Dos and Don’ts to Follow When Getting Your COVID-19 Vaccine

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A woman holds a small bottle labeled with a
A woman holds a small bottle labeled with a "Coronavirus COVID-19 Vaccine" sticker and a medical syringe in front of displayed Pfizer logo in this illustration taken, October 30, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo

Although the COVID-19 vaccination rollout was slow to start in the U.S., vaccines are now becoming more readily available to Americans. And with at least 60% of the population saying they intend to receive the vaccine, there’s a lot of excitement about when everyone will be able to get their shots. If you manage to secure an appointment (which is no small feat, judging from media coverage of those help others navigate these systems), you may think the hard part is over. But in order to ensure your vaccination goes as smoothly as possible, you’ll want to remember these dos and don’ts when preparing for your appointment and after you’re inoculated.

Do…

  • Watch For Allergic Reactions and Side Effects: The majority of those who get vaccinated will experience soreness at the injection site. Other common symptoms include lethargy, low-grade fevers, body aches, and chills. These are all considered to be normal, as they actually show that the vaccine is working in the way it should! Not everyone experiences side effects, but it’s important to monitor them. If any flu-like symptoms persist past the 48-hour mark, let your doctor know and use the CDC’s health tracker to keep track of how you’re feeling. Be on the lookout for rare allergic reactions, as well. They really aren’t common, but they can happen — which is why you’re supposed to stick around at the vaccination site for 15 to 30 minutes after you receive your shot.
  • Continue to Follow Safety Measures: Before you go, during the time you’re at the vaccination site, and after you receive your shot, you still need to follow proper health and safety protocols. You’ll need to wear your mask during your vaccination and are encouraged to do so even after you’re fully vaccinated. While the CDC has established some specific guidance on how vaccinated individuals may interact with each other indoors without masks, you should wait to do so at least a few weeks after receiving your second shot and continue to practice mask-wearing and social-distancing in public spaces. While the vaccines have shown to be highly effective, no one will be completely immune — especially as new variants continue to emerge and dominate.
  • Share Your Experience With Others: Sharing your experience with others on social media can be incredibly powerful. Since Facebook sees 1.5 billion visitors a day, creating a post to quell concerns among people on your friends list could convince people who are on the fence to get protected. This is especially true if your symptoms are minor, but even if you have a more severe reaction, it can help others to know what they might expect. Simply seeing lots of people on your newsfeed who are getting vaccinated can provide a lot of hope for the future — so if you choose to get vaccinated, use that power for good.
  • Try to Free Up Your Time: Most people will experience only minimal symptoms after the first dose, but the second may come with more pronounced side effects. This certainly isn’t true for everyone, nor does it apply to only one vaccine. But no matter what, it’s a good idea to free up your time as much as possible on the day of your vaccination and the day after. If you have some flexibility, plan to switch around your schedule a bit in case you need to take it easy. For the majority of people, any side effects will clear up in about a day. But in the meantime, you shouldn’t plan to do any activities that require vigorous exercise or long work hours.

Don’t…

  • Go If You’ve Been Exposed or Get Other Shots: Anyone who has knowingly or potentially been exposed to COVID-19 should not keep their original vaccination appointment. While you should definitely get vaccinated if you had coronavirus sometime over the last year, anyone who has tested positive for COVID or who has been exposed to someone who has should not go to the vaccination site. Instead, wait until your quarantine period has passed and reschedule your appointment. You should also refrain from getting any other vaccinations within 14 days of your COVID-19 vaccine appointment.
  • Pre-Medicate to Avoid Symptoms: If you’re worried about possible side effects, you might be tempted to take a pain reliever prior to your vaccine to ward off those symptoms. But medical experts stress that you should avoid this. The CDC warns not to take over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen, aspirin, or acetaminophen before vaccination, as not enough is yet known about how these medications could interact with the vaccine. You should also avoid taking an antihistamine for the same reason. If you take these medications daily, however, you should continue your doctor-recommended routine as usual. Talk to your doctor if you’re worried about how medications or underlying medical conditions could impact your vaccine experience.
  • Drink to Excess Before, Between, or After: There’s a lot of debate over whether you can drink before, between, or after vaccinations. Although 32.52% of survey respondents aged 18 to 29 say they drank whiskey, scotch, or bourbon within a three-month period in 2018, it’s true that alcohol consumption can lower your immune response — which isn’t ideal when you’re getting vaccinated. Typically, most medical professionals say there’s nothing wrong with having a drink the night before or after your vaccine or in between vaccination doses. That said, it does depend on your baseline; if you’re someone who generally abstains from alcohol, you’ll do your body a disservice if you drink to excess before or after your shot. If you moderate your drinking or feel it’s better to refrain from drinking altogether, you’ll probably have a better experience overall.
  • Share Your Vaccine Card on Social Media: You’ve probably seen others share their vaccination cards on social media, which can be exciting to see. But experts say that you should find another way to express your jubilation and encourage others to get vaccinated. Around 34.9 million Americans had their protected health information compromised in 2019, and now, tech experts are saying that sharing your vaccine card could leave you vulnerable to cybercrime. Since dosage numbers can easily be traced, as can your name and birthdate, it’s better to block out that information or simply not share it at all. Federal and state government agencies are working together to provide stickers that you can share alongside your vaccine selfie, but even if you don’t get one, you could use your creativity to come up with another type of post. Since you’re taking the step to protect yourself from the virus, you should also make sure to protect your private information.

Although this experience will be new for all of us, that doesn’t mean you have to go into your appointment knowing nothing. With these dos and don’ts in mind, you can feel prepared for your appointment and the aftermath once you’re qualified to receive your vaccine.