Many Americans have questions about COVID-19 vaccines – and rightfully so. There’s lots of information out there, and researchers are learning new details about the virus daily.

But the science is very clear: Getting communities vaccinated is a crucial step to returning to "normal" life.

Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about COVID-19 vaccines:

Should I get the vaccine with pre-existing conditions?

People with certain pre-existing conditions, including cancer, diabetes, obesity and heart disease, are more likely to experience severe complications from contracting COVID-19. For this reason, they’re strongly encouraged to get vaccinated.

In clinical trials, the COVID-19 vaccines showed similar safety and effectiveness in folks with some underlying medical conditions as in patients without pre-existing conditions. Talk to your doctor in more detail about your specific concerns before getting vaccinated.

Are there side effects to the vaccine?

Yes, it’s possible to have side effects to the COVID-19 vaccine. Side effects vary depending on the individual and the vaccine. Many people may have mild side effects, including pain or redness at the site of the injection, fatigue, headache, muscle ache, fever and chills. Most let up within a day.

Although rare, some people have reported allergic reactions to the vaccines. An extraordinarily tiny fraction of vaccine recipients have experienced anaphylaxis — a severe allergic reaction that can impair people's breathing. However, you're about six times more likely to be struck by lightning than you are to experience anaphylaxis from a COVID-19 vaccine.

Speak with your doctor or visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website for more details.

Where do I get vaccinated?

The federal government is delivering vaccine shipments in bulk to states, which are then responsible for distributing the doses to different vaccination sites, such as pharmacies and clinics. Therefore, the vaccine is available in different places in different states. Depending on your state, you may be able to get the vaccine at a health care site (like a doctor's office, pharmacy, hospital) or a temporary clinic (like a school gymnasium, community center, church or library).

Visit your state health department website or www.covidvaccinefacts.org/states to learn where and when you can receive a vaccine.

Will I still need to wear a mask and practice social distancing after I get vaccinated?

Yes. Research shows vaccines protect individuals from contracting and experiencing severe reactions to COVID-19. However, it’s possible to spread the virus to people post-vaccination. Until we know for sure there is minimal risk of infecting others post-vaccination, you should continue to wear a mask and practice social distancing.

More questions? Visit www.covidvaccinefacts.org to find a comprehensive list of answers related to vaccine technologies, clinical trials, the FDA-approval process, and more.

Michelle McMurry-Heath, a physician scientist, is president and CEO of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization. She previously served as a senior official in the FDA’s Center for Devices and Regulatory Health, the top science and health legislative aide for Sen. Joe Lieberman and on President Obama’s science transition team.