Disease & Vaccine Information

SARS-CoV-2 Virus & COVID-19 Quick Facts

Updated September 05, 2022



  • SARS-CoV-2 is one strain (type) of coronavirus that is part of a large family of enveloped RNA viruses that can infect mammals and birds.1 Coronaviruses are named for their crown-like spiked surfaces and cause generally mild respiratory symptoms like the common cold in humans.2
  • A few coronavirus strains can cause very severe respiratory disease with significant mortality, such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that emerged in China in 2002-20033 and Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) that was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012.4 SARS-CoV-2, which was identified in China in late 20195 and declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) in March 2020,6 7 has a much lower mortality rate than SARS or MERS.8
  • People with SARS-CoV-2 infections can be asymptomatic9 or exhibit a constellation of mild or severe illness symptoms known as COVID-19, which include fever; chills; cough; shortness of breath/difficulty breathing, fatigue; muscle, joint or body aches; rash; headache; new loss of taste or smell; sore throat; congestion or runny nose; nausea or vomiting, and diarrhea.10 Multiple studies have found that individuals who recover from COVID-19 illness have long-term immunity and rarely suffer a second COVID-19 infection. 11 12 13 14
  • Complications of COVID-19 disease include pneumonia; acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS); acute kidney, liver, and heart failure or damage; septic shock; disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC); rhabdomyolysis (muscle breakdown); chronic fatigue syndrome; blood clots and death.15 Serious complications of COVID-19 disease may be caused by a hyperactive immune response known as a cytokine storm, which occur when an infection triggers the immune system to flood the bloodstream with inflammatory proteins (cytokines) that can damage organs and kill tissue.16 In some young children and adolescents, SARS-CoV-2 infections may trigger multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C).17 18
  • According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2020 about 94 percent of COVID-19 related-deaths occurred in persons over age 65 and individuals with underlying poor health conditions. This means that only about 6 percent of COVID-19 related-deaths involved persons who did not have any pre-existing health conditions or in persons under the age of 65.19 Among those the CDC consider to be at highest risk for severe COVID-19 disease are the immunocompromised; pregnant women; individuals with chronic heart, lung or kidney disease; the obese; type 2 diabetics; and individuals with cancer, Down’s syndrome, sickle cell disease and thalassemia. There are other chronic health conditions that might increase risks for severe COVID-19 disease, including asthma, high blood pressure, dementia and neurologic conditions, liver disease, cystic fibrosis, and type 1 diabetes.20

