What you need to know before, during and after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine

Tips for navigating the vaccination process.

UNICEF
A woman is getting vaccinated at the COVID-19 vaccination site in Madagascar.
UNICEF/UN0472327/Andrianandrasana
05 June 2021

Millions of people around the world have now been safely vaccinated against COVID-19, bringing us all one step closer to getting back to doing more of the things we enjoy with the people we love. For many the COVID-19 vaccines couldn’t come fast enough, but others understandably have questions about the vaccination process and what to expect when it comes to their turn.

We spoke to UNICEF health experts to find out about the vaccination process and tips on what you can do before, during and after.

3 female health workers are showing their vaccination booklets after getting COVID-19 vaccine.
UNICEF/UN0446495/Upadhayay
Health workers and frontline workers receive the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Gotikhel Health Post in Lalitpur District in central Nepal.

Before you go

Do your research. There’s a lot of misinformation about vaccines online, so it’s important to always get your information from trustworthy sources like UNICEF and WHO. If you have any questions about whether you should receive a COVID-19 vaccine, speak to your doctor. At present, people with the following health conditions should not receive a COVID-19 vaccine to avoid any possible adverse effects:

  • If you have a history of severe allergic reactions to any ingredients of a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • If you are currently sick or experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 (although you can get vaccinated once you have recovered and your doctor has approved).

Talk to your doctor. If you’ve ever experienced a severe allergic reaction from any vaccine or you have any questions about the medications you are currently taking, talk to your health care provider before your appointment.

Take care of yourself. Get a good night’s rest and hydrate well before your vaccination so you can feel your best on the day.

An eldery man is getting COVID-19 vaccine.
UNICEF/UN0431811/Seng
Adults receive COVID-19 vaccines in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

During the appointment

Stay safe. Make sure to follow safety precautions at the vaccination facility such as physical distancing while waiting and wearing a mask.

Communicate. Let the health care professional know if you have any medical conditions that could be considered precautions, such as pregnancy or a compromised immune system.

Keep your records. You should receive a vaccination card that tells you which COVID-19 vaccine you received, when you received it and where you received it. Make sure to hold on to this card in the event that you need it in the future.

An old lady is showing a peace sign while waiting for her turn to get COVID-19 vaccine.
UNICEF/UN0433772/Vilca
Older adults start to receive COVID-19 vaccines at a vaccination site in the district of San Martín de Porres in Lima, Peru.

After you’ve been vaccinated

Stay for monitoring. The health care provider should observe you for about 15 minutes after the vaccine is administered to make sure you don’t have any immediate reactions. However, it is extremely rare for severe health reactions.

Be prepared for some side effects. Vaccines are designed to give you immunity without the dangers of getting the disease. While it’s normal to build immunity without side effects, it’s also common to experience some mild-to-moderate side effects that go away within a few days on their own.

Some of the mild-to-moderate side effects you may experience after vaccination include:

  • Arm soreness at the injection site
  • Mild fever
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Muscle or joint aches 
  • Chills
  • Diarrhoea

If any symptoms continue for more than a few days or if you experience a more severe reaction, then contact your health care provider immediately.

Be patient. Building immunity takes time. You will be considered fully vaccinated two weeks after your second dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, 15 days after your second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine or two weeks after the single-dose J&J/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine.

Keep yourself and others safe. While these vaccines are showing to be highly effective at protecting people against serious illness from COVID-19, we’re still learning about whether it is possible for a vaccinated person to still spread the virus, even without symptoms. Therefore, it is important to continue practicing safety precautions to protect yourself and others, including avoiding crowded spaces, physical distancing, hand washing and wearing a mask.

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