Get the Vaccine Shot | How the Vaccination Works

A nurse administers a vaccine into a patient's armA nurse administers a vaccine into a patient's armBy: SELF Magazine

Getting Your First Vaccine Shot

The two available vaccines in the country currently require recipients to receive two doses, separated by a specific number of days depending on the vaccine you receive. 

After you've made an appointment (usually required) and before leaving to get vaccinated, make sure you have proper identification, confirmation showing that you are eligible to receive the vaccine that day, and proof of health coverage (you can still get your vaccine if you do not have health insurance). Last, but certainly not least, remember to bring your mask and hand sanitizer.

You should give yourself ample time to arrive at your predetermined vaccine site on time the day of your appointment. Many areas throughout the country are reporting hours long lines, with some of them reaching capacity before even opening their doors. Check local news reports if you are able to well before departing your residence so you are prepared for any potential obstacles. 

After receiving your first shot you will very likely be asked or required to stay between 15 and 30 minutes to ensure you do not have an allergic reaction to the vaccine. At drive thru clinics that may mean you will pull off into a holding area and wait in your car, while those who receive their vaccine outside of their car will likely be asked to wait on site until healthcare professionals are sure you won’t have a reaction. 

After receiving your first vaccine shot you will be given a card that has your name, the date of your first shot, what vaccine you received, and when you will need to return to get your second vaccine shot.

You should continue taking all precautions against the virus after receiving your first shot because it will take up to seven weeks and an additional booster shot before you could become immune, with one dose of the top three vaccines only being around 50% effective. Since one shot only gives you roughly 50% immunity, it is very important to make sure you get your second dose of the vaccine. 

Getting Your Second Vaccine Shot

All FDA approved vaccines currently require a second “booster” shot in order to ensure full immunity from the virus. The number of days between your first and second shot varies depending on which vaccine you receive. Note that you will very likely not have a choice in which vaccine you receive. 

Individuals who receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will need to return 21 days after their first dose to receive their second; individuals who receive the Moderna vaccine will need to return 28 days after their first dose to receive their second; and those who receive the AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine will need to return between 25 and 30 days.

Individuals getting their second dose have a grace period of receiving it no earlier than four days before the recommended date. There is no known maximum number of days after your first dose that will require you to restart your vaccination regimen, but it is strongly encouraged to register for your second shot within the recommended time period. Ask your medical professional when you get your first shot if you can schedule your second dose then or if you need to schedule at a later date.

The routine will be exactly the same as receiving your first dose: schedule your appointment, bring the proper paperwork, and plan ahead in case of long lines or other factors out of your control.

It will take around one week after your second dose before you reach between 70% and 95% efficacy depending on which vaccine you were given. 

Common Side Effects

Common side effects for all of the vaccines in circulation are pain, swelling, fever, chills, tiredness, and headaches. Understand that these are normal and are your body’s way of building up a defense against the virus.

Economic Relief Benefits

Benefit Guide About
1. Vaccine TimelineWho get the vaccines first and when
2. Where to Get VaccinesLocations carrying the vaccine
3. Vaccine RegistrationHow to signup & get vaccinated
4. Receiving the VaccineRead the GuideThe current article you are reading
5. After You are VaccinatedWhat to do after your 1st or 2nd doses
Economic Relief BenefitsLists of most common government benefits, requirements to qualify and how to apply