COVID-19 Vaccines

COVID-19 Booster FAQs

Update: Vaccinating Our Patients and Community

Rush has been working with local and city officials to safely, equitably and efficiently deliver COVID-19 vaccines following guidelines from the Chicago, Cook County, Kane County and Illinois Departments of Public Health. Currently, vaccines are approved for anyone age 5 years or older, and booster doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are approved for people age 18 and older. Here’s the current status of vaccination availability at our three hospitals:

COVID-19 Booster Vaccination Update

If you have a compromised immune system (for example those undergoing cancer treatment, or transplant recipients) and would like to get an additional dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, you can schedule an appointment in our drive-thru via MyChart, with your Rush provider or visit a local retail pharmacy.

On Nov. 19, 2021, the CDC authorized booster shots of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for anyone age 18 and older. On Oct. 21, 2021, the CDC also authorized booster shots for specific groups of people who have received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines. If you are interested in a COVID-19 vaccine booster, please talk to your doctor during your appointment. You can also schedule booster shot appointments at many local retail pharmacies. Learn more about COVID-19 booster vaccinations.

FDA approval of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine

On Aug. 23, 2021, the FDA granted full approval to the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. The Pfizer vaccine now also is known as the Comirnaty vaccine.

As vaccine distribution continues, Rush is here to help you understand what this means for you and your community. We will provide you with the most up-to-date information on this page. We also encourage you to review national sources for information about the vaccine.

Vaccine Appointment FAQs

Here is everything you need to know about scheduling a vaccine appointment at Rush.

Who is Rush vaccinating now?

We are currently vaccinating Rush patients ages 5 years and older.

Is there a waiting list for receiving the vaccine?

Rush does not have a waiting list.

We will continue to update this page with the most up-to-date information on vaccine availability at Rush hospitals. 

How can I schedule my vaccine appointment at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago?

After the COVID-19 vaccine became more widely available throughout the Chicago area, the main vaccine clinic at Rush University Medical Center closed. 

We are now offering COVID-19 vaccines to Rush patients in our COVID-19 drive-thru and select outpatient clinics.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • If you or your child (age 5 years or older) are coming to Rush for another appointment, we can add a COVID-19 vaccine appointment to your existing appointment.
  • To add a COVID-19 vaccine to another appointment, please talk to your doctor during your appointment. Your doctor will either administer the vaccine at your appointment, or they will help schedule your vaccine at the COVID-19 drive-thru.
    • Children between the ages of 5 and 17 can receive their vaccines in our pediatric clinics.
  • We are only providing COVID-19 vaccines to Rush patients.
    • Adult patients (18 and older) will receive either the Johnson & Johnson vaccine or the Pfizer vaccine, and pediatric patients (between the ages of 5 and 17) will receive the Pfizer vaccine. Please note that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is only approved for those age 18 and older, and booster shots of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are only approved for those age 18 and older.
  • We cannot make stand-alone vaccine appointments. If you are just looking for a vaccine appointment, you can find vaccination locations in your area through vaccines.gov.
How can I get a vaccine appointment if I am a patient at Rush Copley Medical Center in Aurora?

We are now offering COVID-19 vaccines to Rush Copley patients in select outpatient clinics.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • If you or your child (age 5 years or older) are coming to Rush for another appointment, we can add a COVID-19 vaccine appointment to your existing appointment.
  • To add a COVID-19 vaccine appointment to another appointment, please talk to your doctor during your appointment. Your doctor will administer the vaccine to you at your appointment or give you information about where you can receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • We are only providing COVID-19 vaccines to Rush patients.
    • Rush adult and pediatric patients will receive the Pfizer vaccine.
  • We cannot make stand-alone vaccine appointments. If you are just looking for a vaccine appointment, you can find vaccination locations in your area through vaccines.gov.
How can I get a vaccine appointment if I am a patient at Rush Oak Park Hospital?

