Refugee Resettlement during COVID-19 FAQ

A health worker raises the awareness of patients waiting for their appointments outside a primary health care clinic. Photo/IRC

Refugee Resettlement during COVID-19 FAQ

Refugees arriving in the U.S. will receive resettlement services through local Resettlement Agencies (RAs) which are committed to providing the greatest quality of service possible. The impact of COVID-19 on resettlement varies across the U.S. and will change over time depending on local and state requirements. This Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page provides information about COVID-19 vaccines and impacts of COVID-19 on refugee resettlement. For a snapshot of key messages and resources provided to refugees at each step of the resettlement process, view this COVID-19 Health Resource Infographic.

This page was last updated June 2021.

Vaccine Messaging FAQs for Cultural Orientation Providers

Cultural Orientation providers may receive questions related to the COVID-19 vaccines during pre-departure Cultural Orientation as refugees prepare for travel, or they may be in response to vaccine-related outreach and support upon arrival. Cultural Orientation providers may feel unsure about how to respond because vaccine messaging goes beyond the normal scope of health-related issues covered in Cultural Orientation. The FAQs below are designed to help Cultural Orientation providers competently respond to common vaccine questions. The list provides helpful responses and additional resources.

Understanding myths, misinformation, disinformation, and hesitancy

It is important to know that refugees and other forcibly displaced people may have lived experience or a family history that includes medical experimentation or unethical medical practice or research. This is also true for many people of color in the United States. In addition, certain actors may spread disinformation (intentionally manufactured incorrect information) to sow discord and distrust in a community or society.

Given this, people may have an understandable suspicion of the vaccines and the motivations behind it. Cultural Orientation providers should approach myths, misinformation, and disinformation compassionately and with the intent to empower people to seek out accurate information from credible sources so they can make the best-informed decision for themselves and their families.

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Frequently Asked Questions

The currently approved vaccines were tested on tens of thousands of individuals of different ethnicities, ages, and health conditions and have met the US Food and Drug Administration’s high scientific standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing. As of June 6, over 298 million doses of COVID vaccines have been administered in the United States. The vaccines safety has been and continues to be closely monitored. If you want more information, here are some resources that might be helpful.

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For information on travel to and from the US in the context of COVID-19, please visit the CDC’s COVID-19 Travel Recommendations by Destination and After International Travel websites. This site contains information on travel requirements by country – including requirements and recommendations for fully vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. In addition, the CDC’s COVID-19 in Newly Resettled Refugee Populations website contains guidance for refugees upon arrival in the U.S. – including resources such as a Welcome Booklet for Refugees (available in 19 languages), after travel recommendations, guidance on living in shared housing, and much more.

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  • CDC: General Travel Guidance offers information on travel in the U.S. and internationally, cruise ship travel, recommendations by country, and health notices. Also includes information for travelers who are prohibited from entry into the U.S. The page is translated into Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean by a “Other Languages” dropdown.

Yes, you will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. upon arrival. The COVID-19 vaccines are free for everyone in the U.S. Anyone can be vaccinated regardless of immigration status.

Getting a vaccine is your personal choice. Our role is to ensure that you have the trusted, credible, and scientific sources of information that you need in order to make the best decision for you and your family. The COVID-19 vaccines are strongly encouraged for all who are eligible, including those who have already had COVID-19. It will not only help protect you, but also your family, loved ones, and community from getting the COVID-19 virus, which can be deadly or have long-lasting debilitating effects.

There are lots of different types of coronaviruses and scientists have been studying them for many years. Because of this, scientists already had lots of previous research that they could use to develop the vaccines. In addition, the government funded many companies to work in development and testing at the same time. Also, when a vaccine is normally made, it gets tested first and then large amounts of the vaccine are made. Because of the pandemic and funding from governments, scientists were able to do both at the same time. All of this allowed the development of the vaccines to go faster than usual. It is important to know that not all the vaccines that were made and tested got approved to be used. Only the vaccines that were tested and were shown to be safe were approved. If you want more information on how they made and tested the vaccine, here are some resources that might be helpful.

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  • How COVID Vaccines are Made from the WA State Department of Health in English, and Spanish

The vaccines teach your body to recognize and kill the virus that causes COVID. That is why some people have cold or flu like symptoms for a day or two after getting a vaccine. This is the body working to recognize the virus and activating the body’s immune system to kill it. Once the body learns how to do this it remembers it, so if you get infected with the virus in the future it can quickly fight off and kill it. If you want more information on how vaccines work, here are some resources that might be helpful.

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Though not everyone will experience side effects from the vaccines, some people do have mild side effects for one or two days, including tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, and fever. The side effects mean that the vaccine has activated the immune system. In other words, it means the vaccine is working and teaching your body how to fight COVID-19. Whether or not you experience side effects, the vaccine is working in your body. If you want more information on the side effects, here are some resources that might be helpful.

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The vaccines have been determined to be Halal by many Islamic religious leaders and scholars. The vaccines have received stamps of approval from lots of Muslim religious leaders, scholars, and organizations including the British Islamic Medical Association, the Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America and the grand mufti or Saudi Arabia. If you want to find out more, here are some resources that might be helpful.

