So I got the vaccine. Now what?

Yes, you still need to wear a mask after getting the COVID-19 vaccine. And if you have mild side effects, that's actually a good thing. It means the vaccine is working. They should go away after a couple of days.

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March 5, 2021 - 2:57 PM

A health care worker receives their COVID-19 vaccination at the Westmead Hospital Vaccination Hub on March 1, 2021 in Sydney, Australia.

Quick and painless.

That’s how the process went when I attended the COVID-19 vaccination clinic Thursday along with other Register staff who have a high degree of contact with the public.

The clinic, organized by the Southeast Kansas Multi-County Health Departments, was targeted to those age 65 and older, and later called for “high-contact critical workers” who met the Phase 2 criteria under Kansas Department of Health and Environment guidelines. Critical workers include fields such as law enforcement and grocery store workers, among others.

Register reporter Vickie Moss shows her post-COVID-19 vaccine selfie.Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

It took just a couple minutes to get the shot. Volunteers asked a few questions to determine if I was eligible. I barely felt the shot itself. Then, I scheduled a follow-up appointment for the second dose. 

The longest part of the entire process was waiting 15 minutes to see if I had a reaction. As we waited, a volunteer roamed the room, checking on people and disinfecting seats when they left. 

The clinic was very well organized. SEKMCHD Director Rebecca Johnson said Thursday’s clinic administered 189 first doses and another 40 second doses to those who had received a primary dose last month.

When I went to bed Thursday night, I felt mild flu-like symptoms: tiredness, fever and chills, which the CDC attests are common side effects. My arm was just a little tender until Friday.

SO I got the first dose of the Moderna vaccine. 

Now what?

The CDC and Johnson offered some guidance on what to do after you’ve received a COVID-19 vaccine.

The first rule: Keep wearing a mask and practicing social distancing.

Here’s why:

It takes time for your body to build protection after any vaccination, the CDC said. COVID vaccinations that require two doses may not protect you until a week or two after your second shot. 

Even at full effectiveness, the vaccines offer 94% to 95% protection. That means 5% of those who receive a vaccine could still get infected, and there’s no way to know who that might be. 

Because COVID and its vaccines are new, research is still underway to answer many questions. For example, more research is needed to determine if the vaccine also prevents transmission, according to the Cleveland Clinic. That means it’s possible someone who has been vaccinated could still spread the disease.

Not everyone will be vaccinated. Those with compromised immune systems or those who have had an allergic reaction to vaccines may not be able to receive one. Others have chosen not to get one until more information is known. Masks can reduce the likelihood of the virus continuing to circulate until we reach “herd immunity,” which will occur when 50% to 80% of the population has received a vaccine. 

“Unfortunately, getting vaccinated does not instantly mean we can go back to how life was before,” infectious disease specialist Kristin Englund, with the Cleveland Clinic, said. “Until we have some level of herd immunity, the vaccine is now just another layer of protection against COVID-19.”

SIDE EFFECTS from the vaccine are normal and simply indicate the shot is doing its job and building protection, according to the CDC. 

Don’t take pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen before you get the shot, because it’s not known if they may affect how well the vaccine works. If you have pain and discomfort, you could take those medications later but the CDC recommends asking your doctor first.

Common side effects are pain and swelling at the site of the shot. You may also experience tiredness, fever, chills and headache.

To reduce pain and discomfort at the site of the injection, place a clean, cool, wet washcloth on the site. Use or exercise your arm. Drink plenty of fluids and wear light, comfortable clothing.

If redness or discomfort at the site of the injection increases after 24 hours, call your doctor. Side effects should go away in a few days. If they don’t call your doctor.

Some have reported more side effects after the second dose. Side effects may also be more common in younger people than older people, whose immune systems have been more active. Health officials also reported more side effects from the Moderna vaccine than Pfizer.

Health experts say side effects are actually a good thing, because it shows the vaccine is triggering an immune response in your body.

WHEN YOU get vaccinated, you’ll receive a card or printout that tells you what vaccine you received, and when and where you received it. 

You’ll receive fact sheets with educational material about the vaccine you received. 

You’ll also receive information about v-safe, a free, smartphone-based tool that uses text messages and web surveys to provide personalized health check-ins after you receive a COVID vaccination. It also reminds you to get your second dose. 

Learn more at www.cdc.gov/vsafe.

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