Frequently Asked Questions About the COVID-19 Vaccine

Getting the Vaccine

No, currently there is a network of NYS-run sites distributing the vaccine and one must qualify through the site  to schedule an appointment. You can also call the New York State COVID-19 Vaccination Hotline at 1-833-NYS-4-VAX (1-833-697-4829). 

Vaccines may also available at pharmacies, hospitals and through local health departments – please contact the provider of your choice to schedule a vaccine appointment.

United Way’s 211 Helpline provides information to the public and helps refer individuals to resources.

As of February 15th, individuals with comorbidities and underlying conditions are eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccine. The list is subject to change as additional scientific evidence is published and as New York State obtains and analyzes additional state-specific data. Adults over the age of 16 with the following conditions due to increased risk of moderate or severe illness or death from the virus that causes COVID-19 are eligible:
• Cancer (current or in remission, including 9/11-related cancers);
• Chronic kidney disease;
• Pulmonary Disease, including but not limited to, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), asthma (moderate-to-severe), pulmonary fibrosis, cystic fibrosis, and 9/11 related pulmonary diseases;
• Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities including Down Syndrome;
• Heart conditions, including but not limited to heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathies, or hypertension (high blood pressure);
• Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) including but not limited to solid organ transplant or from blood or bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, HIV, use of corticosteroids, use of other immune weakening medicines, or other causes;
• Severe Obesity (BMI 40 kg/m2), Obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 30 kg/m2 or higher but < 40 kg/m2);
• Pregnancy;
• Sickle cell disease or Thalassemia;
• Type 1 or 2 diabetes mellitus;
• Cerebrovascular disease (affects blood vessels and blood supply to the brain);
• Neurologic conditions, including but not limited to Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia; and
• Liver disease.
Priority Groups Continuing to Be Eligible:
• Healthcare Workers
o High-risk hospital and FQHC staff, including OMH psychiatric centers.
o Health care or other high-risk essential staff who come into contact with residents/patients working in LTCFs and long-term, congregate settings overseen by OPWDD, OMH, OCFS and OASAS, and residents in congregate living situations, run by the OPWDD, OMH, OCFS and OASAS.
o Staff of urgent care provider.
o Staff who administer COVID-19 vaccine.
o All Outpatient/Ambulatory front-line, high-risk health care workers of any age who provide direct in-person patient care, or other staff in a position in which they have direct contact with patients (i.e., intake staff),
o This includes, but is not limited to, individuals who work in private medical practices; hospital-affiliated medical practices; public health clinics; specialty medical practices of all types; dental practices of all types; dialysis workers; diagnostic and treatment centers; occupational therapists; physical therapists; speech therapists; phlebotomists and blood workers; behavioral health workers; midwives and doulas; and student health workers.
o All front-line, high-risk public health workers who have direct contact with patients, including those conducting COVID-19 tests, handling COVID-19 specimens and COVID-19 vaccinations.
• Certified NYS EMS provider, including but not limited to Certified First Responder, Emergency Medical Technician, Advanced Emergency Medical Technician, Emergency Medical Technician – Critical Care, Paramedic, Ambulance Emergency Vehicle Operator, or Non-Certified Ambulance Assistant.
• County Coroner or Medical Examiner, or employer or contractor thereof who is exposed to infectious material or bodily fluids.
• Licensed funeral director, or owner, operator, employee, or contractor of a funeral firm licensed and registered in New York State, who is exposed to infectious material or bodily fluids.
• Home care workers and aides, hospice workers, personal care aides, and consumer-directed personal care workers.
• Staff and residents of nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities, and adult care facilities.
• New York residents age 65 and older1
• First Responder or Support Staff for First Responder Agency
o Fire State Fire Service, including firefighters and investigators (professional and volunteer)
o Local Fire Service, including firefighters and investigators (professional and volunteer)
o Police and Investigations
o State Police, including Troopers
o State Park Police, DEC Police, Forest Rangers
o SUNY Police
o Sheriffs’ Offices
o County Police Departments and Police Districts
o City, Town, and Village Police Departments
o Transit of other Public Authority Police Departments
o State Field Investigations, including DMV, SCOC, Justice Center, DFS, IG, Tax, OCFS, SLA
o Public Safety Communications
o Emergency Communication and PSAP Personnel, including dispatchers and technicians
o Other Sworn and Civilian Personnel
o Court Officer
o Other Police or Peace Officer
o Support or Civilian Staff for Any of the Above Services, Agencies, or Facilities
• Corrections
o State DOCCS Personnel, including correction and parole officers
o Local Correctional Facilities, including correction officers
o Local Probation Departments, including probation officers
o State Juvenile Detention and Rehabilitation Facilities
o Local Juvenile Detention and Rehabilitation Facilities
1 Pharmacies are vaccinating only individuals from this population.
• P-12 Schools
o P-12 school (public or non-public) or school district faculty or staff (includes all teachers, substitute teachers, student teachers, school administrators, paraprofessional staff, and support staff including bus drivers)
o Contractor working in a P-12 school (public or non-public) or school district (including contracted bus drivers)
o Licensed, registered, approved or legally exempt group childcare
• In-Person College Faculty and Instructors
• Employees or Support Staff of Licensed, Registered, Approved or Legally Exempt Group Childcare Settings
• Licensed, Registered, approved or legally exempt group Childcare Provider
• Public Transit
o Airline and airport employee
o Passenger railroad employee
o Subway and mass transit employee (i.e., MTA, LIRR, Metro North, NYC Transit, Upstate transit)
o Ferry employee
o Port Authority employee
o Public bus employee
o Public Facing Grocery Store Workers, including convenience stores and bodegas
o Incarcerated individuals age 65+ or those with comorbidities or underlying conditions.
o Individual living in a homeless shelter where sleeping, bathing or eating accommodations must be shared with individuals and families who are not part of your household.
o Individual working (paid or unpaid) in a homeless shelter where sleeping, bathing or eating accommodations must be shared by individuals and families who are not part of the same household, in a position where there is potential for interaction with shelter residents.
o Restaurant employees,
o Restaurant delivery workers, and
o For-hire vehicle drivers, including taxi, livery, black car, and transportation network company drivers

