About COVID-19 Vaccine - Minnesota Dept. of Health
On Feb. 16, 2021, we updated our Close Contacts and Tracing quarantine guidance to align with recent CDC public health recommendations for vaccinated persons. Other materials will be updated as quickly as possible.

About COVID-19 Vaccine

Information is constantly changing for COVID-19 vaccines. Below is what we currently know. Minnesota will not require COVID-19 vaccines.

On this page:
Who can get vaccinated
Getting vaccinated
After getting the vaccine
Available vaccines
Vaccine safety
How a vaccine helps
More information

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Who can get vaccinated

Even though we have three vaccines authorized for emergency use, it will still take time before everyone can get the vaccine. There are currently a limited number of vaccine doses available to states from the federal government. This means there is not enough vaccine for everyone who wants one yet.

The goal for the first, limited doses of COVID-19 vaccine is to immunize for impact – meaning we are offering vaccine to those at highest risk of getting COVID-19 and those most at risk of severe disease and complications if they get COVID-19. The first groups to get vaccinated include health care workers and people who live and work in long-term care facilities.

Minnesota is also vaccinating a limited number of adults age 65 and older as well as educators (pre-kindergarten through grade 12), school staff, and child care workers. Because of limited vaccine supply, there are only a small number of appointments available. For more information, including who can get vaccinated, see Stay Safe MN: Who's Getting Vaccinated.

Minnesota has large-scale community vaccination sites in Minneapolis, Duluth, Rochester, and Eagan. These COVID-19 Community Vaccination Program sites will vaccinate people in eligible groups.

In addition to these sites, the state is sending doses of COVID-19 vaccine to more than 100 hospitals, clinics, and other health care providers to administer vaccines to Minnesota seniors.

Minnesotans age 65 and older can use the online vaccine locator map to Find Vaccine Locations near them and contact those health care providers with questions. Please note that vaccine supply is still limited, so appointments may not always be available.

Education and child care staff will be contacted directly if selected to sign up for vaccine appointments. Local public health departments will partner directly with school and child care programs in their communities.

The Minnesota COVID-19 Vaccine Connector helps Minnesotans find out when, where, and how to get a COVID-19 vaccine. After you fill out a simple form, the Vaccine Connector will:

  • Alert you when you are eligible to receive a vaccine.
  • Connect you to resources to schedule a vaccine appointment.
  • Notify you if there are vaccine opportunities in your area.

This tool is for all Minnesotans 18 years of age and older who have not yet been vaccinated. Insurance and identification are not needed, and signing up is free.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) makes recommendations on who should get the vaccine. MDH has brought together the Minnesota COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation Advisory Group to help us make sure we are fairly and strategically making decisions for how vaccine should be distributed. The advisory group is made up of external partners who represent key populations in the state, such as local public health, long-term care, pharmacy partners, diverse communities, and more. The final decisions about how to distribute COVID-19 vaccine ultimately come from Governor Tim Walz. Find their guidance for prioritizing COVID-19 vaccine at COVID-19 Vaccine Phases and Planning.

You should get vaccinated even if you have had COVID-19 disease. We are not sure how long a person is protected after they have had COVID-19 disease. Some people have reported a second infection after 90 days. If your illness was confirmed by a PCR test in the past 90 days, it is OK to wait to get vaccinated. In order to conserve doses when they are limited, you may be asked to wait for the 90-day period.

At this time, the available COVID-19 vaccines are intended for adults; the Pfizer vaccine allows vaccination of people 16 years and older and the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) vaccines allow vaccination for people 18 years and older.

There are few reasons that someone should not get vaccinated. A person that had a life-threatening reaction to a previous dose of COVID-19 vaccine should not receive any further doses. Additionally, if a person has had a life-threatening reaction to any ingredient in the vaccine, they should not be vaccinated. People who have had anaphylaxis (an immune response of the body that causes someone to go into shock) after taking other medicines, particularly medicines given by injection, may be vaccinated but should be observed for 30 minutes after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.

There have been reports of some serious allergic reactions or anaphylaxis. Allergic reactions like this are known to happen after taking medicines or getting vaccinated, but they are still very rare. CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are working to understand what might be causing this. Clinics are prepared to respond quickly to adverse reactions. You will be asked to wait 15-30 minutes after you have been vaccinated so that clinic staff can observe you, this will likely be in a place that allows for social distancing.

It is important to know that for some populations, we don't have much information about safety or how well the vaccine works, or it hasn't been studied yet. In these circumstances, people may be vaccinated but should speak with their health care provider so they understand what is known about their situation and vaccination.

