This section provides talking points and answers to tough questions related to COVID-19. This message guidance and framing is regularly updated to reflect new developments and emerging issues.

Children and COVID-19

Talking Points

  • COVID-19 is among the top 10 causes of pediatric death in the U.S. While the risk of children and adolescents becoming severely ill or hospitalized is lower than the risk for adults, tens of thousands of children have been hospitalized with COVID-19, and the effects of the virus are unpredictable.
  • Vaccination is the best way to protect children from COVID-19. To protect against severe illness, the CDC recommends that all children and adolescents age 6 months and older complete their age-appropriate COVID-19 vaccine series. Children and adolescents are eligible for three vaccines — Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, or Novavax. 
  • COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. Before they were authorized for young children, preteens, and teenagers, health experts reviewed safety and effectiveness data from clinical trials involving thousands of children.

Pediatric vaccines

The CDC recommends that all children and adolescents, age 6 months and older, complete their age-appropriate COVID-19 vaccine series. This vaccine series will provide the best possible protection against severe illness. 

The recommended dose(s) depends on a child’s age, COVID-19 vaccine history, and vaccine type (e.g., Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, or Novavax). These recommendations are informed by clinical trials on safety and effectiveness of the vaccines for children age 6 months and older. 

Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine Authorization

  • Unvaccinated children age 6 months through 4 years: Children in this group should complete a two-dose series as soon as possible.  
  • Vaccinated children age 6 months through 4 years: Children who have received any number of previous Moderna doses should receive the remaining dose to complete the vaccine series.
  • Children age 5 years and older: Children in this group should get one dose of the most recently available Moderna vaccine as soon as possible.

Moderna vaccination timing: In most cases, the first and second doses should be spaced at least four to eight weeks apart. At least two months after completing the primary series, children who have not received the updated Moderna vaccine should receive their third dose.

Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine Authorization

  • Unvaccinated children age 6 months through 4 years: Children in this group should complete a three-dose series as soon as possible. 
  • Vaccinated children age 6 months through 4 years: Children who have received any number of previous Pfizer-BioNTech doses should receive the remaining dose(s) to complete the vaccine series. 
  • Children age 5 years and older: Children in this group should get one dose of the most recently available Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as soon as possible.

Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination timing: In most cases, the first and second doses should be spaced at least three to eight weeks apart. At least two months after the second dose, children should get their third dose to complete their primary COVID-19 vaccine series. Children who have completed their primary series, but have not received the most recently available Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, should receive their fourth dose at least two months after their third dose.

Novavax COVID-19 Vaccine Authorization

  • Unvaccinated adolescents and teens age 12 years and older: Children in this group should complete a two-dose series as soon as possible.  
  • Vaccinated adolescents and teens age 12 years and older: Children who have received any number of previous vaccine doses should receive one dose of the most recently available Novavax vaccine to complete the vaccine series.

Novavax vaccination timing: If a child has not previously been vaccinated with any COVID-19 vaccine, the first and second Novavax doses should be received three weeks apart. If a child has previously received one or more of the COVID-19 vaccine doses, a single updated Novavax dose should be received at least two months after the last dose. 

Recommendations for Children with Compromised Immune Systems

The CDC recommends that children and adolescents age 6 months to 17 years who have moderately or severely compromised immune systems get vaccinated as outlined in the COVID-19 vaccination schedule, according to their age and immune status at the time of dose eligibility. This means that one to three doses may be necessary depending on vaccination history and personal health status. For more information on COVID-19 vaccine recommendations for immunocompromised children and adolescents, follow the CDC’s guidelines here.

Updated November 8, 2023 

COVID-19 is among the top 10 causes of pediatric death in the U.S. Medical and public health experts, including the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommend that children and adolescents age 6 months and older get a COVID-19 vaccine to help protect them from serious illness.

The vaccine is the best way to protect children from becoming severely ill or having long-lasting health impacts from COVID-19. While the risk of children and adolescents becoming severely ill or hospitalized is lower than the risk for adults, tens of thousands of children have been hospitalized with COVID-19, and the effects of the virus are unpredictable.

Updated November 9, 2023 

Yes, researchers and medical experts have worked to ensure the vaccine is safe for children and adolescents age 6 months to 17 years old. COVID-19 vaccines have continued to be proven safe and effective for children because of medical expert reviews of the clinical trial data and multi-year monitoring of thousands of vaccinated children. 

Health agencies, such as the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will continue to monitor the health data of clinical trial participants for two years after each vaccine is first administered to ensure their safety for the long term. As with all vaccines, these agencies will also continue monitoring the public’s health to ensure vaccine safety and effectiveness.

Updated November 9, 2023 

Yes, it is safe for children and adolescents to get a COVID-19 vaccine and other routine vaccines, including the flu vaccine, during the same visit. The CDC recommends that all children and adolescents remain up-to-date with routine vaccinations, and those age 6 months and older receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

For additional and more personalized information about pediatric vaccine administration options, caregivers should contact their child’s healthcare provider.

Updated November 9, 2023 

Side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines, similar to other routine vaccinations, are typically mild and subside in a few days. Common experiences include soreness and swelling in the injected arm or leg, chills, joint pain, swollen lymph nodes, irritability, loss of appetite, fatigue, headaches, and a mild fever.

The risk of a child having a serious adverse reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine is very low. One rare complication that has been linked to the COVID-19 vaccine is myocarditis (inflammation of the heart). Data demonstrates a higher risk for such inflammation amongst male children and adolescents. However, reports of these complications are rare. The risk of developing myocarditis after a COVID-19 infection is much higher than the risk of developing myocarditis after the vaccine.

If you have questions about COVID-19 vaccines, myocarditis, or how to protect your children from COVID-19, speak to your healthcare provider or pediatrician.

Updated November 9, 2023 

Schools and in-person learning

Mask Guidance

Talking Points

  • Wearing a high-quality, well-fitting mask helps prevent the spread of COVID-19. Alongside vaccination, testing, staying home when you’re sick, and washing your hands, masks are an important tool you can use to protect yourself and others from getting sick.
  • Studies show that high-quality, well-fitting masks can be effective at reducing the transmission of respiratory viruses, such as flu and RSV, when worn consistently and appropriately. Scientists continue to study the use of masks, including what kinds of masks work best and which viruses can be prevented from spreading to others by wearing a mask.
  • You should wear a mask indoors if you’re in an area with a high level of hospital admissions related to COVID-19. You should also consider wearing a mask indoors if you’re at high risk for severe COVID-19, or if flu or RSV are circulating at high levels in your community. Even if you’re not in an area with high virus transmission or hospitalization, you may choose to wear a mask based on your own personal preference and risk assessment. 
  • The type of mask you wear matters. While all masks provide some level of protection, properly-fitted high filtration masks such as N95s, KN95s, and KF94s provide the best protection against respiratory viruses.

Mask usage

Face masks help prevent the spread of COVID-19 when worn consistently and correctly. Here are considerations to help you choose a mask and ensure you get the best protection from it:

  • Filtration. While all masks provide some level of protection, properly fitted high filtration masks such as N95s, KN95s, and KF94s offer the best protection. In the absence of a high filtration mask, you can improve the protection of your mask by wearing two masks. An example of this could be that you wear a cloth mask over a disposable mask.

  • Fit. A mask may be less effective if it is not the right size for you, worn improperly, or taken off frequently. Ensure that your mask is the right size to provide a tight seal on your face. If you have facial hair, you may need a larger mask to ensure that you have a secure fit. Masks should fit snugly over your nose and mouth with no gaps. Fit can be improved by combining a cloth mask or disposable mask with a fitter or brace at the nose, knotting and tucking ear loops of your mask, or wearing a mask that is secured behind the head instead of secured with ear loops.