COVID-19 Vaccine

  • On Mar. 10, 2020, the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) invoked the 2005 Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act, after declaring that the COVID-19 pandemic was a public health emergency. As a result, manufacturers of COVID-19 vaccines that have been developed to respond to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic are considered public health emergency “countermeasures”. The PREP Act shields manufacturers and vaccine providers from liability and vaccine injury compensation claims will be processed by the Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program (CICP).21 22 23
  • The FDA has licensed two COVID-19 vaccines for use in the U.S.: Comirnaty mRNA COVID-19 vaccine24, developed and manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech, and Spikevax mRNA COVID-19 vaccine25, developed and manufactured by Moderna with NIAID. Comirnaty is approved as a two-dose series in individuals 12 years and older, while Spikevax is approved as a two-dose series in persons 18 and older.
  • As of August 28, 2022, the Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA COVID-19 vaccine remains authorized for use under Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) in children six months through 12 years.26 The Moderna mRNA COVID-19 vaccine also remains under EUA, and available for use in infants, children, and adolescents six months through 17 years.27 An EUA granted by the FDA to pharmaceutical corporations for distribution of experimental COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. does not mean that the agency has evaluated all safety and efficacy data and officially approved licensure of the vaccine. The EUA authorizes manufacturers to release an experimental vaccine for voluntary use and the FDA states that vaccine recipients must “have the option to accept or refuse the vaccine.”28
  • In February 2021, Janssen Biotech, Inc. of Johnson & Johnson, was granted an EUA by the FDA for an experimental COVID-19 vaccine, which uses a human adenovirus vector29 30 31 rather than mRNA technology, for persons 18 and older.32 On April 13, 2021, the FDA and CDC paused use of the vaccine after serious blood clots with low blood platelets were reported in women between the ages of 18 and 49, a condition now referred to as Thrombosis with Thrombocytopenia (TTS).33 Ten days later, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted to resume use of the vaccine despite the known risks. 34 35 On December 16, 2021, ACIP voted to give a preferential recommendation to mRNA COVID-19 vaccines over the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine due to the risk of TTS.36 The Johnson & Johnson/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine remains available for use in the U.S. but is recommended only when a person is unable to or unwilling to receive an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine, or when mRNA COVID-19 vaccines are not available.37
  • On July 13, 2022, the FDA authorized use of the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine, adjuvanted for individuals 18 years of age and older. This vaccine, administered as a 2-dose primary series given three weeks apart, is a protein subunit vaccine that uses recombinant nanoparticle technology. The adjuvant in the vaccine is the Matrix M-adjuvant and contains saponin extracts from the bark of the Soapbark tree. The spike protein in the vaccine is produced in insect cells It is approved for use in individuals who have not previously received a dose of COVID-19 vaccine.38 In August 2022, the FDA expanded use of the vaccine in persons 12 years of age and older.39 As of August 28, 2022, booster doses of Novavax in persons who received a two-dose primary series of Novavax have not yet been authorized by the FDA.40
  • As of August 28, 2022, booster doses of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines have been authorized under EUA by the FDA and recommended for all persons five years of age and older.41 Persons 50 years of age and older may also choose to receive a second booster dose, to be given at least four months following receipt of the first booster dose.42 Individuals who are immunocompromised are recommended to receive a 3-dose primary series of mRNA vaccine, followed by a booster dose at least three months after the third vaccine dose. A second booster dose may also be given at least four months after the first booster dose.43 The FDA and CDC have authorized the mixing of vaccine types for all persons 18 years and older who are receiving booster doses44 despite limited safety or efficacy data to support the use of a mixed dose schedule.45
  • As of July 24, 2022, health officials at the World Health Organization (WHO) and U.S National Institutes of Health (NIH) have warned that, while there is evidence that two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines can prevent symptomatic COVID-19 disease, there is a lack of evidence that the vaccines are effective in preventing infection and transmission of SARS-CoV-2.46 47 48 49 The Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine was also granted an EUA based on efficacy data that demonstrated evidence for protection against symptomatic COVID-19 disease rather than protection against infection and transmission of the new coronavirus.50
  • As of the July 15, 2022 release of data from CDC, there have been 1,350,950 reports of adverse events following vaccination with COVID-19 vaccines submitted to the federal vaccine adverse event reporting system (VAERS), which noted 246,676 serious adverse events; 33,009 life-threatening events; 169,426 hospitalizations; and 29,635 deaths. Reported adverse events have also included pain at the injection site; fatigue; anaphylaxis; headache; muscle and joint pain; fever; chills;51 swollen lymph nodes; nausea and vomiting;52 immune thrombocytopenia purpura (ITP) (low blood platelets);53 54 Bell’s Palsy;55 tinnitus;56 cardiac arrest; neurological dysfunction; rheumatoid arthritis; blood clots; heart, kidney and liver failure;57 anaphylaxis; myocarditis and pericarditis; 58 Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS)59 and death.60 61 62 Click for most recent CDC data release.
  • The CDC states that contraindications to receiving COVID-19 vaccines include (1) a history of severe allergic reaction to a previous vaccine dose or any of its ingredients; (2) a history of an immediate allergic reaction of any severity to a previous mRNA COVID-19 vaccine dose or to any of its ingredients. A polyethylene glycol (PEG) allergy is considered a contraindication to mRNA vaccines, while a polysorbate allergy is considered a contraindication to Janssen vaccine. The CDC states that a person with a contraindication to mRNA vaccination may be able to receive the Janssen vaccine and vice versa provided that precautions are taken. This includes ensuring that the vaccine is administered by a healthcare provider who is equipped to manage severe allergic reactions.63 A prior history of TTS after receipt of the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine or another adenoviral-vector COVID-19 vaccine is also a contraindication to receiving a dose of the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine.64

Food & Drug Administration (FDA)

Centers for Disease Control (CDC)            

CDC – Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)

National Institutes of Health – NIH

Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)

Vaccine Reaction Symptoms & Ingredients

Our Ask 8, If You Vaccinate webpage contains vaccine reaction symptoms and more.

Search for Vaccine Reactions

NVIC hosts MedAlerts, a powerful VAERS database search engine. MedAlerts examines symptoms, reactions, vaccines, dates, places, and more. 

Reporting a Vaccine Reaction

Since 1982, the NVIC has operated a Vaccine Reaction Registry, which has served as a watchdog on VAERS. Reporting vaccine reactions to VAERS is the law. If your doctor will not report a reaction, you have the right to report a suspected vaccine reaction to VAERS. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: NVIC encourages you to become fully informed about covid-19 and the covid-19 vaccine by reading all sections in the Table of Contents, which contain many links and resources such as the manufacturer product information inserts, and to speak with one or more trusted health care professionals before making a vaccination decision for yourself or your child. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice.


