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Quick Links:   
Who should get vaccinated?
Are the vaccines safe for adults?   
Are the vaccines safe for children?   
What about antiviral drugs?        
Will the vaccines protect people from the newer strains (variants) of the virus?   
If a person is vaccinated, can they still get COVID?      
If a person has already had and recovered from COVID, do they still need to get vaccinated?      
Will we need to get vaccinated every year?      
What does it cost to get vaccinated?      
Where can I get vaccinated?      
Where can I be tested for COVID 19?      
Do we have to continue health measures after being vaccinated?      
Are we required to get the vaccine? 
When might we expect to go “back to normal”?

COVID Vaccine - Frequently Asked Questions

Who should get a vaccination for COVID?  
As of September 2023, the CDC is recommending the new monovalent vaccines for all who are eligible.  The updated Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID vaccine recently approved by the FDA is based on XBB.1.5 and is effective against related variants.  The new monovalent vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna and Novavax) will be the only COVID vaccines available this fall.  

  • One dose of the updated Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID vaccine is recommended for all individuals 5 years and older. According to updated CDC guidelines, individuals in certain risk groups may receive additional doses with their health care provider’s guidance.
  • For children ages six months to five years, vaccination is recommended, but the number of vaccinations are based on which vaccine (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) they receive, as well as their age.
  • People at higher risk of severe illness should get the updated COVID vaccine as soon as possible.

On October 3, 2023, the Food and Drug Administration gave emergency use authorization for the updated Novavax's COVID-19 Monovalent Vaccine, 2023-2024 formula. The updated Novavax COVID-19 monovalent vaccine includes protection against the newer Omicron strains of the virus. The 2023-2024 formula Novavax COVID-19 monovalent vaccine is authorized for use in individuals 12 years of age and older as follows:

  • One dose of the updated Novavax COVID-19 Vaccine is recommended for those previously vaccinated with any COVID-19 vaccine administered at least 2 months after receipt of the last dose.
  • Two doses of the updated monovalent Novavax COVID-19 vaccine, administered three weeks apart, are recommended for those not previously vaccinated with any COVID-19 vaccine. 
  • For immunocompromised individuals, an additional dose of the updated monovalent Novavax COVID-19 vaccine, may be administered at least 2 months following the last dose of a 2023-2024 formula COVID-19 vaccine.  Individuals in certain risk groups may receive additional doses with their health care provider’s guidance.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that all eligible persons including pregnant and lactating individuals receive the COVID-19 vaccine.  Recent studies continue to confirm the safety of the vaccine for both pregnant mother and fetus.  Most experts advocate for vaccinating women who are breastfeeding. There are no plausible mechanisms for how the vaccine would be any danger for breastfeeding, and it’s likely that breastfeeding women would produce protective antibodies in their breast milk that could help protect their babies.  The vaccine is also recommended for people trying to get pregnant now, or might become pregnant in the future.

Are the vaccines safe for adults?  
Yes. Both the updated Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have full FDA approval for those 6 months and older, and the updated Novavax vaccine has FDA emergency authorization for those 12 years and older. The original vaccines were administered to millions of people, including young children. Post release monitoring is in place and so far has only demonstrated a few severe allergic reactions, all of which were treated successfully. These allergic reactions are very rare and similar to reactions that can happen with other vaccines, medications, or some foods.  Mild systemic side effects include tiredness, body aches, and headaches, most of which last only 1-2 days and are treated with rest or over the counter medications. 

The vaccines:

  • do not alter your DNA 
  • do not cause infertility
  • do not cause you to contract COVID
  • is safe to co-administer with the flu vaccine

Are the vaccines safe for children?
Medical and public health experts, including the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommend that children and adolescents age 6 months and older get a Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to help protect them from contracting and spreading the virus.  

  • Children 6 months through 4 years of age receiving a COVID-19 vaccine for the first time should receive either 2 doses of updated (2023–2024 formula) Moderna or 3 doses of updated (2023–2024 formula) Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine
  • Children 6 months through 4 years of age who have received previous COVID-19 vaccine doses need 1 or 2 doses of the updated (2023–2024 formula) Moderna or updated (2023–2024 formula) Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, depending on the number of prior doses.
  • One dose of the updated Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID vaccine is recommended for all individuals 5 years and older. According to updated CDC guidelines, individuals in certain risk groups may receive additional doses with their health care provider’s guidance.
  • For children, 12 years and older, one dose of the updated Novavax COVID vaccine is an option to the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. According to updated CDC guidelines, individuals in certain risk groups may receive additional doses with their health care provider’s guidance.

Parents/caregivers should consult their child’s healthcare provider for dosing recommendations.

