Frequently Asked Questions

Review frequently asked questions about 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Find answers to common questions about:



What is the difference between the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines and how do they work?

Both the Pfizer and the Moderna COVID-19 vaccines use messenger RNA (mRNA) technology to alert the immune system to create antibodies for the virus before it causes infection.

Coronaviruses have a spike-like structure on their surface called an S protein. The mRNA vaccines give instructions to the body’s cells to make a harmless piece of an S protein, which the immune system will then identify and begin producing antibodies to “fight” against it. Should someone come in contact with COVID-19 after vaccination, the immune system will then be able to recognize it and create antibodies quickly to prevent the virus from entering a cell and causing infection.

Both Moderna and Pfizer require freezing (Moderna) or ultra-cold (Pfizer) temperatures.

The AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines generate an immune response in the body by using a harmless virus to bring some of the virus's genetic material into the cells of the body. The vaccine is made from a weakened version of the common cold but changed genetically to prevent it from spreading throughout the body.

The effective rates and costs also vary between each brand.

Does this vaccine use live or dead virus?

Both Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines are mRNA vaccines, and AstraZeneca’s and Johnson & Johnson’s are non-replicating vectored vaccines. None of the early vaccines being tested are live weakened versions of the virus.

Is the vaccine safe?

Vaccine safety is determined in terms of "adverse events," or when a patient experiences a negative effect after receiving their dose. Guidelines around this are very stringent, and too many or too severe events will cause a vaccine to be terminated during initial trials. By the time a vaccine reaches consumers, the risk of a negative outcome is very low.

Can I contract COVID-19 from the vaccine?

These COVID-19 vaccines, as with all vaccines, are not 100% effective, but are an important part of managing the pandemic. TMH will still require masks, social distancing and proper hand hygiene in our facilities.

What ingredients are in the Moderna vaccine?

The Moderna vaccine contains the following ingredients: messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA), lipids (SM-102, polyethylene glycol [PEG] 2000 dimyristoyl glycerol [DMG], cholesterol, and 1,2-distearoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine [DSPC]), tromethamine, tromethamine hydrochloride, acetic acid, sodium acetate, and sucrose.

Do we have knowledge of what products are in the vaccine? Some colleagues have concerns if the vaccine has a blood product, or cells from aborted fetuses due to their religious beliefs.

  • No COVID-19 vaccine contains cells from aborted fetuses.
  • Both Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines are synthetic vaccines (genetically manufactured) and do not have a human or blood component.
  • AstraZeneca has a distant tie to a fetal cell in its manufacturing, however, the vaccine itself does not contain fetal cells.

For Roman Catholics, and other individuals who are pro-life and support anti-abortion measures and others possibly concerned about the shot’s contents, the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life says the cell lines used in such vaccines "are very distant from the original abortions." They stated, "We believe that all clinically recommended vaccinations can be used with a clear conscience and that the use of such vaccines does not signify some sort of cooperation with voluntary abortion," the academy says.

What are the side effects of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine?

Side effects that have been reported with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine include:

  • Injection site reactions: pain, tenderness and swelling of the lymph nodes in the same arm of the injection, swelling (hardness) and redness
  • General side effects: fatigue, headache, muscle pain, joint pain, chills, nausea and
    vomiting, and fever

In an effort to significantly alleviate the side effects, we are recommending that you take ibuprofen or acetaminophen (if you can safely take them) before you get the vaccine.

If I have severe allergic reactions or adverse reactions to medications, should I receive the vaccine?

If you have questions about whether you should receive the vaccine, please consult your personal primary care provider. If you choose to get the vaccine, we ask that it be administered with close observation.

Can I receive a false positive for the virus after getting the vaccine?

Neither the recently authorized and recommended vaccines nor the other COVID-19 vaccines currently in clinical trials in the United States cause you to test positive on viral tests, which are used to see if you have a current infection.

If your body develops an immune response, which is the goal of vaccination, there is a possibility you may test positive on some antibody tests. Antibody tests indicate you had a previous infection and that you may have some level of protection against the virus. Experts are currently looking at how COVID-19 vaccination may affect antibody testing results.

How does the vaccine affect people that have already had COVID-19?

Based on results from the COVID-19 vaccine trails, there is no known difference in side effects experienced by individuals who have previously recovered from the virus and those who have never had it.

How will the vaccine affect people with preexisting conditions like diabetes, kidney disease and heart conditions?