We are now offering COVID-19 vaccines to Rush Oak Park Hospital patients in select outpatient clinics.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • If you or your child (age 5 years or older) are coming to Rush for another appointment, we can add a COVID-19 vaccine appointment to your existing appointment.
  • To add a COVID-19 vaccine appointment to another appointment, please talk to your doctor during your appointment. Your doctor will administer the vaccine to you at your appointment or give you information about where you can receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • We are only providing COVID-19 vaccines to Rush patients.
    • Rush adult and pediatric patients will receive the Pfizer vaccine.
  • We cannot make standalone vaccine appointments. If you are just looking for a vaccine appointment, you can find vaccination locations in your area through vaccines.gov.
Will children be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine?
  • On Nov. 2, 2021, the CDC authorized the Pfizer vaccine for kids ages 5 to 11. People age 5 and older can now receive the Pfizer vaccine. Learn more about vaccines for children and teens here and read the news release here
  • The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are approved for people 18 years and older.
  • Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Rush Oak Park Hospital and Rush Copley Medical Center in Aurora are currently offering the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to our pediatric patients (ages 5 to 17). 

COVID-19 Booster Vaccination FAQs

 

Who qualifies for additional (booster) dosing of the COVID-19 vaccine?

On Nov. 19, 2021, the CDC authorized booster shots of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for anyone age 18 and older. On Oct. 21, 2021, the CDC also authorized booster shots for people age 18 and older who have received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines.

Booster shots now are authorized for anyone age 18 or older. Timing recommendations may apply depending on which vaccine you received for your initial series:

  • If you received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you should wait until at least 2 months after your shot to get a booster.
  • If you received the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, you should wait at least 6 months after the second shot of your initial two-dose vaccination to get a booster.

(If you received a first dose of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine but did not get your second dose as scheduled, please consult your physician about getting it.)

Eligible individuals may choose which vaccine they receive as a booster dose. Some people may have a preference for the vaccine type that they originally received, and others may prefer to get a different booster. CDC’s recommendations now allow for this type of mix and match dosing for booster shots.

Additionally, patients with moderately or severely compromised immune systems can receive a third mRNA COVID-19 vaccination at least 28 days after their initial two-dose mRNA COVID-19 vaccination. Some immunocompromised patients may also want to receive a COVID-19 booster 6 months after their primary series (their second or third dose). Learn more about COVID-19 vaccines for patients with moderately or severely compromised immune systems.

Learn more about booster shots.

Which vaccine should patients receive as a booster, and when should they receive it?

For patients with compromised immune systems: The CDC recommends that patients receive the same vaccine as their original mRNA COVID-19 vaccine series (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna). If the same mRNA COVID-19 vaccine is not available, then the other mRNA COVID-19 vaccine may be given. The third dose should be administered at least 28 days after completion of the initial two-dose series.

For all other patients: The CDC currently recommends that anyone age 18 or older receive a booster shot.

  • If you received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you should wait until at least 2 months after your shot to get a booster.
  • If you received the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, you should wait at least 6 months after the second shot of your initial two-dose vaccination to get a booster.

(If you received a first dose of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine but did not get your second dose as scheduled, please consult your physician about getting it.)

Eligible individuals may choose which vaccine they receive as a booster dose.

Is antibody (serology) testing helpful in determining the need for additional COVID-19 vaccine?

No. Antibody testing is not currently recommended to assess for immunity to COVID-19 following vaccination, because the value and accuracy of such testing has not been established.

Will patients with compromised immune systems be considered fully vaccinated even if they do not choose to receive an additional dose?

Yes. Per the CDC, receiving an additional dose is optional — although the CDC now recommends that anyone age 18 or older receive one. People with compromised immune systems who have completed a vaccine series (such as a two-dose mRNA series of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine, or a single dose of the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine) are considered fully vaccinated once they are more than two weeks from completion of the series.

Why is the CDC recommending an additional vaccine dose for patients with moderately or severely compromised immune systems?

The clinical benefit of an additional COVID-19 vaccine dose is not precisely known. However, current evidence suggests that patients with moderately or severely compromised immune systems are more likely to have breakthrough COVID-19 infection and may have lower COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness.

How is the CDC defining patients with moderately or severely compromised immune systems?