  • Comfort. Some masks are more protective than others, and some are more comfortable than others. High filtration masks, such as N95s, KN95s, and KF94s are recommended. You can get the best protection against COVID-19 by consistently wearing the most protective mask that fits you well.

Added November 9, 2023 

When to Wear a Mask

Data show that high-quality, well-fitting masks are effective at reducing the transmission of COVID-19, and that they are likely effective at reducing the transmission of flu and RSV. Health experts continue to study the use of masks and which viruses can be prevented from spreading by wearing masks. 

Regardless of hospitalizations or current mask guidance, anyone can choose to wear a mask as an additional precaution to protect themselves and their families from respiratory infections.

Updated December 14, 2023 

Quarantine and isolation

Talking Points

  • The most helpful actions you can take to prevent the spread of COVID-19 include wearing a mask if exposed, testing for COVID-19, and isolating if you test positive. Isolation is a key health precaution used to prevent people with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 from spreading the virus to those without COVID-19.
  • If you are exposed to COVID-19:

    • If you become sick and are awaiting test results, you should isolate from others, regardless of vaccination status.
  • If you test positive for COVID-19:

    • You should isolate from others immediately, for at least 5 days after testing positive and wear a mask through day 10 after testing positive.
    • Notify people you have been in close contact with, which the CDC defines as someone who was less than six feet from you for at least 15 minutes.
    • If you have no symptoms or mild symptoms and have no fever after 5 days, you can end isolation. You should still wear a high-quality mask through day 10 after testing positive. 
    • If you are still having symptoms on day five, you should continue isolation until you are fever free for 24 hours and your symptoms improve or resolve. 
    • People who have severe COVID-19 may be infectious beyond 10 days, and may need to extend isolation for up to 20 days based on healthcare provider guidance.
    • If you have a weakened immune system, you should isolate through day 20. The CDC recommends repeat COVID-19 testing and speaking with your healthcare provider before ending isolation.
    • If you end isolation but your COVID-19 symptoms recur or worsen, you should restart your isolation period.

COVID-19 exposure or testing positive

The CDC recommends that people who test positive for COVID-19 should stay home and away from others for at least five days after testing positive, as this is when people are most infectious. You should wear a mask through day 10 to reduce the spread of COVID-19 to other people.

In addition to isolating, you should notify people you have been in close contact with, which the CDC defines as someone who was less than six feet from you for at least 15 minutes. If you have had symptoms, you should notify all the people you had close contact with, starting from two days before symptoms started up until you tested positive and began isolating. If you are asymptomatic, you should notify all of your close contacts within the two days leading up to your positive test.

If you are symptomatic, you should monitor your symptoms. The risk of severe illness from COVID-19 is higher for some groups — including older adults, people with underlying medical conditions, immunocompromised people, and pregnant or recently pregnant people. If you are at an increased risk for severe illness or have worsening symptoms over time, you should consult a health provider. If you experience emergency warning symptoms – such as difficulty breathing or chest pain – you should seek medical care immediately.

CDC recommendations for ending isolation after testing positive for COVID-19:

  • If you had mild or asymptomatic COVID-19 and are fever-free after 5 days, you can end isolation but should wear a high-quality mask through day 10. 
  • If you had moderate illness (shortness of breath or trouble breathing), severe illness (you were hospitalized), or you are immunocompromised, you should isolate through day 10 and consult with a healthcare provider about extending or ending isolation. 
  • If you ended isolation but your COVID-19 symptoms recur or worsen, you should restart your isolation.

Regardless of when you end isolation, you should wear a mask through day 10. You can shorten this if you have access to at-home rapid antigen testing and test negative twice, 48 hours apart.

Updated November 22, 2023 

If you came into close contact with someone who has COVID-19, you should wear a high-quality mask as soon as you find out you were exposed, and for 10 full days after exposure.

The CDC recommends that you get tested for COVID-19 five full days after exposure.

If you test positive, you should isolate immediately.
Even if you test negative, you should continue wearing a high-quality mask when indoors and around other people through day 10.

Masking is essential to limit the spread of COVID-19.. If you have a weakened immune system, you should isolate through day 20. The CDC recommends repeat COVID-19 testing and speaking with your healthcare provider before ending isolation.

Updated November 22, 2023 

Travel

Before you travel, the CDC recommends that you get up to date with your COVID-19 vaccination schedule for best protection against severe illness or hospitalization.

You can also take other precautions to protect your health and the health of others.

  • Test for COVID-19 before leaving, during the trip, and once you return. Testing is especially important before visiting people who are at high risk of severe illness from a COVID-19 infection.
  • If you test positive, stay home and isolate based on test results and symptoms.
  • Consider wearing a mask in crowded or poorly ventilated indoor spaces, like on public transportation, on airplanes, and in transport hubs.
  • Frequently wash your hands and avoid touching your face (e.g., eyes, mouth, nose) when out in public.
  • Avoid contact with people who are showing symptoms related to COVID-19.

Travelers should continue to follow CDC guidance for traveling, along with state and local travel return requirements. After a trip, you should self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms, and isolate and test if you develop symptoms.

Updated November 22, 2023 

Testing, Tracing, and Treatment

Talking Points

  • You should test immediately if you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
  • You should test five days after being in close contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus. 
  • As of May 2023, private insurance companies are no longer required to fully cover COVID-19 at-home rapid antigen tests and lab tests. If you are using government-sponsored health insurance or if you are uninsured, you may also pay out-of-pocket costs related to COVID-19 testing.
  • To find free and local testing options near you, search on the U.S. Health and Human Services testing web page or visit your local health department’s website.
  • If you test positive for COVID-19 you should notify people you have had close contact with. If you have symptoms, you should notify all the people you have had close contact with, from two days before your symptoms started to the day you tested positive. If you do not have symptoms, you should notify all of your close contacts within the two days leading up to your positive test.

Testing

COVID-19 rapid antigen tests provide rapid results, can be taken in any location, and can be administered by a healthcare provider or yourself. Rapid antigen tests that are self-administered are also known as self-tests, “at-home tests”, or “over-the-counter” testing kits. When used correctly, these rapid antigen tests are highly reliable, easily accessible, and provide fast results. They are a critical tool in controlling the spread of COVID-19. 

If you have COVID-19 symptoms: take a rapid antigen test immediately. 

If you were exposed to someone with COVID-19: the CDC recommends testing at least five full days after exposure, even if you don’t have symptoms. If your first rapid antigen test is negative, you should schedule a PCR test or take a rapid antigen test again after 24-48 hours.

In either case, the CDC recommends repeat testing (e.g., re-testing in 24-48-hour intervals) to help ensure accurate reporting and monitoring of infection results over time. 

You can also take a rapid antigen test as a precautionary measure before visiting or gathering with others. Consider testing in advance, at least 1 to 2 days before attending an indoor event or gathering. This is especially important if you are at risk of severe illness or if you will be around others who are at high risk, such as immunocompromised people or older adults.

Updated November 9, 2023 

Rapid antigen tests are most effective when there are high levels of the virus present, such as when you are symptomatic. For this reason, they are less able to detect COVID-19 during the earliest phase of the illness, when low levels of the virus are present. This is why rapid antigen testing may require repeat or serial testing (e.g., re-testing in 24-48-hour intervals). Repeat testing reduces the chances of getting a false negative result. If you are infected with COVID-19 but tested negative early in the course of your illness, you may test positive days later when your virus levels increase. Multiple negative rapid antigen tests increase the confidence that you are not currently infected.

