16 important do's and don'ts for getting your COVID-19 vaccine

Ready to take the plunge and get the COVID vaccine? These tips will make your upcoming appointment a breeze.

Amanda Capritto
Jessica Rendall Wellness Writer
Jessica is a writer on the Wellness team with a focus on health news. Before CNET, she worked in local journalism covering public health issues, business and music.
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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 59% of people ages 12 and older in the US are fully vaccinated, which leaves a significant number of people who still have at least one shot left to go. If you're ready to take the plunge and get your first or second shot of the COVID vaccine, you might be feeling a bit nervous about how it'll go.

It's normal to be nervous about getting your COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccines are, after all, relatively new compared to other decades-old vaccines. For many, the novelty of the COVID-19 vaccine causes some anxiety and hesitation. However, public health officials regard the COVID-19 vaccine as safe, and it's important that we all do our part to end the pandemic

One cure for anxiety is preparation. Curb any anxiety you might be feeling about your vaccination appointment by getting prepared with these do's and don'ts, whether you are about to get your first dose or looking ahead to booster shots.


Plan for side effects

Mentally prepare yourself for the commonly reported side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine. Those include fatigue, soreness at the injection site, headache, muscle pain, fever, chills and nausea. Don't preemptively take pain medications in an attempt to deal with such symptoms (more on that later). 

Accept whichever vaccine is available 

Avoid "vaccine shopping" and take whichever vaccine you are offered. You may have a preconceived notion that one vaccine is superior to the others, but in truth, all three are helping us put an end to this pandemic

Wear a mask or face covering

Your vaccine provider will likely require you to wear a mask, but wear one even if they don't. Masks are still proven to slow the spread of COVID-19 viral particles, and you'll be in relatively close quarters with strangers -- and you're not vaccinated yet. 


It's still important to wear a mask in public.

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Schedule your second shot, if needed

If you're getting the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine for the first time, you'll need to schedule a second injection. Do this while you're still at the clinic if you can, so you don't miss the window for maximum efficacy. Those who get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine do not need a second shot. 

Wait in the clinic for 15 minutes

Most vaccine providers will require you to hang around for 15 minutes after getting vaccinated to watch for any immediate and severe side effects. Even if you feel fine, wait just in case.

Check with your doctor beforehand about health conditions and medications

If you have any existing health issues or take prescription medications, ask your doctor if it's safe for you to get the vaccine. Allergies, autoimmune conditions and medications that suppress your immune system can make it unsafe for you to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

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Wear a short-sleeve shirt to make it easier

The shot goes in your shoulder, so wear a loose, short-sleeve shirt to make it easy on the provider and comfortable for you. 

Reschedule if you have known exposure or symptoms

If you're due to get the vaccine but start showing symptoms or are notified that you've been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19, follow the current CDC guidelines for quarantine and self-isolation. Reschedule your appointment for sometime after you satisfy those CDC guidelines. 

Ask your doctor about getting other vaccines at your appointment 

Contrary to previous CDC advice on waiting 14 days between getting the COVID-19 vaccine and any other vaccine, experts are now saying receiving the COVID-19 vaccine in tandem with others shouldn't be harmful. According to a CNN report, an expert on the CDC's birth defects division said at a recent meeting with the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices that there isn't evidence to suggest a reason to space out vaccines.

This is a big deal for kids who are behind on their booster shots because of pandemic restrictions, CNN reports. The CDC now recommends kids ages 12 to 15 get a Pfizer vaccine (the only one approved for children under 18), and The American Academy of Pediatrics stated that in addition to recommending all children ages 12 and up get the COVID-19 vaccine, it supports giving "multiple immunizations" at the same time. 

If you are an adult and would like to schedule your COVID-19 vaccine appointment on the same day you're scheduled to get another vaccine, check with your doctor beforehand. The CDC will likely update its official recommendation on the vaccine waiting period soon.

Log your vaccination with the new CDC tool 

Get set up with V-safe, the CDC's "after vaccination health checker" tool. Sign up online and log the day and time of your vaccine, as well as the type of vaccine you got. The tool will also ask for your name, age, biological sex and some other basic information. 

Once you're set up, you can report any side effects you experience after getting the vaccine. Someone from the CDC may contact you if they think your report requires follow-up (such as in the case of severe symptoms).


V-safe asks how you're feeling after vaccination.



Post a selfie with your vaccine card

We're glad you're proud of your COVID-19 vaccine, but showing off your vaccine card could be an invitation for scammers. Because the record cards have personal information such as your full name, birth date, and the location where you received your vaccine, posting a photo makes you vulnerable to identity theft

That's not all: Some experts think scammers may copy COVID-19 vaccine cards to pretend that they're vaccinated. This trend will only increase as more public places and transportation modes start requiring people to show some sort of proof of vaccination (like Israel's green pass).

Lose or throw away your vaccine card

If you need a second shot, you'll have to show your provider the timestamp on your vaccine card -- so that's one reason to keep it handy. Additionally, public places and transportation (including airlines) may start requiring some form COVID-19 vaccine documentation for safety. 


Don't post photos of your vaccine record card on social media.

Chris Steer/Getty Images

Flake out on your appointment

Missing your appointment could result in a wasted dose of the vaccine. Once the syringes are thawed, they must be used the same day or thrown away

Take OTC pain meds before your appointment

The CDC cautions against taking medications such as ibuprofen, aspirin and acetaminophen before getting vaccinated. Public health officials don't know how these drugs interact with the COVID-19 vaccine, and there's a chance they could make your dose less effective. To be safe, wait until after the vaccination or until you experience uncomfortable symptoms.


Taking OTC medications may interfere with your vaccine.

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Toss your mask and stop social distancing afterward 

You're not considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19 until 14 days after your final dose of the vaccine. So if you've only received your first dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, or it hasn't been two weeks since your second dose (or only dose if you got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine), you still need to follow basic COVID-19 prevention guidelines. Even after that time, you should continue to wear a mask until the CDC and World Health Organization deem that it's OK to stop using them.

Hesitate to report side effects

If you experience symptoms after your vaccine, report them on V-safe, no matter how minor you think they are. This information helps the CDC track side effects and monitor severe adverse events. It also helps with future vaccine development. 

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.