There is no standard definition for moderately or severely compromised immune systems, and there may be differences between people who have the same diagnoses, such as cancer. Patients who are unsure are encouraged to discuss their condition with their physician. The CDC has included the following list of examples:

  • Active treatment for solid tumor and hematologic malignancies (cancer)
  • Receipt of solid-organ transplant and taking immunosuppressive therapy
  • Receipt of CAR-T-cell or hematopoietic stem cell transplant (within two years of transplantation or taking immunosuppression therapy)
  • Moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (e.g., DiGeorge syndrome, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome)
  • Advanced or untreated HIV infection
  • Active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids (i.e., equal to or more than 20mg prednisone or equivalent per day), alkylating agents, antimetabolites, transplant-related immunosuppressive drugs, cancer chemotherapeutic agents classified as severely immunosuppressive, tumor-necrosis (TNF) blockers, and other biologic agents that are immunosuppressive or immunomodulatory
How will a patient with moderately or severely compromised immune systems respond to a booster vaccination?

Patients with compromised immune systems may have reduced immune response to a booster vaccination. They should still continue COVID-19 prevention measures such as face masking in public indoor spaces, social distancing and hand hygiene.

Can people with compromised immune systems receive more than three doses of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine?

No. Per the CDC, a person should not receive more than three mRNA COVID-19 vaccine doses.

General COVID-19 Vaccine FAQs

How do the COVID-19 vaccines work?

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines both use mRNA, or messenger RNA. mRNA is a type of molecule that carries the information cells use to produce different proteins. Think of it as a blueprint. The vaccines harmlessly mimic the coronavirus’ ability to trigger the body’s immune responses to infections. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines include mRNA from the coronavirus “spike” protein — which is what enables the virus to infect cells. It causes the immune system to produce cells to attack the spike, so the immune system will be prepared for a possible infection.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine does not use mRNA. Instead, it is a viral vector vaccine, which delivers a genetically modified DNA virus (which does not cause disease). The modified virus carries instructions to our cells to teach them how to make the “spike” protein that the coronavirus uses to infect people. This triggers your immune system to begin producing cells to fight off what it thinks is an infection.

Ultimately, all three of the vaccines prompt our bodies to learn how to protect us against future infection with the virus that causes COVID-19.

How effective are the vaccines?

The Food and Drug Administration evaluated and analyzed the safety and effectiveness data of all three COVID-19 vaccines and has found them all safe and effective in preventing COVID-19. The data for all three vaccines show that the potential benefits of receiving the vaccine outweigh the potential risks of COVID-19.

There is no way to accurately compare the effectiveness of the three different vaccines because none of these trials included direct comparisons with one another. Additionally, the trials occurred in different geographic areas and at different times during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pfizer and Moderna

Both vaccines showed around 95% effectiveness at preventing COVID-19.

  • The Pfizer trial included 44,000 volunteers. Of those participants, only 170 developed symptoms of COVID-19. Of the 170, 162 were in the placebo group (that is, they did not receive the vaccine) and eight were in the vaccine group. Of the 10 participants who developed more severe COVID-19 symptoms, only one was in the vaccine group.
  • The Moderna trial had more than 30,000 volunteers. Only 196 developed symptoms of COVID-19, and only 11 of those who developed symptoms were in the vaccine group. There were 30 cases of more pronounced COVID-19 symptoms — all of which were in the placebo group, meaning they did not get the vaccine.

Both vaccines require two doses: Pfizer’s 21 days apart and Moderna’s 28 days apart. The second dose is essential. In the Pfizer study, the number of COVID cases was lower in the vaccine group than in the placebo group during the 21-day period between doses. There is some protection after the first dose. However, the second dose is required to achieve 95% efficacy; the full benefit is achieved 7 to 14 days after that second dose is given.

Booster doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines for all people aged 18 and older were authorized by the CDC on Nov. 22, 2021.

Both vaccines use the same messenger RNA technology to deliver the vaccine, which is great from a production standpoint because the vaccines can be manufactured and distributed a lot more quickly.

Johnson & Johnson

The vaccine is 66% effective in preventing moderate to severe/critical COVID-19 and 85% effective in preventing severe/critical COVID-19 infections.

The clinical trial was conducted in South Africa, certain countries in South America, Mexico and the U.S. The trial reflected protection against some of the COVID-19 variants.

