Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 and vaccines

Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services (SCES) is encouraging people to get the Coronavirus vaccine. We are also providing reliable information about the vaccine on the following topics:

  • Should I get a COVID booster shot?
  • Should I wear a mask if vaccinated?
  • What should I do if I test positive or was possibly exposed?
  • Where can I get the vaccine?
  • What documentation will I need?
  • Transportation to Vaccine appointments
  • General Information about the vaccine
  • Mask Requirements in Massachusetts
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Resources in different languages about the vaccine.


Should I get a COVID booster shot?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends booster shots for all adults (18 and up) five months after their second dose of Moderna or Pfizer, or two months after the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

Should I wear a mask if vaccinated?

The Cities of Cambridge and Somerville do not require masks. Businesses, however, remain free to maintain their own mask requirements to best serve their health and safety needs.

Residents are encouraged to follow the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and CDC recommendations for vaccinated and unvaccinated people, and businesses are reminded that they may continue to require the use of face masks inside their establishments if they wish.

Federal and State requirements still apply for masking in certain settings such as the RIDE, medical settings, and adult daycare.

Persons who are immunocompromised or at higher risk of severe illness, and those who live with or spend time with them, may wish to continue masking in indoor settings or during visits. The CDC outlines mask and other safety guidance for higher-risk persons for different community risk levels and encourages consultation with your healthcare provider. Persons at higher risk for severe illness include seniors, persons with underlying health conditions, pregnant or recently pregnant people, and people who are not vaccinated.


What if I test positive or was exposed to COVID-19? 

If you test positive for Covid-19 or were in close contact with someone who has, the Cambridge Public Health Department has some important reminders for you:

If you test positive for COVID-19:

  • You need to stay at home and keep your distance from other people in your house. This is called isolation. You should only leave for urgent medical appointments.
  • You should notify anyone you might have exposed to the virus. These individuals are known as your close contacts. They are people you spent more than 15 minutes with indoors—whether you were wearing a mask or not—in the 2 days before you started to feel sick, up until you started self-isolating.  If you do not have symptoms, it would be 2 days prior to the date you took your Covid-19 test, up until you started self-isolating.
  • On December 28, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shortened the recommended time for isolation for individuals with COVID-19.If the individual shows no symptoms, the recommended isolation period is shortened from 10 days to 5 days, followed by 5 days of wearing a mask when around others.For individuals unvaccinated or are more than six months out from their second Pfizer or Moderna dose (or more than 2 months after the J&J vaccine) and not yet boosted who have been exposed to COVID-19, the CDC now recommends quarantine for 5 days followed by strict mask use for an additional 5 days.Alternatively, if a 5-day quarantine is not feasible, it is imperative that an exposed person wear a well-fitting mask at all times when around others for 10 days after exposure. Individuals who have received their booster do not need to quarantine following an exposure, but should wear a mask for 10 days after the exposure.

For more details, see the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Information and Guidance for Persons in Isolation.

If you are a contact of someone with Covid-19:

  • If you are not fully vaccinated, you should remain at home and keep your distance from other people in your house.  This is called quarantining. You should get tested 5 days after your exposure. If you remain symptom free and your test is negative, you can return to normal activities 8 days from the date of exposure. For instance, if you were exposed to an infected person on Aug. 1 and you tested negative on August 6, you would quarantine yourself through Aug. 8 and could return to regular activities on Aug. 9. If you do not get a COVID test during your quarantine, you should remain in quarantine for 10 days following exposure.
  • If you are fully vaccinated, and someone lets you know that you are a contact of someone with Covid-19, you do not need to quarantine. Instead, you should monitor yourself for symptoms, and wait to get tested until 3-7 days after you were exposed. If you start to feel sick, or test positive, you should isolate yourself from others.

These isolation and quarantine measures are essential for slowing the spread of the virus and are required under state law. Comprehensive guidance on how to isolate and quarantine is available on the Massachusetts Department of Public Health website.

Where can I get a vaccine?

The Commonwealth’s COVID-19 Vaccine Finder has information about vaccine locations and availability statewide. Residents can also call 211 to access the Massachusetts Vaccine Scheduling Resource Line for help booking an appointment.