Some studies about COVID-19 and pregnant people are going on right now and data may be available soon. From the data we do have, there has not been an effect from the vaccine on pregnancy or pregnancy outcomes. There were vaccine study volunteers who were vaccinated and then learned they were pregnant. The manufacturer will follow these people throughout the pregnancy and birth. In the meantime, the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology has said that they support pregnant people getting the COVID-19 vaccine if they meet the ACIP recommendations for getting COVID-19 vaccine. We know that pregnant people are at a higher risk of severe disease compared to non-pregnant people. A pregnant person who is part of a group recommended/prioritized to receive a COVID-19 vaccine may choose to be vaccinated.

mRNA vaccines are not thought to be a risk to the breastfeeding infant. A person who is breastfeeding who is part of a group recommended to receive a COVID-19 vaccine (e.g., health care workers) may choose to be vaccinated.

Immunocompromised means a person has a weak immune system. People with HIV infection, other immunocompromising conditions, or who take medications or therapies that weaken the immune system might be at increased risk for severe COVID-19. We currently do not have data on vaccine safety and efficacy in these groups. People with a weak immune system who want to receive COVID-19 vaccine should be informed that there is little information about how effective or how safe the vaccine is. These people may not have a strong immune response to the vaccine (they may have less protection), so they should continue to follow guidance to protect themselves from COVID-19.

Getting vaccinated

Some COVID-19 vaccines require one dose and some require two doses. Your health care provider will let you know which vaccine you are getting. If you get the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) vaccine, you only need one dose. You do not need to make a second appointment.

Two doses are needed for the COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna. The time between the doses depends on the vaccine you are getting. The Pfizer vaccine (ultra-cold vaccine) should be given 21 days (three weeks) apart and the Moderna vaccine (frozen vaccine) should be given 28 days apart (one month).

It is very important that someone gets both vaccine doses, the same product for each dose, and that the doses are given at the correct time apart. The vaccine works best after two doses. If someone only gets one dose, they may not be as well protected against COVID-19. If it has been longer than 21 or 28 days (depending on which vaccine product you got) before you get your second dose, try to get your second dose as soon as you can. The second dose boosts your immunity to COVID-19 and will help even if it is a longer time between shots. It is best if you can get your second dose within six weeks from your first dose, but even if it is longer than that, you do not need to start over.

We recommend that you schedule an appointment for you second dose when you get the first dose. You should receive a card with the date you were vaccinated. Write the return date for your second dose on the vaccination card and put a reminder in your phone or calendar.

It is not recommended to take over-the-counter medications before getting your vaccine (unless you routinely take these for pain management) in order to prevent side effects. We do not know if taking these medicines before getting vaccinated could impact how the vaccine works. Taking pain medication after getting the shot is OK if you have side effects.

When you get your COVID-19 vaccine, you will be asked to share your full name, date of birth, address, phone number, and gender. You will never be asked about your immigration status when getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Getting vaccinated will not impact your eligibility to gain lawful permanent residence status (green card). You will not be identified as a public charge.

The person who gives you the vaccine is required to enter vaccine data into Minnesota's immunization information system, the Minnesota Immunization Information Connection (MIIC), so that MDH can get the information. MIIC keeps track of someone's vaccination history and makes sure they get the right vaccinations at the right time. Find more information on MIIC at About MIIC. MIIC collects name, date of birth, address, phone number, and various information related the vaccination itself (administration date, vaccine type, lot number, etc.). MDH shares de-identified vaccine data with the federal government (CDC) every day. This means that the data could not be traced back to a specific person. MDH does not share any information with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

COVID-19 vaccine providers are required to enter vaccine data into Minnesota's immunization information system, the Minnesota Immunization Information Connection (MIIC). You will also be given a card after your vaccination with the date you were vaccinated. It may be helpful to keep the card handy in case you are asked about which vaccine you received. We do not know how or if any documentation of vaccination will be used for participation in social activities, gatherings, travel, etc.

It is recommended that a person should wait 14 days before or after COVID-19 vaccination to receive a vaccine for other diseases, like flu vaccine.

You do not have to be a resident of Minnesota to get vaccinated here.

COVID-19 vaccine will be provided to people at no cost. However, health care providers will be able to charge an administration fee to insurance companies for giving the vaccine to someone. This means that you might be asked for your insurance information when you get the COVID-19 vaccine. You can still get the COVID-19 vaccine if you do not have insurance and/or cannot pay the administration fee. No one should receive a bill for the vaccine or administration fee. If you get a bill, call your clinic and let them know you should not have to pay.

