Health & Fit 9 Ways to Prepare for Your COVID-19 Vaccine Appointment
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It’s the big day: You’re finally eligible to sign up to get aappointment! It’s a reminder that, after more than a year of quarantine, your life and the world may get somewhat back to normal in 2021. But before you start making travel plans or celebrating, there are a few things to note before going to your COVID-19 vaccine appointment.
These will help ensure that the process is as stress-free and smooth as possible. And these tips will also make sure you know what to expect going into the experience—and how tothat were off-limits for much of 2020.
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1. Know your COVID-19 vaccine options.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has now given emergency use authorization to three vaccines in the U.S., including one developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, one from Moderna, and, most recently, a Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
You should take whichever vaccine you’re offered, experts. But it’s still good to know the differences between them. The biggest difference is that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is just one shot, while the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines will require a second appointment for a second dose a few weeks after your first one.
Theare similar for all three vaccines: pain and swelling at the injection site, fatigue, headache, and body aches, , M.D., M.P.H., physician and infectious disease professor at UCSF, tells SELF. You might also experience a fever and chills. People also reported nausea after the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. But in all cases, these side effects are temporary (lasting just a few days) and generally mild. Some report more side effects after receiving the second dose than the first for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Side effects after the second dose were more intense than after the first as well.
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2. Prepare a vaccine-friendly outfit.
You’ll get your shot in the deltoid muscle located in your upper arm. But one of the biggest holdups at the clinic is people coming in with shirts that have sleeves that can’t be rolled up,, RN, BSN, vaccine administrator in New York City, tells SELF.
Because most mass COVID-19 vaccination sites are in large open environments, like stadiums or gyms, you won’t necessarily have privacy to take off your shirt if the nurse can’t access your upper arm. So if it’s a cold day, try to dress in layers that are easy to take off with the bottom most layer of clothing being a sleeveless shirt or with easy to roll up sleeves.
3. Be aware of your history of allergic reactions.
Anaphylaxis, which is a severe allergic reaction, is an extremely rare outcome of the COVID-19 vaccines, Dr. Gandhi says. Anaphylaxis occurred in two to five people per million vaccinated in the U.S, according to theand none have resulted in death.
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If you have a history of allergic reactions to, consult with your doctor or allergist ahead of time to make sure you can get the COVID-19 vaccine. Before your doctor’s appointment, learn about the to ask questions about which one may be best for you. For example, if you’re allergic to polyethylene glycol, an ingredient found in mRNA vaccines, ask your doctor if you should get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine instead.
If your allergies are not related to vaccines, the CDC says that you can get the vaccine safely. But if you’re worried that you might have a reaction, let the site administrators and coordinators know so they can be prepared and check in with you while you wait.
Note that some people do feel lightheaded or even faint after receiving vaccines. This is not an allergic reaction but rather a condition called vasovagal syncope, which is not specific to the COVID-19 vaccines, the. Experts believe this reaction is actually related to pain or anxiety rather than an ingredient in vaccines. If you know that you tend to have this reaction when getting shots, tell your vaccine administrator ahead of time so they can take appropriate precautions. Sometimes having a snack or a drink of water, or just getting some calm reassurance, can prevent this type of reaction.
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4. Get a sense of how long your appointment will take and plan accordingly.
How long your appointment will take depends on your location and medical history, says Padki, who currently volunteers at two vaccine sites.
If there’s no wait time at your site and you don’t have a history of severe allergic reactions to vaccines, it’ll take approximately 25 minutes. That includes the mandatory onsite waiting period of at least 15 minutes after you have the shot, which allows the vaccination team to observe you just in case you have an allergic reaction to the vaccine.
If you have a history of immediate allergic reactions to vaccines or other injectable therapies, be prepared to wait at the clinic for 30 minutes after your shot. Make sure you’ve allotted enough time away from work or school so you’re not rushing to leave.
5. Pack the right documents.
There should be no out-of-pocket cost for the COVID-19 vaccine itself in the U.S., and you don’t need insurance to get one, according to federal guidelines. (But if you get the vaccine from your usual doctor, they may still charge a fee for administering the shot, and if you do have insurance, bring the information along, even if you’re going to a vaccination center.) So many people won’t need to worry about payment details.
