COVID-19, Flu and RSV Information and COVID-19 Vaccine Availability

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Do’s and Don’ts of Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine

Vaccination Is a Key Prevention Tool

COVID-19 vaccines help protect individuals and communities. To survive, a virus needs to spread from one person to another. If enough people in a community are protected from an illness with a vaccine or because they've already had the disease, the virus cannot spread easily, and its strain will eventually die out.

Vaccines and boosters help prevent the SARS-CoV-2 virus from spreading; getting vaccinated is a way to keep yourself, your community and your loved ones healthy. Here are some do's and don'ts for getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

Do's of Getting Your COVID-19 Vaccine

Do get your COVID-19 vaccine and boosters.

A COVID-19 vaccine protects you from getting sick with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

"Vaccines are extremely relevant today as we lessen some of the restrictions from the pandemic," explains Khalilah L. Gates, MD, a pulmonologist and critical care physician at Northwestern Medicine. "Vaccines have consistently reduced severe COVID-19 illness, which translates into fewer hospitalizations and fewer deaths in both vaccinated and boosted people."

Do contact your physician if you have adverse side effects from the vaccine that last more than 72 hours.

Some mild side effects that you may experience from COVID-19 vaccination include:

  • Muscle pain around the injection site
  • Achiness and general joint pain
  • Headache
  • Mild-grade fever and chills
  • Nausea and vomiting

These side effects are the result of your body training your immune system to respond to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. They are a sign that the vaccine is working. Remember: It is impossible to get COVID-19 from the vaccine. Learn how COVID-19 vaccines work.

If your symptoms persist for more than 72 hours after your vaccination, call your primary care physician. If you have a more severe reaction, such as difficulty swallowing or breathing, call 911. Severe reactions to COVID-19 vaccines are rare.

Do help people in your life get the vaccine.

People 65 and older are more likely to die from COVID-19 than any other age group. If you have loved ones in this age group, it is important that they get vaccinated. Offer to help them by scheduling their appointment and driving them, if needed.

Share your vaccination experience on social media to help friends and family feel more comfortable getting the vaccine themselves.

Do stay up to date on your vaccinations.

Viruses change over time so they are better able to survive. Flu vaccines are slightly altered each year to account for changes in the influenza virus. Your immunity to the flu also changes over time. That is why a flu vaccine is recommended every year.

The SARS-CoV-2 virus also has many strains and continues to mutate (these are called variants). These changes may affect how effective COVID-19 vaccines are. The COVID-19 immunity you got from the vaccine is also likely to decrease over time, but booster shots can help you stay protected from COVID-19.

"I truly believe the COVID-19 booster will become similar to the flu vaccine," explains Dr. Gates "This disease is with us now, so we must embrace that and continue to move forward in safe and healthy ways. That means getting vaccinated and staying up to date with boosters."

Don'ts of Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine

Don't stop taking precautions, such as masking and hand-washing.

Even though you got vaccinated, COVID-19 precautions are still important. Here's why:

  • mRNA COVID-19 vaccines are not 100% effective. No vaccine is 100% effective. However, millions of people in the United States have received COVID-19 vaccines, and vaccination remains a key way to protect yourself and others.
  • You may still spread COVID-19 once you've been vaccinated. The vaccines are effective in preventing symptomatic infection, but it still might be possible for you to carry the virus without showing symptoms.

If you have COVID-19, you can spread it to others, even if you are not symptomatic. If you are symptomatic, get tested and stay home until you get the results. Then, follow the latest isolation recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Don't assume others are safer around you because you got vaccinated.

Your immunity doesn't rub off on your family and friends. You're not safer to be around after you're vaccinated; you're just less likely to get sick from COVID-19.

Science has moved at a historically rapid pace to advance our understanding of the virus, develop treatment strategies and create vaccines. Many physician-scientists at Northwestern Medicine have contributed to this effort. Now, it's your turn: Do your part to stop the spread and get vaccinated.