It’s official: people are finally getting their COVID-19 vaccinations throughout the country, offering Americans much needed protection from novel coronavirus infections. While the rollout has not been without its challenges, the Biden administration just announced a plan to buy another 200 million vaccine doses in an effort to advance vaccination efforts, and to provide a vaccine for almost every citizen who wants one by summer 2021. Still, getting answers to basic questions such as, What are the side effects? or How do I sign up? can be difficult.
So, in the spirit of injecting (pun intended) some clarity into the situation, here are a few of the most frequently asked COVID-19 vaccine questions. So please read on!
When should I get a shot?
As soon as your turn comes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued vaccination guidelines based on job, age, health status, and location. That said, every state – and even every city – is free to decide how to distribute doses, so follow your local news and check your state and community’s COVID-19 websites. It is also helpful to contact your doctor and local pharmacy to see what information they may have. Once the vaccine is more widely available you’ll be able to see where you can get one on the Vaccine Finder website.
Which shot should I get: Pfizer or Moderna?
You should get whichever shot you can, and since supply is limited, you likely won’t have a choice. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are not only both highly effective, they’re very similar.
What are the side effects?
To date, there are no long-term side effects, but soreness at the injection site, fatigue, and headache are common. Experiencing these side effects is usually an indication that the vaccination is working properly and helping to protect your body from the virus.
I’m healthy… Do I still need a shot?
Absolutely and especially! Vaccinations protect healthy people from getting infected in the future; they do not help sick people get better. So, if you’re healthy, that’s great news, and remember – you’re the perfect vaccine candidate!
I already had COVID, do I still need to get vaccinated?
The keyword here is “had” – as in past tense. If you had COVID-19 and have recovered, then yes, you should absolutely get vaccinated. However, if you currently have COVID-19, the CDC recommends waiting until you’ve recovered, plus another 90 days, as getting reinfected in the first three months post-infection is highly unlikely. And while it’s certainly possible to develop a level of immunity from your first bout with COVID-19, that immunity could either be incomplete, decrease over time, or fail to protect against new strains of the virus currently circulating.
The moral of the story? Get vaccinated – it’s the best way to supplement any natural immunity you have built up and protect you against new strains.
Do I have to get a second shot?
You don’t have to do anything, but should you? Yes, definitely. Especially if you want maximum protection. Both COVID vaccines include a booster shot given either three to four weeks after the first injection, and while the first shot provides some protection starting 10-14 days after the first dose, you can’t reach full-strength without the second dose. Also, scientific experts are unsure how long protection from the first shot lasts without the booster, so get both.
(Bonus tip: The CDC is providing vaccination cards so you can keep track of when your booster shot is scheduled. It’s a good idea to take a picture of the card, in case you lose it.)
I got vaccinated. Do I still need to wear a mask and socially distance?
Yes and yes. While vaccines protect from serious disease and death, vaccinated people can still be asymptomatic carriers capable of spreading the virus. So, until the CDC publishes new safety guidelines, it is best to keep wearing a mask and practicing social distancing – especially if you have only received the first dose of the vaccine, as you are not fully protected either.
Find your community pharmacist
As the national vaccine rollout continues to ramp up, your local community pharmacist continues to be a great resource for everything COVID-19, as well as for learning more about your medications and other services that could help improve your overall health.
Not sure where your closest community pharmacy is located? No problem – just visit www.prescribewellness.com, enter your zip code, and we’ll start you on your way.