With more Americans becoming eligible for vaccination, many have questions about what the experience is like.
Here, Times science and health reporters answer some frequently asked questions about vaccination →
Will it hurt?
The jab feels like any other vaccination. Sore arms after the shot are common. Many who have received the vaccine likened the arm pain to that of a flu shot; for others, it was considerably worse.
Why do I have to wait around after I get the shot?
This allows health workers to monitor you for any signs of an allergic reaction, which are rare.
Make sure you bring a good three-layer mask or plan to double mask at your vaccination appointment. Some people have reported being sent to crowded waiting rooms with other recently vaccinated individuals. If you encounter a crowded waiting room, move to a hallway or somewhere nearby with fewer people. Everyone should stay masked and keep their distance.
How long might it take side effects to show up?
Side effects might show up within one to three days after vaccination, and could last for one to three days after symptoms start. Sore arms, muscle pain, fatigue, headaches and fevers are common. Some people experience only mild discomfort, others report severe fatigue, aches and other flu-like symptoms.
Call a doctor if your side effects are causing you worry, or they don’t seem to be going away after a few days.
Can I take an over-the-counter pain reliever to treat side effects?
Yes, but timing matters. You shouldn’t try to stave off discomfort by taking a pain reliever before getting the shot. Pre-treatment could blunt your response to the vaccine.
Experts agree it’s safe to take a pain reliever or fever reducer like ibuprofen or acetaminophen to relieve discomfort after you get vaccinated. Don’t take it right away because you may not need it. But if you develop aches or a headache after the shot, it’s safe to use a non-prescription pain reliever.
If I’ve been vaccinated, why do I still need to wear a mask?
It takes a while for the vaccine’s protection to kick in. You aren’t fully vaccinated until about two weeks after your final dose.
After full vaccination, you’ll still need to wear a mask in public spaces. Millions more people remain unprotected, and there’s no way to easily discern who has been vaccinated and who hasn’t. And while the vaccine will protect you from serious illness, it’s still possible for a vaccinated person to contract the virus and spread it to others.
What can I do after I’m vaccinated?
The C.D.C. has good news for people struggling with pandemic isolation: fully vaccinated Americans can safely gather indoors with other vaccinated people — no mask required. Imagine mask-free dinner parties with vaccinated friends!
Vaccinated people also can visit indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household, as long as the unvaccinated people are at low risk. This means vaccinated grandparents can once again visit grandchildren, even if the children aren’t yet vaccinated.