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How to Prepare for a COVID-19 Vaccine

Use these tips to help your COVID-19 vaccine appointment go as smoothly as possible.

Vaccines are free and are available at many pharmacies and clinics, either by appointment or walk-in.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that everyone who is eligible receive a COVID-19 vaccine—currently, that means anyone over the age of 5, even if they have already had COVID before.

Hundreds of millions of people have received a COVID-19 vaccine. For the overwhelming majority, the process goes very smoothly, whether it’s a first dose, second dose, or a booster.

Vaccines are free and are available at many pharmacies and clinics, either by appointment or walk-in.

Getting ready for your vaccine appointment

If you have an upcoming appointment to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, the following tips can help everything go as smoothly as possible.

  1. Sleep, eat, and hydrate. It’s a good idea to be well-rested, hydrated, and nourished before going to your appointment. This can help you feel your best after receiving the shot. You don’t need to do anything special beyond eating and drinking on your usual schedule. If you’re getting your vaccine during what is normally a mealtime for you, try eating beforehand.
  2. Wear short sleeves or layers you can remove. This will give the person administering the vaccine easy access to the arm that is getting the injection. Avoid wearing bulky sweaters or other sleeves that are difficult to roll up. If it’s cold outside, the easiest solution may be to wear layers you can take off, with a t-shirt as your base layer.
  3. Be honest if needles make you squeamish. Many people are squeamish about needles—don’t be embarrassed if you are one of them! But it’s a good idea to tell the person administering your vaccine. They may have tips or strategies to help, and they will appreciate knowing ahead of time. You can also try looking away, carrying on a conversation, or distracting yourself.

Plan to take it easy the next day

Although some people don’t experience any side effects at all after getting the COVID-19 vaccine, others can feel the effects for a few hours or a few days after receiving a shot.

The most common reported side effect is pain at the site of injection. Other typical side effects include fever, chills, fatigue, and achiness.

Since you can’t know ahead of time how exactly your body will react to the dose, it’s best to clear your schedule for the following day after a vaccine, or at least not plan on doing anything very strenuous.

You can also take over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen to relieve side effects. Don’t take pain relievers before you receive the vaccine—it’s unclear if this changes a vaccine’s effectiveness.

Read up on the vaccine you’re getting

One last tip to prepare—you might want to learn more about the specific vaccine you’re planning to get. Many clinics carry COVID-19 vaccines from different manufacturers. Different vaccines use different mechanisms to build immunity against the COVID-19 virus. Different vaccines are also administered on different schedules and may have varying risks of side effects.

People with health concerns—anyone who is immunocompromised, taking a medication that increases the risk of infection, or has a history of allergic reactions to vaccines—should check with their healthcare provider before getting the vaccine.

Article sources open article sources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Benefits of Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine."
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine."
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Interim Clinical Considerations for Use of COVID-19 Vaccines Currently Approved or Authorized in the United States."
Piedmont. "Four things to do before getting the coronavirus vaccine."
Hackensack Meridian Health. "How to Prepare for Your COVID-19 Vaccine."
Theresa Machemer. "How Common Are Your Covid-19 Vaccine Side Effects?"  Smithsonian Magazine. May 4, 2021.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine Reactions & Adverse Events."
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "The Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine’s Local Reactions, Systemic Reactions, Adverse Events, and Serious Adverse Events."
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. "COVID-19 Vaccine Side Effects: Why They Happen and How to Treat Them."
Kathy Katella. "Comparing the COVID-19 Vaccines: How Are They Different?" Yale Medicine. February 25, 2022.

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