Your guide to the

COVID-19 vaccine

COVID-19 vaccines are effective, safe, and free. Learn more about the vaccines below. Then find out how to make an appointment.

Updates

 

 

 

Kids age 5 and up can now get vaccinated.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is now approved for children ages 5 to 11. The vaccine is safe for kids and more than 90% effective against the virus. Just like adults, children will need two doses, though the doses for kids will be smaller. The two doses will be given three weeks apart.

Have kids age 5 and up? Call their provider or your local pharmacy to see if appointments are available.  

 

Adults, teens, and some kids can now get a booster shot.

A booster shot is a third dose of a vaccine. Booster shots give people more protection against COVID-19. All adults (18+) who have already gotten vaccinated are eligible to get a booster shot. 

  • If you got the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, you can get a booster shot 5 months after your second shot of the vaccine.
  • If you got the Moderna vaccine, you can get a booster shot 6 months after your second shot of the vaccine.
  • If you got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you can get a booster shot two months after your first shot.

Teens age 12–17 who got the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine can also get a booster. The booster must be at least 5 months after the second shot.

Some children who are immunocompromised can also get a booster shot. Learn more about booster shots on the Illinois Department of Public Health website.

Call your doctor to make an appointment for a booster shot. You may also be able to get a booster shot at your local pharmacy.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women are encouraged to get vaccinated.

If you are a new mom or mom-to-be, it is important to get vaccinated. The vaccines can help protect you and your baby from COVID-19. Call your OB/GYN for more information.

About the vaccines

There are currently three COVID-19 vaccines available:

  • Pfizer and BioNTech
  • Moderna
  • Johnson & Johnson

All of the vaccines are effective. All three vaccines have been proven to be effective against the COVID-19 virus. Getting vaccinated will help protect you from COVID-19. Even if you are exposed to the virus, the vaccine can help keep you from getting sick.

All of the vaccines are safe. All of the vaccines went through the same development steps as the flu and measles vaccines. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved all three vaccines.

All of the vaccines are free. The U.S. government is paying for the vaccines.

Learn More in our FAQs.

Making an appointment

You may be able to make an appointment with your primary care doctor. Just call your doctor’s office to find out.

If you can’t get an appointment with your doctor, there are many other places to get a vaccine. You can also find a vaccination site here.

If you are unable to make an appointment online, you can call the state’s Vaccine Appointment Call Center at 833-621-1284. This call center is open seven days a week from 6 a.m. until midnight. Agents can help you navigate online registration sites or they can make an appointment on your behalf. Spanish-speaking agents and translation services into other languages are available, and the call center number can take TTY calls.

Live in Cook County? You can make an appointment directly with the Cook County Department of Public Health. Use this link to find available appointments

Live in the city of Chicago? To make an appointment in Chicago, visit zocdoc.com/vaccine. You can also call 312-746-4835 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.   

No matter where you go, the vaccine will be free.

Please note that the vaccine is currently in short supply. There may not be an appointment available to you right away. We encourage you to keep trying. Questions about availability? Call us.

Remember:

  • Bring your MeridianHealth member card and ID (a driver’s license or state ID) to your vaccination appointment.
  • If you need a ride to your appointment, just call Member Services. We’ll give you a lift (for free, of course).
  • Your vaccine will require two shots. You may be able to make your second appointment when you get your first shot. If not, call us so we can help you schedule it. Why do I need two shots?

Vaccine FAQs

Find answers to some commonly asked questions below.

If you don’t see the answer to your question, call us. We’re here to help.

 

Why should I get the COVID-19 vaccine?

The vaccine helps to protect you from COVID-19. Even if you are exposed to the virus, the vaccine can help keep you from getting sick. Being vaccinated may also reduce your risk of spreading COVID-19 to others.

 

 

Is there more than one COVID-19 vaccine?

There are currently three COVID-19 vaccines available. One is made by Pfizer and BioNTech, one is made by Moderna, and one is made by Johnson & Johnson. All are safe and effective against COVID-19. Learn more about the three vaccines.

 

 

Are the vaccines safe?

Yes. All three vaccines have been proven to be safe. All of the vaccines went through the same development steps as the flu and measles vaccines. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved all three vaccines

 

 

How do the vaccines work?

The vaccines help you build up immunity to the COVID-19 virus. The Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines contain mRNA, which teaches our body to fight off the COVID-19 virus. Learn more about how mRNA works.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine works in a similar way. It contains double-stranded DNA that helps our body create antibodies to the COVID-19 virus. 

None of the vaccines contains the COVID-19 virus. 

 

 

Do I need a booster shot or additional dose?

All adults (18+) should get a booster shot or a third dose of vaccine. This provides extra protection against the virus. Learn more about booster shots and additional doses.

 

What are the side effects?

You may experience mild side effects after getting one of the vaccines. These could include fatigue, headache, soreness or redness at the injection site, and muscle or joint pain. All these side effects are completely normal. They are signs that your body is building immunity to COVID-19.

 

 

Why do I need two shots?

Both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines require two shots. The first shot prepares your body’s immune system and helps it recognize the virus. The second shot strengthens your immune response.

 

 

Can my kids get vaccinated?

Children 5 and up can get vaccinated. Call your child’s doctor to schedule an appointment. Some pharmacies and local clinics also have vaccine doses for kids. Visit vaccine.gov to find a location near you.

 

If I already had COVID-19, do I need the vaccine?

Yes. Even if you already had COVID-19, you could get sick again. It is important to get vaccinated to protect yourself.

 

 

How much does the vaccine cost?

All three vaccines are completely free.

 

 

Once I get the vaccine, do I still have to wear a mask?

Yes. Even after you are fully vaccinated, there is still a small chance you could become sick with COVID-19. You may also be able to spread the virus to others after being vaccinated. It is important to keep wearing a mask to protect yourself and others. You should also continue to practice social distancing and wash your hands frequently.

 

 

How effective are the vaccines?

All of the vaccines have been proven to be effective against the COVID-19 virus.

 

Hear from Illinois residents like you

Learn why Bonnie Blue signed up to be one of the first vaccine trial participants

Find out why the vaccine means hope to Erica Lopez 
 

 

It's important to get a vaccine-because people count on you

Pro Football Hall of Famer Richard Dent has friends and family who count on him. That’s why he’s getting vaccinated. Get vaccinated for the people who count on you. Watch the video to see Richard’s vaccine story.

 

 

Contact Us

MeridianHealth Member Services:
866-606-3700
Monday–Friday, 7:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. CST (TTY: 711)

    

MeridianHealth complies with applicable Federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.

ATTENTION: If you speak Spanish, language assistance services, free of charge, are available to you. Call 1-866-606-3700 (TTY: 711).