FAQs COVID-19 Vaccine: What to expect when you get the vaccine

April 20, 2021

We all have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine. It’s good to get answers to make an informed decision. See part 1 of this blog post.

How many shots of the COVID-19 vaccine will I need to be protected?

With some of the vaccines available now, you will need 2 doses. A second shot a few weeks after your first shot is needed to get the most protection. With another vaccine, you only need 1 dose. The CDC says you are fully vaccinated 2 weeks after the last shot. Researchers are still learning how long vaccines protect people.

Will a vaccinated person have to get another vaccine (booster) at some point?

Researchers are still learning how effective the vaccines are against new variants (strains) of the COVID-19 virus. Early research shows that the vaccines that are available now may work against some variants, but could be less effective against others. As of now, no additional vaccines (booster shots) are needed.

Does getting the vaccine only protect the person who got the shot?

Getting the vaccine can also help protect people around you, especially if they are at increased risk for severe COVID-19 illness. It’s harder for the virus to spread within the community if many people in the community get vaccinated. When herd immunity happens, the whole community is protected even if some people don’t haven’t gotten the vaccine. Herd immunity is when enough people in a group are protected that the spread of the disease is unlikely.

Can I still get COVID-19 if I get the vaccine?

Studies show that COVID-19 vaccines are very effective at preventing infection with the virus that causes COVID-19. The vaccine can also help prevent serious illness if you do get COVID-19. Researchers are still learning how well vaccines prevent you from spreading the COVID-19 virus to others, even when you have no symptoms. That’s why vaccinated people should still wear a mask and practice social distancing in many situations.

What are the side effects of the vaccine?

You may have some side effects after getting the COVID-19 vaccine. This is a normal sign that your body is building protection. Common side effects are:

  • Pain
  • Redness and swelling in the arm where you got the shot
  • Tiredness
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain/aches
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Nausea.

Side effects may make it hard to do some things, but these symptoms should go away in a few days. Some people who get the vaccine don’t notice any side effects.

Has anyone had medical issues after getting the vaccine?

A small number of people have had a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis after receiving the vaccine. This is extremely rare and happens in about 1 person out of every 1 million people who get the vaccine. It can happen if you are allergic to an ingredient in the vaccine. If you get vaccinated, you will be asked to stay for 15 to 30 minutes after receiving the shot. This will help them identify a bad reaction and treat it right away.

Do I need to pay for the COVID-19 vaccine?

No. The federal government is providing the vaccine free of charge to all people living in the United States, including people without legal documentation and people who don’t have health insurance. Vaccine providers may submit the charge to your insurance plan or program if you have one, but there is no cost to you.

Can I be arrested or deported while getting the vaccine if I don’t have legal documentation?

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) encourages all people, including people without legal documentation, to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The DHS says that immigration officials will not target people without legal documentation when they are getting the vaccine. Each state and vaccination site decides what information is needed to register to get the vaccine. Most states ask for an identification (ID), if available. You should not be asked to show proof of citizenship or residency. Call your local health department to learn more. 

Talk with your provider if you have questions about getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Visit marchofdimes.org/covid19 for more information.