The specific number of times you should take a rapid antigen test depends on your result(s). Positive results from a rapid antigen test are considered highly reliable because these tests are very effective at detecting high amounts of the virus. If you receive a negative test result, the CDC recommends that you test again 48 hours after your initial test, especially if you continue to experience symptoms or have been exposed to COVID-19. 

What to do if you have a positive result on a rapid antigen test:

If your rapid antigen test result is positive, this means the virus was detected, and you have an infection. Follow the latest CDC guidance on isolation. If you are at an increased risk for severe illness or have worsening symptoms over time, you should consult a healthcare provider.

What to do if you have a negative result on a rapid antigen test:

If your rapid antigen test result is negative, this means that the virus was not detected, but this doesn’t rule out an infection. You should test again 24-48 hours after your first test, especially if you are experiencing symptoms or have recently been exposed to the virus.

If you continue to receive negative rapid antigen test results, but have symptoms or are otherwise concerned that you could have COVID-19, consider visiting your healthcare provider and getting a PCR test. PCR testing is the most accurate COVID-19 test available, and your healthcare provider can test for other potential viral infections. 

Pharmacies, health centers, diagnostic labs, and health departments offer COVID-19 PCR testing and other viral tests. Check where such testing is available in your community using the U.S. Health and Human Services “Test to Treat” testing web page.

Updated November 9, 2023 

COVID-19 PCR and rapid antigen tests are often administered at clinics, pharmacies, health centers, and other community testing sites. To find PCR and rapid antigen testing options near you, including free testing options, search the U.S. Health and Human Services “Test to Treat” testing web page or visit your local health department’s website. 

Rapid antigen tests are available at many pharmacies, retailers, community sites, and online stores. If you plan on using an at-home rapid antigen test, you should have several tests readily available so that you can test more than once. Since test quantities vary by manufacturer, check how many are included in a kit to ensure you have enough tests on hand. 

For more information on FDA-authorized COVID-19 rapid antigen tests, expiration dates, and age limits, click here.

As of May 2023, private insurance companies are no longer required to fully cover at-home rapid antigen tests and lab tests. People using government-sponsored health insurance or those without insurance may also pay out-of-pocket costs related to COVID-19 testing. 

See more information about how the End of the Public Health Emergency has most recently impacted testing coverage.

Updated November 9, 2023 

There are two primary options for COVID-19 testing: PCR tests and rapid antigen tests.

Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) Test (NAAT is an alternative name)

  • Most accurate test currently available 
  • Typically administered by health providers at a clinic or pharmacy and analyzed in a laboratory
  • Results typically in 24-72 hours

Rapid Antigen Test

  • Less accurate than PCR tests
  • Results in as little as 15 minutes
  • Can be administered by a healthcare provider at a testing site, or self-administered with an at-home testing kit (at-home test, self-test, and over-the-counter test are alternative names)

A third test, known as an antibody test, can help indicate whether you have had COVID-19 in the past. Antibody tests are used by researchers to better understand the virus, but they are not used to determine whether you currently have an infection.

Updated November 9, 2023 

Data and reporting

Accurately tracking the spread of COVID-19 helps federal, state, and local decision-makers allocate critical emergency response funding and develop public health guidance. 

COVID-19 case counts and deaths are key public health indicators. The accuracy of case counts may vary because of reporting barriers like the convenience of at-home rapid antigen testing and varied access to COVID-19 testing and diagnosis by a healthcare provider. COVID-19 death reporting is less burdened by the previous barriers but can be impacted by the timing lags in data entry across many systems of monitoring. There is evidence to support reported data, but experts agree that the number of COVID cases is likely undercounted and underreported.

The CDC COVID Data Tracker is a collaborative hub of COVID-19 monitoring information informed by state and county reports from hospitals, healthcare providers, and laboratories. The CDC makes this data publicly available and reports national COVID-19 data to the World Health Organization, as required under international health regulations. The current key indicators – COVID-19 test positivity, emergency department visits, hospitalizations, and deaths – help reveal COVID-19 trends across the nation as we navigate COVID-19 as an endemic disease. 

The National Center for Health Statistics also updates national statistics guidelines to ensure increased specificity and accuracy of COVID-19 death reporting. The cause-of-death determination guidelines distinguish COVID-19 and post-acute COVID-19 syndrome (PACS) as either an immediate or underlying cause of death on death certificates and medical reports. These updates help to clarify if people are dying from COVID-19 illness as an immediate cause of death, or dying with a COVID-19-related illness or condition as an underlying cause of death. 

Updated November 22, 2023 

Antiviral drugs

Paxlovid is an oral antiviral drug, manufactured by Pfizer, that is used to reduce the risk of hospitalization or death from COVID-19. In clinical trials, Paxlovid reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by 89%. 

Paxlovid is fully authorized for use early in the course of a COVID-19 infection, when illness is mild or moderate, in people ages 12 and older who are at risk for disease progression and severe illness. Treatment must begin within five days of the onset of illness. People who are considered high risk include older adults and those with underlying medical conditions such as cancer, diabetes, or heart disease.

Paxlovid is available over the counter by provider or pharmacist prescription. This medication will only be prescribed to those who meet the eligibility criteria and will not experience negative interactions with the medication. 

Paxlovid can also be provided by healthcare providers working within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services “Test to Treat” program. Depending on medication availability at these community health sites, providers may be able to provide Paxlovid at no cost to qualifying community members.

Updated November 9, 2023 

“Paxlovid rebound” refers to people who have taken Paxlovid and experience a return of their symptoms several days after they initially recover and test negative for COVID-19. 

Results from a Pfizer study from May 2023, showed that 10% to 16% of users experienced a recurrence of their symptoms after taking Paxlovid. While medical experts continue to monitor this issue, data from Pfizer and the CDC show that the COVID-19 “rebound” illness is mild. The CDC continues to recommend this antiviral as a treatment for people who test positive and are at higher risk for disease progression and severe illness.

If you experience Paxlovid rebound, you should restart the recommended five-day isolation period and remain masked for 10 days to avoid exposing others to the virus. Medical professionals do not recommend extending your treatment or being treated again with Paxlovid. You should contact a healthcare provider if your symptoms persist or worsen.

Updated November 9, 2023 

Vaccination is the best defense against serious COVID-19-related illness and can prevent infection altogether. While antiviral drugs and other treatments are an important advancement, they are not 100% effective in reducing the risk of hospitalization or death from COVID-19, and they are not a substitute for getting vaccinated. 

COVID-19 can cause serious health impacts, especially for those who are not vaccinated and/or live with risk factors for severe disease progression. Alongside vaccination, testing, staying home when you’re sick, and washing your hands, masks are an important tool you can use to protect yourself and others from getting sick. These measures may be particularly important if your community’s COVID-19 Hospital Admission Level is high.

Updated November 9, 2023 

Herd Immunity

Contact notification

Notifying recent contacts helps to control the spread of the virus by quickly informing people that they should take health precautions

If you contract COVID-19, you can protect other people from getting sick by immediately wearing a mask, isolating, and notifying the people who you have been around most recently.  

If you test positive for COVID-19 and have symptoms, you should notify all the people you have had close contact with, starting from two days before your symptoms began until you tested positive. 

If you test positive for COVID-19 and you don’t have symptoms, you should notify anyone who you were in close contact with during the two days before you tested positive.

Updated November 9, 2023 

COVID-19 + the flu shot

Yes, the CDC recommends that everyone age 6 months and older get an updated flu vaccine every flu season, which occurs in the U.S. in the fall and winter. The best time to get your flu vaccine is in September or October, before the flu is spreading in your community.

