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Quick Links:   
Who should get vaccinated?
Are the vaccines safe for adults?   
Are the vaccines safe for children?   
Which 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 April 2023, the US is switching to using only bivalent mRNA vaccines – the original monovalent mRNA vaccines will no longer be available.  According to the CDC, everyone 6 months and older should receive the bivalent COVID vaccine.

  • Everyone ages 6 years and older should get an updated (bivalent) mRNA COVID-19 vaccine dose, whether or not they previously completed their (monovalent) primary series.
  • Adults and children 6 years and older who have never received a COVID-19 vaccine in the past may receive just one dose of an updated bivalent booster vaccine at this time. This dose is all they need for now, unless they are 65 years or older or immunocompromised in which cases they may need additional doses.
  • Anyone 65 and older can get an additional bivalent vaccine dose at least four months following their last bivalent dose.
  • Immunocompromised people (people with weakened immune systems) may get an additional bivalent vaccine dose at least 2 months following their last bivalent dose. They may be eligible for additional doses in the future at the discretion of their healthcare provider. For immunocompromised young children, multiple doses continue to be recommended and will vary by age, vaccine, and which vaccines were previously received.

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 Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have full FDA approval for those 6 months and older.  Both the original monovalent and bivalent mRNA COVID-19 vaccines have been 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

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 COVID-19 vaccine to help protect them from contracting and spreading the virus.  They answer frequently asked questions about the vaccine for younger children here.

The vaccine is 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.

  • Children 6 months through 5 years of age who are unvaccinated may receive a two-dose series of the Moderna bivalent vaccine (6 months through 5 years of age) OR a three-dose series of the Pfizer-BioNTech bivalent vaccine (6 months through 4 years of age).
  • Children who are 5 years of age may receive two doses of the Moderna bivalent vaccine or a single dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech bivalent vaccine. 
  • Children 6 months through 5 years of age who have received one, two or three doses of a monovalent COVID-19 vaccine may receive a bivalent vaccine, but the number of doses that they receive will depend on the vaccine and their vaccination history.
  • For immunocompromised young children, multiple doses continue to be recommended and will vary by age, vaccine, and which vaccines were previously received.

Which vaccine is better?
The US is switching to using only bivalent mRNA vaccines – the original monovalent mRNA vaccines will no longer be available. Both the Moderna and Pfizer bivalent vaccines are safe and effective.  Both vaccines effectively prevent the severe disease that can lead to hospitalization and death.  For people who cannot or choose not to receive an mRNA COVID-19 vaccines there are options, including the Novavax vaccine.  

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 getting vaccinated and boosted 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. 

Will the vaccines protect people from the newer strains (variants) of the virus?
The coronavirus continues to spread and mutate. Evidence shows that all the vaccines approved in the US provide some protection against all the variants.  The Delta variant spreads quickly and may lead to more severe disease and hospitalizations, especially in young people and unvaccinated people. The Omicron variant and sub-variants are now the dominant strain.  The Omicron strain is far more transmissible, putting medically vulnerable and seniors with less robust immune systems at more risk. Omicron also appears to be more resistant to COVID-19 medicines like monoclonal antibodies and cause more breakthrough cases in those without a booster shot. 

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. A CDC study is among the first to show secondary benefits of vaccination for people who got COVID-19 after they were fully or partially vaccinated. Benefits included:

  • Fewer sick days in bed
  • Less likely to have fever or chills
  • May be less likely to spread the virus to others

While vaccines must be highly effective to be approved for use, no vaccine provides 100% immunity. The Omicron variant also appears to cause more breakthrough cases in vaccinated persons who have not had a booster shot.  Even individuals who have had 2 doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines should get a bivalent booster and continue to take precautions in public and when around unvaccinated people. 

If a person has already had and recovered from COVID, do they still need to get vaccinated?
Yes. Most experts recommend getting vaccinated once 90 days have passed from a prior infection.  This is because data shows that some people with mild infections do not have full immunity, so those people can benefit from a vaccine to strengthen their protection against reinfection.  Recent data also shows that any immunity an unvaccinated person may have developed after recovering from COVID wanes after 6 - 8 months.

Will we need to get vaccinated every year?
The FDA and the scientists and health and medical experts who developed the vaccines are continuing to study the virus and vaccines closely to understand how long immunity lasts and how well the vaccines protect against new mutations of the virus. Just like the flu vaccine, an annual COVID booster 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

More information about boosters.

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?
Even though the federal and local public health emergency declarations for COVID-19 end on May 11, 2023, the vaccines will be available to everyone at no cost for all people living in the United States, regardless of insurance or immigration status while there is still a national stockpile of vaccine. In the summer or early fall of 2023, the cost of COVID vaccinations is expected to be transitioned to coverage by traditional health care insurance or Medicaid. However, the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department (LLCHD) will continue to provide COVID-19 vaccines, testing, treatment and numerous other resources for free to the community through emergency funding until the fund is expended.

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.  Children who have completed their primary series can receive the bivalent vaccine from their pediatrician.

In Lincoln, the Lincoln Lancaster County Health Department (LLCHD) will continue to offer COVID-19 vaccinations onsite at the Health Department, 3131 “O” St. while funding for supplies lasts. Appointments can be scheduled online or by calling 402-441-4200. Walk-ins are also welcome Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.   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?
Private insurance providers will no longer be required to provide free COVID-19 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.

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.

Do we have to continue health measures like wearing masks, social distancing, hand sanitizing, and avoiding crowded and confined spaces after being vaccinated?  
Until community spread drops to very low levels, wearing masks is advised in certain circumstances.  If you are vaccinated and received a booster against COVID-19, 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 vaccinated and boostered 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 may 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, and can help keep us on a path to ending the pandemic. Our best defense against COVID is staying up to date on COVID vaccinations.