COVID-19 Vaccine Frequently Asked Questions

Last revision January 6, 2021

Vaccination registration for phase 1B for our Kupuna (75+) is not yet open through the state. We will announce widely across many platforms, including the news when that process is available.

Clinics and pods have their own registration that is beginning and information can be found here.

Phase 1A clinicians, can complete a survey for vaccine allocation needs here.

Acronyms and abbreviations used:

  • CDC: US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention
  • COVID-19: Coronavirus Disease 2019
  • EUA: Emergency Use Authorization
  • FDA: US Food & Drug Administration
  • HDOH: State of Hawaii Department of Health
  • VAERS: Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System

The first supply of the COVID-19 vaccine was made available in Hawaii starting in mid-December 2020. The number of doses in the initial phase is limited, so most people will have to wait until 2021. Supplies will increase over time, but it is expected that all adults will be able to get vaccinated in the first half of 2021 or soon thereafter. A vaccine for children under 16 will not be available until more studies are completed.

The COVID-19 vaccine is a national public health priority purchased with U.S. taxpayer dollars and is offered at no cost. However, vaccination providers will be able to charge an administration fee for giving the shot to someone. Vaccine providers can get this 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.

Most of the COVID-19 vaccines currently being considered for approval in the United States require two shots to be effective. The shots are spaced out by a number of weeks and you will be alerted when to get your second shot. If you have had your first shot, you will automatically be eligible to get the second shot when it is due.

Eligibility recommendations for the first supply of COVID-19 vaccine are based on who is most at risk. In Hawaii, this has been determined to be the following:

  • Essential healthcare workers, such as:
    • High-risk healthcare workers involved in direct patient care and workers who provide transportation, environmental services, and other healthcare facility services and who are at risk of exposure to COVID-19
  • Residents and staff of congregate long-term care facilities (e.g., “nursing homes”)
  • Other essential workers, such as:
    • First responders, including police and firefighters; corrections officers; transportation workers; workers in the education sector; food and agriculture workers; and utility employees.
  • Adults with high-risk medical conditions
  • Adults 65 years of age and older.

People who do not fall within these groups will be able to receive COVID-19 vaccines in coming months as they become available. This information will be made public as it becomes available. You can read about CDC vaccine recommendations at the following site: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/recommendations-process.html.

Yes. Although the initial supply is limited, millions more doses are being made and everyone in Hawaii will eventually be able to be vaccinated.

HDOH will share this information in a variety of ways as more vaccines become available. You may hear from your healthcare provider, your employer, announcements from state and local leaders, or the media. HDOH maintains the latest information on the vaccine’s status in Hawaii at www.hawaiicovid19.com/vaccine.

No, you cannot get COVID-19 from the COVID-19 vaccine. The mRNA vaccines for COVID-19 do not use the live virus that causes COVID-19 so it is safe.

At this time, HDOH is following CDC guidance on vaccinating those who are pregnant or breastfeeding. The vaccine has not been studied in pregnant or breastfeeding women and their infants, but mRNA vaccines (including the COVID-19 vaccine) are not thought to pose a risk to these groups. On the other hand, getting COVID-19 is known to put a woman at higher risk of serious illness.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding and you are part of a group that is recommended to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, you may choose to be vaccinated. Other things to consider:

  • COVID-19 risks of severe illness or adverse outcomes are known to be higher for pregnant women and their fetuses.
  • You should talk to your healthcare provider you are seeing for your pregnancy care to discuss whether or not to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Getting the vaccine is a personal decision.


You can learn more about vaccines for pregnant women at this CDC site: www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pregnancy/index.html.

Several vaccines are being studied and getting recommendations from the FDA and CDC. So far, no vaccine has been studied in children younger than 16, so a COVID-19 vaccine is not yet available for anyone younger than 16. At this time, one recommended vaccine is for people 16 and older, and one recommended vaccine is for people 18 and older. Information will be made public as it becomes available in the coming year.

At this time there is not enough information to say if or how long after infection someone is protected from getting COVID-19 again through “natural immunity.” Early evidence suggests natural immunity from COVID-19 may not last very long, but more studies are needed to better understand this. At least one vaccine has been studied in persons with a prior COVID-19 infection and found to be safe. CDC and HDOH recommend that vaccination should be offered to persons regardless of history of prior COVID-19 infection.


There is no recommended minimum wait time between infection and vaccination, current evidence suggests that reinfection is uncommon in the 90 days after initial infection. So, persons who had COVID-19 in the past 90 days may choose to wait to be vaccinated until near the end of 90 days, if they want to do so.


No one should be vaccinated while they are currently sick with a COVID-19 infection. Vaccinating should be postponed until the person has no more symptoms and criteria have been met for them to discontinue isolation.

No, you cannot. No other vaccine should be received between 14 days before you receive your COVID-19 vaccine and 14 days afterward.

Yes, you should wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth whenever you are in public and close contact with people outside your household cannot be avoided, such as when you are getting a vaccine shot. (Anyone who has trouble breathing or who is unable to remove a mask without assistance should not wear a mask.)

Yes, even after you have had both shots, you will need to wear a mask and practice other preventive measures, like avoiding close contact with other people. While experts learn more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide under real-life conditions, it will be important for everyone to continue using all the tools available to us to help stop this pandemic, like covering your mouth and nose with a mask, washing hands often, and staying at least 6 feet away from others.


Experts need to understand more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide before deciding to change recommendations on steps everyone should take to slow the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. Other factors, including how many people get vaccinated and how the virus is spreading in communities, will also affect this decision. HDOH and state and local leaders will let the public know when it is safe to stop using these preventive measures.

