Getting Your COVID-19 Vaccine: What to Expect

It’s the great news we’ve been waiting for. Highly effective vaccines have been developed against COVID-19 — and they’re now more available. Here’s what you need to know.

Which vaccine will you get?

More than 200 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been given already in the United States. The available vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson) are highly effective in preventing severe cases of COVID-19, and hospitalization and death from infection.

“We have great data about the safety of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines now and we know they work. No matter which one is available to you, you can feel very comfortable getting it. And I’m optimistic a large percentage of the population is going to be able to get vaccinated in the coming months,” said Dr. Jennifer Hanrahan, infectious disease specialist at the University of Toledo Physicians Group and ProMedica.

The Pfizer and Moderna shots are given in two doses, several weeks apart.

The third vaccine recently available in the US is the single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) temporarily suspended its use until an independent panel reviewed concerns related to rare blood clots observed in a very small number of vaccine recipients. Since then, the CDC recommended that the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine resume.

People who receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are extremely unlikely to experience serious adverse reactions. However, the CDC is recommending that individuals who experience the following rare symptoms after receiving this vaccine seek medical care urgently:

  • Severe headache
  • Backache
  • New neurologic symptoms
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Leg swelling
  • Tiny red spots on the skin (petechiae)
  • New or easy bruising

Are there potential side effects?

While some people won’t feel any side effects from their vaccine, common side effects include pain in the arm where you got the shot and symptoms such as headache or fever.

Dr. Hanrahan said that having an immune response such as a fever, body aches and headache after the vaccine is a sign of immune response.

Safety after Your Vaccine

Once you’re fully vaccinated, the CDC states that you can start to loosen certain restrictions, such as visiting with other vaccinated people without wearing masks. You should still wear a mask and stay six feet from others when in large crowds indoors or outdoors.

“This is like running a marathon, and we’re on mile 20,” Dr. Hanrahan said. “You might be hitting the wall and feel like you can’t go any further. But the thing is, these are the last few miles we’re going to have to go before we can finish. We just need to hang on a little bit longer and we’ll get there.”

People should also be aware that if they have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 before they are fully protected by the vaccine, they can still become infected. So, they should be tested for COVID-19 as they normally would if they have symptoms of COVID.

Coronavirus is Now Preventable

According to Dr. Hanrahan, all eligible people should absolutely take the vaccine as soon as they have the chance to get it. Not getting vaccinated is a decision that puts others at risk. About half the people in any county have risk factors for contracting severe COVID-19, and don’t even know it.

“When I see people coming into the hospital now with a severe case of COVID-19, it makes me incredibly sad. Especially when they’re in a group that could have been vaccinated,” she said. “I think it’s important people realize coronavirus is now preventable. We know what needs to be done.”

To learn more about the COVID-19 vaccines or schedule your vaccination, visit ProMedica’s website.

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