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What to Expect After Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine

April 14, 2021
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Congratulations, you’ve received the COVID-19 vaccine. You might have questions – will there be side effects? Can I gather with friends and family? Do I still need to wear a mask? Here, we summarize the current recommendations from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) in answer to some of the most common questions following vaccination.

Will I have side effects?

You might have some side effects following your vaccination. In the arm you received your shot, you might experience soreness, swelling, and sometimes swollen lymph nodes. You may also experience tiredness, headache, muscle soreness, chills, fever and nausea.

Most of these side effect last no more than a few days. You can ask your doctor about taking over-the-counter medicine, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, for any pain or fever you experience after vaccination. However, it is not advisable to take this before being vaccinated. These side effects are usually mild to moderate and go away quickly.

How long does it take to be immune after my vaccination?

Which vaccine you received determines when you will be immune:

  • Pfizer (BioNTech): two weeks after your second dose
  • Moderna: two weeks after your second dose

Can I still test positive for COVID-19?

Yes. None of the vaccinations are 100% effective at preventing COVID-19. Pfizer is 95% effective and Moderna is 94% effective in preventing symptomatic infection. Recent real world data suggest that either mRNA vaccine is effective in preventing 90% of infection including asymptomatic infection.

While none of the vaccinations can give you COVID-19, there is a very small possibility you might still become infected – with much milder symptoms than had you not been vaccinated.

Can I gather with friends and family?

It depends. Here are the latest recommendations:

  • You can gather indoors with other fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask.
  • You can gather indoors with unvaccinated people from just one other household without masks, unless any of those people are high risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
  • You should still avoid gathering with unvaccinated people from more than one other household.

What if I am exposed to COVID-19 after being fully vaccinated?

If you’ve been around someone who has COVID-19, you do not need to quarantine for 10 days or get tested for COVID-19, unless you have symptoms.

Do I still need to wear a mask in public?

In public settings you should still wear a mask and stay at least 6 feet apart from others. The CDC still recommends masking and social distancing even after vaccination. No vaccines are 100% effective, but they do reduce your risk of hospitalization and death if you do happen to be infected after immunization. It is also important to keep wearing a mask to protect high risk people from being infected.

Stay in the Know

The facts are always changing as we learn more about the COVID-19 virus and the protection that the vaccines provide. We post regular updates to our website’s vaccine FAQ as we learn new information and as vaccine eligibility changes.

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You're eligible if you're age 12 + and live, work, or study in MA. Schedule through Baystate Health or Mass.Gov.

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