Conversation Guide: COVID-19 Vaccines

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Updated 08/26/2021 to include a question related to getting vaccinated outside the United States.

Many client-facing staff are receiving client questions related to the COVID-19 vaccine. These questions may be in response to vaccine-related outreach and support, or they may occur during other programming and work. Staff may feel unsure about how to respond for reasons such as health-related issues being outside their normal scope of work or not having in-depth training on the vaccines. This webpage is designed to help client-facing staff competently respond to common vaccine questions. It lists frequently asked questions and helpful responses as well as provides additional resources to give to clients who wish to seek out additional information.

For more information, view the slides and download the role play script from our webinar, Practical Approaches For Discussing COVID-19 Vaccines With Clients.

  • Remember, the role of service provider agencies is to ensure that clients have accurate information from trusted sources and an avenue for addressing questions and concerns in order to make informed decisions that are best for themselves and their family. Client facing staff are not responsible for convincing clients to get the vaccine. 
  • Stay within your knowledge base. If you don’t know the answer to a client’s question, consider connecting the client to linguistically accurate information from trusted and vetted sources, or telling clients that you don’t currently have the answer but will get back to them.
  • Let people know that having questions and concerns are normal and that you want them to have accurate information from credible sources so they can make the best decision for themselves and their family.
  • If a client has incorrect information, don’t tell them that they are wrong, as that response is likely to be unproductive and discounts what may be an understandable hesitancy. Instead, equip people by pointing them to trusted and accessible sources of information so that they can make their own decisions.
  • When countering misinformation, try not to repeat it. Studies show that repeating myths and misinformation – even when fact-checking or discounting it – increases the chance that people will remember the myth or misinformation. Instead, repeat what you know to be facts and bolster these with accurate information from trusted sources.
  • Make sure any information you give is linguistically accessible in the client’s preferred language and, where possible, that you offer a variety of formats – print, video, etc. – to accommodate different learning styles and literacy levels.

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Q: How do you know the vaccine is safe?

The vaccines have been tested on tens of thousands of individuals of different races, ethnicities, ages, and health conditions. Furthermore, the vaccines have met the US Food and Drug Administration’s high scientific standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing. From December 2020 to March 2021, over 109 million doses of vaccines have been given in the United States. The vaccines' safety has been closely monitored, and has resulted in no serious safety concerns with the vaccines being used in the US. If you want more information, here are some resources that might be helpful.

Print Resources

Vaccine Fact Sheets from the Centers for Disease Control in English, Amharic, Arabic, Burmese, Farsi, French, Haitian Creole, Hakha Chin, Karen, Kinyarwanda, Korean, Nepali, Pashto, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Simplified Chinese, Swahili (Congolese), Tagalog, Tigrinya, Traditional Chinese, Ukrainian, Urdu, Vietnamese

Videos Resources 

“How We Know the Vaccine is Safe” from EBARC nonprofit in Polk County, Iowa in Burmese, Falam Chin, French, Hakha Chin, Karen, Karenni, Lingala, Mizo Chin, Spanish, Swahili

Q: How did they make and approve the vaccine so quickly?

There are lots of different types of coronaviruses and scientists have been studying them for many years. Because of this, scientists already had lots of previous research that they could use to develop the vaccine. In addition, the government funded many companies to work in development and testing at the same time. When a vaccine is normally made, it gets tested first before large amounts of the vaccine are made. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and funding from governments, scientists were able to do both at the same time. All of this allowed the development of the vaccine to move faster than usual. It is important to know that not all of the vaccines that were made and tested were approved. Only the vaccines that were tested and proven to be safe were approved for use. If you want more information on how they made and tested the vaccines, here are some resources that might be helpful.