1 Mandal A. The role of micro-RNA in SARS-CoV-2 infection and COVID-19. News-Medical Nov. 24, 2020.

2 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Common Human Coronaviruses. In: COVID-19. Feb. 13, 2020.

3 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Frequently Asked Questions about SARS. In: Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). May 3, 2005.

4  U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About MERS. In: Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). Aug. 2, 2019.

5 Wu YC, Chen CS, Chan YS. The outbreak of COVID-19: An overview. J Chin Med Assoc March 2020; 83(3): 217-220.

6 Cucinotta D, Vanelli M. WHO Declares COVID-19 a Pandemic. Acta Biomed March 2020; 91(1): 157-160.

7 Fisher BL. Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic: NVIC Special Report. National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) February-June 2020. 

8 Hewings-Maven Y. How do SARS and MERS compare with COVID-19? Medical News Today Apr. 10, 2020.

9 Rivett L, Sridhar S, Sparkes D, et al. Screening of healthcare workers for SARS-CoV-2 highlights the role of asymptomatic carriage in COVID-19 transmission. ELife May 2020; 9:e58728.

10 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms of COVID-19. In: COVID-19. Aug. 11, 2022.

11 National Institutes of Health (NIH) Lasting immunity found after recovery from COVID-19 NIH Research Matters Jan. 26, 2021.

12 Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Good news: Mild COVID-19 induces lasting antibody protection. May 24, 2021.

13 Shrestha NK, Burke PC, Nowacki AS. et al. Necessity of COVID-19 Vaccination in Persons Who Have Already Had COVID-19.  Clin Infect Dis. Jan 13, 2022. Epub ahead of print.

14 Alexander PE. 150 plus Research Studies Affirm Naturally Acquired Immunity to Covid-19: Documented, Linked, and Quoted. Brownstone Institute Oct. 17, 2021.

15 WebMD. Complications Coronavirus Can Cause. Aug. 9, 2021.

16 Song P, Li W, Xie J et al. Cytokine storm induced by SARS-CoV-2. Clin Chim Acta October 2020; 509: 280-287.

17 Mayo Clinic. Multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) and COVID-19. Nov. 12, 2021.

18 Bhaskar S, Sinha A, Banach M, et al. Cytokine Storm in COVID-19: Immunopathological Mechanisms, Clinical Considerations and Therapeutic Approaches: The REPROGRAM Consortium Position Paper. Front Immunol 2020; 11: 1648.

19 Garg S, Kim L, Whitaker M, et al. Hospitalization Rates and Characteristics of Patients Hospitalized with Laboratory-Confirmed Coronavirus Disease 2019 — COVID-NET, 14 States, March 1–30, 2020. MMWR 2020; 69(15): 458-464.

20 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People with Certain Medical Conditions. In: COVID-19. May 2, 2022.

21 Congressional Research Service. The PREP Act and COVID-19: Limiting Liability for Medical Countermeasures. Apr. 13, 2022.

22 Garde D., Branswell H. 6 burning questions Congress could push Covid-19 vaccine makers to answer todayStat News July 20, 2020.

23 Fisher BL. Parpia R. 2005 PREP Act and 1986 Act Shield Vaccine Manufacturers from Liability The Vaccine Reaction Aug. 10, 2020.

24 BioNTech Manufacturing GmbH. Comirnaty. U.S. Food and Drug Administration July 27, 2022.

25 ModernaTx, Inc. Spikevax. U.S. Food and Drug Administration Feb. 18, 2022.

26 U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Comirnaty and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine. July 11, 2022.

27 U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Spikevax and Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine. July 1, 2022.

28 U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Emergency Use Authorization for Vaccines Explained. Nov. 20, 2020.

29 Levine H. The 5 Stages of COVID-19 Vaccine Development: What You Need to Know About How a Clinical Trial Works. Johnson & Johnson Sept. 23, 2020.

30 Weintraub A. J&J COVID-19 vaccine candidate protects monkeys after single dose. Fierce Biotech July 30, 2020.

31 U.S. Food and Drug Administration. FDA Issues Emergency Use Authorization for Third COVID-19 Vaccine. Feb. 27, 2021.

32 U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Janssen Ad26.COV2.S vaccine for the prevention of COVID-19 Briefing Document. In: Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee – Event Materials. February 26, 2021.

33 Soucheray S. US halts J&J COVID vaccine after reports of blood clots. CIDRAP News Apr. 13, 2021.

34 Soucheray S. ACIP opts to lift pause on Johnson & Johnson vaccine. CIDRAP News Apr. 23, 2021.

35 Lee M. Pause on Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 Vaccine Lifted: CDC Vaccine Advisory Committee. The Epoch Times Apr. 23, 2021.

