9 Tactics to Get ready for Your COVID-19 Vaccine Appointment

It’s the big day: You’re finally eligible to sign up to get a COVID-19 vaccine appointment! It’s a reminder that, after more than a year of quarantine, your life and the world may get somewhat back to normal in 2021. But before you start making travel plans or celebrating, there are a few things to note before going to your COVID-19 vaccine appointment.

These will help ensure that the process is as stress-free and runs smoothly as possible. And these tips will also make sure you know what to expect going into the experience—and how to safely start engaging in some of the activities that were off-limits for much of 2020.

1. Know your COVID-19 vaccine options.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has now given emergency use authorization to three vaccines in the U.S., including one developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, one from Moderna, and, most recently, a Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

You should take whichever vaccine you’re offered, experts told SELF recently. But it’s still good to know the differences between them. The biggest difference is that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is just one shot, while the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines will require you to book a second appointment for a second dose a few weeks after your first one. 

The most common side effects are similar for all three vaccines: pain and swelling at the injection site, fatigue, headache, and body aches, Monica Gandhi, M.D., M.P.H., physician and infectious disease professor at UCSF, tells SELF. You might also experience a fever and chills may also occur. And people also reported nausea after the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. But in all cases, these side effects are temporary (lasting just a few days) and generally mild. People report more side effects after receiving the second dose than the first of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Side effects after the second dose were more intense than after the first as well.

2. Prepare a vaccine-friendly outfit.

You’ll get your shot in the deltoid muscle located in your upper arm. But one of the biggest hold ups at the clinic is people coming in with shirts that have sleeves that can’t be rolled up, Gargi Padki, RN, BSN, vaccine administrator in New York City, tells SELF.

Because most mass COVID-19 vaccination sites are in large open environments, like stadiums or gyms, you won’t necessarily have privacy to take off your shirt if the nurse can’t access your upper arm. So if it’s a cold day, try to dress in layers that are easy to take off with the bottom most layer of clothing being a sleeveless shirt or easy-to-roll-up sleeves.

3. Be aware of your history of allergic reactions.

Anaphylaxis, which is a severe allergic reaction, is an extremely rare outcome of the COVID-19 vaccines, Dr. Gandhi says. Anaphylaxis occurred in 2 to 5 people per million vaccinated in the U.S, according to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, and none have resulted in death.

If you have a history of allergic reactions to previous vaccines, consult with your doctor or allergist ahead of time to make sure you can get the COVID-19 vaccine. Before your doctor’s appointment, learn about the different vaccine types to ask questions about which one may be best for you. For example, if you’re allergic to polyethylene glycol, an ingredient found in mRNA vaccines, ask your doctor if you should get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine instead. 

If your allergies are not related to vaccines, the CDC says that you can get the vaccine safely. But if you’re worried that you might have a reaction, let the site administrators and coordinators know so they can be prepared and check in with you while you wait.

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