There is currently no data that suggests having an underlying health condition is a reason to avoid getting the vaccine. In fact, those with an underlying illness or health condition are at an increased risk of developing severe side effects or hospitalization due to COVID.

Please address individual concerns with your primary medical provider.

Can an mRNA vaccine alter my DNA?

mRNA stands for messenger ribonucleic acid and can most easily be described as instructions for how to make a protein or even just a piece of a protein. mRNA is not able to alter or modify a person’s genetic makeup (DNA). The mRNA from a COVID-19 vaccine never enter the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA are kept. This means the mRNA does not affect or interact with our DNA in any way. Instead, COVID-19 vaccines that use mRNA work with the body’s natural defenses to safely develop protection (immunity) to disease.

Vaccine Administration

How many doses of the COVID-19 vaccine will I need?

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will require two doses – an initial vaccination, and then a second shot either three or four weeks later depending on the brand of vaccine.

What is the timing for the second dose?

The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is administered as a 2-dose series, 1 month apart, into the

What if I miss my second dose of the vaccine?

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will not reach the complete effective rate unless you receive the second dose.

Do I need the second dose exactly 28 days later?

It is recommended to receive the second dose at a minimum of 28 days later, but it does not have to be administered exactly on the 28th day.

How long will it take for the vaccine to begin protecting me?

It normally takes about two to three weeks for cellular immunity to develop, and several weeks for a full antibody response.

Can I contract COVID-19 between the two doses?

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses, spaced 3 to 4 weeks apart. You need to have both doses to achieve the highest level of protection. It typically takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity after vaccination. That means it’s possible a person could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination. Continue to social distance, wear masks and wash your hands.

Will I have to get the COVID-19 vaccine every year?

Scientists are still studying this and will determine this once the vaccine is distributed and more data is available.

After I receive both doses of the vaccine, am I still required to wear a mask at work?

Yes. We continue to follow CDC guidance on this subject.

The vaccine’s preliminary data shows it to be 60-95% effective, so there is a subset of the population that will not gain immunity from the vaccine. Furthermore, the protective effect of the vaccine may take at least one month. While experts learn more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide under real-life conditions, it will be important for everyone to continue using all the tools available to use to help stop this pandemic, like covering your mouth and nose with a mask, washing hands often and staying at least 6 feet away from others.

Unfortunately, the vaccine is not the proverbial “light switch” to turn off the COVID-19 pandemic. It will take some time.

Can I still contract COVID-19 after I receive both doses?

The vaccine’s preliminary data shows it to be 60-95% effective, so there is a subset of the population that will not gain immunity from the vaccine and still be susceptible to COVID-19.

National & Florida Rollout of COVID-19 Vaccines

When was the COVID-19 vaccine approved by the FDA?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the first COVID-19 vaccine on December 11, 2020 (Pfizer/BioNTech) and the second vaccine on December 18, 2020 (Moderna). More vaccines are expected to be reviewed for EUA in the coming months.

Who Can Receive the Vaccine?

Who will receive the vaccine first?

Distribution guidelines have been established by the CDC to ensure people in high-risk areas, such as healthcare providers and long-term care residents, receive the vaccine first.

Can the general public receive the vaccine when it is released?

Currently, the Leon County Department of Health is administering vaccines for populations over 65 years old. When that phase has completed, we believe vaccines will be available at primary care practices for the general public.

Should I get the vaccine if I have already had and recovered from COVID-19?

There is not enough information currently available to say if or for how long after infection someone is protected from getting COVID-19 again, so our recommendation is to get the vaccine even if you have already recovered from COVID-19. Early evidence suggests natural immunity from COVID-19 may not last very long, but more studies are needed to better understand this.

Has the COVID-19 vaccine been studied in kids?

Clinical trials until now have largely focused on adult participants. The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial included participants age 16 and older while the Moderna vaccine trial included participants age 18 and older. Over the past several weeks, clinical trials have begun in children and adolescents age 12 and older with the plan to conduct more pediatric trials in younger children in the future.



Q: What is COVID-19?

A: Coronaviruses are respiratory viruses named for the crown-like spikes on the surface of the virus. These range from viruses that cause the common cold, to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). The latest coronavirus from China is called Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19). This new coronavirus is different from the others and we are learning more about it every day.

Q: How does COVID-19 spread and what are the symptoms?

A: COVID-19 is spread by close person-to-person contact from droplets from a cough or sneeze, which can get into your mouth, nose, or lungs. Close contact is defined as being within approximately 6 feet of another person.

Reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness. The following symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure: fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, muscle pain or a sore throat. 

