Blog

January 1, 2021

What to Expect When Getting Your COVID-19 Vaccine

By Sophia L. Thomas, DNP, FNP-BC, PPCNP-BC, FNAP, FAANP

COVID-19 vaccines are finally here! After battling the pandemic for the better part of a year, enduring lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, maintaining social distancing, forgoing holiday gatherings with loved ones and wearing masks whenever you leave your home, the COVID-19 vaccines are being distributed — and people have started receiving these lifesaving, preventive shots. 

While the vaccines are currently only available in limited quantities for frontline health care workers, essential personnel and those who are especially susceptible to the virus, the day is quickly approaching when all Americans will be eligible to receive their vaccination. It is highly recommended that everyone receives the vaccine. 

How do we know the vaccines are safe?

COVID-19 vaccines are both safe and effective. They cannot infect you with COVID-19 disease, as these mRNA vaccines do not use the live virus that causes COVID-19. The COVID-19 vaccines instruct our cells to make a harmless piece of “spike protein,” which can be found on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19. Our immune system can recognize this protein, builds an immune response and makes antibodies, which is like what would happen in a natural infection against COVID-19.

The COVID-19 vaccines must meet the same rigorous safety and effectiveness standards as all other types of vaccines in the United States (U.S.). Due to the urgent need for a vaccine to end the pandemic, the decision was made for testing and production of the vaccine to occur simultaneously, but no safety steps were skipped. Only those COVID-19 vaccines that meet these high standards will be made available for use in the U.S. (by U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval or emergency use authorization).

Can I afford the vaccine?

Importantly, Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurance will cover the cost of the vaccine.

Where can I learn more about my state’s vaccination plan?


Visit your state government’s official website for information on the distribution plan for vaccines in your state.


What happens when it’s time for me to get vaccinated?

When the opportunity arises for you to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, here are a few things that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has outlined for you to expect: 

  • When you attend your vaccination appointment, be sure to wear your mask and stay six feet apart from others, whether you are inside or outside. 
  • Everyone receiving a vaccine will be monitored on-site for a short period of time. There have been a few isolated cases in which individuals have had an allergic reaction to the vaccines, so you will be monitored on-site until the health care provider clears you. 
  • You will receive a vaccination card that outlines which vaccine you received, the date you received it and at which location it was administered. You will also receive an electronic version of this information for your records. 
  • Most COVID-19 vaccines will require two doses. Be sure to get the second shot — even if you have adverse reactions to the first shot — unless directed otherwise by the administering health care provider or your primary care provider. 
  • Ask your health care provider to get you set up on V-safe, a free smartphone tool that provides health check-ins post vaccination. V-safe will also remind you when it is time to receive your second dose of the vaccine. 
  • It takes time for your body to build up protection against a virus after vaccination. COVID-19 vaccinations that require two shots might not offer you any protection against the virus until a week or two after you receive your second shot. It is imperative that you continue to follow safety measures, like social distancing and mask-wearing, during and after the vaccination to keep you and your loved ones safe. 

It has been a long and difficult 11 months as we have battled this pandemic. The only way to end it is to ensure that everyone receives the vaccination. Protect yourself, your family and community by getting your vaccine at the earliest opportunity available.