  • The Johnson & Johnson trial had about 40,000 volunteers. Starting 28 days after vaccination, there were five severe/critical cases in the vaccine group versus 34 severe/critical cases in the placebo group. Among the participants in the vaccine group, there were no COVID-19 related deaths and no COVID-19 cases that required medical intervention 28 days or more after vaccination.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires just one dose and has been approved for people who are 18 years old and older. While there was some protection 14 days after vaccination, full effectiveness occurs at about 28 days after vaccination. Booster doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine were authorized by the CDC on Oct. 22, 2021.

Can the vaccines give you COVID-19?

As with other vaccines, COVID-19 vaccines cannot give you the coronavirus or the disease it causes. They contain neither a weakened version of a live virus nor a dead version of the virus. mRNA does not get into the nucleus of your cells, and it does not change your DNA. It's rapidly broken down and not infectious because it's only a portion of the virus. There is absolutely no way you can get a COVID-19 infection from a COVID-19 vaccine.

Are the vaccines safe?

The COVID-19 vaccines have excellent safety profiles, and most people have been able to tolerate them well. None of their phase 3 clinical trials were discontinued or even temporarily halted due to any adverse event.

More than 100,000 people participated in these trials, including people of all ages, races and ethnicities — spanning multiple regions across the world. The trials also included people who have other health conditions, such as diabetes, HIV, heart disease, lung disease and more — and there were no specific complications for these groups either.

The COVID-19 vaccines have gone through rigorous testing for safety and effectiveness. The top vaccine experts in the world reviewed and approved the results of these trials.

While rare, there have been cases of serious blood clots in some patients who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Nearly all reports of this condition have been in women younger than 50 years old. Still, the CDC and FDA note that the vaccine’s known and potential benefits outweigh its known and potential risks. Learn more about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

A very small percentage of people who received the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna), developed either myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, or pericarditis, an inflammation of the outer lining of the heart. These inflammations occurred primarily in male adolescents and young adults, who mostly recovered quickly if they received medical care. The CDC continues to recommend children age 5 and up get vaccinated for COVID-19, since the risks of serious outcomes from a coronavirus infection, including death, are far greater than the potential risks of a rare adverse reaction to the vaccines. Learn more about the vaccines and myocarditis and pericarditis.

Is the vaccine safe for people with severe allergies?

We recommend you consult your allergist or primary care provider about whether your allergy would prevent you from receiving the vaccine. The CDC has said that people with most allergies can get the vaccine. The CDC advises caution for people who have a history of severe allergic reaction (e.g., anaphylaxis) to another vaccine or an injectable medication.

If your allergies are so severe that you need to keep an EpiPen with you, it might be best to wait on vaccination until more is known.

The CDC also advises against vaccination for people with a history of severe allergic reaction to any component of the vaccines (Pfizer ingredients | Moderna ingredients | Johnson & Johnson ingredients). For more information, please see the CDC's updated guidance about COVID-19 vaccines and severe allergic reactions.

Should women who are pregnant or breastfeeding get the vaccine? Is it safe for them?

At Rush, we follow guidance from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). The ACOG recommends that all eligible persons, including pregnant and lactating individuals, receive a COVID-19 vaccine or vaccine series. Visit ACOG's practice advisory for more information.

The CDC also strongly recommends COVID-19 vaccination either before or during pregnancy. See the CDC’s advisory for more information.

Pregnant women are at higher risk of severe disease and death from COVID-19, and pregnant women with certain health conditions, such as diabetes, are at even greater risk. Pregnant women who have COVID-19 also have a higher risk of premature labor and fetal death.

Getting a COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy can protect you from severe illness from COVID-19.​ We encourage women who are pregnant, planning to become pregnant soon or breastfeeding to consult with their doctor about the decision regarding the vaccine.

What are the potential side effects?

The side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine are like other vaccines. The most common side effects included soreness where the shot was given, headache, fatigue and muscle pain. One thing to keep in mind is that mild side effects are a sign that your body is starting to build immunity (protection) against COVID-19.

Overall, the benefits of these vaccines outweigh any potential side effects. As the clinical trials (studies) of the vaccines have shown, there's a significantly lower risk of getting COVID-19 if you are vaccinated — and in those who did get the disease, the symptoms were milder in people who were vaccinated than those who were not.