It is safe to receive a COVID-19 vaccine dose at the same time you receive a flu vaccine. Some people may choose to get each vaccine in a different limb to minimize possible discomfort. Ask your healthcare provider if you have any questions about getting either or both vaccines.

Updated November 9, 2023 

Emergency Declarations

End of the PHE

No. COVID-19 cases are down sharply, but the end of the emergency declarations does not mean the virus is no longer a threat. The virus remains a leading cause of death in the United States. 

CDC continues to advise that everyone stay up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations, use at-home rapid antigen tests if exposed or symptomatic, stay home if sick, and wear a high-quality mask when appropriate. These precautions are the best ways to protect yourself and your loved ones from severe illness. Visit CDC’s website, along with your state and local health departments’ websites, for local statistics and information about recommended precautions.

Updated November 22, 2023 

Vaccines

Talking Points

Some people and organizations who oppose vaccines continue to share false information intended to create doubt about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines, and this is likely to continue in the months ahead. The best way to counter false and misleading information is by continuing to share science-based facts: research shows that the vaccines have saved tens of millions of lives, are safe, and continue to be effective at preventing severe illness from COVID-19. Instead of trying to respond to specific allegations or falsehoods, pivot to sharing what has been researched and proven.

  • COVID-19 vaccines save lives. COVID-19 vaccines saved about 20 million lives worldwide in the first year they were available, based on a scientific model that used country-level data across the globe.
  • Vaccines are safe. COVID-19 vaccines are the most tested and monitored vaccines in U.S. history. Hundreds of millions of people have safely received a COVID-19 vaccine to date.
  • COVID-19 vaccines prevent serious illness. Vaccines safeguard against severe illness, hospitalization, and death. In fact, for adults who received the updated bivalent booster, the risk of visiting an emergency room or being hospitalized was reduced by 50 percent.
  • Adverse reactions to COVID-19 vaccines are rare and less severe than infection. Based on more than two years of experience with the vaccines, including ongoing monitoring of side effects, the risk of having an adverse reaction to the vaccine is extremely low – much lower than the risk of serious illness if infected by the virus.

 

Additional Resources

The following messages can help you answer common questions about the COVID-19 vaccines. For more messaging guidance and vaccine communications resources, see below:

  • PHCC Messaging Resources
  • Changing the COVID Conversation: polling results and tested messaging produced by the de Beaumont Foundation
  • Vaccine Resource Hub: free resources to support individuals and organizations working to increase adult immunization across all communities, especially those experiencing racial and ethnic disparities (Partnership for Vaccine Equity, CDC, and CDC Foundation)

For more information about the vaccines and CDC recommendations, visit the CDC’s Clinical Resources for Each COVID-19 Vaccine.

Vaccine recommendations

On September 12, 2023 the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) updated its COVID-19 vaccine recommendations to reflect the latest research and clarify guidance.

What recommendations changed? 

  • The CDC only recommends the use of the (2023-2024) updated COVID-19 vaccines. The original 2021 vaccines only target the original strain of COVID-19, and the updated vaccines target the currently circulating BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of the Omicron variant.
  • The updated vaccines from Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, and Novavax will now be used as the primary series for people who aren’t yet vaccinated.
  • The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is no longer authorized for use in the U.S.
  • The newest guidance permits immunocompromised people to receive an additional vaccine dose at least two months after their last updated vaccine dose. If you’re in this group and have questions about getting an additional COVID-19 vaccine dose, you should speak with your healthcare provider. 

What recommendations have stayed the same? 

  • The CDC recommends that everyone age six months and older get an updated vaccine. You’re considered up to date with the latest COVID-19 vaccination if you have received a dose that became available in September 2023.
  • Children who have not yet gotten their COVID-19 vaccines should complete their vaccine series as soon as possible, per their age, vaccine type, and vaccine history. Visit the CDC’s website for details about vaccine recommendations for young children. Consult with your child’s healthcare provider if you have questions about what vaccines they can receive.

Updated December 14, 2023 

COVID-19 vaccines have prevented many deaths and hospitalizations, but the illness is still a public health risk. COVID-19 was the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S. in 2022 and is still a leading cause of illness and death, particularly for the elderly and immunocompromised. 

In the same way that health experts track the flu and other common illnesses, these experts will continue to monitor COVID-19 and recommend measures to stay safe and healthy. 

CDC continues to advise the public to practice precautions such as receiving updated COVID-19 vaccines, using at-home rapid antigen tests if you’ve been exposed or have symptoms, staying home and isolating if you’re sick, and wearing a high-quality mask, as needed, when in public indoor areas.

Updated November 22, 2023 

Booster doses

What is a “booster”?: “Boosters” are additional vaccine doses that you get after receiving a primary vaccine dose to increase immune protection against that specific illness. The term vaccine “booster” has been used broadly in public health across many vaccines. 

What is the difference between a vaccine “booster” and an updated vaccine? “Boosters” typically have the same formula as their primary vaccine dose, and they remind the immune system of what virus or bacteria to protect you against. Updated vaccines, like the annual flu vaccine, have formula changes compared to the original vaccine dose that increase its effectiveness against new circulating strains. 

As research improves our understanding of COVID-19, health agencies are now recommending updated vaccines instead of boosters. People who got the original COVID-19 vaccine series needed a “booster” when the original strains were still dominant. Now that new substrains have become dominant, updated vaccines are needed to specifically target the new dominant strains and maintain protection from COVID-19. 

Who can get “boosters”?: COVID-19 “boosters” are not available now that updated COVID-19 vaccines have been modified to target dominant virus strains. People who were previously eligible for a booster may now be eligible for an updated vaccine.

Who can get updated COVID-19 vaccines? Everyone should complete their age-appropriate, updated vaccine series. Updated Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are available for individuals as young as six months old. Updated Novavax vaccines are available for individuals age 12 and older. For the best protection this respiratory virus season, everyone should receive at least one dose of the updated vaccine. 

It is safe to get any of the authorized and updated vaccines, regardless of whether your primary series or most recent dose was the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Novavax, or Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine. However, for children age six months to four years old, the CDC recommends receiving the same brand as the entire primary series, if available. 

When will updated vaccines be available? Updated COVID-19 vaccines should be available in your community by the end of December. The CDC recommends that everyone stay up-to-date on vaccinations by getting an updated vaccine dose at least two months after their last COVID-19 vaccination—either since their last dose, or since completing their primary series. 

Updated December 14, 2023 

Yes, everyone age six months and older should get an updated COVID-19 vaccine at least two months after their last dose. This is also true for people who completed their primary series or received one or two “boosters”. 

If you are recovering from a COVID-19 infection, you should consider delaying vaccination by three months from the start of your symptoms or positive test if you did not have symptoms. For specific guidance based on your health history, speak with your healthcare provider.

Updated December 14, 2023 

No, “boosters” were only given to fully vaccinated people. “Boosters” are no longer available and have been replaced with updated vaccines that target dominant virus strains.

The best way to protect yourself from getting severely ill from COVID-19 is to get vaccinated. The CDC recommends that unvaccinated people age six months and older get the updated primary series, and then wait at least two months to get their second or third updated Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine dose. 

Adults age 18 and older also have the option to receive an updated Novavax vaccine instead of an updated Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine if they are unable to receive mRNA vaccines and haven’t previously received any other updated dose.

Updated December 14, 2023 

No, all COVID-19 vaccines have been effective at reducing the risk of severe illness. Getting a series of vaccine doses over an extended period of time – like months or years – is common for many vaccines. Healthcare providers recommend these vaccine series because over time the vaccine dose effect wanes and another dose is needed to restore optimal protection against new variants of a virus. The researchers who developed the COVID-19 vaccines continue to watch for waning immunity, how well the vaccines protect against new strains of the virus, and how that data differ across age groups and risk factors. This research has led to updated vaccines.

