Better For It

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit

A guide for families and individuals to explore concerns, answer questions, and start a conversation about vaccination.

National vaccination initiatives in the United States support the critical work of achieving health equity for all Americans. While this guide is not intended to be a persuasive tool, it has been developed to provide families and individuals with the information they need to explore concerns, answer questions, and start a conversation about general immunization and the COVID-19 vaccine.

The information that you will find on this page is a brief compilation of the vast information provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and other credible sources. 

Use this guide to:

  • supplement your own research on COVID-19 vaccines.
  • start a dialogue with your family members, friends, healthcare provider, faith advisor, and coworkers.
  • share accurate information on social media.

The most influential voices are often those closest to you. Use this guide to help keep one another accountable as you seek out the best information for making personal and community health decisions. 

You can stay up to date on science-based information to help remain informed about the safety and availability of COVID-19 vaccines at Lung.org/vaccine-tracker

Nationwide immunization has a long and diverse history. As smallpox ravaged Boston and the world in 1716, a West African slave known as Onesimus introduced the concept of inoculation to the U.S by sharing a practice from sub-Saharan Africa that could prevent the spread of the disease. This practice saved hundreds of lives and laid the foundation for the smallpox vaccine that followed 100 years later. 

Scientists advanced students in bacteriology in the 1930s, developing antitoxins and vaccines against deadly diseases like diphtheria, tetanus, typhoid, and many more. Through the mid-20th century, rapid advancements in vaccine research and techniques led to immunizations again polio and childhood diseases like measles, mumps, and rubella. In more recent decades, vaccines were developed to protect against influenza, hepatitis, chickenpox and shingles. 

Public hesitancy in being vaccinated largely gave way to general acceptance as scientific data proved the effectiveness of immunizations against life-threatening diseases. 

Learn more about vaccines at Lung.org/vaccines.

Vaccines Protect Against Deadly Diseases:

1796 – Smallpox vaccine introduced by Edward Jenner

1885 – Rabies vaccine developed by Louis Pasteur

1921 – Tuberculosis vaccine successfully tested on humans by Albert Calmette

1932 – Whooping cough vaccine created by Pearl Kendrick who also created the diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus (DPT) vaccine in 1948

1945 – Inactivated influenza vaccine licensed for use

1953 – Polio vaccine created by Dr. Jonas Salk

1971 – Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine deployed by Maurice Hilleman

1985 – Haemophilus influenza Type B (Hib) vaccine licensed

1995 – Varicella (Chickenpox) vaccine became available in the U.S. 

2006/2017 – First shingles vaccine, Zostavax, come into the market in 2016, with the second vaccine Shingrix licensed in 2017

2020 – Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorizes emergency use of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines against COVID-19

2021 – Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorizes emergency use of Johnson’s and Johnson’s single-dose COVID-19 vaccine

August 2021 – FDA approves the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, Comirnaty for people 16+

January 2022 – FDA approves the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, Spikevax for people 18

Whenever you are exposed to or infected with germs such as a coronavirus, your body will make use of germ-fighting tools like their white blood cells to fight the infection. After exposure, the immune system remembers how to protect your body against that particular disease should it encounter it again.

There are several kinds of vaccines that protect you without making you sick. Some contain the same germs that cause disease; however, the germs have been weakened or deadened. Others contain either a harmless part of the germ or its genetic material (such as the synthetic messenger RNA used for some COVID-19 vaccines). 

A vaccine stimulates your immune system so that you produce the same antibodies you would make if you were exposed to the real disease. It helps your body learn to recognize and fight an invasion of a particular germ. Thus, you develop immunity to that disease without having to get sick with the disease first.

Visit Lung.org/vaccines to learn more about respiratory infections and how vaccines work.

 

As some of the most trusted voices in the community, faith and spiritual leaders are often relied upon for guidance on complex topics. When it comes to COVID-19 vaccines, spiritual advisors might be concerned about offering advice and insights without having all the facts. These talking points are designed to support your desire to keep those in your faith community well informed. While there is no need to persuade anyone to act, it is helpful to address concerns and point them to accurate, reliable information. These points may be used as conversation starters or as weekly communications within your faith community. 

Quick Responses 

Note: Stay up to date on the most current COVID-19 information by visiting lung.org/vaccine-tracker including common and evolving questions around COVID-19 vaccines.

Q: Are you endorsing COVID-19 vaccines?

A: I am not endorsing any particular vaccine. These are decisions you must make for yourself and your family. I want to help you find the best information you need to make that decision on your own.  

