COVID-19 Vaccine Frequently Asked Questions

Last revision March 29, 2021

Vaccine registration for Kupuna (50+), those who are 16+ with one of the following high risk medical conditions (on oxygen, receiving dialysis or chemotherapy), and essential workers in construction, banking and finance, communications, media, retail, information technology, clergy, and transportation and logistics is currently being done through vaccine clinics.

Clinics and pods have their own registration sites that can be found here.

Vaccine registration throughout the state is now open to those in phases 1a, 1b, and 1c.

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

Yes, the first supply of the COVID-19 vaccine was made available in Hawaii in mid-December 2020. The number of doses in the initial phase is limited, so most people will have to wait Spring 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.

The Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines 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.

Johnson and Johnson’s Janssen vaccine only requires one shot to be effective.

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 60 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.

The priority is to vaccinate Kupuna first. Due to limited availability of vaccine, caregivers will not be vaccinated with Kupuna at this time.

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.

Right now, there are three COVID-19 vaccines. COVID-19 Pfizer BioNTech Vaccine, COVID-19 Moderna Vaccine, and Johnson and Johnson Janssen COVID-19 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.

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

You are considered fully vaccinated after you have received the full dose of your vaccine and it has been 2 weeks.

For example; you have received both doses of a 2-dose series, like the Pfizer or Moderna and it has been 2 weeks since your second dose

-or-

you have received your single-dose vaccine, like Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine, and it has been 2 weeks.

Yes, you should wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth whenever you are in public and in close contact with people outside of your household. This includes 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.

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.

  • Of the nearly seven million people who have received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S., six women between the ages of 18 and 48 experienced a type of blood clot called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) in combination with low levels of blood platelets (thrombocytopenia). 
  • The symptoms in these women occurred between 6 to 13 days after getting the J&J COVID vaccine.
  • One woman has died, and one woman is in critical condition.
  • The FDA, CDC, and CDC’s independent expert committee (Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices) are all reviewing these cases and determining next steps.
  • There are no concerns about CVST in people who receive the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines.
  • CVST is treated differently than other blood clots. Usually, heparin is administered to people experiencing blood clots, but that can be dangerous to people with CVST. Both FDA and CDC, along with partners across the country, are working alert healthcare providers and the public about this difference in treatment.

It is important to remember this adverse effect after getting the J&J COVID-19 vaccine is very rare. Less than 1 in one million people have experienced CVST in combination with low levels of blood platelets after receiving the J&J vaccine.

If you received the J&J COVID-19 vaccine within the last three weeks (as of April 12, 2021), know the warning signs of CVST. They include severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, and/or shortness of breath. If you experience any of these symptoms, please contact your healthcare provider or seek medical attention immediately.

Note that it is common to experience mild to moderate symptoms, including fever, headache, fatigue and joint/muscle pain, during the first week after receiving any COVID-19 vaccine. These side effects usually start within three days of getting a vaccine and should only last a few days.

The FDA and CDC recommended the pause in the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine out of an abundance of caution. During this time they will be reviewing the data from the six cases and working with partners to help healthcare providers learn the signs and proper treatment of CVST in combination with low blood platelets.

It is also important to know this is a recommended pause, not a mandate. Some vaccination sites may still be administering J&J COVID-19 vaccines while the investigation is underway. You should have a conversation with your healthcare provider to determine if the J&J vaccine is the right choice for you until we hear an update on the situation from FDA or CDC.

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:

  • You may gather indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household (for example, visiting relatives who all live together) without masks, unless any of those people or anyone they live with has an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
  • If you have been around someone who has COVID-19, you do not need to stay away from others or get tested unless you have symptoms.
    • However, if you live in a group setting (like a correctional or detention facility or group home) and are around someone who has COVID-19, you should still stay away from others for 14 days and get tested, even if you don’t have symptoms.

For more information, visit this CDC website.

Yes, you should still protect yourself and others by wearing a mask, staying at least 6 feet apart from others not in your household, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces. Take these steps when you are:

You should continue to avoid medium or large-sized gatherings, delay domestic and international travel, and watch for symptoms of COVID-19. If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you should get tested and quarantine at home.

*You still need to follow guidance at your workplace.

Although you are fully vaccinated, we recommend that you continue to wear a face mask when you are gathering with unvaccinated people from more than one household, whether or not you’re indoors or outdoors. When you are in close contact with people from more than one household, we encourage you to wear a mask, stay at least 6 feet apart, and avoid crowds and poorly ventilated spaces. You still need to follow guidance at your workplace.

Yes, you should still watch out for symptoms of COVID-19, especially if you have been around someone who is sick. If you experience COVID-19 symptoms, such as shortness of breath, loss of taste or smell, nausea and vomiting, or diarrhea, contact your health care provider.

Experts are still learning how long COVID-19 vaccines can protect people as well as how effective the vaccines are against variants of the virus that causes COVID-19. Early data shows that the vaccines may keep people from spreading COVID-19, but we are continuing to learn as more people get vaccinated. What we know is that other safe practices are important to continue as they help to stop the spread of COVID-19; you should continue to practice physical distancing, mask wearing, and hand washing, even as vaccines are being distributed. For now, let’s celebrate the normalcy that the vaccines are giving us by gathering in small private groups.

If you and your family do not have a high-risk of getting COVID-19 (i.e. do not have any severe medical conditions that would put you at high-risk), you may visit your fully vaccinated family members. Remember to keep gatherings small and between only two households.

QUESTIONS ABOUT THE COVID-19 VACCINE THAT WERE NOT ANSWERED HERE:

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