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Coronavirus Testing

Pre-registration for Public Testing

It’s best to get testing through your provider, but if you need to use public testing, you can save time in line by visiting to create a profile from your smartphone, tablet, or computer.

COVID-19 Vaccine Information

Q. What are my options for the COVID-19 vaccine?

A. There are 4 vaccines that are either approved or have received an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA): the Pfizer vaccine, the Moderna vaccine, the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine, and the newest one the Novavax vaccine. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are both mRNA vaccines, the Novavax vaccine is a protein subunit vaccine, and the J&J vaccine is a viral vector vaccine. DC Health recommends vaccination with whichever vaccine you and/or your healthcare provider decide is best for you based on eligibility criteria, recommendations from the CDC, and your unique health history. Currently, the only authorized vaccines for people ages 6 months to 17 years old are Pfizer and Moderna.

Q. How well do the COVID-19 vaccines work?

A. All FDA approved or authorized COVID-19 vaccines provide substantial protection against COVID-19 hospitalization and death. While very effective, studies have shown that vaccine effectiveness does decrease over time, especially with the emergence of newer variants like Omicron. Staying up to date on your COVID-19 vaccination by getting recommended booster doses will give you the strongest protection against COVID-19. To learn if and when you should get boosters to stay up to date on your COVI-19 vaccine, use the CDC’s COVID-19 Booster Tool at

Q. How many doses of the vaccine do I have to get?

A. The number and timing of doses necessary to complete your primary series (before any recommended booster doses) will depend on which vaccine you receive and your age. Those who are moderately or severely immunocompromised may also require additional shots to be protected. For the most up to date dosing schedule for approved and authorized COVID-19 vaccines, visit

Q. How long does the COVID-19 vaccine take to start working? Do I get some protection after the first dose of the two-dose vaccine?

A. You are considered “fully vaccinated” 2 weeks after finishing your primary series (2 weeks after getting your one dose of the J&J vaccine or 2 weeks after the second dose of the Moderna, Pfizer, or Novavax vaccines). You will get some protection after the first dose of the Moderna, Pfizer, or Novavax vaccines, but it is important to get your second dose to get additional protection and it is important to stay up to date by receiving recommended booster doses.

Q. What are the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines?

A. Common side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines are pain at the injection site, swollen glands in the armpit area of the vaccinated arm, fever, feeling tired, headache, chills, muscle aches and joint pains. Experiencing any of these common side effects shows that the vaccine is working as intended and stimulating an immune response from your body.

There is a rare side effect associated with the J&J vaccine called Thrombosis Thrombocytopenia Syndrome (TTS), an illness with blood clots plus low numbers of platelets (the cells that make our blood clot). It is unusual to have blood clots and low platelets occur together. TTS has mainly occurred in women younger than 50 (7 cases per million vaccines given), within about 2 weeks after receiving the vaccine. Public health officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the FDA quickly responded to reports of this illness and the vaccine was put on hold so the cases could be investigated and healthcare providers could be informed how to appropriately treat the condition. At the end of the investigation, vaccine safety officials determined that it was safe to restart use of the vaccine, since the good the vaccine does outweighs the risk of this very rare side effect. People who get the J&J vaccine should be aware of this serious side effect and seek medical attention urgently if they develop any symptoms of TTS including: severe headache, confusion, vision changes, severe abdominal pain, nausea/vomiting, back pain, shortness of breath, unexplained leg pain, easy bruising, or small red spots on your skin. If you develop any of these symptoms tell your healthcare provider that you recently received the J&J vaccine so they can get the right tests and treatments ordered quickly.

In addition, there have been rare cases of myocarditis (a heart inflammation) and pericarditis (inflammation of the sac around the heart) have occurred in teens and young adults, mostly in males ages 12 through 39 years, after the second dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. It is not always clear if the vaccine caused these illnesses as myocarditis and pericarditis can have many other causes, however, the risk may possibly be reduced for with a longer interval between the first and second dose.

