Vaccine FAQs

St. Louis County Public Health, along with hospitals and pharmacies throughout the region, are administering COVID-19 vaccines following the guidance of the Minnesota Department of Health. Currently two vaccines – one from Pfizer/BioNTech and the other from Moderna – have been approved for emergency use. The information below is accurate for both vaccines.

How soon can I get vaccinated?

The COVID-19 vaccine is not yet available to the general public. Because of the limited vaccine availability, St. Louis County Public Health is following the priority list set by the Minnesota Department of Health.  For now, this includes health care personnel and long term care facility staff and residents.

St. Louis County Public Health is following three guiding principles in administering vaccines:

  • Vaccinating for impact to decrease morbidity and mortality,
  • Ensuring equitable distribution
  • Maintaining transparency throughout the process.

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Any organizations identified as being in Phase 1a who has not yet been vaccinated, can register their organization here. This registration form is NOT to be used by anyone other than those listed as being in Phase 1a.

The vaccination is free and will eventually be available to everyone. Please be patient.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?

Yes. The COVID-19 vaccines have undergone rigorous safety testing. Scientists from the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have reviewed all information from the testing process and determined the vaccine to be safe and 95% effective.

All the usual steps have been taken to make sure the COVID-19 vaccines are safe. To speed up the development of the COVID-19 vaccine, drug manufacturers built upon previous research as well as used new and faster methods.

Experts continue tracking vaccine safety information once vaccines are given in real-life conditions to make sure they are working as expected.

What are the side effects or long term effects of the vaccine?

The most common side effects from the COVID-19 vaccines are mild and temporary. They include fatigue, headache, and muscle aches. When mild side effects occur, they are a normal sign your body is building protection to the virus. If these minor side effects occur, it’s most likely a day or two after getting the vaccine, and go away in a few days.

Because a very small percentage of people who’ve received the vaccine have experienced an allergic reaction, individuals are asked to wait for 15 minutes at the vaccination site to be monitored by medical staff so they could be treated if necessary. Note: while the vaccine does not contain egg, those with severe allergic reactions to eggs or any other substance (i.e., anaphylaxis) are encouraged to remain for 30 minutes for observation after vaccination.

There are no known long term effects from the COVID-19 vaccine. 

How does the vaccine work?

The COVID-19 vaccine requires two doses. You will get one shot, and then a second shot 21-28 days later (depending on if the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine is used.)  It is necessary to get both doses of the same vaccine to be fully protected.

The vaccine does not contain any live or dead COVID-19 virus. Instead, it uses spike protein RNA, which teaches the immune system to recognize the COVID-19 virus and destroy it before it can infect you.

Do I have to get vaccinated?

No. Because the COVID-19 vaccine is approved for use under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), no one can be forced to get it. However, we strongly encourage you to get the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available to you. Getting vaccinated helps protect you and your family, co-workers, residents, patients, and community. It’s also how you can help end the damage to the economy, and eliminate and eradicate COVID-19.

Will I ever have to prove I’ve been vaccinated?

Your vaccination status is your personal data and providers are not able to provide this information to others. However, this information will be available to you to provide to others as proof of vaccination, should an employer or others require this and you are willing to provide your personal vaccination history. No one else is legally able to access your personal vaccination data.

Like all personal health information, COVID-19 vaccination status is protected by federal and state law. Vaccine providers and public health agencies can track who is receiving the COVID-19 vaccines to ensure that all vaccinated people receive both doses of the vaccine, and that the most vulnerable populations are offered the vaccines first. Your COVID-19 vaccination status will be entered into the Minnesota Immunization Information Connection. You will also get a card documenting that you received the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Can I get the vaccine if I'm pregnant/breastfeeding?

There is not a lot of information yet on this topic. A woman who is pregnant or breastfeeding can get vaccinated but should speak with her health care provider first to understand what is known about their situation and vaccination.

Do I still need to social distance and wear masks if I get the vaccine?

Yes. For now, even those who’ve been vaccinated should continue to wear masks and practice other prevention steps. This is because scientists don’t yet know for certain if the vaccine prevents asymptomatic virus spread. In other words, the vaccine protects you from getting sick, but it’s unclear if a vaccinated person could still spread the virus to others.

If I pass on my chance to get vaccinated now, then what?

Once you are deemed eligible to receive the vaccine, you can receive it at any time. Certainly, the longer you wait the more you put yourself at risk for contracting COVID-19.  But not getting vaccinated when it’s your turn does not mean you can’t get vaccinated later.