In the past, “boosters” have extended COVID-19 vaccine protection against serious illness, but they have been somewhat less effective in boosting immunity against new variants. The updated vaccine formula is designed to better target and protect against variants that currently account for most new infections.

Updated December 14, 2023 

Development, safety, and effectiveness

Yes, COVID-19 vaccines have a very strong safety record. The COVID-19 vaccines have been tested and monitored for safety more than any previous vaccine in U.S. history. All COVID-19 vaccines have been rigorously tested and reviewed for human safety through a three-phase clinical trial process. 

More than 150,000 people participated in U.S. vaccine clinical trials, and almost 700 million vaccine doses have been safely administered in the U.S., with rare instances of adverse reactions. To ensure the continued safety of COVID-19 vaccines, data from clinical trials is collected and monitored for two years after each vaccine is first administered. Additional monitoring is in place for adverse event reporting through the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). Based on these thorough processes, public health officials make evidence-based recommendations to keep the public safe and healthy.

Updated December 14, 2023 

Yes, the COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective at reducing the risk of severe infection, symptomatic illness, hospitalization, and death. On average, the original Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, and Novavax COVID-19 vaccines were effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 illness by more than 85%. 

A vaccine can only protect against a strain that it recognizes. As the virus continues to circulate and mutate over time, new variants are less recognizable to our immune systems. This leads to new infections — even for people who are vaccinated. As a result, updated vaccines have been developed to more closely target the currently circulating variants of concern and offer increased protection. 

The updated Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, and Novavax vaccines that were approved in fall 2023 are critical to collective immunity. According to the latest research data, the newly updated COVID-19 vaccines are effective at producing strong immune responses to new variants, especially those originating from the Omicron variant. Individuals who received the updated COVID-19 vaccines have shown antibody responses that were almost 10 to 17 times higher against new variants than before they received the updated vaccine.

Added December 14, 2023 

There are two key measures that determine vaccine effectiveness: clinical trial efficacy and real-world effectiveness

  • Trial efficacy is measured in a structured clinical trial. These trials involve groups of diverse people and measure how much a vaccine reduces their risk of getting sick. If a vaccine has high efficacy, that means there were significantly fewer people in the vaccinated group who got sick compared with the unvaccinated group. 
  • Vaccine effectiveness measures successful immune protection under real-world conditions. If a vaccine has high effectiveness, there is clear evidence that the vaccine protects the public against severe infection, symptomatic illness, hospitalization, and death. 

Measuring vaccine effectiveness is a complex process. Oftentimes vaccine effectiveness data are not identical to vaccine efficacy data. This is because vaccine effectiveness takes into account the real world conditions in which vaccines are actually administered. Without context these statistics can oversimplify the number of factors used to determine outcomes. Vaccine effectiveness varies based on location, population, and specific health outcomes. The CDC and other public health researchers routinely monitor and evaluate data for vaccine effectiveness.

Added December 14, 2023 

It’s true that COVID-19 vaccines were developed more quickly than most previous vaccines, but their development built upon many prior decades of work.

The process included the same rigorous safety reviews that are required for all new vaccines. Researchers were able to develop the vaccines quickly, safely, and effectively because the urgency of the pandemic created greater access to research funding, reduced bureaucratic obstacles, and encouraged unparalleled levels of government and industry cooperation.

As new variants appear, vaccine researchers will continue to update COVID-19 vaccines to provide the highest level of protection against the virus.

Updated December 14, 2023 

In general, you are considered “fully vaccinated” and up-to-date with COVID-19 guidelines after you have received the recommended doses of the updated vaccine for your age, health status, and vaccine history. Depending on these factors, being “fully vaccinated” can look different for each person. As science and the virus evolve, so does our understanding of what it means to be “fully vaccinated”. Researchers continue to closely watch for signs of waning vaccine immunity over time, monitor new variants of the virus, and track how data differs across groups.

If you are not sure if you are “fully vaccinated” consult with a healthcare provider about completing the primary vaccine series, getting at least one updated Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna dose, or getting the updated Novavax series. 

Updated December 14, 2023 

The risk of having a serious adverse reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine is very low—far lower than the risk of contracting COVID-19. 

Severe adverse reactions after vaccination are extremely rare, but can cause long-term health issues. Rare adverse events – such as anaphylaxis and other allergic reactions, blood-clotting syndromes, heart inflammation, autoimmune diseases impacting the nervous system, and death – have been identified and investigated through the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS)

Common reactions to COVID-19 vaccination include mild side effects, such as limb soreness, fatigue, low-grade fever, headaches, and chills. These reactions typically resolve within a few days.

Updated December 14, 2023 

COVID-19 vaccination is essential for everyone, including people who have already had COVID-19. Data show that recently sick people who do not get vaccinated at least two months after their recovery are more likely to get COVID-19 again than people who get vaccinated after their recovery. This means that the COVID-19 vaccines increase protection against each COVID-19 re-infection.

Although highly contagious variants have led to breakthrough infections among vaccinated people, being unvaccinated is a clear health risk. Immunity provided by the updated COVID-19 vaccines is more safe, robust, and consistent, when compared to immunity from COVID-19 infection. COVID-19 vaccination is the best way to protect against death, hospitalization, and long-term COVID-19 health consequences.

Updated December 14, 2023 

Vaccines, including the COVID-19 vaccines, cannot provide 100% or permanent immunity. But COVID-19 vaccines are extremely effective in preventing serious illness, hospitalization, and death. Given that COVID-19 is an evolving virus, researchers continue to monitor how long vaccines provide immunity, which groups may benefit from additional doses, and how well the vaccines protect against new variants of the virus.

“Breakthrough” COVID-19 infections refer to infections in people who have fully completed the recommended vaccination schedule. This type of infection is not uncommon and can occur for multiple reasons. When vaccinated, breakthrough infections typically lead to mild symptoms that do not require hospitalization. People who are not vaccinated continue to account for the vast majority of severe cases, hospitalizations, and deaths from COVID-19. 

If you have questions about your risk of COVID-19, how to protect yourself, or the vaccines, consult with your healthcare provider.

Updated December 14, 2023 

Pregnancy and fertility

Yes, CDC recommends COVID-19 vaccination for all people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or trying to get pregnant now or in the future. Data show that pregnant and recently pregnant people are more likely than non-pregnant people to get severely ill if they are infected with COVID-19, and highly contagious variants make it even more important to get vaccinated. 

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and other leading health organizations are “strongly urging” anyone who is pregnant or planning to become pregnant to get vaccinated against COVID-19. 

If you are pregnant, talk to your healthcare provider to learn more about COVID-19 vaccination.

Updated December 14, 2023 

No, a COVID-19 vaccine will not increase the risk of miscarriage. Studies show that miscarriages can occur in 11% to 22% of all typical pregnancies. There is no evidence that pregnancy risks or complications are increased because of COVID-19 vaccines.

Data do show that experiencing a COVID-19 infection during pregnancy increases the risk of delivering a preterm or stillborn infant. This is why vaccination is a critical layer of protection for the pregnant person and the infant. COVID-19 vaccination provides antibodies to the pregnant person and the baby, protecting them both from the increased risk of serious illness.

There has been extensive and ongoing safety monitoring of the COVID-19 vaccines, including analysis of vaccination before and during pregnancy. These studies specifically demonstrate that COVID-19 vaccination does not cause or relate to the occurrence of a miscarriage. To date, no monitoring system or other studies have identified any association between miscarriage and COVID-19 vaccination.

