COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) is a disease caused by a virus named SARS-CoV-2. It can be very contagious and spreads when an infected person breathes out droplets and very small particles that contain the virus. Other people can breathe in these droplets and particles, or they can land on their eyes, nose, or mouth.

COVID-19 often causes a respiratory infection that can feel much like a cold, the flu, or pneumonia. It includes symptoms such as fever or chills, headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, muscle aches, sore throat, loss of sense of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion, runny nose, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. Symptoms typically last for one to three weeks in most people, though some people can have longer-term effects lasting for many weeks or even months. In some cases, COVID-19 can be fatal. The best way to remain protected against infection is to get vaccinated.

There are many over-the-counter tests available to see if you have a COVID-19 infection. You can also get tested for COVID-19 infection at some walk-in clinics and pharmacies. If you test positive for COVID-19, it's important to stay home for the first five days — and wear a mask around others until you are past day 10. If you are at higher risk of complications from COVID-19 infection, call your doctor as soon as you test positive. Treatment with Paxlovid may help reduce your chance of serious complications, though you need to start treatment early.

Here are some frequently asked questions about the COVID-19 vaccine, as well as links to additional resources and articles.

Who is eligible for the vaccine?
Everyone six months of age and older is now eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccination. All currently available vaccines are the updated 2023-2024 vaccines that contain protection against recently circulating variants of Omicron.

How many doses of the vaccine do I need?
If you have already been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in the past, you only need one dose of the new 2023-2024 vaccine.

For those getting vaccinated for the first time, the number of doses you need depends on your age. Those ages 12 and older need two doses of the vaccine, with the second dose eight weeks after the first dose. (If you are getting the Novavax vaccine — not one of the mRNA vaccines—you can get the second dose as soon as 3 weeks after the first, especially if you are immune-compromised, but waiting longer reduces the likelihood of some side effects).

If you are immune-compromised and getting vaccinated for the first time, you should get a third dose of the vaccine.

If a child under age 12 is being vaccinated for the first time, the number of doses depends on which mRNA vaccine brand they receive. They should not mix and match brands for their initial series of vaccinations.

Children six months to four years old should get two doses of the Moderna vaccine, with the second given four to eight weeks after the first, or three doses of the Pfizer vaccine. The second Pfizer dose is three to eight weeks after the first dose, and the third is another eight weeks after the second.

Children five to 11 years old should get two doses of either mRNA vaccine. They should receive the second dose of the same brand eight weeks after the first dose.

Children who already received their primary series of vaccines in the past can get either of the updated mRNA vaccines. It should be at least eight weeks since their last dose of any previous COVID-19 vaccine.

Is the new vaccine a booster?
A booster vaccine has the same formulation as past vaccines, given to “boost" the immune response to the original vaccine.

However, the virus that causes COVID-19 has changed over time. The different versions of the virus that have developed over time are called variants. Learn more about variants of the COVID-19 virus.

The new vaccine is not considered a booster because it has a different formulation than past vaccines. It's designed to protect against more recent variants of the virus.

Going forward, there will likely be an updated seasonal COVID-19 vaccine each year just like there's an updated seasonal flu vaccine every year. The annual COVID-19 vaccine will be updated each year to protect against the most recent variants that have been making people sick.

Who needs the new vaccine the most?
The more people who get the new COVID-19 vaccine, the more it protects everyone around them since the vaccine reduces their risk of getting sick in the first place. However, some people are at higher risk for severe disease, so it's especially important for those people to get the new vaccine.

People at higher risk who should make sure they get the new vaccine include:

  • Older adults, aged 65 and older.
  • People who are pregnant or were pregnant within the past year.
  • People with any chronic kidney, liver, or lung disease or with a heart condition, such as heart failure or coronary artery disease.
  • People with mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder.
  • People with asthma, cancer, Type 1 or 2 diabetes, cystic fibrosis, HIV, or Down syndrome or other developmental disabilities.
  • People with cerebrovascular disease or neurologic conditions, including dementia.
  • People with obesity, which is most often defined as a BMI of at least 30.
  • People who smoke or who smoked until recently.
  • Transplant recipients and anyone taking steroids or another immunosuppressing medication.
  • People who have tuberculosis or any primary immune deficiency conditions.
  • People who are overweight or who have sickle cell disease might also have an increased risk of severe disease.

When are you considered up to date on your vaccines?
You are up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines if you have completed a previous COVID-19 vaccine primary series and received one dose of the most recent 2023-2024 vaccine, or if you received the primary series of the 2023-2024 vaccine.

COVID-19 vaccine recommendations are based on your age, how long it has been since your last dose, and whether you are moderately or severely immunocompromised. People who are immune-compromised have different recommendations for COVID-19 vaccines.

You are still up to date if you received all COVID-19 vaccine doses recommended for you and then become ill with COVID-19. You do not need another vaccine dose.

How can I schedule an appointment to get the vaccine?
Good Neighbor Pharmacy is proud to serve as your local vaccination site for the COVID-19 vaccine. You can use our store locator below to find a participating pharmacy near you. You can then contact your local pharmacy for information about how to sign up or schedule a vaccine appointment. Processes for scheduling an appointment may vary by location. There may be additional details and/or links available on their pharmacy page.

See the CDC website for more frequently asked questions about the COVID-19 vaccine.

View resources from your state's public health department.