What to expect after getting a COVID-19 vaccine

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COVID-19 shots will help protect you from getting COVID-19. Depending which COVID-19 vaccine you are offered, you may need to get two shots to become fully protected from the disease. It can take about two weeks after your second shot for that full protection. You may have some side effects— which are normal signs that your body is building protection—and they should go away in a few days.

After shot #1

  • Schedule your appointment to get your second shot by going to the MyUHS website, myuhs.uhs.wisc.edu. Choose “Appointments” then select “Dose 2.”
  • You will likely have some arm pain (most people do!).
  • Consider enrolling in V-Safe, a smartphone-based program that checks in with you to ask about COVID-19 shot side effects. It sends a daily text reminder and takes less than one minute to enroll: vsafe.cdc.gov. Your personal information is confidential and private.

After Shot #2

  • Keep participating in the V-Safe app.
  • Rest. Some people report symptoms such as headache or fever with the second shot.
  • Log in to the Wisconsin Immunization Registry (WIR) to check to see if your COVID-19 shots are listed, in case you ever misplace your vaccine card): dhfswir.org.

After both doses

Continue to wear a face covering, wash your hands, maintain physical distance, and get tested regularly. At least 7 in every 10 people in our community needs to get their COVID-19 shots before we begin to achieve ‘herd  immunity’ This means that people who can’t get the shots, such as infants, are protected from the disease. This is still several months away.

You may experience one or more of these side effects after receiving your first shot, your second shot, or both. If you are offered the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, you will need two shots for full protection. Get the second shot even if you have side effects after the first unless a health care provider tells you not to get a second shot.

Possible side effects

  • Pain or swelling on the arm at injection site
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Headache

Reduce pain or discomfort

  • Take medicines for pain and fever, like ibuprofen or acetaminophen
  • Drink plenty of water or other drinks without caffeine or alcohol
  • Apply a clean, cool, wet washcloth to your arm
  • Use or exercise your arm

When to call a health care provider

In most cases, discomfort from fever or pain is normal. Contact your health care provider if:

  • The redness or tenderness where you got the shot increases after 24 hours.
  • Side effects are worrying you or do not seem to be going away after a few days.