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What to Expect After Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine

Doctor giving a senior woman a vaccination

After a COVID-19 vaccine, you may have some side effects, which are normal signs that your body is building protection. They should go away in a few days.

Vaccine eligibility has opened up for Californians aged 12 and over. As you get your vaccine, you may experience some side effects, which are normal signs that your body is building protection. They should go away in a few days. Some people have no side effects.

What are the common side effects?

On the arm where you got the shot you may experience pain, redness, and swelling. You may also experience tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever, and nausea.

What can you do for side effects?

Talk to your doctor about taking over-the-counter medicine, such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, aspirin, or antihistamines, for any pain and discomfort you may experience after getting vaccinated. You can take these medications to relieve post-vaccination side effects if you have no other medical reasons that prevent you from taking these medications normally.

Experts tell us not to take these medicines before vaccination for the purpose of trying to prevent side effects.

To reduce discomfort where you got the shot, apply a clean, cool, wet washcloth over the area, and exercise your arm. For a fever, drink plenty of fluids and dress lightly.

Side effects after your second shot may be more intense than the ones you experienced after your first shot. These side effects are normal signs that your body is building protection and should go away within a few days.

Contact your doctor if the redness or tenderness where you got the second shot gets worse after 24 hours or if the side effects do not seem to be going away after a few days.

What else should you keep in mind?

  • It takes time for your body to build protection after any vaccination. You are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after your second shot of the Pfizer-BioNtech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, or two weeks after the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.
  • After you are fully vaccinated for COVID-19, you may be able to start doing some things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic. Learn more from the CDC about what you can do once fully vaccinated.
  • Continue to monitor your health and be alert for symptoms of COVID-19.
  • The CDC is monitoring and learning how vaccines will affect the spread of COVID-19. The CDC is also still learning how long COVID-19 vaccines can protect people.
  • You should keep taking precautions and follow public health guidelines regarding face coverings, keeping physical distance from others, and washing your hands often.
  • You may also consider using v-safe from the CDC. V-safe is a smartphone-based tool that uses text messaging and web surveys to provide personalized health check-ins after you receive a COVID-19 vaccination. Through v-safe, you can quickly tell the CDC if you have any side effects after getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

For the latest information, visit California’s COVID-19 website.

This post was updated 8/2/2021.