The COVID-19 vaccines are very effective in preventing COVID-19. And they don't just protect you. By getting vaccinated, you’ll also help keep your family and your community safe from COVID-19.

Vaccination will help protect you

BMC is providing vaccinations to patients over 6 months old. The vaccine is also available at other health care organizations and pharmacies, as part of a nation-wide vaccination program.

We will continue to update this page as we learn more about COVID-19 vaccines.


Let’s fight COVID-19 together.

Frequently Asked Questions

When and where can I get the COVID-19 vaccine?

All people six months of age and older in Massachusetts are eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine. 

If you need a COVID-19 vaccine or booster, please call your primary care doctor's office. BMC is providing both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for all patients, both of which are highly effective and safe, and have been through a strict clinical review.

You can also get the vaccine at a state vaccination site, a local community site, or a site such as CVS or Walgreens; you can find more details here.

How do COVID-19 vaccines work?

A vaccine is a substance that can help protect you against specific diseases. Vaccines cause your immune system to make antibodies, which fight viruses and bacteria. If you get exposed to a disease you’ve been vaccinated against, the antibodies will fight the disease-causing bacteria or viruses before they make you sick. For more information on vaccines, visit the Centers for Disease Control.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are both mRNA vaccines. They work by telling our bodies to make a protein that then produces antibodies. These antibodies help protect you from the virus that causes COVID-19.

Is the vaccine free?

The COVID-19 vaccine is free for all BMC patients. If you have medical insurance, we will bill your insurance carrier. If you do not have insurance, you will not receive a bill for your vaccine.

Should I get the new COVID-19 vaccines and boosters?

In September 2023, the FDA and CDC approved an updated (monovalent) COVID-19 vaccine. This COVID-19 vaccine booster targets currently circulating COVID-19 variants.

The vaccine is approved for everyone ages six months and older.

You should get the vaccine even if you already had a COVID-19 booster dose. This is because any booster given before September 2023 didn’t include specific protection against previous variants.

You should also get the new booster even if you got more than one COVID-19 vaccine booster dose before, or if you are immunocompromised and had a third dose of the vaccine. 

You are eligible for the bivalent booster if you:

  • Are over the age of six months
  • Got a series of two Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines or one Johnson & Johnson vaccine
  • Had your last dose of COVID-19 vaccine (first, second, or booster dose) at least two months ago.

Is the vaccine mandatory? What about for children?

Boston Medical Center Health System firmly believes in the effectiveness and safety of the COVID-19 vaccine, and we are pleased that the vast majority our employees have already have been vaccinated. Based on the evidence, and our obligation as a health care system to safeguard the health of our patients, members and staff, BMC Health System has required that all employees, licensed independent practitioners, students, vendors, and volunteers be vaccinated against COVID-19. 

How are COVID vaccines given?

The vaccines are given as a shot in the upper arm.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines both require two doses. As of March 2022, the recommended time period between the first and second dose for both vaccines is eight weeks, unless you are immunocompromised. If you are immunocompromised, the time between vaccines should be three weeks for the Pfizer vaccine and four weeks for the Moderna vaccine. It’s important that you get both shots. If you don’t, you won’t be as well-protected from COVID-19 as you could be.

What does the full FDA approval mean?

The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine was given full approval by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) for people aged six months and over.

This means that the vaccines are no longer being given under emergency use authorization for people in this age group. 

A fact sheet from the FDA can be found here, and is available in 20 additional languages on the FDA website.

Does the vaccine keep me from getting COVID-19?

Individuals who get the COVID-19 vaccine have a markedly reduced risk of infection, but no vaccine is 100 percent effective. The vaccines prevent us from severe disease, hospitalization, and death related to COVID-19.

How long does protection from COVID vaccines last?

While the COVID-19 vaccines do provide long term benefits in terms of protecting us from severe disease and death, they only reduce the risk of infection for a period of 4 months. Antibody levels start to decrease four months after the vaccination.

Are COVID vaccines safe?

Yes. The vaccines were studied carefully and have been given to hundreds of millions of people around the world. This has shown that the vaccines are safe.

Expert groups are also continuing to look at the COVID-19 vaccine’s safety now that we have more data.

What are the side effects of COVID-19 vaccines?

