About COVID-19 Vaccine - Minnesota Dept. of Health

About COVID-19 Vaccine

On this page:
Available vaccines
Who can get vaccinated
How we know the vaccine is safe
Making a safe and effective vaccine
Why we need a vaccine
Who can and can't get the vaccine
Getting vaccinated
Side effects
What the vaccines are made of
What you can do now

Information is constantly changing for COVID-19 vaccines. Below is what we currently know about COVID-19 vaccines.

The first COVID-19 vaccines are approved under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA).

An EUA is used in public health emergencies when: A product shows that it likely works, is safe but hasn't yet gone through the whole process of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) licensure, and no other remedy is available.

Minnesota will not require COVID-19 vaccines.

The COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for use under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). You have the right to refuse or accept the COVID-19 vaccine, as stated in the EUA fact sheets: Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine EUA Fact Sheet for Recipients and Caregivers and Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine Recipient Fact Sheet | EUA. We strongly encourage you to get the COVID-19 vaccine if it is available to you. Getting the COVID-19 vaccine will help protect you and your family, co-workers, residents, patients, and community.

Available vaccines

There have been two COVID-19 vaccines approved for emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The COVID-19 vaccination campaign has begun in Minnesota for our first priority groups. Who can get the vaccine and when will depend on how much vaccine the manufacturers are able to make and send out, and how many vaccine doses Minnesota receives from the federal government. Learn more at Vaccine Distribution and Administration.

Updates will be provided when we are able to start vaccinating more people and we will provide more information at that time for how eligible people can get vaccinated.

Several other COVID-19 vaccines are in development. They are going through different studies and checks (called clinical trials) to make sure they are safe, and that they work, before they are given to the public.

Who can get vaccinated

Even though we have two vaccines approved for emergency use, it will still take time before everyone can get it. There are currently a limited number of vaccine doses available to states from the federal government. This means there is not enough vaccine for everyone who wants one yet.

The goal for the first, limited doses of COVID-19 vaccine is to immunize for impact – meaning we are offering vaccine to those at highest risk of getting COVID-19 and those most at risk of severe disease and complications if they get COVID-19. The first groups to get vaccinated include health care workers and people who live and work in long-term care facilities. These people will be contacted by their employer or facility when they are able to get vaccinated. More information on the next eligible groups will be available in the coming weeks.

Minnesota recently launched a COVID-19 vaccine pilot program and opened community vaccination sites across the state. These sites will initially serve adults age 65 and older as well as educators (pre-kindergarten through grade 12), school staff, and child care workers. Because of limited vaccine supply, there are only a small number of appointments available. This program will help to vaccinate more people and to prepare for the future when more vaccine is made available from the federal government. For more information, including who can get vaccinated and how to schedule appointments, see Who's Getting Vaccinated.

MDH and health care providers will never contact you and ask for personal information or credit card information in order to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Who decides who will get vaccinated?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) makes recommendations on who should get the vaccine. MDH has brought together the Minnesota COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation Advisory Group to help us make sure we are fairly and strategically making decisions for how vaccine should be distributed. The advisory group is made up of external partners who represent key populations in the state, such as local public health, long-term care, pharmacy partners, diverse communities, and more. The final decisions about how to distribute COVID-19 vaccine ultimately come from Governor Tim Walz. Find their guidance for prioritizing COVID-19 vaccine at COVID-19 Vaccine Phases and Planning.

How we know the vaccine is safe

Having a safe and effective vaccine is the top priority. The manufacturers must present the study data that shows the vaccine is safe and that it works before it is approved for general populations. This data is closely reviewed by several scientific groups at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and other groups look at available information about a vaccine and make informed decisions about the risks and benefits of using it. MDH is committed to making vaccines available that we are confident are safe and effective.

Making a safe and effective vaccine

How COVID-19 Vaccines Are Made (PDF)
This handout explains how the COVID-19 vaccine processes and timelines were made more efficient compared to other vaccine development.

Approving COVID-19 vaccines

The requirements for COVID-19 vaccine are the same as all other vaccines. The companies making the vaccines have to share information with specific agencies like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that shows how the vaccine studies were designed, what their process was, how they got their data, and what the results were.