Pfizer and Moderna

The trials found that the most common side effects of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines were pain at the injection site, fatigue, muscle pain, joint pain and headache. Pfizer reported that a small percentage of participants had high fevers in the 24-hour period after receiving their vaccine. Both studies also found that side effects to the vaccine were more significant following the second dose, as well as in younger people.

The symptoms are more frequent than what you are likely to experience with the flu or pneumonia vaccines, but most symptoms experienced in the studies were reported as mild to moderate rather than serious to severe.

A very small percentage of people who received the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines developed either myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, or pericarditis, an inflammation of the outer lining of the heart. These inflammations occurred primarily in male adolescents and young adults, who mostly recovered quickly if they received medical care. The CDC continues to recommend children age 5 and up get vaccinated for COVID-19, since the risks of serious outcomes from a coronavirus infection, including death, are far greater than the potential risks of a rare adverse reaction to the vaccines. Learn more about the vaccines and myocarditis and pericarditis.

Johnson & Johnson

The trial found that the most reported side effects with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine were pain at the injection site, headache, fatigue, muscle aches and nausea. Most of these side effects were mild to moderate and lasted one to two days.

Hives were reported in five vaccine recipients and one placebo recipient in the seven days following vaccination. The study also reported one case of severe allergic reaction (not anaphylaxis) two days after vaccination.

While rare, there have been cases of serious blood clots in some patients who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Nearly all reports of this condition have been in women younger than 50 years old. According to the CDC, women younger than 50 years old should be aware of the rare but increased risk of blood clots and that there are other COVID-19 vaccine options available for which this risk has not been seen.

Still, the CDC and FDA note that the vaccine’s known and potential benefits outweigh its known and potential risks. Learn more about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Will the COVID-19 vaccine be needed annually, similar to the flu vaccine?

All COVID-19 vaccine trials are following their participants for two years to determine both long-term side effects and the durability of the immune system response.

On Nov. 19, 2021, the CDC authorized booster shots of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for people age 18 and older. If you are interested in a COVID-19 vaccine booster, please talk to your doctor during your appointment. You can also schedule booster shot appointments at many local retail pharmacies.

Should people who had COVID-19 already be vaccinated?

According to the federal Center for Disease Control and Infection, you should be vaccinated even if you already had COVID-19. Experts don't know how long people may have immunity after they recover from COVID-19.

 

The vaccines were developed so quickly, how can we trust that they truly are safe?

The CDC and FDA take many steps to ensure that any vaccine is safe. These vaccines have been tested in large numbers of people to look at both safety and effectiveness. On Aug. 23, 2021, the FDA granted full approval to the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

The rapid development and production has been possible because the mRNA vaccine technology is much more efficient than prior methods of producing vaccines and can be scaled up quickly. mRNA was discovered in the early 1960s, ways to deliver mRNA into cells developed in the 1970s, and mRNA vaccines previously were created and given to fight Ebola.

It's important to note that this is not the first time we've had a vaccine developed this quickly. With H1N1 (swine flu), we started seeing cases in March 2009, and by October 2009 we had a vaccine.

Do the vaccines prevent the transmission of COVID-19?

According to the CDC, a growing body of evidence suggests that transmission risk is substantially reduced in vaccinated people. Even for the delta variant, evidence suggests fully vaccinated people who become infected are infectious for shorter periods of time than unvaccinated people infected with delta. Not enough information is available at this time to assess how the vaccines impact transmission of the omicron variant.

The vaccines are effective at keeping people from getting COVID-19, getting very sick and dying.

How many people will need to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity?

The percentage of a population that needs to be immune to a disease (either from vaccination or organic immunity acquired from recovering from the disease) so that the disease is unlikely to spread — and if it does spread, it won't spread extensively — typically is around 70 to 80%. In the U.S., that would be around 230 million people. Because the delta variant of the coronavirus is highly infectious, the percentage may be higher, somewhere between 80 and 90%. We don’t have enough information yet to know if or how the omicron variant will affect reaching herd immunity.

What is the best argument for getting the vaccine?

Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself, your family and our communities. Through clinical studies, these vaccines have gone through rigorous testing for safety and effectiveness — and they have been found to be both safe and effective at preventing COVID-19.

