Tune in to most any news outlet and you’ll likely hear about the growing need for the public to get vaccinated in order to outpace the spread of variants, and hopefully end the pandemic. To help support this goal, the White House administration has moved up the eligibility deadline for all adults to receive a COVID-19 vaccine to April 19. However, and despite the closing in on 200 million vaccines administered in the United States, there remains a lot of misconceptions and disinformation floating around that can make you hesitant to getting vaccinated.
So, here are 10 important facts you need to know when it comes to getting a COVID-19 vaccine.
- The benefits of COVID-19 vaccines
- Prevent getting, becoming seriously ill, or dying (from COVID-19)
- Prevent spreading the COVID-19 virus to others
- Prevent the COVID-19 virus from spreading, replicating, and mutating
- Vaccines and variants
While not offering the same level of protection, COVID-19 vaccines appear to protect against severe disease. Also, vaccine manufacturers are creating booster shots to improve protection against variants.
- COVID-19 vaccines can’t give you COVID-19!
United States COVID-19 vaccines do not use the live virus that causes COVID-19, so it’s scientifically impossible for the vaccine to give you the disease. That said, it takes a few weeks for your body to build full immunity, so it’s possible to get infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 after being vaccinated.
- Possible side effects
A COVID-19 vaccine can cause mild side effects after the first or second dose, including:
- Pain, redness or swelling where the shot was given
- Fever, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Swollen lymph nodes
Most side effects occur in the first three days after vaccination and typically last one to two days.
- Signs of an allergic reaction
If you experience the following signs within 4 hours of your first dose, you may be having an allergic reaction to a COVID-19 vaccine:
- Continuous shortness of breath or wheezing
- Swelling of the lips, eyes or tongue
- Redness, swelling or itchiness in body (other than where the vaccine was given)
If you experience an allergic reaction, get help right away and tell your doctor – even if it went away on its own. If you are allergic to the vaccine, you may not be able to get a second dose of the same vaccine.
- Over-the-counter pain medication
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says it is okay to take an OTC pain medication after (and not before) getting a COVID-19 vaccine – as long as you don’t have another medical reason that would prevent you from taking it.
- History of allergic reactions or an existing health condition
As long as you do not have a history of severe allergic reactions from vaccines or injectable medications, you may still get a COVID-19 vaccine. Just make sure you’re monitored for 30 minutes after the injection.
If you do have a history of severe allergic reactions related to vaccines or injectable medication, ask your doctor if you should get a COVID-19 vaccine.
- Who should not get vaccinated
Children under age 16 should not get vaccinated (clinical trials for children are underway).
- But I’ve already had COVID-19
Getting COVID-19 may offer some natural protection or immunity from reinfection, but it’s unclear how long this protection lasts. With reinfection possible, those who have had COVID-19 should still get vaccinated (wait at least 90 days after your COVID-19 diagnosis).
- Life after vaccination
According to the CDC, you are considered fully vaccinated 2 weeks after you get a second dose, and therefore do not need to wear a mask or practice social distancing around other fully vaccinated people or around other unvaccinated people from 1 household at low risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
However, and while your risk of getting COVID-19 is low, it is still possible to become infected, and spread the virus to others even without displaying any signs or symptoms. This means you should continue to wear a mask and avoid close contact with others in public, and especially around those who are either unvaccinated or are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
Have lingering questions about COVID-19 vaccines? Your community pharmacist is knowledgeable, easily accessible, and ready to give you the right answers to many of your health questions. Not sure where your closest community pharmacy is? Just enter your zip code here, and we’ll show you!