How to Prepare for Your COVID-19 Vaccine

May 5, 2021

Clinical Contributors to this Story

Thomas Bader, M.D. contributes to topics such as Medical Quality.

When it’s your turn to get the COVID-19 vaccine, you may be more excited than usual to bare your arm to a health care provider, since doing so helps to bring us all closer to the end of the pandemic. You’re probably already daydreaming about the things that you’ll do once you’re fully vaccinated, but have you considered what to do to get ready for your appointment?

Here’s how to prepare for your COVID-19 vaccine:

Before your COVID-19 vaccine appointment:

  • Talk to your doctor about any serious allergies. Have you previously had an allergic reaction to a different vaccine? Do you know that you’re allergic to one of the ingredients in the new COVID-19 vaccines? Talk with your doctor before scheduling a vaccine appointment, to find out if you should seek out or avoid a specific vaccine.
  • Ask your doctor about other health concerns. Are you pregnant or breastfeeding, wondering if you should get a COVID-19 vaccine? A conversation with your doctor may help you decide whether you should get vaccinated. Ongoing clinical trials are examining the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant and breastfeeding women, but early reports seem extremely positive. Your doctor may have some helpful insights to share in the absence of definitive research.
  • Schedule an appointment. Walk-in appointments are becoming available, but if you want to be sure about the time and date of your shot, make an appointment ahead of time. You may be able to book an appointment in-person, online or by phone, depending on the vaccination site.
  • Be comfortable. Dress accordingly for the possibility that you may need to wait a little bit at some larger vaccine sites.

The day of your COVID-19 vaccine appointment:

  • Eat and drink as you normally would. It’s okay to eat or drink before your vaccination appointment. So, you can eat and drink as you would any other day prior to your appointment.
  • Wear clothing that allows easy access to your arm. Consider wearing a short-sleeved shirt that can be pushed up past your shoulder, which will allow the health care provider to vaccinate you easily. If it’s cold, dress in layers rather than wearing long sleeves, with an easily removable jacket over short sleeves.
  • Bring confirmation of your appointment. Take along a printout showing the time, date and location of your appointment. Alternately, have the information on your smartphone, ready to show the team helping you with your vaccine. On the off chance that the check-in person at the vaccination site doesn’t have your appointment on the calendar, they’ll want to see your confirmation details.
  • Wear a mask. When you go to your appointment, you’ll need to cover your nose and mouth with an acceptable face covering. Consider wearing a cloth mask over a disposable surgical mask for extra protection. Have a backup mask in the car, in case you need it.
  • Prepare to wait. Vaccination sites do their best to streamline appointments, but you’ll still need to wait a few minutes before your shot, and you’ll also need to wait 15 minutes afterwards for routine monitoring. Consider the wait to be part of the experience. Bring a book or play games on your phone, and enjoy the downtime.

When it’s your turn to get vaccinated:

  • Tell the health care provider if you’re afraid of needles. If you have a fear of needles, share your concerns with the person who will administer the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as you sit down for the shot. They can work with you to make it easier. You can also ry relaxation techniques or other strategies that have worked when you’ve been vaccinated in the past, such as looking away or distracting yourself.
  • Have your vaccination card filled out. Make sure that someone at the vaccination site includes all of the necessary details about your COVID-19 vaccine on your vaccination card before you leave your appointment. If you need a second shot, find out how to schedule that appointment.

Next Steps & Resources:

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.