Q: I don’t want to take it because I don’t trust the government. 

A: You have the right to feel that way. Suspicion can be an important protective measure, and it can inspire you to get the facts. COVID-19 vaccines were developed with the same safety standards as vaccines you may already be comfortable with like flu vaccine. Scientists developed COVID-19 vaccines, not the government. 

Q: Weren’t the COVID-19 vaccines developed too quickly?

A: The speedy development of COVID-19 vaccines was accomplished through worldwide corporation and data-sharing by international researchers, scientists and government agencies. The paperwork was fast-tracked, but the clinical trials were not. Authorized vaccines had tens of thousands of participants test the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines.  

Q: How do the current COVID-19 vaccines work?

A: The Pfizer and Moderna recommended two-dose COVID-19 vaccines use mRNA technology that works by teaching the cells in the body to make a protein that triggers an immune response.  They are both highly effective at preventing severe COVID-19 illness. 

The single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is a viral vector vaccine that uses a weakened live pathogen (adenovirus) as the delivery method (vector) for transporting a recombinant vaccine for COVID-19. Recombinant vaccines use a small piece of generic material from the virus to trigger an immune response.  

Learn more about how COVID-19 vaccines work.

Q: Does the COVID-19 vaccines cause serious side effects?

A: There may be temporary pain where you get the shot, fatigue, headache, chills, fever, joint and muscle pain. This is common for most vaccines as your body builds immunity but may last up to a week for the COVID-19 vaccines. In rare cases, people have had adverse experiences or allergic reactions. You should talk with your doctor if you have a history of allergic reactions to vaccines. Also, be sure to check FDA.gov about the outcomes of clinical trials. 

Learn more about COVID-19 vaccines.

 Q: Which COVID-19 vaccines are available and safe?

A: There are currently three COVID-19 vaccines available. The two mRNA vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna) are preferred over the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine due to the risk of serious health complications. You may get a Johnson & Johnson vaccine in some situations. All recommended COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective and reduce your risk of severe illness. Serious vaccine reactions are rare.  

Learn more about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines.

Q: How much do COVID-19 vaccines cost and where can I get one?

A: COVID-19 vaccines are currently available at no cost.  Check with your healthcare provider to see if they are offering COVID-19 vaccination in their clinic, contact your local or state health department by visiting vaccines.gov or visit your local pharmacy to see if walk-in or appointments are available.

Q:  Is it true that if I get a COVID-19 vaccination that I will automatically get COVID-19? 

A: No. Like the flu shot and other vaccines, COVID-19 vaccines cannot give you the virus. 

Q: Do I need a COVID-19 booster? 

A:   A vaccine booster is currently recommended to anyone 12 years or older who received the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna or Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine. People with moderately to severely compromised immune systems are especially vulnerable to COVID-19 and may not build the same level of immunity to a two-dose vaccine series compared to people who are not immunocompromised. For these individuals, the CDC recommends a 3-dose primary series of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. People with moderately to severely compromised immune systems can also receive a booster dose 3 months after their third dose of COVID-19 vaccine. 

Certain immunocompromised individuals and people 50+ are eligible to receive a second COVID-19 booster vaccination. The second booster can be given at least 4 months after the initial booster dose to increase protection against severe COVID-19 illness. This is especially important if you are at higher risk for severe COVID-19 illness. 

Learn more about COVID-19 boosters

Q: How can I keep my children safe?

A: COVID-19 vaccinations are safe, effective and are the best way to protect your child. Vaccines not only provide protection against COVID-19 but can also help prevent serious illness and hospitalization if your child becomes sick. 

COVID-19 vaccines are available for children ages 5 and older. There is currently no COVID-19 vaccine for children through 4 years of age. Ongoing clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccines in children are taking place. Clinical trials determine whether a new treatment or, in this case, vaccine works and is safe and effective.

Learn more about how to protect children from COVID-19

Stay up to date on the most current COVID-19 information including common and evolving questions around COVID-19 vaccines by visiting the following frequently asked questions links. 

COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

COVID-19 Vaccine FAQ

Help make a difference in your community by becoming a Vaccine Ambassador! Start conversations with your friends, family and community to make well-informed decisions about vaccination.

Vaccine Ambassador Tips

COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker

As the trusted champion for lung health, the American Lung Association has science-based information to help you stay informed about the safety and availability of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Learn more

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Updates to the toolkit and assets will continue to be added to this page, so check back to get the latest information and stay up to date.

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