The entire community vaccine process is expected to take months to complete.  To keep track of which phases are open for vaccine availability and who is eligible in each phase, please use this link to the state’s website or call The New York State Vaccination Hotline 1-833-NYS-4VAX (1-833-697-4829). 

Currently, the only state-run vaccine site in the Hudson Valley is at the Westchester County Center in White Plains.


Other sites in the surrounding areas are at the Javits Center in Manhattan, Jones Beach in Wantagh, Aquaduct Racetrack in South Ozone Park, and SUNY Albany in Albany. 

The CDC also issued guidelines that outline a phased approach to the distribution of the vaccine.  In addition, the vaccine is being shipped on a regular basis to the states which are then distributing it under their own programs.  All of these factors play into when an individual will become eligible to get the vaccine. 

New York State has established a task force comprised of experts in public health, immunizations, government operations, data, and other fields relevant to vaccine distribution and administration, to advise the setup and operation of the state’s COVID-19 vaccination program.  Under the plan, the state has been divided into 10 regional deployment HUBs. As the Mid-Hudson region HUB, WMCHealth is sharing vaccine-related information with the community.

Once you have successfully scheduled an appointment, you will receive a confirmation email that contains a barcode. You will need to bring this to your appointment.

Once you have a confirmed appointment, you must complete the New York State COVID-19 Vaccine Form. This form should be filled out online and you will receive a submission ID indicating completion. You will need to bring the submission ID to your appointment. If you cannot submit the form online, it will be available at the vaccination sites.

Depending on your eligibility category, proof can include an employee ID card, a letter from an employer or affiliated organization, a pay stub, a driver’s license, passport, or any legal proof of your date of birth and residency. At the time of your appointment, you’ll be asked a series of clinical questions to ensure readiness for a vaccine. You will be asked for insurance information BUT the vaccine is free and there will never be a charge to you. This information is for administrative use only.

Your second dose appointment will be scheduled automatically when you receive your first vaccine dose. Your second appointment will be scheduled for the same time and at the same location, three weeks following your first dose. You will receive a card onsite with the date and time indicated and a confirmation email will follow a few days later. Please keep in mind when scheduling your first appointment that your second appointment will occur at the same time of day.

About the Vaccine

New York State is currently being provided both the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, which are then being administered through the 10 regional hubs. All vaccines released have passed the FDA emergency use authorization process.  Both vaccines are 94-95% effective, and both have similar side effects. The brand of your first dose will be the brand of your second dose.

Currently, according to safety data from the clinical trials, the vaccines have a favorable safety profile, and most of the side effects are limited and mild to moderate.

You may not notice any changes in how you feel after getting the shot. But it’s also possible to feel a little “under the weather.” This can happen after any vaccine. It is the body’s immune response to getting vaccinated and a sign that the vaccine is starting to work.