Providers can get the administration fee reimbursed by the patient's public or private insurance company or, for uninsured patients, by the Health Resources and Services Administration's Provider Relief Fund at COVID-19 Claims Reimbursement to Health Care Providers and Facilities for Testing, Treatment, and Vaccine Administration for the Uninsured.

After getting the vaccine

After your final COVID-19 vaccine dose, it takes about two weeks for your body to build up protection. After those two weeks, we know these vaccines are good at preventing people from getting sick, but we don't have enough data yet to say whether someone who was vaccinated may still spread the disease to others if they get infected with COVID-19.

It is important to continue to follow all public health guidance to reduce the spread of COVID-19 even after you have been fully vaccinated. This includes wearing a mask, staying 6 feet from others, avoiding crowds, washing your hands, and getting tested for COVID-19 when needed. Continue to follow guidance at your workplace, school, and other settings as well.

At this time, we do not know if this will be a vaccine that people need to get again, like needing a tetanus shot every 10 years or getting a flu shot every year.

The COVID-19 vaccine cannot give you COVID-19 disease. The vaccine does not provide instant and complete protection. It takes about two weeks after getting fully vaccinated for your body to build up protection from COVID-19 disease. You could be exposed during this time. Although your protection is pretty good after those two weeks, there is still a small chance you could become infected with COVID-19 and develop symptoms. If you do get sick, it is likely that your symptoms will be milder than if you didn't get vaccinated.

While the available vaccines have been shown to be very effective at preventing COVID-19 illness in those who are vaccinated, we are still learning to what degree the vaccine may prevent someone who is vaccinated from passing along the virus to other people. Someone who is vaccinated might be exposed to COVID-19 but have no symptoms. We do not know if that person could still spread COVID-19 to others and not know it. We are also still learning how long protection from the vaccine lasts.

This is why it is important for everyone, whether vaccinated or not, to continue to follow other public health recommendations to prevent the spread of COVID-19: wear a mask, stay 6 feet from others, wash your hands often, get tested when needed, and stay home if sick.

We will continue to evaluate these recommendations as more people in the community get vaccinated and we see how this impacts spread of disease.

Some side effects are common after vaccination. They are a result of your body responding to the vaccine (it's also OK if you don't have any side effects at all). Common side effects from the vaccine can include pain, swelling, or redness where the shot was given, and sometimes feeling achy and tired. Some people may have a headache or fever.

Some side effects can be the same or similar as symptoms of COVID-19 or other illnesses. The COVID-19 vaccine cannot give you COVID-19 disease. For example, these conditions after vaccination could be from the vaccine or other illness:

  • Fever
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Headache
  • Chills

Other symptoms are less likely to be side effects of the vaccine but are signs of possible illness. If you have any of the below symptoms, you should get tested for COVID-19 and other illnesses as recommended by your health care provider:

  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nasal congestion, or stuffy or runny nose
  • Sore throat

Serious adverse events

A serious adverse event is something that is life-threatening. Most adverse effects occur in the six weeks after getting a vaccine.

If you have a severe reaction, contact your health care provider. Providers should report severe reactions to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). This reporting system helps the CDC and FDA continue to monitor the safety of COVID-19 vaccines.


CDC has also launched a new patient reporting tool for COVID-19 vaccine. It is a smartphone app called v-safe. This app can help with active monitoring for COVID-19 vaccine safety after you get the COVID-19 vaccine. Your health care provider will give you more information on v-safe. You can learn more at V-safe After Vaccination Health Checker.

Side effects can happen after vaccination and can be similar to symptoms of illnesses, like COVID-19. These side effects can include pain, swelling, or redness where the shot was given. Less common side effects can include headache, fatigue, or fever.

  • If you are experiencing side effects where the shot was given (such as pain, swelling, or redness), but you are otherwise well, you can return to work or school. Typically, side effects start within a day of receiving the vaccine and may last for three days.
  • If you are experiencing other symptoms of illness like fever, headache, or noticeable tiredness, then you should stay home. These may or may not be due to the vaccine. With any of these symptoms, stay home until your symptoms are improved and you have not had a fever for 24 hours. If symptoms worsen or last longer than three days, stay home and call your health care provider. Because the virus that causes COVID-19 is still in our communities, it is possible that you were exposed to COVID-19 before or around the same time you were vaccinated, so it may be helpful to get tested.

Pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or ibuprofen are effective in managing vaccine side effects including pain where the shot was given, body aches, and fever after you get vaccinated. Cool cloths may relieve the swelling or pain at the injection site. Move or exercise your arm.

