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What to expect when you get the COVID-19 vaccine

Information and guidance about COVID-19 care and vaccination continues to evolve. Please refer to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the latest.

As the COVID-19 vaccines become more widely available, you may be wondering what to expect when it comes time for your vaccination appointment. Studies submitted to the CDC demonstrate the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines — and getting vaccinated is fundamental to keeping you, your loved ones and your community safe. 

Here’s what’s involved in getting the vaccine, from start to finish.

Before getting the COVID-19 vaccine

  • If you have the opportunity to get vaccinated sooner at a different location before Baylor Scott & White can offer you an appointment, we encourage you to do so. A list of state vaccine hubs can be found on our COVID-19 vaccine page. Remember, if you are a Baylor Scott & White patient, let your doctor know you received the vaccine by uploading proof of vaccination in MyBSWHealth or taking it to your next doctor’s appointment. 
  • The easiest way to be notified of vaccine availability and eligibility at Baylor Scott & White is to have an active MyBSWHealth account. To start your free account, download the MyBSWHealth app or visit MyBSWHealth.com. If you already have a MyBSWHealth account, log in to update your contact and insurance information today.
  • Make sure you’re eligible to get the vaccine based on state and federal guidance. Learn more about eligibility criteria from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or your state health department. (Texans, click here for the latest in our area.)
  • What to wear to your appointment:
    • Face mask that covers your mouth and nose
    • Short-sleeved shirt or one that can be pulled up to expose your upper arm. Keep in mind that in many instances, vaccines are administered at local hubs and not in a private room.
  • While scheduling or during your appointment, you may be asked a series of screening questions about previous allergic reactions to vaccines, vaccine ingredients or injectable therapies, any current COVID-19 symptoms, and recent vaccinations or monoclonal antibody infusions to confirm your eligibility for vaccination.
  • Talk to your doctor about any concerns before you schedule your appointment. Your doctor knows your health history and can advise you regarding any specific conditions or concerns.
  • Bring your health insurance card and government-issued identification in case you are required to confirm your identity.
  • Double check the location and time of your appointment. 
  • If you need a second dose, keep in mind that you may be required to receive the second dose at the same location as the first, either 21 days (Pfizer vaccine) or 28 days after the first dose (Moderna vaccine). If necessary, your doses may be given up to 42 days apart.
    • At Baylor Scott & White-operated vaccine sites, we are asking all vaccine recipients to complete both doses at the same location. Since doses are limited, please confirm you will be able to make your scheduled appointment time and location to receive your second dose. If you must reschedule, call 1.844.BSW.VACC.

During your vaccination appointment

  • The process and layout will vary slightly at different vaccine administration sites, but remember that you may not receive the vaccine in a private room. Prepare to practice physical distancing from others getting vaccinated and wear your face mask at all times.
  • You will be required to read and/or sign several forms, including the following:
    • A fact sheet that tells you more about the specific COVID-19 vaccine you are being offered. Each COVID-19 vaccine has its own fact sheet to help you understand the risks and benefits of receiving that specific vaccine.
    • A consent form acknowledging that you have been provided a copy of the fact sheet, understand current data about the vaccine is still limited and voluntarily consenting to receive the vaccine.
  • You should receive a vaccination card or printout to help you keep track of which COVID-19 vaccine you received, the date you received it, where you received it and the date of your second appointment. Remember, your second dose must be the same brand as the first dose. It may also be required that you receive your second dose from the same location as your first dose. 
  • The vaccine will be administered and a small bandage applied. Leave the bandage on for about an hour after injection. You may or may not feel a small sting from the injection.
  • You may want to receive the vaccine in your non-dominant arm in case you experience soreness, which is common with the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • We strongly recommend you remain on-site for at least 15 minutes to make sure you do not experience any symptoms of an allergic reaction — 30 minutes for those prone to anaphylaxis. While a severe allergic reaction is not likely, vaccination providers will be equipped to care for you in the event of any emergency.

After getting the COVID-19 vaccine

Side effects

While mild side effects are to be expected after the COVID-19 vaccine, the likelihood of experiencing a severe side effect is less than 0.5%. Many side effects of a vaccine are actually a positive sign that your body is building protection against the virus. 

  • You will receive a set of instructions for how to sign up for v-safe to log any side effects you experience through daily check-ins. V-safe will also remind you to get your second dose. Participating in v-safe is voluntary but an important way you can support this global vaccination effort. 
  • The most common side effects include: 
    • Soreness or swelling in the arm where you receive the shot
    • Fatigue
    • Headache
    • Fever
    • Chills
  • Side effects should go away within a few days of getting the vaccine. In the meantime, these tips can help if you start to experience side effects after vaccination:
    • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever like ibuprofen or acetaminophen to lessen pain or relieve fever after getting the vaccine. It is not recommended to take a pain reliever before getting the vaccine.
    • Apply a clean, cool, wet washcloth over your arm where you received the shot
    • Use or exercise your arm
    • If you have a fever, drink plenty of fluids and wear light, loose clothing.
  • If the redness or tenderness where you got the shot increases after 24 hours, or if your side effects are worsening or do not go away after a few days, call your doctor.

Second dose

  • It takes time for your body to build protection after any vaccination. COVID-19 vaccines that require two doses may not reach maximum effectiveness until a week or two after your second dose.
  • You may be required to receive your second dose of the vaccine at the same location where you received your first dose. The timing of the second dose depends on which vaccine you are receiving.
    • Moderna: 24-28 days after the first dose
    • Pfizer: 17-21 days after the first dose
  • If you are receiving your vaccine at a Baylor Scott & White-operated hub: As doses are limited, please be sure to schedule your second dose for a time you know you will be able to make it. In the event you must reschedule, do not cancel your appointment. Instead, please call 1.844.BSW.VACC to reschedule.
  • You should get your second dose as close to the recommended interval as possible. You should not get the second dose earlier than the recommended interval.
  • If you miss the second dose vaccination window (past 21 or 28 days depending on the manufacturer), get the second dose as soon as possible.
  • Do not get the second dose if you had a severe allergic reaction to the first dose. However, if you experienced mild side effects to the first dose and your doctor recommends it, the second dose is OK to receive. 
  • Keep in mind there is a higher chance of side effects after the second dose of the vaccine.

Next steps

  • Continue wearing a mask, physical distancing and washing your hands often. It is not yet clear if you can carry COVID-19 and pass it to others after getting the vaccine.
  • Share your experience on social media with #GotTheShot, and encourage your friends and family to get vaccinated as they become eligible. If you are looking for resources to share, start with this vaccine safety FAQ. By advocating for vaccination, you can help us all — your family, your community and your country — return to normal.

Still have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine? Visit our dedicated COVID-19 page for more information.

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What to expect when you get the COVID-19 vaccine