FAQs: The 2023-2024 updated COVID vaccine

I’ve never had a COVID vaccine – can I start with this one?

Yes, now is a great time to start. If you are age 5 or older, you will be up to date with COVID vaccination after this single shot. Children aged 6 months to 4 years of age may need additional doses depending on which vaccine and the number of doses received in the past.

What is different about the updated 2023-2024 COVID vaccine?

The vaccine is based on a variant called XBB.1.5, the variant that is causing most of the COVID cases in the United States. The vaccine cross-reacts with other variants that are also circulating, so it will provide some protection against them, as well.

How many doses of the updated 2023-2024 COVID vaccine do I need?

The updated 2023-2024 COVID vaccine is a single dose. Most adults only need to receive one shot to be fully vaccinated, even if you never received a COVID vaccine in the past. Talk to your healthcare provider if you are moderately or severely immunocompromised, as you may need additional doses.

Can I get the Pfizer vaccine if I had a different brand in the past?

Yes, you can get the Pfizer vaccine if your last COVID-19 vaccine was a different brand, such as Moderna.

What do I need to know before my vaccine appointment? Do I need to prepare?

Here are a few things to keep in mind before you get your vaccine:

  • The vaccine is given with a needle in the upper arm, so wear clothing that allows your upper arm to be easily exposed, like a short-sleeve or sleeveless shirt.
  • Eat your normal meal or a snack (depending on the time of day) and drink plenty of liquids before arriving at your appointment.
  • Don't take any pain relievers before your appointment. It may lessen the effect of the vaccine. If you develop side effects after your vaccination, you can take Tylenol (acetaminophen).
  • Allergic reactions are possible with any vaccine, though they are rare. For your safety, you will be asked to wait for about 15 minutes for monitoring after you receive the vaccine. If you've had a prior allergic reaction to an injectable medicine or vaccine, or any of the ingredients in the vaccine you're getting, you may be asked to wait 30 minutes.
  • Masks are no longer required, but you are welcome to wear a mask at any time during your appointment.
  • Learn more

If I’ve already had COVID, or had COVID recently, do I need to get vaccinated?

Yes. People who do not get vaccinated after their recovery from COVID are more likely to get COVID again than people who do get vaccinated after recovery. You should not delay getting vaccinated if you have a risk of severe illness, or if a loved one or close contact has a risk of severe illness.

How long do I need to wait after having COVID to get vaccinated?

While you have some immunity from infection that could last about three months, you do not need to wait to get the vaccine. You can get it after you have ended isolation and are feeling better. If you or a loved one/close contact has a risk of serious illness from COVID, you should not delay getting the vaccine even if you have recently had COVID. Talk to your doctor or provider if you have more questions about vaccine timing.

How do the vaccines work?

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines, which cause the body to make a viral “spike protein” that activates the immune system to fight off the coronavirus by mimicking the infection. The mRNA vaccines do not alter your DNA, they train your body to fight off the virus. The Novavax vaccine is protein-based. It works by getting the body’s immune system to recognize small, modified pieces of the virus it’s targeting. It is a more traditional type of vaccine formula. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is no longer available in the United States. (Henry Ford Health offers only the Pfizer vaccine.)

You cannot get sick with COVID-19 from any of the vaccines. None of the vaccines contain live virus and cannot cause COVID-19. Side effects of the vaccines are a natural part of the process and show that the vaccine is working.

Is the updated 2023-2024 COVID vaccine considered a booster?

No, it is not. The change in wording to “updated vaccine” reflects that in the United States, we’ve begun to treat COVID like influenza (the flu) with annual vaccination. We call it an “updated” vaccine because it does not just boost existing immunity. Instead, it builds a new immune response to variants that we see today.

Can people get COVID-19 after being vaccinated? If so, why should I get the vaccine?

The updated 2023-2024 vaccine is effective, especially against severe illness and hospitalization. You may still get COVID even if you have been vaccinated, but chances are good it will be a milder infection.

If I recently received a dose of the older COVID vaccine, when should I get the updated 2023-2024 COVID vaccine?

People ages 5 years and older should wait at least two months after getting the last dose of any COVID-19 vaccine before getting the updated COVID vaccine, according to CDC guidance.

Do I need to get the same brand of vaccine as my previous shots?

Your COVID vaccine does not have be from the same manufacturer as your earlier vaccinations or boosters.

How long does it take for full protection?

It takes about two weeks for the vaccine to be effective. Full protection will last for about three months.

I am up-to-date on my COVID vaccines – do I need to get the “new” vaccine?

If you received your last COVID vaccine shot 2 months ago or longer, you can receive the updated 2023-2024 vaccine to stay up to date. Henry Ford Health follows the CDC’s guidelines for COVID-19 vaccines for our patients.

What does "monovalent" mean?

The prefix “mono” means one. A monovalent vaccine, like the updated 2023-2024 COVID vaccine, creates an immune response against one variant of the COVID virus.

What does “bivalent” mean?

The prefix “bi” means two. A bivalent vaccine creates an immune response against two different antigens. Bivalent COVID boosters have been discontinued because the virus changed and they are no longer effective against the current variants.

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