Health officials, FDA, vaccine manufacturers, and others have committed to only put out vaccines that are shown to be safe. The FDA has given guidance to vaccine manufacturers about what information is needed to prove that a vaccine is safe and that the vaccine works. For more details about expectations and commitments, see:

Learn more about how vaccines are made from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia at Making Vaccines.

The CDC has more information on COVID-19 vaccine safety at Ensuring the Safety of COVID-19 Vaccines in the United States.

Who is in the vaccine studies

Pregnant people and children

The first vaccine studies are usually done with groups that are at highest risk for the disease, or who will get very sick if they get the disease. Then the studies are expanded to other groups such as pregnant people and people who are immunocompromised (cannot easily fight off a disease). For COVID-19 vaccine, studies focused on non-pregnant adults ages 18 years and older at first (16 years and older for Pfizer). Vaccine manufacturers have started expanding to pregnant people and some children as they get more data from the first part of their studies.

Diverse and underserved communities

The COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials include people from diverse communities. It is important for these studies to have equitably more people from racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds. This way they have enough information to be confident that the vaccine is safe and works for these groups. It's especially important that COVID-19 vaccine trials include people from diverse communities, because these communities have been severely impacted by the disease and could greatly benefit from getting vaccinated.

Why we need a vaccine

Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 will be one of the best ways to protect yourself and everyone around you. The more people who get vaccinated against COVID-19, the better it is for everyone. More people vaccinated means that there will be less disease in our communities.

Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is one of the most important steps to protect yourself and your community. By stopping the spread of COVID-19, we can keep businesses, schools, and other venues open. Stopping the spread of COVID-19 gets us closer to the end of the pandemic.

Is a COVID-19 vaccine necessary?

Yes, we need a vaccine.

What about herd immunity?

Herd immunity is also called herd effect, community immunity, population immunity, or social immunity. This is when most people in a population or group are immune to a disease. Being immune means they cannot get the disease because either they got a vaccine, or they already had the disease and cannot get it again, at least for a while.

When a lot of people cannot get the disease, it helps to protect other people in the population who are not immune and can get the disease. Having herd immunity can stop or slow the spread of disease.

  • We do not know enough about COVID-19 to be sure herd immunity is possible. This is a new disease, so there has not been enough time to fully study immunity yet.
  • We do not know how long a person cannot get sick again after they already were sick with COVID-19 (how long they are immune).
  • We do not know if being infected before will make the next infection better or worse.
  • We do not know if a person who was sick before, and then has contact with COVID-19 again, will be able to pass the virus to others again.

We cannot let herd immunity happen naturally, at the cost of thousands of Minnesotans getting very sick and possibly dying. Vaccination is a way to reach herd immunity without people getting sick and/or dying. Vaccination lets a person's body develop protection against a disease without having to actually get sick.

Who can and can't get the vaccine

At this time, the available COVID-19 vaccines are intended for adults; the Pfizer vaccine allows vaccination of people 16 years and older and the Moderna vaccine allows vaccination for people 18 years and older.

There are few reasons to that someone should not get vaccinated. A person that had a life-threatening reaction to a previous dose of COVID-19 vaccine should not receive any further doses. Additionally, if a person has had a life-threatening reaction to any ingredient in the vaccine, they should not be vaccinated. People who have had anaphylaxis after taking other medicines, particularly medicines given by injection, may be vaccinated but should be observed for 30 minutes after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.

Special populations

It is important to know that for some populations, we don't have much information about safety or how well the vaccine works, or it hasn't been studied yet. In these circumstances, people may be vaccinated but should speak with their health care provider so they understand what is known about their situation and vaccination.

Who are these populations?

Pregnant people. Some studies are going on right now and data may be available soon. From the data we do have, there has not been an effect from the vaccine on pregnancy or pregnancy outcomes. There were vaccine study volunteers who were vaccinated and then learned they were pregnant. The manufacturer will follow these individuals throughout the pregnancy and birth. In the meantime, the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology has said that they support pregnant people getting the COVID-19 vaccine if they meet the ACIP recommendations for getting COVID-19 vaccine. We know that pregnant people are at a higher risk of severe disease compared to non-pregnant people. A pregnant person who is part of a group recommended/prioritized to receive a COVID-19 vaccine may choose to be vaccinated.

