COVID-19: Know What to Expect

You Stop the Spread, adult wearing a red mask holding her sleeve up waiting for a vaccineGetting vaccinated does not need to be a stressful process. Here is an overview of what you can expect throughout the COVID-19 vaccination process, how you can make it smooth and stress-free, and how to stay safe until you are fully vaccinated. You can also get the facts on common side effects of the vaccine.

Know the vaccine appointment basics

  • The COVID-19 vaccine is free for all. An ID or insurance is not required to get vaccinated.
  • Some vaccination sites may require vaccine recipients ages 12 to 17 to be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.
  • Postpone your appointment if you don't feel well, have COVID-19, were exposed to COVID-19, or received monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma treatment for COVID-19 in the last 90 days. 
  • The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require that you receive two doses, so you will need to plan for two appointments. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine only requires a single dose.
  • It takes two weeks after your second dose (or your single dose of Johnson & Johnson) to be fully protected, or fully vaccinated against COVID-19. 

Tips for your vaccination appointment

  • Wear a face mask.
  • Wear short sleeves.
  • Arrive on time.
  • Bring your ID if you have one. 
  • If you have insurance, provide your insurance information. No charges will be transferred to you. If you do not have insurance, do not worry. Insurance is not required.  
  • Maintain 6 feet of distance between you, other patients, and staff when possible. 
  • If it is your second appointment, bring your vaccination record card.

Know what to expect

Here’s how you can stay safe and comfortable throughout the vaccination process.


Close up of an adult with glasses wearing a mask

Before getting vaccinated

  • Continue to wear a mask in public indoor spaces, physically distance, and wash or sanitize your hands frequently.
  • Reschedule your appointment if you don't feel well, have COVID-19, were exposed to COVID-19, or received monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma treatment for COVID-19 in the last 90 days.
  • Drinking plenty of water, getting a good night's rest, and eating a balanced meal before your appointment may help lessen possible side effects.

Close up of an adult wearing a mask while gloved hands place a band-aid over inoculation site

After vaccination

Immediately after your first dose, you will be observed for at least 15 minutes. If you experience any immediate reactions, make sure to report them to medical staff right away.

Shortly after your first dose, you may experience mild side effects such as:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Tiredness
  • Headaches
  • Pain or swelling on your arm where you got the vaccine

These are common signs that your immune system is strengthening its response to the virus. They usually go away within a day or two. Even if you experience side effects from the first dose, it is very important that you get your second dose (if you received a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine), so you have full protection.

Discomfort from fever or pain is normal. However, contact a health care provider if redness or tenderness of the arm where you got the vaccine increases after 24 hours or your side effects worry you or last longer than a few days. If you are having a medical emergency, call 911. 


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Until you are fully vaccinated

You are considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19 two weeks after your second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines or two weeks after the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. Until then, continue to wear a mask in public indoor spaces, physically distance, wash or sanitize your hands frequently and follow CDC guidance for choosing safer activities. 

After you are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, you can start doing things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic. Learn more about what you can do after becoming fully vaccinated.

 

Don't forget!

Follow this checklist after you receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Sign up for v-safe

Get v-safe, the new smartphone-based tool for personalized health check-ins, easy reporting of side effects, and a reminder to get your second dose.

Save your vaccination card

Your vaccination card has information on when and where you received your vaccine as well as other helpful information related to the COVID-19 vaccine. Keep your card in a safe place! You may also visit the Wisconsin Immunization Registry for an electronic version. When taking pictures or posting selfies about getting your COVID-19 vaccine, do not post photos of your vaccination card online so your health information is protected. Do not laminate your vaccination card.

If you lose your COVID-19 vaccination card:

DHS cannot issue COVID-19 vaccination cards. Try any of the following to get a new one or access your vaccine information.

  • Call the provider where you were vaccinated to see if they can give you a new card.
  • If you received your vaccination in Wisconsin, access your vaccination record using the Wisconsin Immunization Registry (WIR).
  • If you received your vaccination in another state, go to that state department of health’s website to search their vaccine registry.

Plan your second dose, if necessary

Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses to provide full protection against COVID-19. If you got a vaccine that requires two doses, you will need to return to your vaccination location for the second dose. Even if you experience side effects from the first dose, it is important that you get your second dose for the best protection.

Before you leave the vaccination location, make sure you know when and where to come back for your second dose, and put a reminder in your calendar.

Get text message reminders to get your second dose through VaxText. VaxText is a free text messaging platform from the CDC that provides weekly text reminders to patients of their second dose appointment for COVID-19 vaccine. Text ENROLL to 1-833-VaxText (829-8398).

If you miss your second vaccine appointment: 

You will need to get a second dose to get the best protection from the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. While it is important to get your second dose on schedule, it is okay if you can’t get it as soon as possible or need to reschedule your appointment. Let your vaccine provider know you need to reschedule your appointment or will not be able to get it on time and schedule your second dose as soon as you can.

Vaccine Second dose is due: Can receive second dose up to:
Pfizer 21 days after first dose* 42 days after first dose
Moderna 28 days after first dose* 42 days after first dose

*This is the earliest you can get the second dose.

If you do not get your second dose within the recommended window (42 days after your first dose), call your vaccinator and reschedule as soon as possible. While there is limited data on how well the vaccine works past 42 days after the first dose, you will not need to restart your two-dose vaccine series. This guidance might be updated as more information becomes available.


More resources on your vaccine appointment

Download helpful resources and educational materials on preparing for a COVID-19 vaccination. 


Vaccine data

Access the latest COVID-19 statistics and data, including vaccination distribution rates and how the information is tracked and reported.  

 

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