It takes about two weeks after getting vaccinated for your body to build up protection against COVID-19 to help protect you from getting sick. There is still a small chance that you could get infected and become sick even after being vaccinated. The risk of this is higher when there are high levels of COVID-19 disease spread in the community. This risk will come down as more people are vaccinated and we see less COVID-19 disease in the community.

If someone has completed COVID-19 vaccination (two doses in a two-dose series or one dose in a one-dose series) and is exposed, they do not need to quarantine if ALL of the following are true:

  • The COVID-19 exposure was at least 14 days after their vaccination series was fully completed.
  • The COVID-19 exposure was within 90 days of their final dose of the vaccination series.
  • They do not currently have any symptoms of COVID-19.

People who live or work in a health care or long-term care facility, have been vaccinated, and have a COVID-19 exposure should refer to COVID-19 Recommendations for Health Care Workers (PDF).

While the evidence shows the available vaccines are safe and effective at preventing you from getting sick with COVID-19, we do not have enough information yet to know whether someone who was vaccinated can still get infected and without developing symptoms spread COVID-19 to others. Additionally, we are still learning about how well the vaccine works among people who have a weakened immune system.

To get COVID-19 under control, in addition to getting vaccinated, everyone should continue to wear a mask, stay 6 feet from others, wash their hands, and get tested for COVID-19 when needed. It is important to continue to follow public health guidance to reduce the spread of COVID-19 even after you have been vaccinated. Refer to CDC: Frequently Asked Questions About COVID-19 Vaccination.

We will continue to evaluate these recommendations as more people in the community get vaccinated and we see how this impacts spread of disease.

When you and those you might get together with are all vaccinated, it is likely that the risk of spreading the disease to each other is small. But, we are not quite there yet—we want to be extra cautious right now while there is still so much COVID-19 disease in the community, and we are learning about protection against the COVID-19 virus variants.

CDC states that it is important to continue to follow all public health guidance to reduce the spread of COVID-19 even after you have been vaccinated: Frequently Asked Questions About COVID-19 Vaccination.

Also, remember, Minnesota still has a face covering requirement. This means there are some places that you are required to wear a face covering and it does not include exemptions for vaccinated people. Under Executive Order 20-81, people are required to wear face coverings in certain public spaces. For more information about face covering requirements and recommendations under Executive Order 20-81, visit Face Covering Requirements and Recommendations.

We will continue to evaluate these recommendations as more people in the community get vaccinated and we see how this impacts spread of disease.

Available vaccines

There have been three COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

An EUA is used in public health emergencies when: A product shows that it likely works, is safe but hasn't yet gone through the whole process of FDA licensure, and no other remedy is available.

You have the right to refuse or accept the COVID-19 vaccine, as stated in the EUA fact sheets. We strongly encourage you to get the COVID-19 vaccine if it is available to you. Getting the vaccine will help protect you and your family, co-workers, residents, patients, and community.

Several other COVID-19 vaccines are in development. They are going through different studies and checks (called clinical trials) to make sure they are safe, and that they work, before they are given to the public.

We are still learning about new variants. While the COVID-19 vaccines may not work as well against some of the variant strains, scientists think the vaccines will still offer some protection against most COVID-19 variants.

At this point, the data between the COVID-19 vaccines look very similar. There are not recommendations for certain populations (e.g., older people or people with immune disorders, etc.) to get one vaccine over the other. Currently, most vaccination sites and health care providers in Minnesota only have one COVID-19 vaccine product, so people will probably not have a choice of which vaccine they get. You can refuse to get vaccinated, but another vaccine appointment cannot be guaranteed right now while vaccine supply remains low.

The COVID-19 vaccines that are available are not live virus vaccines. This means that they cannot give you COVID-19. After getting the vaccine, you will not shed live virus around your home or put others in your household at risk of COVID-19 disease. The vaccine will not affect a PCR COVID-19 test.

The Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines were made using mRNA technology. mRNA stands for messenger ribonucleic acid. mRNA is not able to alter or modify a person's genetic makeup (DNA). Learn more about mRNA vaccines at CDC: Understanding mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines.

The Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is made using a harmless cold virus, called an adenovirus. The adenovirus is grown using what is called an immortalized cell line, and the virus then is pulled out and purified. The cell line came from a legal abortion that occurred in 1985. This cell line has been maintained by Johnson & Johnson for decades to make life-saving vaccines and other medical products. The cells today are clones of the early cells, not the original tissue. There is not fetal tissue in the vaccine. Many faith groups and bioethics institutes have stated that people may ethically receive these vaccines when there is not an alternative vaccine.