Print Resources

Frequently Asked Questions About How COVID-19 Vaccines are Made” in English, Amharic, Arabic, Chinese, French, Hindi, Hmong, Karen, Lao, Nepali, Oromo, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Swahili, Vietnamese

Videos Resources

Frequently Asked Questions about How COVID-19 Vaccines are Made” in Spanish (YouTube)

 “How Can Vaccine and Antibody Studies Move So Quickly and Still Be Safe?” from the Washington State Department of Health in Amharic, Arabic, Burmese, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), Chuukese, English, English (ASL), Farsi, French, German, Hindi, Hmong, Japanese, Karen, Khmer (Cambodian), Korean, Lao, Marshallese, Mixteco Bajo, Nepali, Oromo, Portuguese, Punjabi, Romanian, Russian, Samoan, Somali, Spanish, Swahili, Tagalog, Tamil, Telugu, Thai, Tigrinya, Ukrainian, Urdu, Vietnamese

Audio Resources

"How COVID Vaccines are Made" from the Washington State Department of Health in English, and Spanish 

Q: How does the COVID-19 vaccine work?

The vaccines teach your body to recognize and kill the virus that causes COVID-19. That is why some people have cold or flu-like symptoms for a day or two after getting a vaccine. This is the body working to recognize the virus and activating the body’s immune system to kill it. Once the body learns how to do this, it will remember the virus. Therefore, if you get infected with the virus again, it can quickly fight off and kill it. If you want more information on how vaccines work, here are some resources that might be helpful.

Video Resources

“How Would COVID Vaccines Work in Your Body” from the Washington State Department of Health in English, Spanish, Amharic, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), Farsi/Persian, Japanese, Korean, Oromo, Russian, Tagalog, Tigrinya, Ukrainian, Vietnamese

Audio Resources

"How Vaccines Work in Your Body": English, Spanish

Q: What sort of side effects should I expect from the vaccine?

Some people experience mild side effects from the vaccine for one or two days, including tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, and fever. The side effects mean that the vaccine has activated the immune system. In other words, it means the vaccine is working and teaching your body how to fight COVID-19. If you want more information on the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines, here are some resources that might be helpful.

Print Resources

Vaccine Fact Sheets from the Centers for Disease Control in English, Amharic, Arabic, Burmese, Farsi, French, Haitian Creole, Hakha Chin, Karen, Kinyarwanda, Korean, Nepali, Pashto, Russian , Somali, Spanish, Simplified Chinese, Swahili (Congolese), Tagalog, Tigrinya, Traditional Chinese, Ukrainian, Urdu, Vietnamese

Videos Resources

"COVID-19 Vaccine Information" by Milwaukee's Refugee Community Advisory Board in Karen, Rohingya, and Swahili (English Script)

Q: Is the COVID-19 vaccine Halal?

The vaccines are deemed Halal by many Islamic religious leaders and scholars. The vaccines have received stamps of approval from many Muslim religious leaders, scholars, and organizations, including the British Islamic Medical Association, the Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America, and the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia. If you want to find out more, here are some resources that might be helpful.

Video Resources

Watch Imam Magid talks about COVID-19 vaccines with the US Surgeon General (English) - Full video
Clip: Are COVID-19 Vaccines Halal?, Clip: Can we trust the COVID-19 vaccines?

Imam Wazir (Atlanta) discusses Muslim faith and COVID-19 vaccines – English, Somali, Oromo, Arabic, Harari, Amharic

Q: I have been hearing lots of things about the vaccine, like it can alter your DNA or make it so that you can’t have children. Is that true?

The COVID-19 vaccines will not interact or alter your DNA. The vaccines have been extensively studied and no evidence has been found that shows the vaccines causing any problems with fertility. 

There is a lot of information about the COVID-19 vaccines – some of it factual and some of it not true. The most important thing is for you to go to sources that are reliable and that use studied, scientific facts. This will allow you to get all of the information you need to make the best decision for you and your family. Sometimes it is also helpful to talk to someone you trust and whom you know has accurate information – like a doctor, nurse, or a community health worker. Many of these professionals have already gotten the vaccine so they can also tell you about their experiences. Here are some resources that might be helpful.

