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COVID-19 Vaccine & Vaccination FAQ

THE HEALTH AND WELL-BEING of our community is our top priority. Tompkins County Whole Health (TCWH) is working closely with community partners to prevent and respond to the evolving novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

About the vaccines

Information about the new COVID-19 vaccines

Updated COVID-19 vaccines were approved by the FDA on September 11, 2023 and recommended by the CDC on September 12, 2023. The CDC recommends the updated vaccine for everyone ages 6-months and older who are two-months past their last vaccine. Information about the new vaccine will be updated here as detailed guidance becomes available from the NYS Department of Health.

 CDC recommends the 2023–2024 updated COVID-19 vaccines.

  • Everyone aged 5 years and older should get 1 dose of the updated Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to protect against serious illness from COVID-19.
  • People who are moderately or severely immunocompromised may get additional doses of updated COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Children aged 6 months–4 years need multiple doses of COVID-19 vaccines to be up to date, including at least 1 dose of updated COVID-19 vaccine.

Where to get vaccinated.

COVID-19 vaccine recommendations will be updated as needed. Visit the CDC, Stay Up to Date with COVID-19 Vaccines, for much more information. 

Are COVID-19 vaccines safe?

Yes. The COVID-19 vaccines have gone through the same rigorous review that all vaccines must follow in the U.S. In New York, the State’s independent COVID-19 Clinical Advisory Task Force also approved these COVID-19 vaccines as safe and effective. While the vaccine is in use, the FDA and the CDC are constantly monitoring for new side effects.

Do the vaccines work?

Yes. All of the vaccines currently available in the US protect people against severe disease, hospitalization, and death due to COVID-19, based both on clinical trials and real-world experience and observation. No vaccines are 100% effective, so some fully vaccinated individuals will still get sick. However, data collected on these "breakthrough cases" suggest that symptoms are milder for these individuals. The vaccines can also reduce the spread of COVID-19, protecting others.

The vaccine was developed too fast.

Even though this is the first time the “mRNA” vaccines have been authorized for public use, the science and testing behind them has been underway for more than 10 years. The clinical trials for the vaccines were thorough and the results were carefully reviewed. Because the FDA granted a Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for each vaccine, they were available much sooner than would be expected when an emergency use is not necessary.

The Pfizer vaccine has full FDA approval as of 8/23/21.

Could a vaccine infect me with COVID-19?

No. None of the vaccines authorized or under review for use in the U.S. are made with the live virus that causes a COVID-19 infection or would make you sick.

Are the vaccines effective against COVID-19 “variants?”

Yes. The vaccines are effectively protect against severe disease caused by the dominant variants. However, data suggests that the effectiveness rate may decrease (wane) over time and booster shots may be needed. An effective vaccine protects against severe disease, hospitalization, and death. 

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Where to get vaccinated
(Local Sites)

Whole Health Pop-Up Clinics

No clinics are currently scheduled


Appointment availability, vaccine brand, dose, and eligibility vary by pharmacy and are subject to change without notice. As such, it is important to check the pharmacy website before you go or make plans. Call your pharmacy to ask if they accept walk-ins, or just ask when you are shopping there.

Individuals under age 18 must have a signed consent form and be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

This section reviewed 9/14/2023.  

Kinney Drugs

Tops Friendly Market

CVS & Target

Rite Aid


  • Immunizations page. Account sign-in may be required to schedule an appointment.
  • Phone for Ithaca store: 135 Fairgrounds Memorial Pkwy., (607) 277-8126

Wegmans Pharmacy

For all questions about clinics at any of the pharmacies listed above, please contact the pharmacy through their website. TCHD will not have information about vaccination clinics at pharmacies.

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New York State Operated Vaccination Sites

All NYS vaccination sites are permanently closed as of 6/30/2022. NYS links to

Doctors, Pediatricians, Health Care Practitioners

  • Pediatric offices: Pfizer pediatric vaccine is available for any individual ages 6mos+. Please call the individual practice for details.
  • REACH Medical, 607-273-7000,
  • Many family practices and health care practitioners have COVID-19 vaccine available. Please call your regular provider for information.

Get local updates from the Tompkins County Health Department regarding COVID-19 and vaccine distribution in our community

If you have questions about eligibility or about registration, please call 2-1-1 (877-211-8667)

Flu Vaccine

Everyone age 6 months and older should get a flu shot to be immunized against influenza now. Visit your local pharmacy or your health care practitioner today. More info is here.

About Getting vaccinated

When can I be vaccinated?

Now. Everyone age 6 months and over is eligible to be vaccinated.

When is someone "fully vaccinated?"

According to the CDC, you are up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines only when you have received all doses in the primary series and all boosters that are recommended for you and you are eligible to receive. Learn more about COVID-19 vaccinations schedules here.

Will getting vaccinated prevent me from getting sick with COVID-19?

No. There is still a chance of getting the disease. However, you risk of severe disease, hospitalization, or death is much lower when you are up to date with your vaccinations.

Will the vaccine cause a positive test on future COVID-19 viral tests?

No. Authorized vaccines will not cause a positive on any of the tests used to detect a current infection.

