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COVID Vaccine Q & A



Below are the most common questions our staff has received about the COVID-19 vaccine, and the corresponding answers.

Where can I sign up to be vaccinated?

Currently Barnstable County has one dominant vaccination site at the Harborview Conference Room in the Barnstable County Complex. Appointments are available weekly.

All Cape Cod locations should be visible on the state’s COVID-19 vaccine finder at COVID-19 Vaccine Availability |

Do I still need to wear a mask after I get the COVID-19 vaccine?

While the vaccine may prevent you from getting sick, it is presently unknown whether you can still carry and transmit the virus to others. Until more is understood about how well the vaccine works, continuing with precautions such as mask-wearing and physical distancing will be important.

What is the difference between a public and private vaccination clinic?

The County’s PUBLIC vaccine clinics are planned, staffed and executed by the government/public sector. Private sites include private entities such as CVS, Walgreens and Stop and Shop and are offered to eligible candidates state-wide. 

Will I need a booster shot?

Nationally, preparations are underway to administer a booster dose this fall to all fully vaccinated persons. It is highly likely that the rollout booster doses will resemble that of the first vaccinations last winter and spring–i.e. first healthcare workers and immune compromised persons, then seniors and other high-risk patients, etc. In addition, vaccine producers continue to study their vaccines among children younger than 12. However, we do not yet know when vaccination of children 0-11 will be possible. Third doses of mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) are already authorized for immune-compromised individuals.

I am a senior, I don't have a computer, I don't drive and I live by myself. How can I get the vaccine?

We recommend that you reach out to any family or friends that might be able  help you  get a vaccine appointment. You may also call the Barnstable County COVID-19 Helpline at (774330-3001 or your town’s Council on Aging, who may have the resources to assist you (also, see answer to question above regarding vaccine distribution to residents of subsidized housing; remind them that all of the towns are preparing resources to assist the elderly, especially those that are homebound).

Massachusetts has also launched a hotline to help Massachusetts residents 75 and older make appointments for COVID-19 vaccine shots.  The call center can be reached by dialing 211 and is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM and is staffed by 500 operators who can help callers find appointments at vaccination centers near them.  There are both Ennglish-speaking and Spanish-speaking operators, and translation offered in many other languages.


I am unable to walk or stand for very long. How do I find a drive-thru clinic?

Clinic details are listed on the state’s vaccine distribution map. We provide wheelchair access at our weekly clinic at the Harborview Conference room in the Barnstable County Complex, and we have staff to assist you getting into the building.  

If I have severe allergies to cats/certain foods, etc., is it safe for me to get the vaccine?

–You should not get the Pfizer,  Moderna or Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines if you have a history of severe allergic reaction (e.g., anaphylaxis) to any ingredient in the vaccine. A history of a severe allergic reaction due to any other cause is considered a precaution and should be discussed with your health care provider before receiving the vaccine. 

–Although there is a small chance that the COVID-19 vaccines could cause a severe allergic reaction, this would usually happen within a few minutes to one hour after getting the vaccine. If you have a history of allergic reactions, your vaccination provider may ask you to stay at the site where you received your vaccine for monitoring afterwards. 

–Barnstable County clinics will have EPI pens AND trained EMS staff at the ready to assist with any adverse reactions. Further, each vaccine recipient is being asked to stay for a 15 minute observation period following injection. 

Can I get COVID-19 from the COVID-19 vaccine?

None of the COVID-19 vaccines currently in development in the US use the live virus that causes COVID-19. The goal of the vaccines is to teach our immune systems how to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19. Sometimes this process can cause symptoms such as fever. These symptoms are a normal sign that the body is building immunity.

Messenger RNA vaccines–also called mRNA vaccines–are some of the first COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in the United States. These vaccines teach our cells how to make a protein–or even just a piece of a protein–that triggers an immune response inside our bodies. That immune response, which produces antibodies, is what protects us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies. Learn more by visiting the links provided below.

Understanding mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines

Benefits of Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine

If I already had COVID-19 and recovered, do I still need to get a vaccine when it’s available?

Little is known about natural immunity that may or may not be gained from having had the virus. Early evidence suggests that this natural immunity may not last very long, but more studies are needed to better understand this. Currently it is recommended that you get the vaccine, even if you’ve had COVID-19 previously.

I’ve heard there are severe side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines. Is this true?

There are short-term mild or moderate vaccine reactions that resolve without complication or injury. The early phase studies of the Pfizer vaccine show that it is safe. About 15% of people developed short-lived symptoms at the site of injection. Approximately 50% developed systemic reactions including headache, chills, fatigue, muscle pain or fever lasting for a day or two. Keep in mind that these side effects are indicators that your immune system is responding to the vaccine and are common when receiving any vaccine.

What to Expect after Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine

COVID-19 Vaccines: Get the Facts

Help - I lost my white vaccine card! What should I do?

If you lost your white vaccine card that documents your first or second COVID-19 immunization, don’t panic. Here’s what you can do.

– If you received your vaccine through one of our Barnstable County clinics, call the Helpline at (774) 330-3001 or send us an email at We can issue a new card and mail it to you. If you are still due to receive your second dose, we can give you the card when you visit our clinic.

– Your healthcare provider may already have a record of your COVID-19 vaccination in their electronic health record. You should check with your provider’s office to see whether it is there, and if they can give you a copy. You may also be able to print your card directly from your provider’s healthcare portal.

– You can complete and notarize an Immunization Record Request Form to submit to the Department of Public Health’s Massachusetts Immunization Information System (MIIS) office. Please note that by using this request form, you will receive a complete history of vaccines administered, not just the COVID-19 vaccine, and it may take up to 6 weeks to obtain.

When I attend my COVID-19 vaccine appointment at a Barnstable County clinic, is there anything I should know?

— Please do not arrive more than 15 minutes prior to your appointment.

— Please leave your pets at home; they are not permitted at the vaccine sites.

— Please remember to wear a mask.

Should I be worried about the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine because it was rapidly developed and tested?

The emergency situation warranted an emergency response. This does NOT mean that adequate safety or testing protocols were bypassed. The Pfizer vaccine, which is the first COVID-19 vaccine to be distributed nationwide, was developed using a novel methodology that allows it to be free from materials of animal origin. It is synthesized by an efficient, cell-free process without preservatives. It has been studied in approximately 43,000 people.

To learn more about Emergency Use Authorizations (EUAs) and the process that allows vaccines to be distributed safely and effectively to the general public in a relatively short period of time, please watch this informational video from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). You can also read more about EUAs and other aspects of the COVID-19 vaccine development and manufacturing process by visiting the links below.

What is the current status of COVID-19 research in pregnant or breastfeeding women?

No pregnancy related data have yet been released. Typically, in large trials, there are some inadvertent pregnancies that are followed for birth outcomes. Pregnancy and breastfeeding will probably not be contraindications to receiving COVID-19 vaccine; however, there is no safety data in pregnant woman, fetuses or infants at this time.

Will there be a vaccine available for children before the 2021 school year?

This will depend on the results of the trials of the vaccine in children that are planned or underway now. But based on the current pace of research, it is potentially achievable that we will have a vaccine for at least some age groups of children and adolescents before the 2021-22 school year begins.

Will the vaccine be required for school entry?

When a vaccine is shown to be safe and effective in children, health authorities, including the CDC and the AAP, will make recommendations on when and how children should receive the vaccine. However, it is a state government decision which vaccines are required for school entry. Those decisions could vary by state.