Websites (Could also consider printing out for clients)

“Is it True? COVID-19 Vaccine Fact Checking” from King County, WA in English, Amharic, Arabic, Chinese (simplified), Chinese (traditional), French, Khmer, Korean, Marshallese, Oromo, Russian, Samoan, Somali, Spanish, Tigrinya, Tongan, Ukrainian, Vietnamese

Video Resources

“COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy” from New American Neighbors in AmharicArabicDari, FrenchNepaliPashtoSomali

“How to Spot Fact vs. Fiction Online” from the Washington State Department of Health in English

Q: Should I get the vaccine?

The COVID-19 vaccines are recommended for all adults, including those who have already had COVID-19. Getting the vaccine will not only protect you, it will also protect your family and loved ones. When enough people get the vaccine, we will be able to see our family and friends again, and the things we do will be more normal.  It is important that everyone makes the decision that is best for themselves, their family, and their community after knowing all the facts. Here are some resources that might help you and your family make a decision. (People who are pregnant or have serious medical conditions, should gather the facts and talk to their doctor.)

Print Resources

Vaccine Fact Sheets from the Centers for Disease Control in English, Amharic, Arabic, Burmese, Farsi, French, Haitian Creole, Karen, Kinyarwanda, Korean, Nepali, Pashto, Russian , Somali, Spanish, Simplified Chinese, Swahili (Congolese), Tagalog, Tigrinya, Traditional Chinese, Ukrainian, Urdu, Vietnamese

Video Resources

“You Should Get the Vaccine – Here’s Why” from Georgia State University in AmharicArabicBurmese, Chin, Burmese Karen, English, Farsi, French, Haitian Creole, Japanese, Korean, Kurdish, Kurmanji, Kurdish Sorani, Mandarin, Nepali, Pashto, Portuguese, Spanish, Somali, Swahili, Tigrinya, Vietnamese

Q: Why do some vaccines have two doses and some have one?

The two-dose vaccines and the one-dose vaccine are slightly different – but they are all effective and none of the vaccines can give you COVID-19. The two-dose vaccines use mRNA, which is something that your body uses all the time to create different types of proteins you need to stay healthy. It is important to note that mRNA is not DNA and will not interact or change your DNA. With the vaccines that use mRNA – like Moderna and Pfizer – people need two doses to get the maximum protection. A few weeks after the second-dose, when the body has had enough time to build immunity, people who have been vaccinated have a much lower risk of getting COVID-19! There are lots of vaccines that need two doses to be the most effective – like the hepatitis A & B vaccines as well as the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) ones.

The current one-dose vaccine from Johnson & Johnson uses a different type of technology than mRNA. It uses a harmless, weakened virus called an adenovirus to teach the body how to fight off the COVID-19 virus. The adenovirus is NOT the coronavirus so you don’t have to worry about getting infected with COVID-19! After the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is given, it takes a few weeks for the body to build up immunity. All the vaccines available are HIGHLY effective in preventing death, hospitalization, and serious illness from COVID-19.

Q: How long does it take after I get my vaccine to be protected?

With all the currently approved vaccines, it takes a few weeks to a month after the last dosage to get the full amount of protection the vaccines offer. This means after the second Moderna and Pfizer shot, or after the single shot of Johnson & Jonson. This is because it takes time for your immune system to learn how to recognize and kill the virus.

Q: Why do I have to still wear a mask after I get the vaccine?

It takes a while for your body to build up immunity so people won’t have the full vaccine protection until at least two weeks from the final dose. Also, even though the vaccines we currently have are really effective, none of them are 100% effective. To be extra careful, people should wear a mask when with people who have not been vaccinated. Lastly, there is still a lot to learn about the virus that causes COVID-19. For example, we don’t know if people who are vaccinated can still get the virus, experience mild to no symptoms, and pass it on to others. Until we know more, we want to wear a mask, wash our hands frequently, and maintain social distancing so we can protect others who may not be vaccinated.

Q: Why is everyone so interested in having refugees and immigrants get the vaccine? I worry that this is because they want to test the vaccine on us.