Many people do report side effects. However, these are generally been mild, and are a sign the immune system is working. Reported side effects include headaches, fatigue, chills, and soreness at the injection site. Some people may have a fever. Side effects in children are very similar to side effects in adults.

For some people, these side effects were worse after the second dose.

Side effects from a vaccine usually go away on their own within a few days. You can take an over-the-counter medicine such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen to manage side effects after the vaccine. However, it is recommended that you avoid taking these medications right before getting your vaccine, unless they have been prescribed to you.

If your side effects last more than 48 hours, speak to your doctor.

Have there been any serious adverse events after these vaccines?

A small number of severe allergic reactions have been reported after vaccination with both Pfizer and Moderna COVID vaccines and are being investigated. All reactions responded to treatment, and every vaccine site will monitor people for signs of an allergic reaction after vaccination.

Can I get COVID-19 from the vaccine?

No, you cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccine. The vaccine doesn’t actually contain the virus that causes COVID-19.

Can I spread COVID from the vaccine?

No. The current vaccines do not contain the virus that causes COVID-19, which means the vaccine itself won’t cause you to spread COVID-19.

Will the vaccine stay in my body or enter my DNA?

No. None of the vaccines enter or change your DNA, or stay in your body.

Does the vaccine affect fertility?

There is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine affects fertility. In the safety data from the Pfizer trial, the same proportion of people got pregnant in the vaccine group as the placebo group. In addition, many, many people have gotten safely pregnant after getting vaccinated, including in the clinical trials. Therefore, the vaccine is recommended even if you are planning to get pregnant soon.

Do the COVID-19 vaccines work in Black and Latinx individuals?

In clinical trials included 10-19 percent percent Black and 15-45 percent Hispanic/Latinx participants (depending on the study), which means vaccine safety was tested within a diverse group. Data from clinical trials showed that the vaccine has similar success rates in white, Black, and Latinx people.

Research is still being done on real world data for this question.

Communities of color have been particularly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. That means it's even more important for people in these communities to get vaccinated.

Should I get the vaccine if I had COVID-19 already?

Yes. Experts recommend getting the vaccine even if you already had COVID-19, because we don't know how long having COVID-19 protects you from getting it again. As long as you're not currently in isolation with COVID-19 and no longer have symptoms, you can get the vaccine.

Can pregnant or breastfeeding people get the vaccine?

Yes, data on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines for pregnant people show that the vaccines are safe and effective for this population. In addition, we have seen that pregnant people are at increased risk for severe COVID, which means that the benefits greatly outweigh the risks for many. Therefore, the CDC and many professional medical groups recommend that people who are pregnant and breastfeeding get the COVID-19 vaccine.

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, please talk to your doctor about any concerns you may have about getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

Should I get the vaccine if I have allergies?

The FDA recommends that people who have severe allergies to any ingredient in the vaccines do not get this vaccine. In addition, they recommend that you should not get the second dose if you have a severe allergic reaction to the first dose. Everyone who gets the vaccine will be watched for 15 minutes after the injection to make sure they do not have any signs of an allergic reaction. People who have severe allergies to other vaccines or injectable medications will be watched for 30 minutes.

The vaccine does not contain any food products - including eggs - or metals.

Once you are able to get the vaccine, talk to your allergist if you have concerns.

Can you get other vaccines at the same time as the COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes, you can get the COVID-19 vaccine (first, second, third, or booster dose) at the same time as other vaccines. This includes the flu shot for people of all ages and routine vaccines for children.

I'm immunocompromised. Should I get another dose of the COVID-19 vaccine?

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently recommended that people who are moderately to severely immunocompromised and have already had two doses of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine receive a third COVID-19 vaccination. You may have also heard this called a booster shot.

Your third dose should be the same type of vaccine (Moderna or Pfizer) that you got for your first two doses. 

Another vaccine dose is recommended for people who are immunocompromised because they are more likely to get very sick or be sick for a long time if they get COVID-19. In addition, you may not get the same protection from two doses of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines as other people do, and a third dose may help you stay healthy.