COVID-19 is widespread, and we all have a significant risk of getting it given the current infection rate. The risks of COVID-19 and its subsequent complications are far worse than the risks of the vaccines themselves. Vaccination will significantly reduce both the number of deaths related to COVID-19 and the serious health issues that survivors face. Also, if you have family members who are immunocompromised, vaccinating yourself will prevent you from potentially spreading COVID-19 to them.

In a nutshell: Vaccinating will help us get our lives back.

Can I contract COVID-19 after I'm fully vaccinated?

Yes. Even with the high efficacy of the vaccines, no vaccine is 100% protective. Also, the effectiveness of the vaccine on some of the new strains of COVID-19 that are circulating is not yet fully known. We all need to continue to follow safety precautions — wearing masks, social distancing and hand hygiene — until enough of the general population has been vaccinated for the United States to achieve herd immunity. Please know that among most people who have contracted COVID-19 after being vaccinated, their symptoms have been mild.

After I’ve been vaccinated, do I still need to wear a mask and maintain social distancing?

To maximize your protection from the delta variant and prevent possibly spreading it to others, you should wear a mask when in an indoor public place (such as a restaurant or museum).

What do I do if I lose my COVID-19 vaccine card or want a virtual vaccine card?
Virtual vaccine card example

If you received your COVID-19 vaccine at any Rush location, you can access a digital copy of your vaccine records through MyChart, including a QR code that you can export to a health wallet.

Here’s how to access your virtual vaccination card:

  1. Log into MyChart or open the My Rush app and login.
  2. In the My Rush app, select COVID-19 and click on Your COVID-19 Status.
  3. On your computer, go to the Menu and select "COVID-19" under My Record. (You can also find vaccine records under Immunizations, but the COVID-19 menu item contains more details about your vaccination).
  4. Your COVID-19 page will show information about the vaccines you received as well as all of your COVID-19 test results from Rush.
  5. To view the QR code, click on QR codes.
  6. To export your QR code to a Health wallet, click “Download/Export” and “Export to Health Wallet.”
  7. You can also download your COVID-19 vaccine information as a PDF. Just click "Download/Export" and “Download vaccination PDF” in MyChart or the My Rush app. You can print out this PDF if needed.

For detailed instructions, click here.

What is the delta variant? Do vaccines work against it?

The "delta variant," which originated in India, is a form of the virus that causes COVID-19. The delta variant is now the most common strain of the virus in the United States, accounting for nearly all COVID-19 cases in the U.S. Doctors and scientists are concerned because the delta variant is more transmissible (that is, contagious) than other strains of the virus. The encouraging news is that there is good evidence that the vaccines work against it, especially in terms of preventing hospitalization and deaths.

What is the omicron variant? Do vaccines work against it?

The omicron variant, which emerged in South Africa, is a recently identified form of the virus that causes COVID-19. Studies are underway to determine the effectiveness of the existing vaccines against omicron, and how the transmissibility of omicron compares to other variants. Michael Lin, MD, MPH, an infectious disease specialist and associate professor at Rush University Medical Center, believes it’s too early to predict the impact of the omicron variant.

Vaccinating Children and Adolescents

Can children receive a COVID-19 vaccine?

•    On Nov. 2, 2021, the CDC authorized the Pfizer vaccine for kids ages 5 to 11. People age 5 and older can now receive the Pfizer vaccine. Learn more about vaccines for children and teens here and read the news release here.
•    The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are approved for people 18 years and older.
•    Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Rush Oak Park Hospital and Rush Copley Medical Center in Aurora are currently offering the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to our pediatric patients (ages 5 to 17). 

Is it possible to schedule a first dose appointment before a child is 5 if they will turn 5 by the time of the second dose?

No. Children must be 5 years old at the time you schedule their first dose appointment.

Do parents or guardians need to accompany their child to their COVID-19 vaccine appointment at Rush?

Yes, a custodial parent or legal guardian must accompany the child and sign the consent form for the child when they check in for their vaccine appointment. If the patient’s parent or guardian is not present, they will need to reschedule their vaccine appointment for a time when their parent or guardian can accompany them.

Are any minors able to get the vaccine without a parent or guardian accompanying them?