People who are breastfeeding. mRNA vaccines are not thought to be a risk to the breastfeeding infant. A person who is breastfeeding who is part of a group recommended to receive a COVID-19 vaccine (e.g., health care workers) may choose to be vaccinated.

Immunocompromised people. Immunocompromised means a person has a weak immune system. People with HIV infection, other immunocompromising conditions, or who take medications or therapies that weaken the immune system might be at increased risk for severe COVID-19. We currently do not have data on vaccine safety and efficacy in these groups. People with a weak immune system who want to receive COVID-19 vaccine should be informed that there is little information about how effective or how safe the vaccine is. These people may not have a strong immune response to the vaccine (they may have less protection), so they should continue to follow guidance to protect themselves from COVID-19.

Getting vaccinated

Getting Vaccinated for COVID-19 (PDF)
This handout explains what happens before, during, and after getting your COVID-19 vaccine.

Doses of COVID-19 vaccine

Two doses are needed for the two COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna. The time between the doses depends on the vaccine you are getting. The Pfizer vaccine (ultra-cold vaccine) must be given 21 days (3 weeks) apart and the Moderna vaccine (frozen vaccine) must be given 28 days apart (1 month/4 weeks).

It is very important that someone gets both vaccine doses, the same product for each dose, and that the doses are given at the correct time apart. The vaccine is only fully effective with both doses of vaccine. If someone only gets one dose, they may not be protected (immune) against COVID-19. It is okay if you get the vaccine within four days of the 21 or 28 day mark (depending on which vaccine you get). If it is more than four days after the appropriate interval, you should be sure to get the second dose as soon as you can.

We strongly recommend that you schedule an appointment for your second dose when you get the first dose. You should receive a card with the date you were vaccinated. Write the return date for your second dose on the vaccination card and put a reminder in your phone or calendar.


After the second dose, it takes about two weeks for your body to build up protection, so it's about 6 weeks total from the first vaccine dose to when you should be fully protected. Even after those 6 weeks, we know these vaccines are good at preventing people from getting sick, but we don't have enough data yet to say whether someone who was vaccinated may still spread the disease to others if they get infected with COVID-19.

It is important to continue to follow all public health guidance to reduce the spread of COVID-19 even after you have received two doses of vaccine. This includes wearing a mask, staying 6 feet from others, washing your hands, getting tested for COVID-19 when needed, and following quarantine and isolation requirements. Continue to follow guidance at your workplace, school, and other settings as well.

At this time, we do not know if this will be a vaccine that people need to get again, like needing a tetanus shot every 10 years or getting a flu shot every year.

Proof of vaccination

COVID-19 vaccine providers are required to enter vaccine data into Minnesota's immunization information system, the Minnesota Immunization Information Connection (MIIC). You will also be given a card after your vaccination with the date you were vaccinated. It may be helpful to keep the card handy in case you are asked about which vaccine you received. We do not know how or if any documentation of vaccination will be used for participation in social activities, gatherings, travel, etc.

If you have had COVID-19

You should get vaccinated even if you have had COVID-19 disease. We are not sure how long a person is protected after they have had COVID-19 disease. Some people have reported a second infection after 90 days. If your illness was confirmed by a PCR test in the past 90 days, it is okay to wait to get vaccinated. In order to conserve doses when they are limited, you may be asked to wait for the 90-day period.

Choosing between different COVID-19 vaccines

At this point, the data between the two vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) look very similar. There are not recommendations for certain populations (e.g., older persons or persons with immune disorders, etc.) to get one vaccine over the other. People will likely not have an option to choose between the two vaccines, since they are so similar and clinics may not have an option for which vaccine they get.

Other vaccines

It is recommended that a person should wait 14 days before or after COVID-19 vaccination to receive a vaccine for other diseases, like flu vaccine.


You do not have to be a resident of Minnesota to get vaccinated here.


COVID-19 vaccine will be provided to people at no cost. However, health care providers will be able to charge an administration fee for giving the vaccine to someone. This means that you might be asked for your insurance information when you get the COVID-19 vaccine. You can still get the COVID-19 vaccine if you do not have insurance and/or cannot pay the administration fee.