If you are moderately to severely immunocompromised, including people who have any of the following conditions, you are now able to get a third COVID-19 vaccination dose:

  • Been receiving active cancer treatment for tumors or cancers of the blood
  • Received an organ transplant and are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
  • Received a stem cell transplant within the last 2 years or are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
  • Moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (such as DiGeorge syndrome, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome)
  • Advanced or untreated HIV infection
  • Active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids or other drugs that may suppress your immune response

Eligible patients have now received more information from BMC. Please reach out to your care team if you have any questions.

Should toddlers and younger children get the COVID-19 vaccine? I heard they don’t get COVID-19.

Yes, for most people over six months old, getting the COVID vaccine as soon as possible is the safest choice, as part of doing everything we can to protect our kids.

Millions of children across the country have gotten COVID-19 during the pandemic. COVID-19 in children looks a lot like COVID-19 in adults and can cause serious, long-lasting problems like extreme tiredness or fatigue, “brain fog,” a cough that won’t go away, and even heart problems. Getting vaccinated makes it less likely that anyone, of any age, will get these problems.

If your child gets vaccinated, it makes passing on the virus less likely. This can help keep others you care about, like grandparents, healthy too.

It seems clear that COVID-19 will be with us for a long time (many months, if not years). That’s why it’s important for children – and their families – to have as much protection as possible against COVID-19 and the problems it causes.

What are the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine for children?

COVID-19 vaccine side effects for children and teenagers are a lot like the side effects for adults. These side effects are usually mild and go away within a few days. They are also more common after the second vaccine dose. Some people may not have any side effects. A small number may have serious side effects, but these cases are very rare.

Common side effects for children age four and up:

  • Pain, redness, or swelling around where the shot was given
  • Fever
  • Tiredness
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Swollen lymph nodes (you may feel a lump under the armpit)

Common side effects for children age three and younger:

  • Pain or redness where the shot was given
  • Irritability (bad mood) or crying
  • Swollen lymph nodes (you may feel a lump under the armpit)
  • Tiredness
  • Loss of appetite

How do we know that the vaccines are safe for children and won't have long-term effects??

The CDC and FDA take safety of vaccines very seriously, especially for children. In fact, the reason it took so much longer for vaccines to be approved for children under five years old is that the FDA and CDC took their time to make sure Pfizer and Moderna did thorough research and get the doses just right.

While clinical trials were recently completed for children under the age of five, we do have a lot of data for children ages 5-17 years old. As of June 2022:

  • 27.4 million children ages 5-17 years old have gotten as least one COVID-19 vaccine dose.
  • 23.1 million children ages 5-17 years old have gotten both doses.
  • 3.8 million children ages 12-16 years old have gotten a booster dose.

The world has had many vaccines over time. For all of those vaccines, it is rare to see side effects come up more than four to six weeks after someone gets vaccinated. This is true in both children and adults.

For COVID-19 vaccines, we have a lot of data for adults and older children and to date, none of this data shows any side effects that come up more than a few days after getting the vaccines.

These vaccine types are not new technology either! Both mRNA vaccines (used to create Pfizer and Moderna vaccines) and viral vector vaccines (used to create the Johnson & Johnson vaccines) have been studied and used for decades. There have been no side effects that occur after four to six weeks described among people who have received these vaccine types.

Does the vaccine cause heart issues, like myocarditis, in children?

Myocarditis (an inflammation of the heart muscle) is a very rare side effect for teenagers and young adults who get the mRNA (Moderna or Pfizer) vaccines. Males ages 12-17 are more likely than other people to get myocarditis, but it is still very rare in this age group. No children under age five had myocarditis or any other heart issues in the clinical trials.

Most cases of myocarditis that were seen were mild and went away within a few days, either on their own or with ibuprofen.

Cardiac side effects of COVID-19 infection, including myocarditis, are much more common than cardiac side effects from the vaccine, even in children. In addition, myocarditis from COVID-19 infections are usually worse than if they’re caused by the vaccine.

Do kids need a COVID-19 vaccine booster?

The Centers for Disease Control recommends that everyone over the age of six months get an updated COVID vaccine as of October 2023. 

Is the children’s COVID-19 vaccine the same as the vaccine for adults?

Children of different ages get different, age-adjusted doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Please contact your PCP for additional details.

Can children get the COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines on the same day?

Yes, children can get the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as any other vaccine. Talk to child’s doctor if you have any questions.

What should I do if I have questions while scheduling my appointment?

Call 2-1-1 option 10 or call your PCP.