Minors who fall into the following categories do not need a parent or guardian to accompany them or sign a consent form. However, some of these patients will need to bring additional documentation as noted below.

  • Pregnant minor: Must verbally attest they are pregnant. Patient may sign their own consent form.
  • Minor who has a child: Must verbally attest they are a parent. Patient may sign their own consent form.
  • Minor who is married: Must verbally attest they are married. Patient may sign their own consent form.
  • Homeless minor: Must provide written documentation from qualified adult (e.g., an adult relative, a social worker, an attorney or a representative from a religious organization) that they no longer live with their parent or legal guardian. Patient may sign their own consent form.
  • Emancipated minor: Must provide court order documentation of emancipation. Patient may sign their own consent form.
  • Minor who is ward of the state: Must provide documentation that the DCFS guardian consents to the COVID-19 vaccination. DCFS Guardian or a foster parent or case manager may sign the consent form.
Do minors need to bring any documentation to their vaccination appointment?

Parents or guardians need to bring their ID to a minor's vaccine appointment, as well as a way to confirm guardianship if applicable. Minors are not required to bring an ID, but can if they have one. 

Additionally, the following groups need to bring a copy of the documentation noted below to their appointment. Please note that Rush will collect and keep your documentation when you check in for your appointment, so please make sure you have a copy for your own personal records as well.

  • Homeless minor: Must provide written documentation from qualified adult (e.g., an adult relative, a social worker, an attorney or a representative from a religious organization) that they no longer live with their parent or legal guardian.
  • Emancipated minor: Must provide court order documentation of emancipation.
  • Minor who is ward of the state: Must provide documentation that the DCFS guardian consents to the COVID-19 vaccination.
Are children receiving the same Pfizer vaccine as adults?

Anyone 12 and older who is receiving the Pfizer vaccine is receiving the same dose as people 18 and older who have received the Pfizer vaccine.

Kids age 5 to11 are receiving a lower dose of the Pfizer vaccine than adults. 

If a child turns 12 in between their first and second dose, they can receive either the lower dose or the larger dose. We recommend you consult your pediatrician about which dose is right for your child.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe for kids ages 5 and up?

Yes. The vaccine is both safe and effective in children who are 5 years of age and older. 

The most common side effects in the trials for children aged 12 to 15 were consistent with the side effects that adults experienced, including pain at the injection site, headache, fever and fatigue — and the side effects only lasted a short period of time. There were no unexpected or severe side effects in this age group. 

The vaccine’s safety was studied in approximately 3,100 children age 5 through 11 who received the vaccine, and no serious side effects have been detected in the ongoing study.

The Pfizer vaccine was 100% effective in preventing COVID-19 in kids who are 12 to 15. The trial included about 2,300 adolescents, age 12 to 15, in the U.S. None of the participants who received the vaccine developed COVID-19. But 18 of the participants who were in the placebo group (the group that did not get the vaccine) did develop COVID-19. The reported side effects were consistent with those seen in the 16-25 age group. So, there were no unexpected side effects and the vaccine was 100% protective.

Immune responses of children 5 through 11 years of age were comparable to those of individuals 16 to 25 years of age. In addition, the vaccine was found to be 90.7% effective in preventing COVID-19 in children 5 through 11.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe for 16- and 17-year-olds?

This age group was part of the clinical trials that tested the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine. The trials found that 16- and 17-year-olds responded in the same way as those 18 and older in terms of safety, effectiveness and side effects.

There was a myth that has been debunked that the COVID-19 vaccine could cause infertility in children. We want to stress that this claim is absolutely false. The vaccine does not cause infertility, and there is no interaction between the vaccine and the reproductive system. It is much safer to receive the vaccine than to get COVID-19.

Why should children get the COVID-19 vaccine?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children now make up about 22% of new COVID-19 cases, compared to 3% at the same time one year ago. The new variant strains of the virus that causes COVID-19 that are now circulating are more contagious than the original strains. More children are being hospitalized with severe COVID-19 infection than before.

The main advantage is that the vaccine will protect children from getting sick and getting others sick. Although COVID-19 tends to be less severe in younger, healthy people, children and young adults can get very sick, and we also do not know the long-term effects of COVID-19 infection. More than 400 children have died from COVID-19 in the U.S., and COVID-19 is now one of the top 10 causes of death among children.

