News and Commentary

So You’re Getting The COVID-19 Vaccine? Here’s What To Expect.

"You may have some side effects, which are normal signs that your body is building protection."
Healthcare worker Sandra Lindsay, left, receives the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine from Dr. Michelle Chester at the Northwell Health Long Island Jewish Medical Center in the Queens borough of New York, U.S., on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. The first Covid-19 vaccine shots were administered by U.S. hospitals Monday, the initial step in a historic drive to immunize millions of people as deaths approach the 300,000 mark. Photographer:
Mark Lennihan/AP Photo/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Finally, it’s here.

A vaccine for COVID-19 hit hospitals and health care centers on Monday. A critical care nurse in Queens, New York, became the first person in the United States to receive Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.

Estimates say tens of millions of doses will be distributed before the end of the year, with more than 100 million available throughout the winter of 2021. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) on Dec. 2 voted to direct that healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities will be the first to get the shots in the initial rollout.

But the day will come, sooner rather than later, when you’ll be able to get your own vaccine. So here’s what to expect, according to the CDC.

“You may have some side effects, which are normal signs that your body is building protection. These side effects may affect your ability to do daily activities, but they should go away in a few days,” the CDC said on Monday.

The agency said you’ll experience some pain and swelling on the arm where you got the shot and advises you to apply a clean, cool, wet washcloth over the area and exercise your arm to spread the injection around. The CDC said you’ll also get a fever, chills, headache and fatigue.

“Side effects may feel like flu and even affect your ability to do daily activities, but they should go away in a few days,” the CDC said. “In most cases, discomfort from fever or pain is normal.”

But the agency said to contact your doctor or healthcare provider “if the redness or tenderness where you got the shot increases after 24 hours” or “if your side effects are worrying you or do not seem to be going away after a few days.”

The CDC also urged vaccine-takers to get the second required shot, even if they had side effects from the first.

“With most COVID-19 vaccines, you will need 2 shots in order for them to work. Get the second shot even if you have side effects after the first shot, unless a vaccination provider or your doctor tells you not to get a second shot.” The CDC added: “It takes time for your body to build protection after any vaccination. COVID-19 vaccines that require 2 shots may not protect you until a week or two after your second shot.”

In the meantime, the CDC says: “It’s important for everyone to continue using all the tools available to help stop this pandemic as we learn more about how COVID-19 vaccines work in real-world conditions. Cover your mouth and nose with a mask when around others, stay at least 6 feet away from others, avoid crowds, and wash your hands often.​”

A second vaccine is on the verge of being approved. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is set to meet Thursday to consider an emergency use authorization (EUA) for Moderna, which says its data shows their vaccine was 94.1% effective in its late-stage clinical trial, just under Pfizer’s efficacy rate of 95%. The Moderna vaccine was developed in conjunction with the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed.

A third vaccine is also in the pipeline. AstraZeneca and Oxford University on Nov. 23 said their jointly created COVID-19 vaccine has proven to be up to 90% effective.

Related: FDA Releases Data On Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine Before Key Vote

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