Providers can get the administration fee reimbursed by the patient's public or private insurance company or, for uninsured patients, by the Health Resources and Services Administration's Provider Relief Fund at COVID-19 Claims Reimbursement to Health Care Providers and Facilities for Testing, Treatment, and Vaccine Administration for the Uninsured.

Side effects

What to expect

Your health care provider will talk to you about what to expect after getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

Some side effects are common after vaccination. After getting the COVID-19 vaccine, you will probably have a sore arm and you might have muscle aches, tiredness, headache, or maybe a fever (fever is less common). These side effects usually last one or two days and usually don't prevent you for going about your daily activities. They are a result of your body responding to the vaccine (it's also okay if you don't have any side effects at all).

The COVID-19 vaccine cannot give you COVID-19 disease. However, if you have side effects after vaccination that are similar to symptoms of COVID-19 and those symptoms continue or worsen, it is possible that you may have been exposed to COVID-19 before getting the vaccine. Call your health care provider to determine next steps such as getting tested.

Because some of these side effects are similar to COVID-19 symptoms, people working in the health care setting may be given instructions about what to do if symptoms occur.


CDC has also launched a new patient reporting tool for COVID-19 vaccine. It is a smartphone app called v-safe. This app can help with active monitoring for COVID-19 vaccine safety after you get the COVID-19 vaccine. Your health care provider will give you more information on v-safe. You can learn more at V-safe After Vaccination Health Checker.

Serious adverse events

A serious adverse event is something that is life-threatening.

The studies for both the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines looked for serious adverse events. Neither vaccine study found a pattern of serious adverse effects from the vaccine. Most adverse effects occur in the six weeks after getting a vaccine, and the COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers had to watch participants of the studies for eight weeks before they could ask for emergency use authorization of their vaccine. That does not mean that a rare serious adverse event won't happen when we begin to vaccinate hundreds of thousands to millions of people.

Since the approval of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, there have been reports of some serious allergic reactions or anaphylaxis (an immune response of the body that causes someone to go into shock). Allergic reactions like this are known to happen after taking medicines or getting vaccinated, but they are still very rare. CDC and FDA are working to understand what might be causing this. Clinics are prepared to respond quickly to adverse reactions. You will be asked to wait 15-30 minutes after you have been vaccinated so that clinic staff can observe you, this will likely be in a place that allows for social distancing.


If you have a severe reaction, contact your health care provider. Providers should report severe reactions to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). This reporting system helps the CDC and FDA continue to monitor the safety of COVID-19 vaccines.

What the vaccines are made of

The first two vaccines that are out are not live virus vaccines. This means that they cannot give you COVID-19. After getting the vaccine, you will not shed live virus around your home or put others in your household at risk of COVID-19 disease. The vaccine will not affect a PCR COVID-19 test.

The first two vaccines were made using mRNA technology. mRNA stands for messenger ribonucleic acid. mRNA is not able to alter or modify a person's genetic makeup (DNA). Learn more about mRNA vaccines at CDC: Understanding mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines.

These vaccines do not contain a preservative. They do not contain gelatin.

For more information about ingredients found in vaccines, check out the FDA website. For specific concerns about certain ingredients, get factual information from Children's Hospital of Philadelphia: Vaccine Education Center or Immunization Action Coalition: Talking About Vaccine.

What you can do now

We are glad so many people want to get vaccinated and know that waiting for vaccine is extremely hard right now. We cannot get access to it as fast as we want, so we have to take a phased approach and try to focus initial doses where we'll have the greatest impact on health. Vaccine is constantly being made and distributed. Everyone's opportunity to get vaccinated will come; it will just take some time.

You can do your part now by continuing to help slow the spread of COVID-19: Wear a mask, wash your hands often, stay 6 feet away from other people, and stay home if you are sick. Doing all of these things will help keep people healthy until a vaccine is widely available.

You can also get a flu vaccine. While the flu vaccine does not protect against COVID-19, it can save lives and prevent more illness during the COVID-19 pandemic. People need to do everything they can to stay healthy and not overwhelm our health care system this winter. To find where you can get a flu vaccine , visit VaccineFinder.


Updated Friday, 22-Jan-2021 19:47:29 CST