Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

COVID-19 Vaccine Frequently Asked Questions

Last Updated: October 2023

What is the COVID-19 vaccine?

COVID-19 vaccines help our bodies build immunity to the virus without getting sick. Each vaccine works differently, but they all protect us from COVID-19. None of them cause the illness.

Should I get vaccinated for COVID-19?

Yes. Special Olympics encourages everyone who has access to and is eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, to get vaccinated. The vaccine will help protect you from getting COVID-19. If you still get infected after you get vaccinated, the vaccine works to prevent serious illness. By getting vaccinated, you also help protect people around you.

What if I have already had COVID-19? Should I still get the vaccine?

CDC recommends that if you've already had COVID-19, you should still get the vaccine. It gives you extra protection against the virus. If you don't get vaccinated, you're more likely to get COVID-19 again. New vaccines are effective against COVID-19 variants and offer the best protection against severe illness. It is recommended to get a COVID-19 vaccine to protect yourself.

Should I get the COVID-19 booster vaccines?

Yes, Special Olympics encourages all athletes and coaches to get COVID-19 booster vaccines if available and offered to them, as vaccine effectiveness wears off over time and boosters protect against the emergence of new COVID-19 variants. Booster doses help boost your antibodies and protect you from becoming seriously ill or needing to go to the hospital if you get COVID-19.

Why is it important for people with IDD to get the COVID-19 vaccine?

People with IDD are at higher risk of getting and dying from COVID-19 than the general population. The vaccine helps to reduce the risk of serious disease and death. The COVID-19 virus changes and new types appear. Protection from vaccines and getting sick decreases over time. A new vaccine gives better protection against the variants.

Do not get the vaccine right now if:

  • You currently have COVID-19. You will need to wait until it has been 4 weeks since you noticed your first symptoms or tested positive for the virus.
  • You have a fever (temperature of 100.4 F/38 C degrees or higher).  Wait until you feel better.
  • You have a serious allergic reaction to any of the ingredients in the vaccine.  Or you have had a serious allergic reaction to a previous dose of the vaccine.

Does Special Olympics require me to get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Special Olympics does not require you to get the COVID-19 vaccine. However, we are strongly encouraging everyone to get vaccinated to keep safe and save lives. People with IDD are a high-risk group for COVID-19 illness, complications, and death. Vaccinations will help protect you from getting seriously ill from COVID-19.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?

All the COVID-19 vaccines have gone through the same safety tests as any other vaccines. Like all vaccines, COVID-19 vaccines have been tested for safety before being authorized for use. COVID-19 vaccines are safe, with rare serious reactions; their benefits exceed any possible risks.

How effective is the COVID-19 vaccine?

Vaccines lower the risk of long-term COVID-19 and protect against new variants. The updated vaccines are safe and help in avoiding severe illness, hospitalization, and death.

What COVID-19 vaccines are approved for use?

COVID-19 vaccines recommended are those approved for use by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and or the European Medicine Agency (EMA) You can choose which COVID-19 vaccine to get. Talk to your local healthcare provider or local pharmacy for more information about various COVID-19 vaccines available to you.

How will I know if I can get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Call your local health authorities to find out when you can get it and which vaccines are available. Don’t forget to mention if you are in a high-risk group!

Where can I get the COVID-19 vaccine?

COVID-19 vaccines are now accessible to all. They can be obtained from various places, such as healthcare providers or local pharmacies, just like regular vaccines, and are now easily available near you. Vaccines are paid for by insurance, including private, Medicare, and Medicaid. Uninsured can get vaccines too. If you are in the United States, you can refer to to find a location near you. If you are outside the United States, you can contact your local healthcare provider or pharmacies for more information.

How can I safely get a COVID-19 vaccine?

When going to get the COVID-19 vaccine, practice every day preventative actions. Follow your health authority’s guidance in finding a suitable vaccination location for the COVID-19 vaccine.

How should I prepare for my COVID-19 vaccine appointment?

Make sure you bring some important paperwork with you. Most places will require you to show a form of identification, like a driver’s license or an identification card with a photo and will ask you for any prior COVID-19 vaccination cards. If you've had a bad allergic reaction to a previous COVID-19 vaccine or if you're allergic to an ingredient in the vaccine, or even if you had a mild reaction within 4 hours, make sure to inform your healthcare provider or pharmacist before the vaccination appointment.

What are the COVID-19 vaccination steps?

You will get the vaccine as an injection in your upper arm. It will only take a few minutes. Depending on the type of vaccine you get, you will get either two doses, spread across multiple weeks, or you will get one shot, or dose.

The person who will give you the vaccine will be a nurse, doctor or a trained healthcare professional.

Should I wear a mask when I go get my vaccine?

It is not mandatory to wear a mask when you are getting a vaccine. But it is good to wear a mask to avoid getting sick, to protect someone with a weak immune system if you have a cold, or if someone else is wearing one.

Will the shot hurt or make me sick?

After getting the COVID-19 vaccine, you might feel some effects like pain, redness, or swelling where you got the shot, plus tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever, and nausea. But these side effects usually go away in a few days. This does not mean you have COVID-19. These side effects are signs that the vaccine is working. If you feel unwell you can take some mild analgesic to ease the symptoms and remember to keep hydrated. Serious side effects are pretty rare, but they can happen. If they don’t go away in a week, or you have more serious symptoms, call your doctor or healthcare professional.

Can I get a COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as a flu vaccine?

You can get a flu vaccine and a COVID-19 vaccine during the same visit if you are due for both vaccines. CDC says that you can get multiple procedures, screenings, and vaccinations done during your COVID-19 vaccine appointment. Make sure to ask your healthcare provider if you have any questions.

What is Special Olympics doing to ensure that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities stay updated about COVID-19?

Special Olympics has created advocacy and education materials to help athletes understand information about the COVID-19 vaccines and practice prevention. All materials are based on guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. These materials include template advocacy letters, literature reviews, printable posters, key messages, athlete videos sharing their personal experiences getting the COVID-19 vaccine as well as social media graphics to promote understanding of the COVID-19 vaccine. All education materials can be found here and all advocacy materials can be found on the Special Olympics

This resource was supported by cooperative agreement #NU27DD000021 from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Its contents are the responsibility of Special Olympics and do not necessarily represent the views of CDC.