What to expect when you receive your COVID-19 vaccine

Getting a COVID-19 vaccine may be top of mind for you and your loved ones — and because it’s a new vaccine, you may have questions about what to expect. Understanding what you should prepare beforehand, plus what may happen during and after your appointment may help you feel ready for when it’s your turn to be vaccinated.

Male nurse preparing older blonde woman for a COVID-19 vaccine

To help, consider these tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on what to expect: 

Before vaccination

At the appointment

  • You may need to show a photo ID (to show proof of age), health insurance ID card and potentially proof of residency at your appointment. If you are on Medicare, you’ll need your red, white and blue card as Medicare will pay for your vaccine in 2021.
  • Remember to wear a face mask and physically distance during your appointment.
  • After you receive your vaccine, your provider may monitor you for about 15 minutes to ensure you don’t have a rare allergic reaction. If you’ve had reactions to vaccines in the past, you may be monitored longer.
  • You should receive a vaccination card during your appointment that states which vaccine you received, the date you received it and where it was received. Keep this card, as it’ll be updated after you get your second dose.

After vaccination

  • Some side effects may be possible, as your body begins building protection against the virus. These side effects may include a sore arm, fever, tiredness and other symptoms – but they should go away in a few days. If your side effects don’t go away after a few days, contact your health care provider. 
  • Some COVID-19 vaccines require two shots to be most effective. Plan ahead for your second dose by scheduling your appointment, if possible. You can also sign up for free text messaging through the CDC’s VaxText to a get a reminder about your second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • The CDC says those fully vaccinated can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state or local regulations. You are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after your full vaccination, whether that's one or two doses. 
  • It may take time for your body to build protection after any vaccination. If you receive a vaccine that requires two doses, it will take two weeks after your second dose for you to be protected.   

COVID-19 vaccines are an important step in slowing the spread of the virus but should be combined with CDC recommendations to help protect yourself and others, such as wearing a mask, distancing yourself from others and avoiding crowds.

To find vaccine resources near you, check your local health department websites for current guidance and availability. You can also use the UnitedHealthcare COVID-19 Vaccine Resource Locator.

For more information about the COVID-19 vaccines, click here.