36 TVR Staff. CDC Opts for mRNA Biologics Over J&J COVID Vaccine Following Nine Blood Clotting Deaths. The Vaccine Reaction Dec. 19, 2021.

37 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Appendix A. Guidance for use of Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine. In: Interim Clinical Considerations for Use of COVID-19 Vaccines Currently Approved or Authorized in the United States. Aug. 22, 2022.

38 U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Novavax COVID-19 Vaccine, Adjuvanted. Aug. 26, 2022.

39 U.S. Food and Drug Administration. FDA Roundup: August 19, 2022. Aug. 19, 2022.

40 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. COVID-19 Vaccine Boosters. In: COVID-19. July 20, 2022.

41 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. COVID-19 vaccination schedule for people who are NOT moderately or severely immunocompromised. In: Interim Clinical Considerations for Use of COVID-19 Vaccines Currently Approved or Authorized in the United States. Aug. 22, 2022.

42 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. ACIP Update to the Evidence to Recommendations for a 2nd COVID-19 Booster Dose in Adults Ages 50 Years and Older and Immunocompromised Individuals. May 23, 2022.

43 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. COVID-19 vaccination guidance for people who are moderately or severely immunocompromised. In: Interim Clinical Considerations for Use of COVID-19 Vaccines Currently Approved or Authorized in the United States. Aug. 22, 2022.

44 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC Expands Eligibility for COVID-19 Booster Shots. In: CDC Newsroom. Oct. 21, 2021.

45 Atmar RL. DMID 21-0012 - Heterologous Platform Boost Study Mix and Match. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Oct. 21, 2021.

46 Sky News Australia. WHO doesn’t have evidence vaccines prevent people transmitting virus to others. Dec. 29, 2020.

47 Kim S. Dr. Fauci on Mandatory COVID Vaccines: ‘Everything Will Be on the Table. Newsweek Jan. 1, 2021.

48 Fisher BL. WHO and Fauci Warn COVID-19 Vaccines May not Prevent Infection and Disease Transmission. The Vaccine Reaction Jan. 4, 2020.

49 Caceres B. COVID Vaccines Not Proven to Prevent SARS-CoV-2 Infection or Transmission. The Vaccine Reaction Aug. 9, 2021.

50 Johnson & Johnson. Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 Vaccine Authorized by U.S. FDA for Emergency Use – First Single Shot Vaccine in Fight Against Global Pandemic. Feb. 27, 2021.

51 U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Comirnaty and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine. July 11, 2022.

52 U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Spikevax and Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine. July 1, 2022.

53 Fisher BL. Miami Obstetrician Develops Bleeding Disorder, Dies After Receiving COVID-19 Vaccine. The Vaccine Reaction Jan. 11, 2021.

54 Stieber Z. Authorities Probe Rare Blood Disorder Among Some COVID-19 Vaccine Recipients. The Epoch Times Feb. 11, 2021.

55 U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Briefing Document- Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine. In: Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee – Event Materials. Dec. 10. 2020.

56 Parrino D, Frosolini A, Gallo C et al. Tinnitus following COVID-19 vaccination: report of three cases. Int J Audiol. Jun 13, 2021:1-4. Epub ahead of print.

57 Fisher BL. Healthy Mom, 39, in Utah Dies of Organ Failure Four Days After Moderna COVID Vaccination. The Vaccine Reaction Mar. 15, 2021.

58 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Selected Adverse Events Reported After COVID-19 Vaccination. In: COVID-19. Aug. 23, 2022.

59 George J. FDA To Warn About Post-COVID Vax Guillain-Barré Syndrome — Cases seen in people who received Johnson & Johnson's vaccine. Medpage Today July 12, 2021.

60 Attkisson S. Deaths of Elderly Who Recovered From COVID-19, but Died After Vaccine, Raise Questions. The Epoch Times Feb. 10, 2021.

61 Caceres M. Why Is Death After COVID-19 Vaccination Always Assumed to Be Coincidental? The Vaccine Reaction Mar. 1, 2021.

62 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Selected Adverse Events Reported After COVID-19 Vaccination. In: COVID-19. Aug. 23, 2022.

63 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Contraindications and Precautions. In: Interim Clinical Considerations for Use of COVID-19 Vaccines Currently Approved or Authorized in the United States. Aug. 22, 2022.

64 U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Janssen COVID-19 Fact Sheet for Healthcare Providers Administering Vaccine. May 5, 2022.

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