What to Do After Getting the COVID Vaccine

Good news! The availability for a COVID-19 vaccine, whether that’s a two-shot dosage like the Moderna or Pfizer or a single shot like the Johnson & Johnson, is growing exponentially each day in both supply and appointment openings. Soon, the vaccine should be readily available to most adults. Once you’ve gotten your full vaccination (both doses of the two-dose shots and once for a single), what should you do? We’ve already discussed some larger concerns like mask-wearing, variants, and when things can return to normal, but what about more everyday concerns like side effects, standard safety guidelines, and if you even need that vaccine card?

Be Ready for Vaccine Side Effects

Side effects from vaccinations are possible, and even common. It’s important to note that the COVID vaccines cannot cause COVID, and that side effects are a normal reaction to your body building an immunity to the virus. You should still get the vaccine, as it is both safe and incredibly effective at protecting against COVID-19. Effectively, side effects mean the vaccine is working, though a lack of side effects doesn’t mean the opposite.

Common Side Effects of the COVID-19 Vaccine

Still, it’s important to know that there is a chance you may have some side effects, especially as they are more common in women. Common side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are:

  • Pain, redness, and swelling around the area of the shot
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Nausea

Essentially, you may feel a bit fluish in the hours or days after the shot. If it has been a few days and you’re still experiencing side effects, or the side effects are severe, call your doctor (though long-lasting and severe side effects are reportedly rare). They may be able to help prescribe medications to mitigate some of the side effects. You should also consult your doctor before taking any over-the-counter medications. While you should be safe to take the medications, it’s always a good idea to check.

Non-Medication Ways to Relieve Vaccine Side Effects

Beyond medications, there are a few strategies you can utilize to lessen the pain of any side effects you may experience. First and foremost, give yourself time to recover, holding off on any strenuous activity for a few days, until you’re sure you won’t develop any side effects. The CDC suggests drinking lots of fluids, dressing in light clothes, and applying a cool, clean, and wet wash cloth to the area of the shot. They also suggest moving the arm to reduce discomfort, though only light movement.

If you are experiencing a severe reaction, call your doctor right away.

Of course, it may also help to get lots of rest, as most people simply just have to wait out the side effects. If you are experiencing a severe reaction, call your doctor right away. You may be instructed to report this reaction and, if it’s severe enough, may even need to call 9-1-1. Again, this severity of reaction is rare, but you should know what to do in the extreme off chance that it happens. The vaccines are safe and effective.

Save Vaccine Cards

When you get your first vaccination shot, you should receive a vaccination card. If you don’t, contact your vaccination site or your state health department to find out how to get one. Your COVID-19 vaccine card should include your name, date of birth, when you received doses of the vaccine, where you received the vaccine, and details about your doses like the manufacturer and lot number. These are all useful for verifying your vaccination and for reminding you of your second vaccination appointment. Beyond that, is there any value to these cards?

Why Your Vaccine Card is Important

Right now, there is not a lot that vaccine cards are used for, but this doesn’t mean they’re worthless. In fact, they may soon be one of the most important documents you own. In the United States, there isn’t currently a central database of immunization records, though many states have something in place. There also isn’t a standard way to prove you’ve been vaccinated. That vaccination card you received is the best proof that you’ve been vaccinated (though you should really stop sharing them on social media).

A vaccine passport may be required to do certain things like attend events, travel, go to restaurants, or even work in an office.

While they may not be used for a lot right now, there is a possibility that proof of vaccination (also called a vaccine passport) may be required to do certain things like attend events, travel, go to restaurants, or even work in an office (though these decisions, outside of travel, will largely be left to individual businesses), similar to what’s been put into place in other countries like Israel or Japan. Currently, the development of vaccine passports are being left to the private sector with guidance and input from the federal government. Your vaccination card has the information you should need to receive a vaccine passport or prove that you have been vaccinated.

How to Protect Your Vaccine Card

So, what should you do with this vaccination card? Once you’ve been fully vaccinated and you card is fully filled out, there are a few ways you can protect your vaccination card. First, you should request a digital copy of your card. Many commercial pharmacies can give you this digital backup in case your physical one is damaged or lost. You should also take a photo of your completed card so you have your information on the go.

You should also laminate your completed card to give it an extra degree of protection once you’ve verified the information on the card.

It’s also suggested that you make a photocopy of your card and store it in a safe place with your other important documents. If you accidentally lose your vaccine card, having that backup is an important piece of proof until you’re able to get a replacement. Finally, you should also laminate your completed card to give it an extra degree of protection once you’ve verified the information on the card and have made backup copies (either by taking a photo or making a photocopy). Some office supply stores like Staples and Office Depot are offering to laminate vaccination cards for free.

Once you’ve received your full dosage, you’re not fully vaccinated quite yet. It takes about two weeks after your full dosage, depending on which shot you received. After you’re fully vaccinated, you can start to relax a bit, though you still need to follow most safety guidelines for the time being. You can learn more about the vaccination process and what you can and can’t do safely in our article “I’ve Gotten the COVID Vaccine. Now What?

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The COVID-19 vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and those you love and to bring the global pandemic to a close. Now that more people will be able to get the vaccine, you should know the important factors that immediately follow your full dosage of the vaccine. Once you’re through the common side effects and have protected your vaccine card, though, the light at the end of the tunnel becomes that much brighter.