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COVID Vaccines: What New Yorkers Need to Know

By Henry Street Settlement

A woman wearing a mask and a blue, yellow, and red patterned shirt gives a COVID-19 vaccination to Henry Street Settlement President & CEO David Garza, who wears a maroon Henry Street Settlement shirt and black Henry Street Settlement mask

Henry Street Settlement President & CEO David Garza receives the first dose of his vaccine at Betances Health Center on the Lower East Side.

COVID vaccines are being rolled out in New York City, and it is predicted that the vaccine will be available to most New Yorkers by later this year. Henry Street Settlement is committed to sharing the most current scientific information about the vaccine. Read on for answers to many frequently asked questions.

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Do the vaccines work?
Yes. Both of the available COVID-19 vaccines have been studied extensively and have been found to be more than 94% effective in clinical trials, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Are they FDA-approved?
Yes. The two vaccines (made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna) have been approved for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Are the vaccines safe?
Yes. The vaccine has been successfully tested on tens of thousands of people of various ages, races, and ethnicities.

How does the vaccine work?
The COVID-19 vaccine is delivered in two doses over the course of three to six weeks. The vaccine helps protect you by strengthening your immune system and helping it to recognize and fight the virus.

Can the COVID-19 vaccine give you COVID-19?
No. The COVID-19 vaccines being used in the U.S. don’t use the live virus that causes COVID-19.

Should I be worried that the vaccines were made so quickly?
No. Researchers have been working on vaccines for coronaviruses for years, so they did not start from scratch. In addition, scientists have been studying the basic vaccine formulas almost from the start of the pandemic.

Are there side effects?
You may experience some side effects, like when you get a flu shot: soreness in the arm where you got the shot, headache, body aches, tiredness, and fever. Side effects can be unpleasant, but by getting vaccinated, you help protect yourself, your family, and your community. If you have concerns, talk to your doctor.

What if I have a pre-existing health condition?
The CDC encourages people with many pre-existing health conditions to get vaccinated. However, ask your doctor! Those who have had previous vaccine allergies—even mild ones—must ask their doctor before being vaccinated. If you have common allergies (like cats/dogs, hay fever, dust, or pollen), you should have no difficulties taking the vaccine.

How much does the vaccine cost?
The vaccine is free for everyone.

Who can get a vaccine?
Eventually, all New Yorkers age 16 and older will be able to get the vaccine. For now, eligible groups include people age 65 and older, at-risk health care workers, teachers and other school staff, first responders, group child care providers, and public-facing grocery store workers. For an up-to-date list of all eligible groups, visit You will not need to share your immigration status to be vaccinated, and your privacy will be protected.

Where can I get a vaccine?
If you are currently eligible to be vaccinated, you can make an appointment to get vaccinated online at or by calling 877.VAX.4NYC (877.829.4692). Henry Street is also here to help you navigate the city’s vaccine sign up process.

  • If you’re over 60, live in the Vladeck Houses, and have questions or need help signing up for a vaccine, call Henry Street’s NORC team at 212.477.0455
  • If you’re a member of the Henry Street Senior Center and have questions or need help signing up for a vaccine, please call the center at 212.349.2770


  • If you need help determining your eligibility or signing up for the vaccine, call Henry Street’s Dale Jones Burch Neighborhood Center at 212.471.2400

Should I get a vaccine if I already had COVID-19?
Yes. It’s possible to get COVID-19 multiple times. The vaccine may even boost the protection your body has already built up against the virus. People who’ve tested positive for antibodies should still get the vaccine. If you tested positive for COVID-19 within the past 90 days, consider waiting to get vaccinated, since it is very unlikely that you will get COVID-19 again during this time. Talk to your doctor if you have questions.

When I get vaccinated, can I stop physical distancing and wearing a face covering?
No. We don’t know enough to say if or when it will be safe to stop physical distancing and wearing face coverings. Until we understand more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide, everyone must continue the key prevention measures:

  • Stay home if you are sick, have COVID-19, or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.
  • Maintain at least 6 feet of distance from people who are not members of your household.
  • Wear a face covering (over your mouth and nose) when outside your home
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or clean with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer

Sources include NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene & the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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