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What to do, and not do, before and after your Covid vaccine shot

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It’s an all-out sprint to get Americans vaccinated against the deadly novel coronavirus. As you prepare to get your shot, here are 10 actions experts suggest doing — and avoiding.

DO: Get your vaccine when it’s your turn.

You should be able to find out when it’s your turn to be vaccinated and how to register in your neighborhood by reaching out to your state or local health department. CNN has created a list of state websites, emails and phone numbers for all 50 states and territories. Check there for information on available vaccine registrations in your local area.

DON’T: Let disinformation on vaccines cloud your judgment.

Social media is rife with disinformation about both Covid-19 and the vaccines that are available to prevent it.

If you have doubts about the vaccine, get educated — the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is just one of many trusted organizations with vetted, science-based facts about the virus and available vaccines.

DO: Get vaccinated if you’ve already had Covid-19.

Reinfection with Covid-19 is definitively possible, the CDC says, so everyone needs to get a coronavirus vaccination, including those who have already had the illness.

  • Note: If you were given monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma while sick with Covid-19, you should wait 90 days after treatment before getting the vaccine, the CDC advises. Check with your doctor before scheduling the shot.

DON’T: Get a shot if you currently have Covid-19 or have been exposed.

If you have tested positive for Covid-19 or been exposed to someone who has the illness, you should not go to the vaccination site to get your shot until your symptoms and isolation period have passed, said Dr. Michael Ison, a professor in the division of infectious diseases and organ transplantation at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.

“Quite simply, you don’t want to get people who are waiting in line sick. You don’t want to get the health care staff sick,” Ison said.

DO: Get the shot even if you still have Covid symptoms months later.

A growing number of people are becoming coronavirus “long-haulers” — people who continue to suffer fatigue, brain fog, aches, pains, headaches and more for months after the virus has left their systems.

Don’t let your ongoing reactions keep you from getting the shot, said vaccine scientist Dr. Peter Hotez, professor and dean at the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

“We think long-haul symptoms are not due to active virus infection, but to prolonged inflammatory responses to the virus,” Hotez said.

DON’T: Get another type of vaccine within 14 days of the Covid-19 shot.

Wait at least 14 days before or after getting another vaccine, including a flu or shingles shot, to get a Covid-19 vaccination, the CDC says.

However, if you inadvertently did get another vaccine within that two-week time frame, you should complete the Covid-19 series on schedule. As more information on how vaccines interact becomes available, the CDC says it may update this guidance.

DO: Tell vaccine staff about any allergies or past allergic reactions.

It’s rare, but a few people have had moderate-to-severe allergic reactions after being given the Moderna and Pfizer mRNA vaccines, so be sure to tell the nurse at the vaccination site about any past allergic reactions.

If you do have a history of immediate or severe allergic reactions to vaccines or other injections, try to have an EpiPen on hand, said Dr. Saju Mathew, an Atlanta-based primary care physician and public health specialist.

DON’T: Drive away before your 15- to 30-minute wait is up.

The CDC requires that everyone receiving a coronavirus vaccination wait 15 minutes in their car before driving away. If you have a history of severe allergic reactions, you’ll be required to wait 30 minutes in your car to be sure you’re safe to drive. Both are a minor inconvenience, experts say, compared to the dangers of an adverse reaction of dizziness or worse while driving.

If you have a serious reaction after leaving the vaccination site call 911, the CDC suggests. All reactions can be reported to a smartphone-based app called V-safe or the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, or VAERS.

Common reactions to the vaccine are soreness and swelling at the injection site. Sometimes, more typically after the second shot, people may experience such Covid-like signs as fever, fatigue, headache and chills.

DO: Get your second shot of vaccine within the recommended time frame.

Getting a second shot of the vaccine is needed to be sure that you have protection, according to Baylor’s Hotez.

“In looking at the Phase 1, Phase 2 data, what I saw with a single dose is some people had high levels of virus-neutralizing antibody, others were nonresponders,” he said. “So the major reason for the second dose is to get everybody to respond. If you just get a single dose, you don’t really know where you stand.”

Pfizer-BioNTech doses should be given 21 days apart, the CDC says, while the second dose of Moderna is administered 28 days after the first. Do not get your second dose early, but if you have trouble scheduling, waiting a few days after the due date — and perhaps longer — for either vaccine should not be an issue, the CDC says.

DO: Continue wearing masks and practicing social distancing after your shots.

Continue to wear your masks and practice appropriate social distancing after both your first and second doses of vaccine, the CDC says. The first dose will not produce enough of an immune response to protect you or others. The second dose should provide approximately 95% protection within one to two weeks after administration, depending on the vaccine.

However, the CDC says, even after you are fully vaccinated you may still be a silent carrier of the coronavirus.

“We … don’t yet know whether getting a COVID-19 vaccine will prevent you from spreading the virus that causes COVID-19 to other people,” the CDC says.

So to protect others, continue to wear a mask over your nose and mouth, stay at least 6 feet away from others, avoid crowds and crowded and poorly ventilated spaces, and wash your hands often for at least 20 full seconds.

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