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May 13, 2022

What should I expect after getting a COVID-19 vaccine?

The answers on this site were developed with and vetted by the CDC

You may have short-term side effects after vaccination. These are normal and should go away in a few days.

You may feel soreness or experience some swelling in your arm. You may also feel tired, have a headache, fever, or chills. These symptoms do not mean you have COVID-19 — it’s not possible to get COVID-19 from the vaccine.

These side effects may impact your daily activities, but they shouldn’t last more than 2-3 days. If they continue or get worse, call your doctor, nurse, or clinic.

Even if you have these types of effects after your first shot, it’s important to make sure you get the second one, unless a vaccination provider or your doctor tells you not to get a second shot or you get the single dose vaccine. Ask your doctor if you have questions. Your body takes time to build immunity. You will not be fully protected against COVID-19 until 1-2 weeks after your final shot in your initial series or your booster shot.

In most cases, discomfort from fever or pain is normal. Contact your doctor or healthcare provider:

  • If the redness or tenderness where you got the shot increases after 24 hours

  • If your side effects are worrying you or do not seem to be going away after a few days

  • If you develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within the first three weeks.

  • If you get a COVID-19 vaccine and you think you might be having a severe allergic reaction after leaving the vaccination site, seek immediate medical care by calling 911. Learn more about COVID-19 vaccines and rare severe allergic reactions.

Dr. Oronsaye - How Will I Feel Afterwards | COVID-19 Vaccine Education Initiative
What to expect after the vaccine (CDC)

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Could I have an allergic reaction?

Severe allergic reactions to vaccines are extremely rare. The FDA says the authorized COVID-19 vaccines appear to be safe for people with common food or environmental allergies.

CDC recommends that people get vaccinated even if they have a history of severe allergic reactions not related to vaccines or injectable therapies—such as food, pet, venom, environmental, or latex allergies. People with a history of allergies to oral medications or a family history of severe allergic reactions may also get vaccinated.

If you have had an immediate allergic reaction — even if it was not severe — to a vaccine or injectable therapy for another disease, ask your doctor if you should get a COVID-19 vaccine. Your doctor will help you decide if it is safe for you to get vaccinated.

All people who get a COVID-19 vaccine should be monitored on site. People who have had any type of severe or immediate allergic reaction in the past should be monitored for at least 30 minutes after getting the vaccine. All other people should be monitored for at least 15 minutes after getting the vaccine.

More about adverse effects (CDC)
Will I need a COVID-19 booster shot?

Yes, the FDA and CDC recommend all Americans 12 and older get a booster shot at the appropriate time to help protect against highly contagious new variants. If you received the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, you can get a booster shot if it's at least 5 months after your second dose. If you received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you can get a booster shot if it's at least 2 months after your shot.

CDC recommendations allow eligible individuals to choose which vaccine they receive as a booster dose. Some people may have a preference for the vaccine type that they originally received, and others may prefer to get a different booster. Consult your doctor or healthcare provider if you’re not sure.

A booster shot will help you keep up strong protection against COVID-19, and is especially helpful for people over age 50 and those who are immunocompromised. The recent emergence of the Omicron variant emphasizes the importance of boosters, which has led the FDA to authorize a 2nd booster shot for those who are 50 years older or anyone 12 and above that is immunocompromised.

COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Shots (CDC)
If you’re ready to get vaccinated, get up-to-date information on locations near you.
Can COVID-19 vaccines lead to heart inflammation in adults?

There have been a small number of reported cases of heart inflammation following a COVID-19 vaccine. Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart muscle. Pericarditis is inflammation of the outer lining of the heart. Incidents have mostly been reported among male adolescents and young adults who have received an mRNA vaccine. Among the hundreds of millions of vaccine doses given, these reports are rare. Additionally, recent studies show that COVID-19 patients are much more likely to develop myocarditis if they are unvaccinated.

Symptoms of these rare cases included chest pain, shortness of breath, or feelings of having a fast-beating, fluttering, or pounding heart. Most patients with myocarditis who received care responded well to treatment and rest and quickly felt better. While the absolute risk of heart inflammation from COVID-19 vaccines remains small, CDC has suggested that an eight week interval between first and second doses may be used to further reduce this risk.

CDC continues to advise that the known and potential benefits of COVID-19 vaccination outweigh the known and potential risks.

Myocarditis and Pericarditis Following mRNA COVID-19 Vaccination (CDC)

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