Homebound vaccinations

For individuals who cannot reasonably leave their homes, call (833) 983-0485 to arrange for an in-home booster shot. The Commonwealth is providing COVID-19 in-home vaccinations. Callers will immediately be assessed for in-home vaccination need, registered, and scheduled. Appointments can generally be made within two weeks from the scheduling call.

The cites of Cambridge and Somerville are also providing regular updates on local vaccination information.

Cambridge Call 617-349-9789 to reach a voicemail line is managed by the Cambridge Council on Aging. Callers can request information about the vaccine and will receive a call back from COA staff.

Somerville has launched phone lines that residents can call to listen to recorded updates on COVID-19 vaccine information. Five lines, each with a different language, are available. Because vaccination information is changing rapidly, these lines will be updated frequently and will only provide the latest information. To sign up for phone/email/text alerts, visit their website or call 311.

Additional languages:
• Spanish Vaccine Info Line: 617-591-3252
• Portuguese Vaccine Info Line: 617-591-3253
• Haitian Creole Vaccine Info Line: 617-591-3254
• Nepali Vaccine Info Line: 617-591-3255


What documentation will I need?

At the time of scheduling and/or at your appointment you may be asked for the following information:

▪ Insurance card. Vaccination is free whether you have insurance or not. If you have insurance, please bring that information with you to the appointment.
▪ Government-issued identification or license.

You may get a vaccine even if you do not have a driver’s license or a Social Security number.

You will never be asked for a credit card number to make an appointment.


Transportation to Appointments 

Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services is offering free transportation, via one of SCES’ transportation providers, for local older adults to COVID-19 vaccination sites in Cambridge, Somerville and adjacent communities. Click here for more details.

General Information About the Vaccines

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has launched a COVID-19 vaccine page, which includes a variety of resources about the vaccine and getting vaccinated.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration COVID-19 vaccine page includes news updates and fact sheets about the vaccines that have been approved for emergency use.


Frequently Asked Questions

Have the vaccines been approved by the FDA?  The FDA announced full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, will now be marketed as Comirnaty (koe-mir’-na-tee), on Aug. 23.

The full approval covers usage of the vaccine for people age 16 and over.  The vaccine is also available under emergency use for individuals 12 through 15 years of age and as a third dose in certain immunocompromised individuals.

The Pfizer vaccine is the first COVID vaccine to receive full approval from the PDA.

How do we know the vaccine is safe? Vaccines are the most-tested pharmaceuticals, and the result of a rigorous development process and clinical trials involving tens of thousands of people. In approving the vaccines for emergency use, the Food and Drug Administration determined that the known and potential benefits of these vaccines outweigh the known and potential harms of becoming infected with COVID-19.

Are there side effects? Yes. Some people who get the vaccine reported side effects, usually mild and more common after the second dose. These side effects are the result of your body creating an immune response. Side effects may start 1-2 days after the vaccine and last on average 2-3 days. It is important to note in the clinical trials that fewer older people reported side effects.

The most common were pain at the injection site, fatigue, headaches, muscle or joint pain, and chills or fever. If you have concerns, we encourage you to contact your Primary Care Doctor with specific questions about the vaccine and your unique medical history.

What should people do if they have asthma, allergies or other lung problems? According to the doctors at Cambridge Health Alliance, people who have these medical issues should absolutely get the vaccine. People with asthma, allergies or other lung conditions could get very sick or die from COVID-19. The only people who should not get a vaccine are people who have severe allergic reactions to a component of the vaccine. Other than the active mRNA ingredient, the vaccines are simply made of fats, salts, sugar, vinegar and certain glycerols.

I have other questions…  SCES is happy to connect you with reliable information, vaccine rollout updates and assistance. We will update this page as new information becomes available. As we learn more, Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services may be able to help with scheduling and transportation for vaccination appointments.


Helpful Links

Questions about Getting the COVID Vaccine? — The Boston Globe 

Have doubts about getting the COVID-19 vaccine? Here are some FAQsPBS affiliate WHYY

What to expect at your vaccination appointmentCenters for Disease Control and Prevention

VIDEO: How do the COVID vaccines work? – Boston Medical Center CNO Nancy Gaden

FAQ from Tufts Medical Center which is also available in Chinese, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Vietnamese.