Can I infect others even after I’m vaccinated?

Yes. If you are exposed to someone with COVID-19 you should take precautions around others until you are certain that you're not infected (about 5 days after exposure). If you are sick with COVID-19 you should isolate from others even if you are up-to-date with your vaccination.

Should I get the vaccine if I already had a coronavirus infection?

Yes. The science shows that the vaccine provides better and longer-lasting protection than the defenses your body builds up when you were infected.

Can I get vaccinated if I am currently sick with COVID-19?

No. People with COVID-19 — both those who have symptoms and those who do not — should wait to be vaccinated until they have recovered from their illness and are released from isolation by the Health Department.

How much will it cost to get vaccinated against COVID-19?

Nothing. There is no charge or co-pay to be vaccinated in NYS. However, if you have health insurance or Medicare Part B, bring your card with you to the clinic.

What do I need to bring to the vaccination site?

You need to bring identification that shows your date of birth and that you are a resident of New York State. If you are not a resident, you need to bring documents that show you work or go to school in New York. You should also bring your CDC vacciation card if you have one.

Can I get a flu shot at the same time I get a COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes. There is no required interval of time between receiving a COVID-19 vaccine and any other vaccine, such as the flu shot (you may want to consider getting one in each arm rather than both in the same arm). The Health Department recommends that everyone age 6 months and older get a flu shot every year. Most local pharmacies provide flu vaccines, or contact your primary care provider.

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What if …

What if I am pregnant or breastfeeding?

All of the currently authorized COVID-19 vaccines are safe for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding. If you have questions, discuss this with your practitioner. There is currently no evidence that any vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, cause fertility problems.

Will the vaccine affect my fertility?

There is no scientific evidence to suggest that either the COVID-19 vaccines or being infected by the virus affect fertility in women. Out of all the women of child-bearing age who have been either infected or vaccinated, there is no evidence that the COVID pandemic has changed fertility patterns.

Can children be vaccinated with the current vaccines?

The Pfizer vaccine has been authorized for use in individuals ages 6 months and up. The Moderna vaccine has been authorized for ages 6 months and over. The Pfizer bivalent booster is authorized for ages 5 years and up, the Moderna bivalent booster for ages 6 and up.

Will I need the vaccine to go to work or school?

Maybe. Many workplaces and schools are requiring staff and students to be vaccinated as a condition of employment or enrollment. This is legal. In some cases regular testing is allowed as an alternative to vaccination. You should check with the school, college, or employer.

What are the side effects of the vaccine?

The vaccination is an injection (shot) like the flu vaccine. The most common side effects are injection site pain or soreness, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, fever. These symptoms go away after a few days. You can learn more about side effects in this section below.

Can I get time off to get vaccinated?

A NYS law grants time off for public and private employees to receive any dose of the COVID-19 vaccination, including booster doses. Under the law, employees will be granted up to four hours of excused leave per injection that will not be charged against any other leave the employee has earned or accrued. This legislation was passed and signed in March 2021, and remains in effect through the end of the year. 

Can I get sick pay if I have side effects from the vaccine? How long will I be out of work if I have side effects?

Whether there are side effects from the vaccination, and if so the severity, is different for everyone. New York’s paid sick leave law requires employers with five or more employees or net income of more than $1 million to provide paid sick leave to employees, and for employers with fewer than five employees and a net income of $1 million or less, to provide unpaid sick leave to employees. This law is in addition to the New York State provisions already in effect providing emergency paid sick time due to COVID-19, as well as the COVID-19 vaccination leave protections signed into law by Governor Cuomo on March 12, 2021. Additional information is in this guidance document from NYSDOL.

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But …

I’m afraid of needles, is there another way to receive the shot?

Many people are afraid of needles, so you are not alone. However, right now there are no other ways of getting vaccinated. If you have a chronic illness or condition and are concerned about pain during or after you get a shot, it is best to talk with your primary care doctor who knows your situation. You may also speak with a nurse at the vaccination site.  

I’ve got a lot of allergies and someone told me not to get it

There is a remote chance that a vaccine could cause a severe allergic reaction, but this would usually occur within a few minutes to one hour after getting vaccinated. For this reason, individuals are asked to stay at the clinic site for 15 to 30 minutes after they get their shot to be monitored by medical staff for any allergic response. Registered nurses are on site, both administering vaccinations and in the observation area, so be sure to tell one if you are concerned.

I take a lot of vitamins and keep myself really healthy.

A healthy lifestyle can make you feel better everyday!  But that may not be enough to keep you from getting infected with the virus. Even with a mild or “asymptomatic” case of COVID-19, you can still spread the virus to others with weaker immune systems. That is why it’s so important to get vaccinated, and continue to wear a mask in public places, wash hands well, avoid crowds, and social distance to prevent the disease from spreading.

Flu Vaccine

Everyone age 6 months and older should get a flu shot to be immunized against influenza now. Visit your local pharmacy or your health care practitioner today. More info is here.

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References and resources:

These references have not been reviewed or verified recently.

New York State

Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC)

Professional Associations

Other sources

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