The COVID-19 vaccine can help you avoid getting COVID-19.
The number of doses you need depends on which vaccine you get. It also depends on your age and health. You will need booster doses later to help stay protected. You are considered to be up to date on your COVID-19 vaccines when you've received all the recommended doses and booster doses.
The vaccine prevents many cases of COVID-19. But if you do still catch COVID-19, your symptoms will probably be less severe than if you hadn't gotten the vaccine. You can't get COVID-19 from the vaccine.
Who should get the vaccine?
Everyone over 6 months of age should get vaccinated for COVID-19. The vaccine is safe and effective at preventing serious illness and death.
The vaccine is extra important for people who are at high risk for complications from COVID-19 if they catch it. It is also important for people who live with them. Some examples of people at high risk include those who:
- Are older than age 65.
- Have certain health conditions, such as diabetes or lung problems.
- Are pregnant.
If you've already had COVID-19, you may still be able to catch it again. Getting the vaccine gives you extra protection.
Why should you get the vaccine?
Getting vaccinated will help protect you from COVID-19. It will also help protect others around you from getting the virus, including people who are more likely to get very sick or die from COVID-19. If you get the virus, you could spread it to friends, family, and other people in your community—including those who are at high risk.
The vaccine can help protect you and people you care about from other problems caused by getting COVID-19. This includes long-term health problems. It also includes missing work, school, or other events. And it includes the cost of health care if you are seriously ill.
What are the side effects of the vaccine?
You might not have side effects. But if you do, they'll probably be like those of other vaccines, including:
- Feeling very tired.
This is normal. Your body is building protection against COVID-19.
You may also have other side effects, including:
- Pain, redness, a rash, or swelling in the arm where you had the vaccine.
- Swollen lymph nodes in the armpit of the arm where you had the vaccine.
Side effects will likely go away in a few days. Until then, it may be harder to do your usual activities.
If you think you've been exposed to COVID-19 or have symptoms like a cough, trouble breathing, or a new loss of smell or taste, call your doctor. These aren't vaccine side effects. You need a COVID-19 test.
How can you care for yourself after getting the vaccine?
- If you have a sore arm or a fever after getting the COVID-19 vaccine, you can take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin). Read and follow all instructions on the label. Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 20. It has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness.
- Put ice or a cold pack on the sore area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.
- If you have side effects, such as a fever, be sure to get enough rest and drink plenty of fluids.
Current as of: May 28, 2023
Author: Healthwise Staff
Heather Quinn MD - Family Medicine
Lesley Ryan MD - Family Medicine