Right now, there are two COVID-19 vaccines. COVID-19 Pfizer BioNTech Vaccine and COVID-19 Moderna Vaccine. These are the only vaccines that will protect against COVID-19 at this time.
However, it is important to also get your annual flu shot during the COVID-19 pandemic. An influenza vaccine (“flu shot”) will not protect you from getting COVID-19, but it may provide several individual health benefits, such as keeping you from getting sick with the flu, reducing the severity of your illness if you do get the flu, and reducing your risk of hospitalization because of the flu.
Flu vaccination is very important to keep you healthy and to keep our clinics and hospitals from being overwhelmed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The protection someone gains from having an infection (called “natural immunity”) varies depending on the disease, and it varies from person to person. The virus causing COVID-19 is new, so we don’t know how long natural immunity for COVID-19 might last.


Some early evidence—based on some people—seems to suggest that natural immunity may only last up to 90 days. Regarding COVID-19 vaccine, we don’t know how long immunity lasts until we have more data on how well they work.


Experts are working hard to learn more about COVID-19, including natural immunity and immunity from vaccines, and CDC and HDOH will let the public know as new evidence becomes available and recommendations change.

Clinical trials for the COVID-19 vaccines have found that in general, most people do not have serious problems after being vaccinated.


At this time, the side effect that some people have had is a severe allergic reaction to the vaccine. If you know you are allergic to any ingredient in one of the vaccines, you should not get that vaccine. If you know you have allergies, but don’t know if you are allergic to an ingredient in the vaccines talk to your provider or the provider offering you the vaccine before getting vaccinated. Some common but temporary side effects may be soreness, redness, or warmth in the arm where they got the shot. These symptoms usually go away on their own within a week. Some people report getting a headache or fever after receiving a vaccine.


These side effects are signs that your immune system is working as it should, to build protection against the disease for which you’re being vaccinated.
Because each vaccine will have different side effects, it is important that you learn about the specific vaccine you are offered when it’s your turn. Talk to your provider or the provider offering you the vaccine and ask questions before getting vaccinated.

Herd immunity refers to a situation where most of the population is immune to an infectious disease, either from previous infection or vaccination. This provides indirect protection (i.e., “herd immunity” or “herd protection”) to people who are not immune to the disease because it makes it harder for the disease to spread.


Experts do not know what percentage of people would need to get vaccinated to achieve herd immunity for COVID-19.

The COVID-19 vaccines being offered to the public meet the US Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA) standards for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). All COVID-19 vaccines were rigorously tested in thousands of people to make sure that they are safe and that they work.

When a vaccine is granted EUA by the FDA, it means the benefits of this vaccine outweigh the harms of becoming infected with COVID-19.
It also means that even after the initial studies, safety is continuously checked. There are many safety monitoring systems that watch for adverse effects and possible side effects that were not seen in clinical trials. If an unexpected adverse event is seen, experts quickly study it further to assess whether it is a true safety concern. Experts then decide whether changes are needed in the vaccine recommendations.


HDOH is also monitoring for possible adverse events and for any announcements from FDA and CDC. This monitoring is critical to help ensure that the benefits continue to outweigh the risks for people who receive vaccines.


If any vaccine was found to be unsafe, FDA, CDC and HDOH would let the public and medical providers know.

CDC and FDA encourage the public to report possible side effects (“adverse events”) through VAERS (Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System) and V-safe.


An “adverse event” is any health problem that happens after a shot or other vaccine. An adverse event might be truly caused by a vaccine, or it might be pure coincidence (something that happened after vaccination but not caused by the vaccine).


One of the main jobs of CDC’s Immunization Safety Office is doing research to find out if adverse events that are reported by doctors, vaccine manufacturers, and the public are truly caused by a vaccine.

  • VAERS on the Internet
    VAERS is a national system that collects data to look for side effects (“adverse events”) that are unexpected, appear to happen more often than expected, or occur in unusual patterns. CDC uses VAERS to monitor the safety of vaccines across the country, which is a top priority. The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) can be found at the following website: vaers.hhs.gov/reportevent.html.
  • V-safe on your smartphone You can also use a tool on your smartphone, called V-safe, to tell CDC about any side effects you have after getting the COVID-19 vaccine. V-safe will also provide you reminders if you need a second vaccine dose.
    V-safe uses text messages and web surveys to provide personalized health check-ins after you receive a COVID-19 vaccination. Through V-safe, you can quickly tell CDC if you have any problems you experience after getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Depending on your answers, someone from CDC may call to check on you and get more information.


You can learn more about how to register and use V-safe at the following website: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/safety/vsafe.html.


You can learn more about the difference between routine side effects and adverse events at this CDC website: www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/ensuringsafety/sideeffects/index.html.

Getting a vaccine is only one of several tools we need to use to stop the COVID-19 pandemic. Vaccines work with your immune system so your body will be ready to fight the virus if you are exposed. Other steps, like covering your mouth and nose with a mask and staying at least 6 feet away from others, help reduce your chance of being exposed to the virus or spreading it to others.
Together, COVID-19 vaccination and following CDC’s recommendations to protect yourself and others will offer the best protection from COVID-19. You can learn more about how to protect yourself and others at this CDC website: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/prevention.html

For more information about COVID-19, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website at http://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/novel-coronavirus-2019.html. You can also visit HDOH’s COVID-19 websites at hawaiicovid19.com and health.hawaii.gov/covid19.


Finally, you can contact HDOH’s partners at Aloha United Way from anywhere in Hawaii for information and referral services:

QUESTIONS ABOUT THE COVID-19 VACCINE THAT WERENT ANSWERED HERE:

Please call the Immunization Branch Vaccination Call Center at (808) 586-8332 or 1-833-711-0645

Download the full FAQ