Plan to bring some kind of identification to your appointment, but different sites may have different rules about what specific forms of ID are required. For instance, some sites are only offering vaccine appointments for people living in certain zip codes, so you may need to bring proof of your address. And state-run sites may require state- or government-issued ID to confirm your identity, while pharmacies not affiliated with the state-run program may not.
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People without documentation (including immigrants) should not be turned away from vaccination sites, according topolicy. But there are now of . Some sites, like , may accept a utility or medical bill addressed to you as proof of residency in lieu of a photo ID. Unfortunately, this is an issue that's changing rapidly as vaccination scales up across the country; different clinics may have different requirements. So if you're not sure if your identification will be sufficient, it's best to call your vaccination site ahead of time to see exactly what kind of ID they require.
Depending on your location and your eligibility, you may need to bring supporting documents to prove that it’s okay for you to get the vaccine right now. In some places, like, you don’t need proof (like a doctor’s note) to show that you’re eligible due to an underlying condition. But you do need proof (such as a work ID or pay stub) to show that you’re eligible as an essential worker, for instance.
Check local public health websites for more information on what’s required, and if you’re unsure, call your vaccination site or local hotlines ahead of time to make sure you’ll be prepared.
6. Consider holding off on some medical procedures and other vaccines.
You should avoid getting the COVID-19 vaccine around the same times as other vaccines, the(CDC) say. Give yourself two weeks in between vaccines to be safe.
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In rare circumstances, the COVID-19 vaccines can also interfere with certain procedures. For instance, some people with dermal fillers reported developing facial swelling in the areas where they received the fillers after getting the vaccine. Soholding off on getting fillers if you know you’re getting the vaccine soon, and waiting two to four weeks after getting the vaccine to get fillers.
Some people also report that the lymph nodes in the armpit near where they received the vaccinewithin a few days after getting the shot. (This usually goes away on its own within two weeks.) Because there have been a few cases in which those lymph nodes appeared swollen on imaging tests and were confused for a sign of breast cancer, radiologists now recommend putting your usual breast cancer screening on hold for a bit when you’re planning to get the vaccine. Try to wait four to six weeks after getting fully vaccinated before getting your regular screening. But if you have a specific worry unrelated to those swollen lymph nodes, don’t delay checking in with your doctor.
7. Make a post-vaccine self-care plan.
Even though side effects are generally mild and temporary, it’s still smart to prepare for your post-vaccination days ahead of time by stocking up on food and over-the-counter pain meds (like ibuprofen or acetaminophen). Note that you should not take acetaminophen or ibuprofen before your appointment in an effort to prevent those side effects, however.
If you have any side effects that don’t go away after a few days or are worrying to you, check in with your doctor,. You may also want to have an emergency contact on call in case you develop side effects like these and need to be taken to a doctor's office, urgent care center, or clinic.
8. Cancel your workout ahead of time.
The most common side effect is pain at the site of vaccination, Dr. Gandhi says. This will feel like your arm is heavy, painful, or aching since the vaccine is injected into your muscles. Your vaccine administrator will ask which arm you want to get the shot, and picking your non-dominant arm may still allow you to complete your usual tasks.
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Even if it's on the non-dominant arm, for some people, this side effect can temporarily make it hard to do their daily activities, including work and exercise. So, if you can, you might want to plan to take a day or two off from strenuous activities after getting your shot(s).
It’s definitely best to avoid intense fitness activities after receiving your vaccine, says Candice Opperman, C.P.T., a fitness instructor in New York City who is currently enrolled as a study volunteer for thetrial. But gently using and exercising the affected arm can actually help reduce the discomfort, . And if you want to stay active without using the arm, you can take a brisk walk or stick to leg-heavy exercises instead, Opperman suggests.
9. Wait to celebrate with others in person until you’re fully vaccinated.
After a year of quarantine, it’s understandable that you’d want to see your friends and family immediately. But it's wise to hold off for at least a little longer.
The protection that the vaccines provide doesn’t kick in right away. Instead, it builds up over the, the CDC says. Celebrating over a Zoom call, as we’ve been doing all year, is your best bet. But don’t worry, real-life hangouts aren’t too far into the future.
Once you’re fully vaccinated (two weeks after getting the full course of whichever vaccine you receive), the CDC says you can hang out indoors without masks with small groups of other people who’ve also been fully vaccinated. But if you want to see another household that includes people who aren’t yet fully vaccinated, you’ll need to take their risks into account (their age and underlying conditions, for example) before deciding the safest way to interact.
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