Staying up to date on vaccines are the best way to protect children from becoming severely ill or having long-lasting health impacts due to COVID-19. COVID-19 has become one of the top 10 causes of pediatric death, and tens of thousands of children and teens have been hospitalized with COVID-19. While children and adolescents are typically at lower risk than adults of becoming severely ill or hospitalized from COVID-19, it is still possible.  

Which vaccine is better?
Both the updated Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are safe and effective and approved by the FDA.  Both vaccines effectively prevent the severe disease that can lead to hospitalization and death.  FDA has also given emergency authorization to the Novavax vaccine, which has also proved to be safe and effective.

What about antiviral drugs?
Vaccination is the best line of defense against COVID-19. While antiviral drugs and other treatments are an important advancement, they are not 100% effective in reducing risk of hospitalization or death from COVID-19, and they are no substitute for getting vaccinated. Getting COVID-19 still causes serious health impacts for some people, especially those who are not vaccinated. Preventing serious infection by staying up to date on vaccinations and taking other precautions, like masking and distancing — particularly if your COVID-19 community level is high — are the best ways to protect your health. 

However, taking an antiviral drug can lessen the severity and duration of COVID if taken early.  Paxlovid, an oral antiviral pill that can be taken at home, is the go-to treatment for COVID-19. If you are at high risk for severe disease from COVID, and you take it within the first five days of experiencing symptoms, it will lower your risk of getting so sick that you need to be hospitalized.  Paxlovid was granted full approval in May 2023 by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of mild-to-moderate COVID in adults at high risk for severe disease, including hospitalization and death. The drug had an 89% reduction in the risk of hospitalization and death in unvaccinated people in the clinical trial, a number that was high enough to prompt the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to prioritize it over other COVID treatments.  More about Paxlovid.

If finances are an issue, a U.S. Government Patient Assistance Program operated by Pfizer is making Paxlovid available at no cost through Dec. 31, 2024 to eligible individuals covered under federal programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, and to those who are uninsured or underinsured. More information. 

Will the vaccines protect people from the newer strains (variants) of the virus?
The coronavirus continues to spread and mutate. Overall, studies show that the updated vaccine is effective against the variants currently causing the majority of COVID cases in the U.S.

If a person is vaccinated, can they still get COVID?
Because no vaccine is 100% effective, some people will get COVID-19. These vaccine breakthrough cases are expected.  However, vaccinated persons are likely to:

  • Spend fewer sick days in bed
  • Be less likely to have fever or chills
  • May be less likely to spread the virus to others

If a person has already had and recovered from COVID, do they still need to get vaccinated?
If you’ve recently had COVID, it’s still important to stay up to date with your vaccines. According to the CDC, you can wait three months since your symptoms began or, for asymptomatic cases, since you first tested positive.

There’s also some evidence to support waiting as long as six months after a COVID infection to receive an updated COVID vaccine. The variants that have been circulating in the U.S. in spring and summer of 2023 are closely related to the XBB.1.5 variant in the vaccine, so if you’ve recently had COVID, that infection should provide strong protection from severe disease and reinfection. Waiting longer than the CDC’s guidance of three months is not recommended for high-risk groups, but it’s something people can discuss with their doctor.

Will we need to get vaccinated every year?
Just like the flu vaccine, an annual COVID vaccine is likely and especially important for those:

  • 65 years and older
  • Age 18+ who live in long-term care settings
  • Age 18+ who have underlying medical conditions
  • Age 18+ who work or live in high-risk settings

What about "long covid"?  Long COVID or post-COVID-19 syndrome is an array of symptoms that present four to eight weeks after acute illness has passed. Long COVID can affect both adults and children. The condition is thought to affect as many as 30 percent of patients and can include a continuation of symptoms suffered during the acute phase — shortness of breath or fatigue, for example — along with new symptoms that occur after patients feel like they’ve recovered: chest discomfort, severe pain, dizziness, vomiting, brain fog. Even people who did not have any symptoms can experience long COVID, which can present as different types and combinations of health problems and can range in lengths of time. More Q & A about long COVID.

Vaccination may reduce the risk of long COVID in two ways. The first is by reducing the risk of becoming infected with COVID in the first place. A recent study also shows that fully vaccinated people who experience breakthrough infections are about 50% less likely to develop long COVID than people who are infected without having been vaccinated. 