Additionally, some children under 18 have developed serious complications from COVID-19, including multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C, a rare but serious condition that causes inflammation in the different parts of the body, often affecting the heart. We know that many children diagnosed with MIS-C have had either exposure to someone with COVID-19 or a history of COVID-19 infection in the four weeks before developing MIS-C. Some children who develop MIS-C had no symptoms of illness during their exposure and infection with COVID-19. Learn more about COVID-19 in children and MIS-C.

Most important, however, is that vaccinating children can help protect others as well. If a child gets COVID-19, there is a high risk they can transmit it to others who are at risk for more serious COVID-19. Getting the vaccine will help lower that risk.

Finally, there is significant research that shows when children get the flu vaccine, there is less flu in adults. It is safe to expect these same results with the COVID-19 vaccine, because COVID-19 spreads in a similar way to the flu.

Can 5 to 11-year-olds receive the COVID-19 vaccine?

On Nov. 2, 2021, the CDC authorized the Pfizer vaccine for kids ages 5 to 11. People age 5 and older can now receive the Pfizer vaccine. Learn more about vaccines for children and teens here and read the news release here.

COVID-19 Vaccines by the Numbers

View the FAQs above for more information

Effectiveness of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines

95.00 %

Participants in the vaccine tests

> 100,000.00

Percent of population that needs to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity

> 85.00 %

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Beverly-sha
Testimonials

It is very exciting to see the impressive results from Pfizer and Moderna. The side effects from the vaccines — such as site injection reactions, fatigue and muscle pain — are in line with those we see in other vaccines. In my opinion, the risk of developing COVID is greater than the risk of getting a COVID vaccine.

Beverly Sha, MD, infectious disease specialist
steve-lowenthal
Testimonials

The emergency use FDA approval of these vaccines is a pivotal moment in our battle against COVID-19. We've been on the defensive caring for those ravaged by this illness. Now, finally, we can go on the offensive and eliminate the virus itself. We will get to the light at the end of the tunnel when the entire country gets vaccinated. I have complete faith in the rigorous research which resulted in some of the most effective vaccines we have ever seen.

Steve Lowenthal, MD, Chief Medical Officer, Rush Copley
John Segreti, MD
Testimonials

Vaccines are the most effective way to prevent serious diseases. These COVID-19 vaccines were delivered to a large number of people in trials to look at safety and how effective they are. The FDA, CDC and others go through many steps and stringent protocols to make sure vaccines are safe.

John Segreti, MD, infectious disease specialist
Paul Casey
Testimonials

This year of unparalleled challenges is ending with the promise of hope. We also want to temper the hope and optimism that the vaccine provides with the reality that we are in for some challenging days with COVID continuing to spread in our communities. What has worked well for us in the last nine months in terms of social distancing, wearing a mask and washing your hands will continue to protect us in combination with the vaccine.

Paul Casey, MD, medical director

We understand that there are still some unknowns about the COVID-19 vaccine. Let us know questions you have that are not covered in our FAQs above.

We will not be able to directly respond to any questions, and we encourage you to reach out to your health care provider for any personal questions you have related to the the COVID-19 vaccine.

Let us know your vaccine questions
Let us know your vaccine questions

A Nationwide Effort

While vaccines play a critical role in slowing the spread of COVID-19 and, eventually, helping us out of the pandemic, this will not happen overnight. Rush is working closely with public health departments, the CDC and other governing bodies to ensure a fair and equitable distribution.

Rush supply chain worker

Slow the Spread

Distributing the vaccine widely will take time and patience. That’s why it is important to continuing doing your part to slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect yourself, your loved ones and community by doing the following:

  • Wear a mask to protect yourself and others
  • Practice social distancing
  • Wash your hands
  • Avoid indoors gatherings with those outside your immediate household
Woman getting her temperature checked

How mRNA Vaccines Work

In this easy to understand video, learn how mRNA vaccines, such as the COVID-19 vaccines, work and why they are safe.

A Rush employee receiving a COVID-19 vaccine

COVID-19 Health & Wellness

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