Clinical trials data has also demonstrated an increased risk of myocarditis and pericarditis with the Novavax vaccine, however there is still insufficient evidence to conclude the vaccine was indeed the cause.  Fortunately, most young people who developed these conditions recovered completely without any lasting heart damage. Symptoms of myocarditis and pericarditis are: chest pain, shortness of breath, or feelings of having a racing or fluttering heart.

Q. Are the vaccines safe? I’ve heard the process was rushed and important steps were skipped.

A. While the COVID-19 vaccines were developed in record time, they are still being held to the same safety standards as all prior vaccines. The COVID-19 vaccines are undergoing the most intense safety monitoring of any vaccine in US history. People who received the vaccines in the clinical trials (about 120,000 people) continue to be monitored for any negative effects. Clinical trials continued in children as young as 6 months and the vaccines were still found to be safe. Now that millions of Americans have been vaccinated, we’ve added to our knowledge with real world experience and data through reports to the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) and other reporting systems. This thorough safety monitoring will ensure that public health officials can detect even very rare side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines. For more information on the development of COVID-19 vaccines, visit

Q. Do I need to get vaccinated if I’ve already had COVID-19?

A. Yes. It is not yet certain how long or how well a past COVID-19 infection protects someone from getting infected again. The vaccine also provides a strong boost to any immunity you may already have from a past COVID-19 infection. Since re-infection with COVID-19 is uncommon in the 90 days following an infection, you may choose to delay getting vaccinated until after 90 days has passed. People who have received monoclonal antibodies***, however, should wait 90 days before getting vaccinated.

***Monoclonal antibodies are proteins made in a lab that can mimic the bodies natural immune system to fight off the virus that causes COVID-19. Some examples of these medications include: bamlanivimab/etesevimab, REGEN-COV (casirivimab/imdevimab), and Evusheld (cilgavimab/tixagevimab), however, not all monoclonal antibodies are considered effective for all COVID-19 variants. For more information on treatments for COVID-19 available in DC, visit

Q. Can the vaccine give me COVID-19 or cause me to test positive for COVID-19?

A. No. The COVID-19 vaccines do not contain any of the live virus that causes COVID-19, only the code for one of its viral proteins. However, it typically takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity after vaccination. That means it’s possible you could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination and get sick. If you develop cough, shortness of breath, runny nose, sore throat, or loss of taste or smell after getting the vaccine, you should not assume these symptoms are from the vaccine and should take steps to isolate yourself and get tested.

Q. Can pregnant women get the vaccine?

A. Yes. There is no evidence that the vaccine causes any problems with pregnancy.

  • Pregnant women were not included in the early COVID-19 vaccine studies, but some women enrolled in the clinical trials got the vaccine before they knew they were pregnant, and some became pregnant during the study period. In these instances, the vaccine was effective and no negative effects have occurred. Also, tens of thousands of pregnant women have now received the vaccine since it became available to the public and no safety or effectiveness concerns have been identified. Clinical trials evaluating the COVID-19 vaccine in pregnant women are going in progress.
  • Pregnant women are at higher risk for complications from COVID-19 such as preterm birth. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American College of Obstetricians (ACOG) have recommended that pregnant women be vaccinated. Pregnant women should consult with their obstetric health care provider if they have more questions about getting the vaccine.

Q. Can breastfeeding women get the vaccine?

A. Yes. Recent published data shows a robust secretion of COVID-19 antibodies in breastmilk up to six weeks after vaccination. Although more research is necessary, it is suggested that breastfeeding women pass on protective effect from COVID-19 to infants until they can become vaccinated at 6 months old.

Q. If I’m trying to get pregnant, can I get the vaccine? Should I delay getting pregnant until after I’ve been vaccinated?

A. Yes, you can get the vaccine if you are trying to get pregnant. It is not necessary to delay pregnancy until after you have been vaccinated.