If I’ve had COVID, do I still need to get vaccinated?

You should get vaccinated even if you have had COVID-19. Because of the newness of the virus, it’s not known how long a person has immunity after experiencing COVID-19.  It’s also not known if being previously infected will make the next infection better or worse.

If your illness was confirmed by a PCR test in the past 90 days, it is okay to wait to get vaccinated. In order to conserve doses when they are limited, you may be asked to wait for the 90-day period.

How long does the vaccine last?

At this time, we do not know if this will be a vaccine that people need to get again, (like needing a tetanus shot every 10 years or getting a flu shot every year.)

Does the vaccine cause infertility or sterility?

There is no evidence the vaccine can cause sterility or infertility. There is also no biological mechanism that would lead to sterility or infertility in COVID-19 vaccine recipients. This myth originated from unscientific sources and hypotheses not supported by scientific fact.

Can I get COVID if I take the COVID vaccine?

No. Because the vaccine does not contain any live or dead version of the virus, you cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccine. At 95% efficacy, the vaccine is extraordinarily effective at protecting you from the virus.

Will the vaccine change my DNA?

No. The COVID-19 vaccine is a messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine. The mRNA in these vaccines directs the production of specific proteins that your immune system will recognize as viral proteins and subsequently generate a protective immune response. Neither the mRNA nor protein has the ability to change your genome and does not enter the nucleus, where the DNA is located.

Does the vaccine contain a microchip or tracking device?

No. This is myth that has circulated on the internet. The COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective and can prevent you from getting a severe case of COVID-19. 

Why should I trust the government on this?

St. Louis County Public health, like all public health agencies, provides unbiased information and resources to residents of the county we serve. COVID-19 vaccines have been produced by non-governmental private companies, and the safety and effectiveness of these vaccines has been monitored by an independent monitoring board. In addition, public health experts at universities, and medical and pharmacy practitioners have uniformly recommended COVID-19 vaccinations for all eligible populations to combat this deadly disease. 

We encourage you to check with your health care provider to ensure you are getting accurate and up-to-date vaccine information from a credible source.

Want to learn more about the COVID-19 vaccines?



COVID testing information:

If you think you should be tested, your first step should be to contact your medical provider. 

Who should get tested

If you do not have a medical provider or have other reasons for needing to be tested, there are free testing options that are open to anyone:

Where to find a free test

Register for a free saliva tests at the DECC

Register for a free nasal swab test at the Hibbing Armory

Request a free at-home saliva test kit

What is COVID-19 (Coronavirus)?

COVID-19, also known as the 2019 Novel Coronavirus or 2019-nCoV, is a new respiratory virus that the World Health Organization has declared a pandemic.

Information on symptoms, how it spreads, and how to protect yourself.

The first Covid-19 case in the United States was confirmed in January, and the first case in Minnesota was confirmed March 6. The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) provides a daily situation update

The first presumptive case of COVID-19 in St. Louis County was announced March 21.

What can I do to keep myself or my family safe?

How can I report a mask violation or worker safety concerns?

Per the Governor’s Executive Order, face coverings are required to be worn in all indoor businesses and public indoor spaces, unless alone.  Additionally, workers are required to wear a face covering when working outdoors in situations where social distancing cannot be maintained. Masks must cover both nose and mouth. Learn more.

For violations by restaurants and food service establishments, pools, or lodging services: Use the MDH Online Complaint Form.

To ask questions or report violations that relate to worker health and safety: Contact the Department of Labor and Industry by email at or call 651-284-5050 or 1-877-470-6742.

What is St. Louis County's role in this?

St. Louis County Public Health follows the guidance of the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). We use this information as we work closely with cities/townships, school districts, the medical community, and community service providers.

Our role is to help educate people by providing accurate information about the risk, signs or symptoms to watch for, and how best to protect yourself and your family.  Additionally, we are working with our Emergency Management team to continue best serving our citizens as case numbers continue to climb throughout St. Louis County.


Who can I contact if I have additional questions?

For clinical questions about the COVID-19 virus, such as identifying symptoms or whether testing is needed:

Essentia Health 1-833-494-0836

For non-clinical questions, such as preventative steps to take or anything travel-related:

St. Louis County Public Health COVID-19 information phone line: 218-625-3600. Our Public Health team will answer and return calls Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The Minnesota Department of Health hotline: 

651-297-1304 or 1-800-657-3504