Q: What is the difference between the COVID-19 and the flu?

A: The symptoms can be similar. The CDC estimates that so far this season, there have been at least 19 million flu illnesses, 180,000 hospitalizations and 10,000 deaths in the U.S. As long as flu viruses are circulating, it is not too late to get vaccinated.

Q: How long does it take for symptoms of COVID-19 to appear?

A: The CDC believes at this time symptoms of COVID-19 may appear in as few as two days, or as long as 14 days after exposure. This is based on what has been seen previously as the incubation period of MERS viruses. There are isolated reports of individuals transmitting the infection to others before they develop symptoms. To be cautious, many governments are requiring an isolation period of 14 days for people returning from endemic areas.

Q: How is it treated?

A: There is no FDA-approved antiviral treatment for COVID-19. People with COVID-19 should seek medical care to help relieve symptoms. People infected with this virus should receive supportive care (rest, fluids, fever control) to help relieve symptoms, and for severe cases, treatment should include care to support vital organ functions.

Q: How can I best protect myself?

A: Practice the following:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not
    available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are showing symptoms of illness.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or sneeze into your elbow. Throw the tissue in the garbage and make sure to clean your hands afterwards.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently-touched objects and surfaces.
  • It’s currently flu and respiratory disease season and the CDC recommends getting vaccinated, taking everyday preventive actions to stop the spread of germs, and taking flu antivirals if prescribed.

Q: Is there a vaccine?

A: There is currently no vaccine to protect against COVID-19. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19.


COVID-19 Testing and Screening

Q: Is Tallahassee Memorial screening patients for COVID-19?

A: Yes. We are following CDC and WHO recommendations on screening. For more information about testing and screening for COVID-19, please view our Testing Information.

Q: What should I do if I need to be tested?

A: If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, call your primary care physician to request testing. Your primary care provider will decide whether you need to be tested and can order a test without approval from the Department of Health. Keep in mind that there is no treatment for COVID-19 and people who are mildly ill may be able to isolate and care for themselves at home.

If you do not have a primary care provider, please call the TMH Transition Center at 850-431-4470. They can help to connect you with a medical provider or other appropriate resources.

Only patients who are in respiratory distress need to visit a local emergency center for testing. Your primary care provider should call ahead to notify the emergency center of your need for testing.

Q: Where should I go if I'm pregnant?

A: If you are experiencing symptoms of fever, cough, sneezing or sore throat, but are NOT having any concerns in regards to your pregnancy (no pain, loss of movement, etc.) please call your primary care physician and do NOT come to Labor & Delivery Triage.

Q: What criteria is used for screening COVID-19?

A: Persons who exhibit symptoms of respiratory illness with a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, have had close contact with someone confirmed to have COVID-19 could potentially be tested for COVID-19. Contact your primary care provider to request testing.


Hospital & Visitor Policy

Q: I'm expecting and plan to deliver at TMH. What should I expect?

A: We know you may be concerned about the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and how it may impact your delivery here. At the Tallahassee Memorial Alexander D. Brickler, MD Women’s Pavilion, ensuring mothers and their babies are cared for in a safe, healthy and caring environment is our greatest concern. Learn more.

Q. I need emergency or chronic care but I'm afraid I'll catch COVID-19 by coming to the hospital - what should I do?

A: The issue of emergent, urgent and chronic care is also at hand. What we find is that, in an environment like we have today, people are afraid to come to hospitals for fear of being exposed to COVID-19. Actually, we’ve set up measures well in advance, going back weeks and weeks, to start separating symptomatic patients (patients who have symptoms of respiratory illness) away from our emergency centers, away from our urgent care centers, away from the doctors’ offices. We separate those patients out to create a safer environment for all the other patients seeking care in the hospital.

We need to all recognize that without those medical addressing issues that require urgent, emergent and chronic care, what you’re doing is potentially putting yourself or someone else at a risk of having higher complications. We have people dying because they are not seeking the appropriate level of care when they should. You should always seek care appropriately and timely.


Surgical Services

Q: My elective surgery was canceled due to COVID-19. My surgeon has contacted me to reschedule my procedure at TMH. What should I expect?

A: We want to ensure that you and your loved one feel prepared with what to expect for your pre-admission appointment, day-of surgery and discharge. Our processes have been updated as our team is taking every precaution to provide the safest possible care to our patients. More information include what to expect is available here.

Visitor Policy
Learn about our visitor policy and closures. Read More >
Coronavirus Testing
Learn about testing for COVID-19. Read More >