COVID-19 vaccination will help protect you from getting sick from COVID-19. To date, vaccines from two different companies have been approved for use. Both require two separate shots to be the most effective. Both shots must be of vaccine from the same manufacturer. 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. Peak protection from the vaccine begins about two weeks after receiving the second shot.
There is currently a limited supply of COVID-19 vaccine in the United States. The CDC and Washington State Department of Health are developing guidance on who should receive vaccine first while supplies are limited. The ultimate goal is for everyone to be able to easily get vaccinated once the vaccine is widely available.
Watch this video on how vaccines are developed: https://youtu.be/HqsmhCJurTM
Getting vaccinated is one of many steps you can take to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. Protection from COVID-19 is critically important because for some people, this disease can cause severe illness or death. Other steps, like masks and social distancing, help reduce your chance of being exposed to the virus or spreading it to others. Together, COVID-19 vaccination and following public health recommendations to protect yourself and others will offer the best protection from COVID-19.
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.
It’s important for everyone to continue using all the tools available to help stop this pandemic as we learn more about how effective COVID-19 vaccines are 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.
How vaccines work
Building immunity from a virus is all about how your body reacts when protein from a virus gets into your body. Your immune system recognizes that the protein should not be there. It builds white blood cells to fight the infection. They also remember the protein in case the virus ever enters your body again. Vaccines work by introducing harmless levels or harmless pieces of a virus’ unique protein into your body.
Watch this video on how vaccines work in your body: https://youtu.be/k7E88xEGOaE
The COVID-19 vaccines teach your immune system to recognize protein from the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. You get protection against the disease without having to get sick. Both vaccines currently approved for use offer 94% or higher protection against getting sick after both doses are taken. Because the coronavirus and these vaccines are so new, it is not yet known whether this protection will be lifelong.
Three main types of COVID-19 vaccines are being developed and tested. The Pfizer- BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are both mRNA vaccines. mRNA vaccines contain a small bit of genetic material from the COVID-19 virus that tells your body how to make a harmless copy of the protein on just the spikes on the outside of COVID-19 virus. Your body builds immunity to that protein. This prevents virus spikes from attaching and transferring the virus into your cells to make you sick.
How many shots required
Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines require two shots for full effectiveness. One vaccine currently in clinical trials will only need one shot if or when it is approved.
Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine is authorized for emergency use in persons aged 16 years and older. This is a two-dose vaccine, given 21 days apart. Clinical trial data show the vaccine is 95 percent effective at preventing COVID-19 infection starting seven days after the second dose. Individuals will not be considered fully protected until one to two weeks after they receive the second dose.
Download the Pfizer-BioNTec FDA Fact Sheet at: Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine EUA Fact Sheet for Recipients and Caregivers (fda.gov)
Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine is authorized for emergency use in individuals aged 18 years and older. This is a two-dose vaccine, given 28 days apart. Clinical trial data shows the vaccine is about 94 percent effective after two doses, and no serious safety concerns were found.
Download the Moderna FDA Fact Sheet at: Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine EUA Fact Sheet for Recipients and Caregivers (fda.gov)
Vaccine side effects
The appearance of side effects after taking the vaccine are generally a good sign. They mean your body is building immunity. The most common side effects of the vaccine are similar to many other routine vaccines, including a sore arm, tiredness, headache, and muscle pain. Data from clinical trials showed the following in people younger than 55:
- About 80 percent reported pain at the injection site
- About half reported tiredness and headache
- Less than one-third (30 percent) reported muscle pain
- Most side effects occur within two days of getting the vaccine and last about a day
- Side effects are more common among people 55 years or younger than among those older than 55
- Side effects are more common after the second dose than the first dose.
Side effects may feel like flu and even affect your ability to do daily activities, but they should go away in a few days. If you have pain or discomfort, talk to your doctor about taking an over-the-counter medicine, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
To reduce pain and discomfort where you got the shot:
- Apply a clean, cool, wet washcloth over the area.
- Use or exercise your arm.
To reduce discomfort from fever:
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Dress lightly
When to call the doctor
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
You may see some rumors about untrue side effects online or on social media. Make sure any time you see a claim about a side effect that you check the source of that claim. This video has tips on how to figure out if a claim online is true or not: https://youtu.be/UIov_crnFt8
Cost is not an obstacle to getting vaccinated against COVID-19. Vaccine doses purchased with U.S. taxpayer dollars will be given to the American people at no cost.
No mandates for taking the COVID-19 vaccine have been enacted by the federal government, State of Washington, or Lewis County. However, some employers could require it.
How long to take effect
It takes time for your body to build protection after any vaccination. COVID-19 vaccines that require 2 shots may not fully protect you until a week or two after your second shot.
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.
Continue using precautions
Experts recommend you continue with the other prevention measures you've been doing even after getting vaccinated. These include washing your hands, wearing a mask, staying six feet apart, and limiting gatherings. It will take months to get the vaccine to everyone, and masks and other prevention measures are still recommended to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 to people who are not yet vaccinated.
If exposed to COVID-19 after vaccination
Until there is no longer widespread transmission of COVID-19, the CDC recommends people quarantine if they are exposed to the disease from a close contact.
Adverse event reporting
The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) is a national system that collects reports on adverse or unexpected events after being vaccinated. Reports may be submitted by healthcare professionals, vaccine manufacturers, and the general public. Events that appear to happen more often than expected, or have unusual patterns, are followed up with specific studies by the CDC and U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Submit a VAERS Report
V-safe after vaccination health checker
V-safe is a smartphone-based, after-vaccination health checker for people who receive COVID-19 vaccines. V-safe uses text messaging and web surveys from CDC to check in with vaccine recipients following COVID-19 vaccination. V-safe also provides second vaccine dose reminders if needed, and telephone follow-up to anyone who reports medically significant complications. Because the COVID-19 vaccine testing periods were much shorter than normal, participating in the v-safe program helps build longer-term data that will help ensure vaccine safety and effectiveness. Ask for a V-safe information sheet from your provider when you get your vaccination. It will include instructions for downloading the app and signing up.
For more information about COVID-19 vaccines:
Washington State Department of Health
General questions can be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
U.S. Food & Drug Administration