Q. Can children get the vaccine, and do they need to?

A. Yes. Children 6 months and older are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine may be obtained in more than 60 locations across the District of Columbia. For more information on where to obtain any vaccine please visit

While children may not be as likely to get severely ill with COVID-19, there are now more teens that have been hospitalized for COVID-19 than there were during the H1N1 flu pandemic. Children in this age group are also at risk for developing multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), which can cause some children who are affected to require intensive care, and may affect heart function. COVID-19 is now also one of the top 10 causes of death in the 12-17 year old age group. Getting kids vaccinated is important both to protect themselves, and to decrease risk that they may spread it to others if they don’t get vaccinated. Vaccinating children can also help keep them in school or daycare and safely participating in sports, playdates, and other group activities. More information on vaccination for children and teens can be found at

Q. How much will the COVID-19 vaccine cost?

A. The vaccine is free. Some doctors may charge an administration fee which may be covered by your health insurance. You should not be charged any out-of-pocket fees when you get your vaccine.

Q. Who should NOT get the COVID-19 vaccine?


After Getting the Vaccine

Q. Once I get vaccinated, will I receive any sort of documentation to show that I have received the COVID-19 vaccine?

A. You will receive a COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card after getting your vaccine. If you are getting a two-dose vaccine, you will need to bring the card with you when you return for the second dose so that it can be documented on the card.

  • The card should remind you of when you will need to return for your second dose, but if you are unsure you can either visit to see the most up to date dosing schedule or consult with your healthcare provider.
  • Keep your vaccination card in case you need it for future use. Consider taking a picture of your vaccination card after your second shot appointment as a backup copy.

Q. What happens if my second dose gets delayed?

A. Interval recommendations for COVID-19 vaccines requiring more than one dose are based on information obtained during clinical trials. To maximize protection, you should get the second shot as close to the recommended interval as possible unless directed differently by your healthcare provider. If for some reason you are late getting your second shot, get the second shot as soon as you can. Don’t wait any longer than 8 weeks to get your second shot unless directed to do so by your healthcare provider. You should also not get your second dose earlier than what is recommended.

Q. Can I stop taking precautions like wearing a mask and social distancing after I get the vaccine?

A. In general, if you are up to date on your COVID-19 vaccine, you do not need to wear a mask outdoors. The safest approach is for all people, regardless of vaccination status, to wear a mask indoors in public settings when around those with unknown vaccination status and continue to utilize practices that will protect your health and that of your community.

Q. If I am exposed to COVID-19 after I am vaccinated, do I still have to quarantine?

A. Up to date people who were in close contact with someone with COVID-19 are NOT required to quarantine if they do not have any symptoms of COVID-19. However, they should still monitor themselves for symptoms for 10 days after the exposure date, and isolate and if symptoms develop. If you develop severe symptoms of COVID-19, do not hesitate to reach out to your healthcare provider because treatments for COVID-19 may be available to help you recover. For more information on treatments for COVID-19  available in DC, visit

Special Considerations

Q. Can a person who currently has COVID-19 receive the vaccine?

A. No. People who have COVID-19 infection, even if they are asymptomatic, should wait to get the vaccine until they are feeling better and have completed their isolation period to minimize the chance of exposing healthcare providers and other people.

Q. Should people with chronic medical conditions get the vaccine?

A. Yes. COVID-19 vaccination is especially important for people with chronic health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease. People with chronic health conditions are more likely to get very sick from COVID-19.

Q. Should people who are immunocompromised get the vaccine?

A. Vaccination is especially important for people who are moderately or severely immunocompromised. Immunocompromised people have an increased risk of severe COVID-19 illness and death because their immune system is not as strong. Some people who are immunocompromised need additional doses to achieve the same level of protection and should consult their healthcare provider to determine the best dosing schedule. For more information on COVID-19 vaccines for people who are immunocompromised, visit

Q. Do I need to get COVID-19 boosters?

A. Yes. Data has shown that the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines does decrease over time, especially with the emergence of newer variants like Omicron. Staying up to date on your COVID-19 vaccination by getting recommended booster doses will give you the strongest protection against COVID-19. Currently booster doses are recommended for everyone age 5 and older.

