COVID vaccine FAQs

COVID-19 vaccines -Jeremy Driesen
  • A public forum was hosted Wednesday evening by Communication Ambassador Partnership, an interagency group aimed at bridging communication for the Island’s Portuguese-speaking population, focused on the vaccine information.

    The forum, which was also held in Portuguese and Spanish, and was the second in a series of COVID forums, featured speakers from the Martha’s Vineyard boards of health, Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, Dukes County, Island Health Care, and Vineyard Health Care Access Program.

    The Times has compiled a list of frequently asked questions from the answers given at the forum, as well as the Centers for Disease Control website.

    When am I fully vaccinated?

    Individuals are fully vaccinated two weeks after getting their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or two weeks after getting a single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

    What can I do once I’m vaccinated?

    Lots of things.

    • You can gather indoors with other fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask or staying six feet apart.
    • Gather indoors with unvaccinated people, unless a person is at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
    • Gather for outdoor activities without wearing a mask, unless in crowded settings.
    • Travel in the U.S. without quarantining or being tested before or after.
    • If you’ve been around someone who has COVID-19, you do not need to stay away from others or get tested unless you have symptoms.

    So I can do anything I want?

    No. The CDC says you should still protect yourself and others by wearing a mask at indoor public settings, while gathering indoors with unvaccinated people from more than one household, and while visiting indoors with unvaccinated people who are at high risk of illness or death from COVID-19, or who live with someone at high risk. You should still avoid large indoor gatherings. If you travel, you are still required to wear a mask on planes, buses, trains. 

    Stay vigilant for COVID-19 symptoms, follow workplace guidance, and those with weakened immune systems should talk to their healthcare providers to discuss activities.

    Can I travel internationally?

    Other countries have different requirements for international travelers, and you should review each country’s situation before traveling there. You do not need to get tested before leaving the U.S unless your destination requires it. You must show a negative test or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 before boarding an international flight to the U.S. You should still get tested three to five days after international travel. You do not need to self-quarantine after arriving in the U.S.

    What is herd immunity?

    Herd immunity is when enough members of a community are immunized against a contagious disease to keep most others protected. Reaching herd immunity depends on vaccine availability and people’s determination in getting vaccinated. Martha’s Vineyard Hospital officials have said herd immunity could be reached if 80 percent of the population is vaccinated.

    How do COVID-19 vaccines work?

    There are basically two kinds of vaccines: attenuated vaccines and messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines.

    Attenuated vaccines are the types of vaccines, familiar to many people, that are used for measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox. These are typically less severe versions of the virus and infection, and once injected, stimulate an immune response to build antibodies. 

    The mRNA vaccines have been around since the 1980s, and send instructions to your body on how to elicit an immune response.

    “The difference between older vaccines and mRNA vaccines is like the difference between Wi-Fi and dial-up internet,” hospital director of pharmacy Dave Caron said. “They’re both efficacious; they’re both going to work.”

    Are the Pfizer, Moderna, and J&J vaccines effective?

    Yes. Each vaccine shows 100 percent protection from hospitalization and death. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have both been 100 percent effective against protecting from severe disease, and 95 and 94 percent effective against milder disease.

    The J&J vaccine has a slightly decreased 85 percent efficacy against severe disease, and 72 percent against milder disease. The J&J vaccine was studied later, when COVID was more widespread.

    “[J&J] is still just as effective as Pfizer and Moderna, which were studied in the summer, when the number of cases were really low throughout the country,” Michael Barnes, a member of the hospital’s pharmacy department, said.

    Are there side effects to the vaccine?

    Pain, redness, and swelling on the arm where you got the shot. Throughout the rest of your body you may experience tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever, and nausea. Good news is these side effects are normal signs that your body is building protection, and should go away within a few days.

    How do I get a vaccine on the Island?

    Go to, click the yellow bar at the top, and scroll down to follow the instructions. Sign-ups are offered in Portuguese, Spanish, and English. Many appointment sign-ups are available.

    I got my first vaccine dose off-Island; can I get my second dose on-Island?

    Yes. Call the hospital’s call center at 508-684-4500 for assistance.

    Do I need health insurance to get a vaccine?

    No. Vaccines are free.

    Do I need to be a U.S. citizen to get a vaccine?

    No. Anyone over the age of 16 can get a vaccine. Immigration status is not a factor.

    Are there other resources available?

    Yes. If you have trouble using a computer, call 888-432-1829 to book a vaccine appointment in multiple languages anywhere in Massachusetts, including on the Island. Other services include: