing the company’s vaccine after six women who received it developed rare blood clots—and one woman died.
We spoke to Yale Medicine infectious diseases expert Jaimie Meyer, MD, MS, and Yale Medicine hematologist Robert Bona, MD—they shared insights about the pause and answered commonly asked questions.
You're fully vaccinated—what can you do now?
Now that many of us have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, we are now navigating a new gray area—which of the many rules we’ve been following can we now safely ignore? Our Yale Medicine experts weigh in.
Why vaccines may be helping some with long COVID
As more people get vaccinated against COVID-19, a surprise discovery has been that vaccines seem to provide some relief for some patients with what’s being called “long COVID.” A prominent Yale researcher is working with colleagues to launch what she predicts will be a large collaborative study to learn more.
Uncommon COVID-19 vaccine side effects no cause for concern
Although fatigue and sore arm are typical vaccine reactions, many may not realize that COVID-19 vaccination can, in some cases, also cause other temporary side effects, including swollen lymph nodes or an unsightly arm rash—sometimes called “COVID arm.” Because these reactions are normal, medical experts want to get the word out to avoid alarm for those who experience such symptoms.
“As more people get vaccinated, it’s important to allay fears and avoid unnecessary testing or treatment for conditions that should quickly resolve,” says Brita Roy, MD, MPH, an internal medicine physician and director of population health for Yale Medicine.
We sat down with Brita Roy, MD, MPH, an internal medicine physician and director of population health for Yale Medicine; she explains these uncommon symptoms and why they are not cause for concern.
COVID-19 vaccine comparison
As the weeks pass, countless reports are coming out about the effectiveness of new vaccines that may be approved. It’s important to keep up, but it’s also a daunting task, given the flood of information (and misinformation) coming at us from so many directions.
So, how do they differ? Here’s what we know so far.
Vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are being administered in the U.S. right now, Johnson & Johnson just received emergency use authorization (EUA) from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its COVID-19 vaccine in late February, and others are on track to do the same. Even though you will likely not be able to choose which vaccine you will get, it’s still helpful to know how each one is different.
With that in mind, we mapped out the differences between the most prominent vaccines so far.
What is it like to get a COVID-19 vaccination?
Two vaccines, one developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and one by Moderna, were each found to be approximately 95% effective in clinical trials and given Early Use Authorization (EUA) by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in December 2020. And more are on the way. So, the question remains: What is it like to get a COVID-19 vaccine?
We made a list of top concerns and asked Onyema Ogbuagu, MBBCh, a Yale Medicine infectious diseases specialist and Yale’s leading expert on COVID-19 vaccines, to share insights.
Understanding how the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines work
Much has been made of the fact that the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines involve Messenger RNAs (mRNAs). But how does mRNA work?
Why get the COVID-19 vaccination? One woman’s story
Sandra Trevino, LCSW, is a founding member of Yale’s Cultural Ambassadors program—a 10-year-old organization whose mission is to broaden community participation in clinical trials at the Yale Center for Clinical Investigation—and is doubling her efforts to help educate people about COVID-19 vaccines.
In December, the Kaiser Family Foundation released results of a survey in which more than one-quarter of Americans said they would probably or definitely not get the vaccine. Republicans, and rural and Black Americans were most hesitant, according to the survey.
“It’s a great responsibility to make sure we continue to address the elephant in the room, which is mistrust with regard to the vaccines,” says Trevino.
In a recent interview, she explained why she’s encouraging everyone to get the COVID-19 vaccine and talked about her own family’s experience with COVID-19.
The Vaccine is here: Your questions answered
The new COVID-19 vaccine is here. But it’s still hard to know exactly what this will mean in our individual and collective lives.
For questions—big and small—we went to our foremost expert for a frank, socially distanced question-and-answer session. Onyema Ogbuagu, MBBCh, is a Yale Medicine infectious diseases specialist and the principal investigator of the COVID-19 vaccine studies supported by the Yale Center for Clinical Investigation at Yale School of Medicine, in partnership with the Yale New Haven Health System.
How does the COVID-19 vaccine work?
Vaccines are one of the most effective tools we have in preventing and reducing the burden of infectious diseases. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccines are once again poised to change the tide in our favor in the fight against a deadly virus. But how exactly do vaccines work? And are they safe?
Watch this video to learn more about the fundamentals of how vaccines work, how they are developed, and the importance of vaccination for public health.
We’ve been told that a vaccine that confers total protection against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, would bring a return to normalcy. In March of 2020, health experts said the timeline for an effective vaccine could be 12-18 months—yet, it seems we have one even sooner than predicted. But people are wondering: will it be safe? Will it be effective?
Yale Medicine has compiled this basic explanation of vaccines—how they work, what’s different from one kind to the next, and the approval process—and what that means for a COVID-19 vaccine.
Q & A with a vaccine expert
We spoke with Saad Omer, MBBS, PhD, MPH, director of the Yale Institute for Global Health, to get answers to the hard questions on the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines in development. The shortened timelines surrounding the development of these vaccines, coupled with concerns over what some feel is undue political influence over the release of them, is concerning to many Americans.
We sat down with Dr. Omer, who addresses these concerns.