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COVID-19 Vaccine Series Part V: I got the COVID-19 vaccine. Now what?

What happens after you get the COVID-19 vaccine and how can you protect others from getting COVID-19?
6 min read
February 8, 2021
Dr. Jill Lundstrom
Board-Certified Pediatrician
Dr. Jill earned her MD at the University of Massachusetts. She believes that all children deserve access to quality healthcare to learn and thrive.

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Our care team has collected many of the questions families have asked our doctors about the COVID-19 vaccine, and we will be sharing weekly updates and inviting families to bring their questions to online chats with our doctors. 

This week we’re focusing on helping families understand what happens after you get the COVID-19 vaccine and how you can continue to protect others from getting COVID-19. Be sure to check back next week to read part six of our COVID-19 Vaccine Series: COVID-19 vaccine myth busting.

1. Question: I got one shot for the COVID-19 vaccine. When should I get my second one?

Answer: Both COVID-19 mRNA vaccines require both doses (two shots) to give you 90+% protection. You should meet the timeline for your second shot as closely as possible. The timing for your second shot depends on which vaccine you got.

Pfizer-BioNTech: 3 weeks (or 21 days) after your first shot,
Moderna: 1 month (or 28 days) after your first shot.

If you are late getting your second shot, you will not need to restart the vaccine process. You should not get your second shot early.

2. Question: Will I feel sick after the COVID-19 vaccine?

You will not get COVID-19 from getting the vaccine. Any discomfort you may feel from the vaccine will be mild and temporary (a few hours to a few days). These symptoms do not mean that you have COVID-19. These are signs that your body is responding to the vaccine because your immune system is building its defenses. They are not signs that you are sick.

Some people have had minor side effects after getting the COVID-19 vaccine. This may be pain, redness, or swelling in your arm from the shot. Some may also experience body or muscle aches, fevers, chills, fatigue.

If the redness or tenderness where you got the shot increases after 24 hours or you are worried that your symptoms aren’t going away after a few days, you should contact your doctor. If you think you might be having a severe allergic reaction after getting the vaccination, get help immediately.

3. Question: If the first vaccine dose makes me feel sick, should I get the second dose?

Answer: Yes. Unless your doctor tells you not to get a second shot, you should get the second shot even if you had side effects after the first shot.

4. Question: How long will it be before the vaccine starts protecting me from COVID-19?

Answer: It takes time for your body to build protection after any vaccination. COVID-19 vaccines that require two shots may not protect you until a week or two after your second shot. After that point, you should have 94-95% protection.

5. Question: Once I have both shots, can I  pass on the virus to others?

We are still studying this. Some vaccinated people can still get COVID-19, but the vaccine will protect them from getting sick from the virus. These asymptomatic people can spread the COVID-19 to others without knowing it. This can be dangerous for those who have not been vaccinated yet.

6. Question:  After I finish getting the vaccine, can I stop wearing a mask or go to crowded indoor spaces?

Answer: Unfortunately, not yet. Vaccine immunity takes at least 2–3 weeks after ALL doses. Also, the vaccine is not 100% effective. You will still need to social distance and wear a mask until we reach herd immunity.

Remember, for us to reach herd immunity, about 70% of people must be vaccinated. Because these vaccines will take time to reach everyone, it will take many months to get to herd immunity with COVID-19.

7. Question:  Can I travel after I get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Answer: We are still learning about how well the vaccines will stop the spread of coronavirus. You may be protected a few weeks after getting the second shot, but those around you may not be, and you may still be able to spread the virus. It is much safer for everyone to continue to avoid traveling until we reach herd immunity. If you do need to travel, wear a mask, and wash your hands frequently. While vaccines are effective, they are not a 100% guarantee.

If you have questions about getting the vaccine for your family, ask your doctor. 

Be sure to join our weekly online Ask a Doctor chat to hear more about the COVID-19 vaccine, and read the next blog in our series: COVID-19 vaccine myth busting.

The information in this blog is considered true and correct at the date of publication. Changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact the accuracy of the information.

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Parent Story
A father was concerned when his son was showing COVID-19 symptoms. His school uses Hazel, so he was able to contact a Hazel doctor from home.

The Hazel provider recommended he get a COVID-19 test and shared resources to help find a testing center in their area. The father was eager to help his son feel better and appreciated being able to quickly get answers and advice.
Nurse Story
A student came into the nurse's office with a sprained ankle. After icing her foot, she still was in pain, so the nurse called Hazel. Thankfully, her family had provided consent for over-the-counter pain relief because she was able to take some medicine and return to class feeling better.

After the visit, the Hazel provider reached out to the school nurse to check on the student’s injury. The nurse shared that the student’s ankle was improving, and she appreciated the follow-up.
Parent Story
A mother noticed her son was getting low on his asthma medication. She tried to schedule a visit with his doctor to refill his prescription, but no appointments were available. She didn’t want her son to run out of medicine, so she reached out to Hazel.

The provider was able to send the refill to a local pharmacy within one day. The mother was happy that her son would have the medicine he needed. She was also amazed at how easy and fast the entire process was.
Student Story
A student was coughing and sneezing a lot, but her family wasn’t sure if she was sick or had allergies. Thankfully, her school used Hazel, and they could get an answer.

After talking with the school nurse and the Hazel provider about her symptoms and medical history, the student was happy to find out it was likely allergies. She got some medicine and returned to class feeling better.
Student Story
During the pandemic, a high school student was having a hard time coping. She was sad about COVID-19 impacting her senior year, and she was worried about the state of the world. The student was also struggling with some personal conflicts, and she felt she didn't have the right support at home. After discussing her feelings, a Hazel doctor connected her with resources that she described as “life-changing.” She was very grateful and shared that she didn't know where to go for help before Hazel.
Parent Story
Shortly after COVID-19 began, a student began to develop tics. Her parents took her to a neurologist, but they wanted to get her into counseling as well. The student’s mother was having a hard time finding answers to her questions and didn’t know where to start the process, so she turned to Hazel.

The Hazel doctor listened as the mother shared her concerns and frustrations. Hazel reassured her that they would find the right services for her child. After the initial visit, the Hazel doctor partnered with the school counselor and the student’s mother to identify resources and counseling services that are a good fit.
Student Story
A student came into the nurse’s office because his vision went blurry. The Hazel doctor looked at his eyes, but he did not see any injury. As he asked him questions about his symptoms, he started to sense that he was down about something. After a few minutes, the student shared that he was really sad because his mom was recently diagnosed with cancer. He explained that he feels worried, and it’s hard for him to focus.

Hazel called home, and the student’s mother confirmed her diagnosis. They discussed how to help manage the child’s stress, and Hazel offered to connect the child with counseling resources through the school. The mother was very grateful for the guidance and was eager to get her child help during a stressful time.
Counselor Story
Hazel Health has been integral this year in getting our students the mental health services needed to help them live healthy lives.  The staff has been attentive, prompt, and resourceful. There is an evident sense of caring for the work they do and the students they serve. It has been a pleasure partnering with Hazel Health in providing mental wellness for our Garland ISD families.