Updated December 14, 2023 

No, there is no evidence that fertility is impacted by any vaccine, including the COVID-19 vaccines. 

Added December 14, 2023 

Yes, data show that after receiving mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, pregnant people can pass on their antibodies to the child. These antibodies have been found in umbilical cord blood, which means that the placenta has transferred protective immune cells from the vaccinated person to the infant. They have also been found in breastmilk

This transfer of antibodies to infants helps strengthen their vulnerable immune system when they’re too young for vaccination. In both of these cases, during pregnancy and while breastfeeding, more data are needed to determine how much protection these antibodies may provide to the baby.

Added December 14, 2023 

FDA approval

Johnson & Johnson vaccine

On June 1, 2023, the Food and Drug Administration revoked its authorization and use of the Janssen (J&J/Janssen) COVID-19 vaccines in the United States. This authorization change was based on the latest data about the risk of developing a rare blood clotting disorder after receiving the J&J/Janssen vaccine. While the risk of a serious adverse reaction to the J&J/Janssen vaccine is very low and far lower than the risks for COVID-19 infection, it is higher than the other authorized vaccines.

Rare adverse events associated with Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine typically presented within days or weeks following vaccination. The risk of having an adverse reaction to the vaccine is very low, and even lower as time passes. The identification of any possible risks, like the risks associated with the J&J/Janssen vaccine, is a sign that the nation’s safety monitoring system for COVID-19 vaccines is working. 

People who are not yet vaccinated, along with people who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and are eligible for an updated vaccine, should get a Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, or Novavax vaccine. 

Updated December 14, 2023 

Novavax vaccine

The Novavax vaccine is a two-dose, protein-based COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine is developed using more traditional protein-based technology compared to other available mRNA COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. The Novavax vaccine uses a combination of purified coronavirus spike proteins and an immune-boosting stimulant called an adjuvant (common in many vaccines) to strengthen the body’s immune response against COVID-19. 

On October 3, 2023, the CDC updated its COVID-19 vaccine recommendations, approving the updated Novavax vaccine for adults and children 12 years and older. It is the third COVID-19 vaccine available in the United States, in addition to Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. As a protein-based vaccine, Novavax is an option for people who are allergic to one of the components in a mRNA or viral-vector vaccine. Novavax is currently being used in more than 40 countries and has been authorized by the European Union and the World Health Organization.

Updated December 14, 2023 

Vaccine mandates

Yes, your school or work can mandate the COVID-19 vaccine, with some exceptions. Schools or employers may require vaccinations for attendance or employment, and those requirements vary by state and employer.

While these requirements vary, the research remains the same: the best way to protect yourself from getting COVID-19 is to get vaccinated, and practice precautionary measures like handwashing, social distancing, wearing a mask, and isolating when sick.

Schools: All states have vaccination requirements for children attending school and childcare facilities. Vaccination requirements help safeguard children by making sure they are protected when they begin school, where there is a higher potential for transmission of some diseases. To learn more about vaccine requirements by state, visit the CDC’s SchoolVaxView Requirements Database.

Employers: On January 13, 2022, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government cannot enforce a vaccine mandate for large businesses. This does not mean that private employers are blocked from creating vaccine mandates. Employers are still legally able to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for employees.

Other Vaccine Requirements:

  • As of June 5, 2023, the Omnibus COVID-19 Health Care Staff Vaccination interim final rule (IFR) was lifted. This means that workers and contractors at Medicare- and Medicaid-certified facilities are not required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

  • Private businesses may still require patrons to show proof of vaccination for entry, and these requirements vary by state and locality.

Updated October 5, 2023 

Variants

Talking Points

  • Variants emerge as a result of naturally occurring mutations in viruses. For example, the flu virus changes often, which is why doctors recommend a flu shot each year.
  • Scientists monitor all COVID-19 variants but may classify certain ones, like Omicron and Delta, as “variants of concern.” Scientists monitor these variants carefully to learn if they spread more easily, cause more severe cases than other variants, or evade vaccine protection.
  • As long as COVID-19 spreads, mutations and new variants are expected to occur, and the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including its variants, is to get vaccinated and boosted. Being vaccinated decreases the likelihood you will get sick and makes it less likely you will need hospitalization or die if you get infected. Increased vaccination rates around the world will decrease the likelihood that the coronavirus will mutate into other dangerous variants.

New COVID-19 variants

Variants emerge as a result of naturally occurring mutations in viruses. For example, the flu virus mutates often, which is why doctors recommend a new flu vaccine each year.

Researchers monitor all COVID-19 variants but may classify certain ones, like Omicron and Delta, as “variants of concern.” This is determined by which variants spread more easily, cause more severe cases than other variants, or evade vaccine protection.

As long as COVID-19 spreads, mutations and new variants are expected to occur. The best way to protect yourself against COVID-19 variants is to stay up to date with vaccines. Being vaccinated decreases the likelihood you will get sick and makes it less likely you will need hospitalization or die if you get infected.

Updated November 22, 2023 

Omicron

Emergent Public Health Concerns

RSV

Respiratory syncytial virus, also called RSV, is a common respiratory virus that usually causes cold-like symptoms. Most people infected with RSV will experience mild illness and recover within one to two weeks. However, several people are at higher risk for severe illness, including: infants, young children, older adults, adults with chronic heart or lung disease, adults living in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, pregnant people, and people with weakened immune systems. It is estimated that RSV causes approximately 58,000-80,000 hospitalizations and 100-300 deaths among children younger than five years old. Among adults over the age of 65, RSV is responsible for 60,000–160,000 hospitalizations and 6,000–10,000 deaths.

RSV season generally starts during the fall and peaks in the winter. RSV is very contagious and can spread in several ways: through exposure to respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes, through direct contact with an infected person, or by touching a contaminated surface with RSV. People infected with RSV are typically contagious for three to eight days and may become contagious a day or two before showing signs of illness. Infants and immunocompromised people infected with RSV can continue to spread the virus even after they stop showing symptoms for as long as four weeks.

People infected with RSV tend to show symptoms within four to six days after exposure. Symptoms of RSV may include runny nose, decrease in appetite, coughing, sneezing, fever, and wheezing. RSV can sometimes lead to serious complications such as bronchiolitis, which causes lung inflammation, and pneumonia, a serious lung infection. 

There are various tests available that confirm RSV infection, all of which are administered by a healthcare professional. Contact your local healthcare provider if you have questions about RSV or RSV testing. 

Updated December 14, 2023 

Yes, on June 29, 2023, the CDC recommended two new RSV vaccines for adults age 60 and up. There are two available single-dose vaccines—one developed by Pfizer (called Abrysvo) and the other developed by GSK (called Arexvy). Both vaccines were determined to be equally effective by the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) after reviewing results from clinical trials and are currently available. People age 60 years and up should receive an RSV vaccine after consulting with their healthcare provider.

Added December 14, 2023 

Yes, on August 3, 2023, the CDC approved and recommended the use of Sanofi and AstraZeneca’s nirsevimab (Beyfortus)—a monoclonal antibody treatment for infants and toddlers to protect against severe illness caused by RSV. Caregivers should be mindful that there is a shortage of Beyfortus this RSV season.

Monoclonal antibodies are not vaccines. They are proteins that mimic the antibodies our bodies naturally produce. While there is not currently an approved pediatric vaccine for RSV, monoclonal antibody treatments–like those currently available–provide an extra layer of defense that helps fight RSV and protect infants’ lungs. The protection provided by monoclonal antibodies are more time-limited than vaccines, but they do protect babies at an age when they are most at risk of severe illness from RSV.