These vaccines do not contain a preservative. They do not contain gelatin or eggs. For more information about ingredients, see the FDA vaccine fact sheets available in multiple languages.

For specific concerns about certain ingredients see:

Vaccine safety

Having a safe and effective vaccine is the top priority. The manufacturers must present the study data that shows the vaccine is safe and that it works before it is approved for general populations. This data is closely reviewed by several scientific groups at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and other groups look at available information about a vaccine and make informed decisions about the risks and benefits of using it. MDH is committed to making vaccines available that we are confident are safe and effective.

How COVID-19 Vaccines Are Made (PDF)
This handout explains how the COVID-19 vaccine processes and timelines were made more efficient compared to other vaccine development.

The requirements for COVID-19 vaccine are the same as all other vaccines. The companies making the vaccines have to share information with specific agencies like the FDA and CDC that shows how the vaccine studies were designed, what their process was, how they got their data, and what the results were.

Health officials, FDA, vaccine manufacturers, and others have committed to only put out vaccines that are shown to be safe. The FDA has given guidance to vaccine manufacturers about what information is needed to prove that a vaccine is safe and that the vaccine works. For more details about expectations and commitments, see:

Learn more about how vaccines are made from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia at Making Vaccines.

The CDC has more information on COVID-19 vaccine safety at Ensuring the Safety of COVID-19 Vaccines in the United States.

Pregnant people and children

The first vaccine studies are usually done with groups that are at highest risk for the disease, or who will get very sick if they get the disease. Then the studies are expanded to other groups such as pregnant people and people who are immunocompromised (cannot easily fight off a disease). For COVID-19 vaccine, studies focused on non-pregnant adults ages 18 years and older at first (16 years and older for Pfizer). Vaccine manufacturers have started expanding to pregnant people and some children as they get more data from the first part of their studies.

Diverse and underserved communities

The COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials include people from diverse communities. It is important for these studies to have equitably more people from racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds. This way they have enough information to be confident that the vaccine is safe and works for these groups. It's especially important that COVID-19 vaccine trials include people from diverse communities, because these communities have been severely impacted by the disease and could greatly benefit from getting vaccinated.

How a vaccine helps

Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is one of the most important steps you can take to protect yourself and your community. The more people who get vaccinated against COVID-19, the better it is for everyone. More people vaccinated means that there will be less disease in our communities. Vaccination will also help prevent the spread of new COVID-19 variants. We will start to get back to the activities we love, open up business and schools, and scale back our public health prevention measures, such as masking and social distancing. Vaccination is how we will end the pandemic.

Herd immunity is also called herd effect, community immunity, population immunity, or social immunity. This is when most people in a population or group are immune to a disease. Being immune means they cannot get the disease because either they got a vaccine, or they already had the disease and cannot get it again, at least for a while.

When a lot of people cannot get the disease, it helps to protect other people in the population who are not immune and can get the disease. Having herd immunity can stop or slow the spread of disease.

  • We do not know enough about COVID-19 to be sure herd immunity is possible. This is a new disease, so there has not been enough time to fully study immunity yet.
  • We do not know how long a person cannot get sick again after they already were sick with COVID-19 (how long they are immune).
  • We do not know if being infected before will make the next infection better or worse.
  • We do not know if a person who was sick before, and then has contact with COVID-19 again, will be able to pass the virus to others again.

We cannot let herd immunity happen naturally, at the cost of thousands of Minnesotans getting very sick and possibly dying. Vaccination is a way to reach herd immunity without people getting sick and/or dying. Vaccination lets a person's body develop protection against a disease without having to actually get sick.

More information

We are glad so many people want to get vaccinated and know that waiting for vaccine is extremely hard right now. We have to take a phased approach and try to focus initial doses where we'll have the greatest impact on health. Vaccine is constantly being made and distributed. Everyone's opportunity to get vaccinated will come; it will just take some time.

You can do your part now by continuing to help slow the spread of COVID-19: Wear a mask, wash your hands often, stay 6 feet away from other people, and stay home if you are sick. Doing all of these things will help keep people healthy until a vaccine is widely available.

You can also get a flu vaccine. While the flu vaccine does not protect against COVID-19, it can save lives and prevent more illness during the COVID-19 pandemic. People need to do everything they can to stay healthy and not overwhelm our health care system this fall and winter. To find where you can get a flu vaccine, visit VaccineFinder.

Updated Saturday, 06-Mar-2021 08:26:52 CST