What does it cost to get vaccinated?
The updated COVID vaccine is free for most Americans through private health insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid. Individuals who are uninsured and underinsured can receive free COVID vaccines at local health centers, pharmacies, and health care providers, through the Bridge Access Program. Vaccines through this program will not be available immediately; people without insurance will need to wait a few weeks after the vaccine is rolled out to get a free or reduced-cost COVID vaccine.  Private insurance companies are mandated to cover the COVID vaccine with no copay. However, insurers are no longer required to pay for “out-of-network”. Vaccines for Children cover all kid’s vaccines, not just Covid-19, for those that cannot pay.

Where can I get vaccinated?
For vaccination sites closest to you, check  This free resource provides accurate and up-to-date information about vaccination services in your area. You can also text your zip code to 438829, or call 1-800-232-0233 to find locations near you in the U.S.  

As of October 2023, the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department (LLCHD) will provide updated COVID-19 vaccine solely to adults and children who are uninsured or underinsured, and children with Medicaid. The updated vaccination process is as follows:

  • Adults and children who are uninsured or underinsured, and children age 18 and younger with Medicaid – The government still provides COVID-19 vaccine at no cost to these groups and is working with partners including local health departments. LLCHD has received vaccine shipments. Eligible individuals can receive updated COVID-19 vaccines at the Health Department by appointment only. Call 402-441-8065 to schedule a date and time.
  • Those who have health insurance, Medicare, or adults with Medicaid – The updated COVID-19 vaccine should be covered by most health plans, but residents must receive vaccine through a pharmacy or health care provider instead of LLCHD. Visit to check pharmacy locations and availability.

The vaccines may also be available by appointment or walk-in, at HyVee, WalMart, Sam's Club, Costco, and CVS pharmacies. Vaccines may also be are available at Rely Care pharmacies with appointment. Nebraskans can visit any available pharmacy regardless of jurisdiction.  Outside Lancaster County, vaccines may be available through your local health department.  

Where can I be tested for COVID 19?
Starting Sept 25, 2023, households can receive 4 free rapid tests through USPS again. Order here: Shipments will start Oct. 2.  In Lincoln, at homes tests remain available in the main lobby of the Lincoln Lancaster County Health Department during regular business hours. Test kits are also available at all Lincoln City Library locations. People enrolled in Medicare Part B will continue to have coverage for laboratory-conducted COVID-19 tests when ordered by a health care provider. State Medicaid programs must also provide coverage for COVID-19 testing until Sept. 30, 2024.  The CDC will also continue to fund some pharmacy-based testing through the Increasing Community Access to Testing (ICATT) for COVID-19 program for people who are uninsured. The ICATT website.

Private insurance providers will no longer be required to provide free COVID tests (over the counter or laboratory). Availability of testing sites changes, so call first to verify:

  • CHI Health St. Elizabeth: Autumn Ridge Family Medicine, 5000 North 26th St. and Southwest Family Health, 1240 Aries Drive.  Call either site to schedule an appointment: Autumn Ridge, 402-435-5300 and South West Family, 402-420-1300. 
  • Testing is also available without an appointment at the three Bryan Urgent Care locations, 7501 S. 27th St., 5901 N. 27th St. and 4333 S. 86th St. To check wait times, call 402-481-6343.
  • Several pharmacies including CVS, HyVee and Walgreens along with other health care provider offices and urgent care clinics also offer testing. If a person is uninsured or underinsured, they can call the COVID-19 hotline at 402-441-8006 and the health department will connect them to testing resources.
  • While supplies last, you may also be able to get free test kits through your local health department.

Do we have to continue health measures like wearing masks, social distancing, hand sanitizing, and avoiding crowded and confined spaces after being vaccinated?  
Wearing masks is advised in certain circumstances.  If you are up to date on your COVID-19 vaccines, you can enjoy the outdoors without wearing a mask or staying 6 feet apart except in crowded areas. Because of the highly transmissible omicron variant, vaccinated people in counties with substantial or high transmission of the infection should still wear masks in confined spaces, crowded outdoor or indoor spaces, and where masks and distancing are required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, including local business and workplace guidance.  Healthy people people who are up to date on vaccinations are still protected against severe disease, hospitalization and death. Proper fitting KF94, N95, and KN95  masks continue to be a highly effective tool to prevent COVID-19 spread.

Are we required to get the vaccine?
No, but it is our best chance at returning to our lives by keeping ourselves, our loved ones, our community, and our economy safe and healthy.  However, employers may require employees to get vaccinated, similar to how many healthcare facilities may require their employees to be vaccinated for Hepatitis B or Influenza.

When might we expect to go “back to normal”?
Like influenza, some form of COVID will probably always be with us.  While COVID-19 continues to be a serious threat to public health, we have the tools to help us stay healthy. Vaccination, well-fitting masks, and testing all work to reduce the spread of COVID-19.  Our best defense against COVID is staying up to date on COVID vaccinations.