Beyfortus is now available by prescription in the United States. One dose of Beyfortus can protect infants for five months, which is the length of an average RSV season. The treatment has been shown to reduce the risk of both hospitalizations and healthcare visits by about 80%. A dose of Beyfortus is recommended for:

  • All infants younger than eight months in their first RSV season. 
  • Children between the ages of eight months and 19 months who are at increased risk of severe RSV disease, such as severely immunocompromised children, in their second RSV season. 

In addition to Beyfortus, palivizumab (Synagis) is currently available for infants and young children with certain health conditions that put them at higher risk for severe RSV infection. Synagis injections must be given monthly during RSV season (typically fall through spring) to provide increased protection.

Beyfortus and Synagis are not treatments for a child who already has an infection. Caregivers to young children are encouraged to contact their healthcare provider to see if either should be used as a preventive measure for their child. If either treatment is recommended, caregivers should ask the pediatrician if their clinical guidance, treatment options, or dosing practices are being impacted by the current Beyfortus shortage.

Added December 14, 2023 

Yes, the CDC recommends pregnant people get an RSV vaccine to protect their babies from severe RSV disease. Pregnant people should get a single dose of Pfizer’s RSV vaccine (Abrysvo) during weeks 32 through 36 of pregnancy. The vaccine triggers the development of antibodies that will be passed on to the newborn. These antibodies will provide protection for about the first six months of the baby’s life when they’re extremely vulnerable to infections like RSV.

The vaccine was approved by the FDA and CDC after their safety committees reviewed Pfizer’s vaccine clinical safety and efficacy trials results.

Expectant families should contact their obstetrician or healthcare providers for more information on the availability and accessibility of this vaccine.

Updated December 14, 2023

  

Tripledemic

The “tripledemic” is a term that some public health leaders and the news media are using to describe the current spread of three respiratory illnesses: COVID-19, flu (influenza), and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus).

During the fall and winter months, COVID-19, influenza (flu), and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases and hospitalizations spike in many parts of the country. Each virus can pose a serious health threat, especially for young children, older people, people with weakened immune systems, and people with underlying health conditions.

Most cases of COVID-19, flu, and RSV are mild, with millions of people getting moderately sick, but the number of people who are becoming severely ill is rising. The spread of these illnesses, alongside COVID-19, strains our health system and limits the capacity and resources of healthcare facilities.

“Tripledemic” does not have a scientific definition, like “epidemic” or “pandemic.” It is an informal term used to convey the significance of the current spread of COVID-19, flu, and RSV.

Updated December 15, 2023 

There are many health precautions that reduce your chances of getting or spreading flu, RSV, or COVID-19. Here are a few of the most important and effective measures:

  • Get vaccinated and stay up-to-date with vaccinations. Everyone ages 6 months and older can get vaccinated against flu and receive an updated COVID-19 vaccine. RSV vaccines can also prevent severe RSV-related illness for older adults, young children, and pregnant people.
  • Wear a mask. Wearing a high-quality, well-fitting mask is an effective way to reduce the spread of respiratory illnesses, like flu, RSV, and COVID-19. These viruses spread via respiratory droplets that come from coughing, sneezing, or close contact. Wearing a high-quality mask prevents the spread of the virus to others and protects the mask-wearer. 
  • Stay home and isolate if you’re sick. If you’re feeling sick, you should stay home and isolate from everyone else. You should also repeatedly test for infection to determine the length of isolation. While there isn’t an at-home test for RSV, at-home rapid antigen COVID-19 and flu tests are effective and reliable when used properly. 
  • Wash and sanitize your hands. Washing and sanitizing your hands is a simple and important way to prevent the spread of viruses like RSV, flu, and COVID-19. Read more from the CDC about how and when to wash your hands.
  • Contact your healthcare provider. Consult your healthcare provider if you have questions about testing and treatment, especially if you or your loved ones are at high risk for complications from flu, RSV, or COVID-19. There are effective treatments for these illnesses, but they need to be started early to be effective. Your healthcare provider can also help you manage symptoms, if sick.

Added December 14, 2023 

Data show that high-quality, well-fitting masks are effective at reducing the transmission of COVID-19, and that they are likely effective at reducing the transmission of flu and RSV. Health experts continue to study the use of masks and which viruses can be prevented from spreading by wearing masks. 

Regardless of hospitalizations or current mask guidance, anyone can choose to wear a mask as an additional precaution to protect themselves and their families from respiratory infections.

Updated December 14, 2023 

Flu

Everyone age six months and older should get a flu vaccine every year.

This is especially important if you’re at higher risk of developing serious flu complications. These groups include:

  • Adults 65 and older
  • Adults with certain chronic health conditions, such as asthma, heart disease, diabetes, and chronic kidney disease
  • Pregnant people
  • Children younger than five years old, and especially those younger than two years old.

Added December 14, 2023 

Flu vaccines are available throughout the fall and winter each flu season. You should get a flu vaccine as soon as possible if you’re not yet vaccinated.

Flu season starts in the fall, and most of the time, flu activity peaks between December and February. The CDC recommends that people get vaccinated early in the season, ideally by October 31, but it’s never too late to get critical protection from the flu if you’re not yet vaccinated.

Added December 14, 2023 

Yes. Getting the flu vaccine reduces your chance of getting sick but it is still possible to catch the flu even if you’re vaccinated. If you’re vaccinated and still get the flu, you have a lower chance of getting seriously ill or needing hospitalization.

Added December 14, 2023 

Yes. It is safe to get your flu vaccine and a COVID-19 vaccine the same day if you are eligible for both. It is safe and effective to receive multiple vaccines during the same appointment. 

Contact your healthcare provider to learn more about your options for receiving the flu and COVID-19 vaccines on the same day.

You can also see our Tough Q&A on COVID-19 + the Flu Vaccine for more information.

Updated December 14, 2023 

Flu, RSV, and COVID-19 are all respiratory illnesses that can have varying degrees of severity, ranging from no symptoms to severe illness.

Symptoms such as fever, cough, fatigue, and runny or stuffy nose can be similar across all three viruses. You need specific testing to confirm if you are sick. You can test for COVID-19 and flu yourself, with an at-home rapid antigen test, or through a healthcare visit. RSV tests are only administered during a healthcare visit. Contact your healthcare provider if you have questions about testing and treatment, especially if you or your child are at high risk for complications from flu, RSV, or COVID-19.

Updated December 14, 2023 

Monkeypox

Monkeypox, now internationally referred to as Mpox, is an illness caused by the monkeypox virus. Common symptoms of Mpox include fever, headache, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, and a rash that can look like pimples or blisters and may be painful or itchy. The rash may be on the face, the inside of the mouth, hands, feet, chest, genitals, or anus. Symptoms are usually mild or moderate and typically resolve within two to four weeks. Mpox is rarely fatal and can be treated with available antiviral medicines. 

To learn more about MPox risks and precautions, contact your local health department and health provider for information about vaccine eligibility, accessibility, and testing.

Updated December 14, 2023 

Mpox spreads through direct skin-to-skin contact with the infection rash, scabs, or body fluids. It can also be spread through respiratory droplets during prolonged, face-to-face contact, or during intimate physical contact with areas around the anus, rectum, or vagina. 

Any person can contract Mpox, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. To date, the vast majority of the cases have been in men who have sex with men, and the general population is currently at low risk of contracting the infection.