After the COVID-19 vaccine, you may have:

  • A sore arm where you got the shot
  • A headache
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Tiredness

Over the counter pain relievers and fever reducers may help.

You should feel better in a day or two. If you still don’t feel well after two or three days, talk to your health care provider.

As a precaution, and under state and federal guidelines, WMCHealth has staff and equipment immediately available should a rare, serious side effect occur.


Researchers do not yet know how long immunity after vaccination lasts.  It is possible the initial doses of the vaccine will provide long-term immunity from COVID-19 or it may be that you will need to be vaccinated every year, similar to the flu vaccine.

That’s why you must continue to wear a mask, wash your hands regularly, and social distance.

You will need two doses to have the full effect of the vaccine, either three or four weeks apart, depending on which brand you receive.  The brand of your first dose will be the brand of your second dose.

This is not possible. The COVID-19 vaccines that have been authorized for use in the United States are mRNA vaccines and do not contain the virus itself. This means that the vaccines provide genetic material (mRNA) which “teaches” the body’s cells to make proteins, which in turn stimulate the production of antibodies by the body. These antibodies counteract the ability of the coronavirus to produce its damaging effects and make someone sick.  The mRNA injected with the vaccine quickly disappears and does not result in any other impact.  Again, no virus itself is part of either of these two vaccines so it is impossible to get the illness caused by the virus from these vaccines.

Benefits of the Vaccine

All COVID-19 vaccines currently available in the United States have been shown to be highly effective at preventing COVID-19. Learn more about the different COVID-19 vaccines.

Based on what we know about vaccines for other diseases and early data from clinical trials, experts believe that getting a COVID-19 vaccine may also help keep you from getting seriously ill even if you do get COVID-19.

COVID-19 can have serious, life-threatening complications, and there is no way to know how COVID-19 will affect you. And if you get sick, you could spread the disease to friends, family, and others around you.

Getting COVID-19 may offer some natural protection, known as immunity. Current evidence suggests that reinfection with the virus that causes COVID-19 is uncommon in the 90 days after initial infection. However, experts don’t know for sure how long this protection lasts, and the risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19 far outweighs any benefits of natural immunity.

COVID-19 vaccination will help protect you by creating an antibody (immune system) response without having to experience sickness.

Both natural immunity and immunity produced by a vaccine are important parts of COVID-19 disease that experts are trying to learn more about, and CDC will keep the public informed as new evidence becomes available.

Wearing masks and social distancing help reduce your chance of being exposed to the virus or spreading it to others, but these measures are not enough. Vaccines will work with your immune system so it will be ready to fight the virus if you are exposed.

The combination of getting vaccinated and following CDC’s recommendations to protect yourself and others will offer the best protection from COVID-19.

Stopping a pandemic requires using all the tools we have available. As experts learn more about how COVID-19 vaccination may help reduce the spread of the disease in communities, CDC will continue to update the recommendations to protect communities using the latest science.

General Information

As of now, it is not clear whether a person who received the vaccine can still transmit the virus to others.

Yes. There is not enough information available yet to know if, or for how long, natural immunity lasts. There are no known risks to receiving the vaccine based upon whether you have already had the disease.

No.  At this time, there is no indication that mask and other requirements such as physical distancing will change for those receiving the vaccine.

Vaccine doses purchased with U.S. taxpayer dollars will be given to the American people at no cost. You may be asked for your insurance information because vaccination providers can be reimbursed an administration fee for giving someone the shot by the patient’s public or private insurance company or, for uninsured patients, by the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Provider Relief Fund. No one can be denied a vaccine if they are unable to pay the vaccine administration fee.

Yes. The vaccine distribution will be fair and equitable, with outreach to under-served communities to make community members aware of the vaccine, its benefits, and how to get vaccinated. To ensure equitable distribution, we have created the WMCHealth Regional Vaccination Health Equity Task Force, comprised of representatives from community-based organizations, faith-based institutions, social service agencies, academic institutions, LGBT organizations, and many more located throughout the Hudson Valley Region.

New York State has a website for all information related to the COVID-19 vaccines. The URL is This website has updated information about the vaccine, the distribution process, a list of people eligible for vaccination in each phase, frequently asked questions, and more. This is also where you will find the link for vaccination registration and The New York State Vaccination Hotline which is 1-833-NYS-4VAX (1-833-697-4829). 

Sources: WCMHealth, New York State, New York State Department of Health, U.S. Centers for Disease Control