Even though COVID-19 has hit communities of color hardest – including refugee and immigrant communities - the vast majority of people who have gotten the vaccine are white. This is because there can be lots of barriers to getting the vaccine! For instance, many times you have to sign up to get the vaccine on a computer and all the instructions are in English. Sometimes you have to print out and complete a form, which means you have to have a printer at home. Being able to take time off from work, or having a car to get to a vaccine site, can also be barriers. These barriers can make it much harder for refugees and immigrants to get the vaccine!

In the last several months, there have been many community advocates and leaders who have pushed for vaccines to be more accessible and available to communities of color, including refugees and immigrants. This has led to an increased focus on reaching these communities so that they can equally benefit from the vaccines and keep their family and loved ones safe and healthy.

Q: Can I prevent COVID-19 with my home remedies?

There have been many scientific studies on the vaccines and they have proven to be effective in preventing serious illness and death from the virus that causes COVID-19. The most effective way to protect yourself and your family from COVID-19 is to get an approved vaccine.

Q: How much do I have to pay for the COVID-19 vaccine(s)?

In the US, vaccines are free for everyone. There is a possibility that you may be asked about insurance information because doctors can charge an administration fee to the insurance company. However, the vaccine is free to you whether or not you have insurance and/or can pay the administration fee. Anyone can be vaccinated regardless of immigration status. For more information, please visit the CDC's Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 Vaccination.

Q: What information do you have about the recent news on the J&J vaccine?

As of April 23, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommend resuming use of the J&J COVID-19 vaccine.  

This decision comes after a temporary pause on the J&J vaccine in order to study a few incidences of a rare type of blood clot in individuals (women between 18 and 59 ) who received the J&J vaccine. There are only 15 known cases (as of April 27th) out of nearly 8 million doses administered. In these cases, people who had this type of blood clot also had low levels of blood platelets. 

After careful review, the CDC recommends vaccination with the J&J vaccine among people 18 years and older. However, women who are younger than 50 years of age should be aware of the rare risk of blood clots. There are other COVID-19 vaccine options available where this risk has not been seen. 

For more information, please see this CDC Update.

Q: Is the J&J vaccine unsafe?

Nearly 8 million people have received the J&J vaccine with only 15 known cases (as of April 27th) reported of this type of rare blood clot. This adverse event is extremely rare.

Vaccine safety is a top priority. After review of all available data, the CDC and FDA have recommended restarting the J&J vaccine because the benefits that the J&J vaccine bring in keeping us and our loves ones safe, exceedingly outweigh the rare side effect. 

The recommendation to restart the J&J vaccine shows that the national vaccine monitoring system is working. Healthcare providers report adverse events to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) and individuals who have received the vaccine are encouraged to report any symptoms to V-Safe, CDC’s after vaccination health checker. This transparency from the CDC and FDA increases our confidence in this process.  

There are currently no concerns about this type of blood clot in people who have received either the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines.

Q: What should I do if I have already received the J&J Vaccine?

It is common to experience mild to moderate flu-like symptoms, including fever, headache, fatigue and joint/muscle pain, during the first week after receiving any COVID-19 vaccine. 

However, if you received the J&J COVID-19 vaccine within the last three weeks and are experiencing severe or persistent headaches or blurred vision, chest or abdominal pain, leg swelling, easy bruising, and/or shortness of breath, please seek medical attention right away.

For everyone who has received a COVID-19 vaccine (any COVID vaccine) please sign up for V-Safe – CDC’s After Vaccination Health Checker.

Q: Will I need to get an additional shot after I am fully vaccinated?

While the vaccines are very safe and effective, scientists are still learning how long the vaccines will protect you. An additional dose of vaccine may be needed to keep you protected against COVID-19 in the future.

Viruses are also always changing. When a big change happens, scientists call it a new variant. It is possible that current vaccines may not work as well against new variants. In that case, a booster shot would make sure you continued to have strong protection against COVID-19.

I was vaccinated outside of the United States. Do I need to get vaccinated again?

If you were vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, or if you got both shots of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, you probably don't need to get vaccinated again. If you got another vaccine or only received one shot of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, you may need to get vaccinated again. The best thing you can do is ask your doctor what is best for your specific situation.