The CDC recommends vaccination for people who have been in close contact with people who have Mpox. Eligibility for Mpox vaccination varies locally, but typically includes groups considered to be at high risk, including:

  • People who have been in close physical contact with someone with Mpox in the past two weeks
  • People whose jobs may expose them to Mpox, including some healthcare or public health workers
  • Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men, transgender or nonbinary people who in the past six months have had one or more of the following:
    • A new diagnosis of a sexually transmitted disease
    • More than one sex partner
    • Sex at a commercial sex venue
    • Sex in association with a large public event in a geographic area where Mpox transmission is occurring
  • Sexual partners of persons with the risks described above
  • Persons who anticipate experiencing any of the above

The recommended vaccine to protect against monkeypox is Jynneos. The alternative to Jynneos is the ACAM2000 vaccine, but it is not recommended for people with weakened immune systems and has the potential for more side effects than Jynneos. Contact your local health department and health provider for information about vaccine eligibility, accessibility, and testing.

Updated December 14, 2023 

Measles (MMR)

Talking Points

  • Measles is a highly contagious disease with serious possible complications including hospitalization, long-term illness, and death. Someone who is infected can spread the disease to other people before noticing any symptoms, especially in the four days before and after the rash develops.
  • CDC data show that unvaccinated people have a very high likelihood, about 90% risk, that they will contract measles if exposed. Unvaccinated children who have not previously been infected are more likely to get infected and should avoid exposure. 
    • One in five children who contract measles will be hospitalized. 
    • One in 20 children who contract measles will develop pneumonia.
    • One to three children who contract measles in 1,000 will die. 
  • CDC data show the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine is highly effective. Individuals with a history of prior infection or vaccination who have received the full series of MMR vaccines are 97% protected and are unlikely to contract measles.
  • It only takes a few days for antibodies to develop in response to the MMR vaccine. Within two to three weeks, the immune system is fully primed after vaccination.
  • Measles infection can cause “immune amnesia” or immune suppression, effectively erasing the immune system’s memory and protection from other diseases. This immune weakening can last anywhere from weeks to years. This increases the risk of infection due to secondary bacterial and other infections, even if you have built immunity from a previous infection.

Measles is a highly contagious air-borne viral disease that can cause serious complications and death. Children under five years of age, adults over 20 years of age, pregnant people, and people with immunocompromised health are most at risk of measles complications. 

Measles infection causes a rash to appear, alongside high fevers, diarrhea, coughing, runny nose, eye and ear infections. Someone who is infected can spread the disease to other people before noticing any symptoms, especially in the four days before and after the rash develops. 

In severe cases, measles causes children’s brains to swell, leading to seizures, deafness, cognitive disability, and possibly death. About 1 in every 20 children with measles also contracts pneumonia, the top cause of pediatric death from measles, a serious respiratory illness. Measles even causes immune system weakening that can last weeks to years. A suppressed immune system increases the risk of infection due to secondary bacterial and other infections.

Added February 27, 2024 

The most helpful actions you can take to prevent the spread of measles include isolating if you have a rash or believe you have been exposed, wearing a mask if around others, and contacting a healthcare provider immediately. Isolation is a key health precaution used to prevent people with confirmed or suspected measles from spreading the virus through respiratory droplets or cross-contaminated surfaces.

  • If you become sick and have not been vaccinated against measles:
    • Contact a healthcare provider immediately and alert them that you believe you were exposed to measles. Ask them about receiving an MMR vaccine and discuss treatment options. 
    • You should isolate for 21 days after your exposure. 
    • You should wear a mask and disinfect surfaces when near others to avoid the spread of germs in the air and on common household items.
  • If you become sick and have been vaccinated against measles:
    • Contact a healthcare provider immediately and alert them that you believe you were exposed to measles. Discuss your vaccine history with them as part of determining possible treatment options. 
    • You should quarantine to limit contact with others. You may be advised to stay home for four days if you develop the measles rash.
    • You should wear a mask and disinfect surfaces when near others to avoid the spread of germs in the air and on common household items.

Added February 27, 2024 

The CDC recommends that people of all ages protect themselves and their loved ones from measles, as well as vaccine-preventable diseases like mumps, rubella, and/or varicella (chickenpox), by getting the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) or measles-mumps-rubella-varicella (MMRV) vaccines. These are both two-dose vaccines traditionally given during early childhood when the immune system is weakest against disease. 

Teens and adults should ensure they have completed the two-dose protocol to be best protected in the case of an outbreak. Two MMR vaccines are available for use in the United States: M-M-R II and PRIORIX vaccines. 

If you are pregnant or believe you could be pregnant, contact your healthcare provider immediately to test for measles and discuss vaccine options. Pregnant people may be advised to wait to get the MMR vaccine until they are no longer pregnant. 

Added February 27, 2024 

The CDC recommends that caregivers of young children and adolescents protect their kids from the highly contagious measles virus by receiving the two-dose measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine.

Children over 6 months are eligible to get two doses of the MMR vaccine, which protects against all known strains of measles. Typically, the first dose should be provided when the child is 12 to 15 months of age and the second dose when 4 to 6 years of age. The MMR vaccine doses are typically provided years apart due to their long-lasting nature, however, children in high-risk settings can get their second dose sooner, so long as it is 28 days after the first dose. 

Children who are traveling with family to overseas areas where measles is less controlled may require slightly different vaccine timing to provide the best protection while abroad. In most cases, children should complete the doses at least two weeks before traveling.

  • If your child is 6 to 11 months of age, they should get one dose before traveling. 
  • If your child is 12 months of age or older, they should receive two MMR vaccine doses, spaced at least 28 days apart, before traveling.

Children who are unvaccinated, under-vaccinated, or unsure of their vaccination status should receive an MMR vaccine immediately. Unvaccinated people who have been exposed to measles can still receive the MMR vaccine up to 72 hours after exposure to help prevent or reduce the severity of an infection

There is also another vaccine bundle available to children 12 months to 12 years old that can further protect your child’s developing immune system. This vaccine targets the measles-mumps-rubella-varicella (MMRV) viruses and protects your child from four highly contagious diseases.

For additional and more personalized information about pediatric vaccine administration options, caregivers should contact their child’s healthcare provider.

Added February 27, 2024 

Measles is one of the most highly contagious diseases and is amongst the global leading causes of death in children, despite the existence of a highly effective and safe vaccine. Medical and public health experts, including the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommend that children and adolescents aged 6 months and older get an MMR vaccine to help protect them from serious illness. It only takes a few days for antibodies to develop in response to the MMR vaccine. Within two to three weeks, the immune system is fully primed after vaccination.

Since 1968, the United States measles vaccine has been the single most effective and safe approach to ensure children do not experience hospitalization, long-lasting health impacts, or death due to this viral disease. 

Measles outbreaks are most common in communities where larger groups of people are unvaccinated. Measles outbreaks are on the rise again in the United States after reaching national eradication in 2000. This is a major public health concern given that about 1 in 5 unvaccinated people in the U.S. with measles require hospitalization.

Added February 27, 2024 

Yes. Since the early 1950s researchers and medical experts have worked to ensure that the measles vaccines are safe for children age 6 months and older. Today, MMR vaccines are routine for every child and most who receive the vaccine do not have any serious complications afterward. Decades of clinical trial data and monitoring millions of vaccinated children have continued to prove the vaccine is safe and effective.

Added February 27, 2024 

Yes. As early as the 1960s, research has shown that measles vaccines are highly effective in preventing disease and the complications caused by the disease after exposure. According to CDC data, receiving two doses of the MMR vaccine provides the highest level of protection, at 97% effectiveness. Even if only one dose is received, protection is still extremely high, at 93% effectiveness. 

It only takes a few days for antibodies to develop in response to the MMR vaccine. Within two to three weeks, the immune system is fully primed after vaccination.

Added February 27, 2024