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The COVID-19 vaccines will not interact with or alter your DNA. The vaccines have been extensively studied and they found no evidence that it causes any problems with fertility.

There is a lot of information about the COVID-19 vaccines – some of it factual and some of it not true. The most important thing is for you to go to sources that are reliable and that use studied, scientific facts. This will allow you to get all of the information you need to make the best decision for you and your family. Sometimes it is also helpful to talk to someone you trust and whom you know has accurate information – like a doctor, nurse or a community health worker. Many of these professionals have already gotten the vaccine so they can also tell you about their experience. Here are some resources that might be helpful.

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The COVID-19 vaccines are recommended for those who are eligible, including those who have already had COVID-19. Getting the vaccine will not only help protect you, it will help protect your family and loved ones from what can be a deadly or debilitating virus. When enough people get the vaccine, we will be able to see our family and friends again, and the things we do will be more normal.  It is important that everyone make the decision that is best for themselves, their family, and their community after knowing all the facts. Here are some resources that might help you and your family make a decision.

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If you are pregnant, you can receive a COVID-19 vaccine. It has been shown that pregnant people are more likely to get severely ill with COVID-19 compared to non-pregnant people. Getting a COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy can protect you from severe illness from COVID-19. In addition, if you want to get pregnant in the future, you can also get a COVID-19 vaccine. The COVID-19 vaccines do not affect your ability to have children.

If you have questions about getting vaccinated, it may be helpful to discuss with your healthcare provider, however, this is not required for vaccination.


The two dose vaccines and the one dose vaccines are slightly different – but they are all effective and none of the vaccines can give you COVID. The two-dose vaccines use mRNA, which is something that your body uses all the time to create different types of proteins you need to stay healthy. It is important to note that mRNA is not DNA and will not interact with or change your DNA. With the vaccines that use mRNA – like Moderna and Pfizer – they found that people needed two doses to get the maximum protection. A few weeks after the second-dose, when the body has had enough time to build immunity, people who have been vaccinated have a much lower risk of getting COVID-19! There are lots of vaccines that need two doses to be the most effective – like the hepatitis A & B vaccines and the Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) ones.

The current one-dose vaccine from Johnson & Johnson uses a different type of technology than mRNA. It uses a harmless, weakened virus called an adenovirus to teach the body how to fight off the COVID virus. The adenovirus is NOT the coronavirus so you don’t have to worry about getting infected with COVID! After the Johnson and Johnson vaccine is given, it takes a few weeks for the body to build up immunity.

All the vaccines available are HIGHLY effective in preventing death, hospitalization and serious illness from COVID-19.

With all the currently approved vaccines you are considered fully protected 2 weeks after your final dose. In other words, after the second Moderna and Pfizer shot, or the single shot of Johnson & Johnson. This is because it is takes time for your immune system to learn how to recognize and kill the virus.

It takes a while for your body to build up immunity, so people won’t have the full vaccine protection until two weeks from the final dose. If you are fully vaccinated (2 weeks after your final vaccine dose), then you don’t need to wear a mask in most situations. However, masks are still needed if you are not fully vaccinated. Masks are also still required in some situations, such as while traveling, or if required by your local government or a private business.

On April 21st, the White House released a statement that President Biden will announce a “paid leave tax credit” for small- and medium-sized businesses with less than 500 employees that will provide full pay for any employee who needs to get a COVID-19 vaccine or to recover from after-effects of the vaccine for up to 80 hours (i.e. 10 work days). In addition, the U.S. federal government is strongly encouraging all employers to offer paid leave for employees for COVID vaccine-related absences. We recommend that refugees check with their employer for the current policy on paid leave to get a COVID-19 vaccination as well as paid leave and/or sick policy for recovery from after-effects of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Communities of color – including refugees, immigrants, and migrants (RIM)– have received smaller shares of COVID vaccinations compared to their shares of cases and deaths. In the last several months, there have been community advocates and leaders who have pushed for vaccines to be more accessible to communities of color including refugees and immigrants. The government, public health agencies, and community organizations are trying to remove barriers to access – such as not being able to take time off of work, not having transportation to vaccine sites, and receiving vaccine information only available in English – so that more RIM communities can get vaccinated. This has led to an increased focus in reaching these communities so that they can equally benefit from the vaccine and keep their family and loved ones safe and healthy.

The most effective way to protect yourself and your family from COVID-19 is to get an approved vaccine. There has been a lot of scientific study on the vaccine and it has been proven to be safe and effective in preventing serious illness and death from the virus that causes COVID-19.

Vaccines are free for everyone living and working in the United States.  Anyone can be vaccinated regardless of immigration status.

CORE has additional excellent resources on COVID-19 for New Arrivals. A few are highlighted below. You can further explore CORE’s COVID -19 resources.



  • NRC-RIM: The After You’re Vaccinated fact sheet is available in 30 languages. The fact sheet lists activities that are safe after receiving a COVID-19 vaccination, recommended precautions, testing guidance, and tips for traveling safely.
  • NRC-RIM and IRC: The After Vaccination video, available in 10 languages, conveys the information provided in the above fact sheet. Audio and visual assets are useful for communities with varying degrees of literacy.