Q. Will I need to get a COVID-19 vaccine every year like the flu vaccine?

A. It is still too early to know. Ongoing studies should answer this question.

Q. Can I get a COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as another vaccine?

A. Yes. It is safe to get the COVID-19 vaccine as the same time as other vaccines.

Access to the Vaccine

Q. How can I get the vaccine in DC?

A. It is easy to get the vaccine now! All DC residents 6 months and older are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.  To find a COVID-19 vaccine, search,, or text your Zip Code to 438829. If you are unable to leave your home, call 1-855-363-0333 and we'll come to you.


Q. How do the COVID-19 vaccines work? Do they all work the same?

A. The three types of COVID-19 vaccines currently approved or authorized by the FDA include mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna), a protein subunit vaccine (Novavax), and a viral vector vaccine (J&J).

How the mRNA (Pfizer and Moderna) vaccines work: mRNA is the blueprint living things use to make proteins. Viruses and humans both use mRNA. The vaccine contains the mRNA code for the COVID-19 virus spike protein. The spike protein is what the virus uses to attach to and infect human cells. The vaccine causes human cells to produce some spike protein, which tricks the immune system into thinking a person is infected with the real virus. This causes the body to make an immune response. Then, if the person gets exposed to the real virus, the immune system kills the virus and the person does not get sick.

How the protein subunit (Novavax) vaccine works: A more traditional vaccine technology, protein subunit vaccines include harmless pieces (proteins) of the virus that causes COVID-19. Once vaccinated, the immune system recognizes that the viral pieces should not be there and produces immune cells and antibodies to destroy them. These cells will also remember what these viral pieces look like, allowing them to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19 infection in the future.

How the viral vector (J&J) vaccine works: This vaccine works by using a different virus called an adenovirus that has been weakened so it cannot replicate. The adenovirus carries the spike protein code and, similar to the mRNA virus, instructs human cells to make some spike protein to cause the body to make an immune response.

Q. What is herd immunity and why is it important in relation to COVID-19?

A. Herd immunity (also known as population immunity) occurs when a high enough percentage of a population is immune to a certain infection. When a population reaches herd immunity, if someone gets the infection, the microbe has difficulty finding new people to infect, and epidemics will die out. The amount of the population that needs to be immune to reach herd immunity varies for every infection. It is not yet known what percentage of people would need to be immune to COVID-19 to reach herd immunity. Getting as many people vaccinated and up to date on their COVID-19 vaccine as possible is the safest and best way to get to herd immunity and stop the COVID-19 pandemic.

Q. Will the vaccines work on the variant strains of COVID-19?

A. All FDA approved or authorized COVID-19 vaccines provide substantial protection against COVID-19 hospitalization and death. While very effective, studies have shown that vaccine effectiveness does decrease over time, especially with the emergence of newer variants like Omicron. Staying up to date on your COVID-19 vaccination by getting recommended booster doses will give you the strongest protection against COVID-19.

Other Concerns

Q. Can the vaccines change my DNA?

A. No, they cannot.

  • The mRNA in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines does not enter the nucleus of human cells where DNA is stored. The mRNA is naturally broken down within the cell after a short period of time.
  • The Novavax vaccine does not contain genetic material, only proteins
  • The J&J vaccine does contain DNA encoding a gene from the COVID-19 virus, and does enter the nucleus of the human cell, but it does not contain the machinery to change human DNA.

Q. Can the COVID-19 vaccine make you infertile or affect puberty?

A. No. There is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine causes infertility. They do not affect hormone levels or move to other parts of the body, so there is no reason to expect that COVID-19 vaccines would have long or short-term effects on those systems.

Q. Are the vaccines produced using fetal cells?

A. The Pfizer, Moderna, and Novavax vaccines are not produced using fetal cells. The J&J vaccine is grown in cells originally isolated from fetal tissue. The source fetal tissue from which cells were derived is decades old and no new fetal tissue was needed to produce the vaccine.

Q. Do the vaccines contain preservatives, like thimerosal?

A. No. For a list of vaccine ingredients see: