Dos and Don’ts of getting a vaccine: What to do before and after you’re protected

MADISON, Wis. – Whether it’s nearly your turn to get the vaccine or you’ve got some time to wait, health officials ask you keep a few things in mind.

DO get your second dose

If you’ve already gotten your first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine, you want to make sure you go back for the second.

“It’s important that people remember maximal immunity doesn’t occur until a week or more after the second dose,” said Dr. Matt Anderson, senior medical director of primary care at UW Health.

Even at that point, Anderson said you don’t want to act like everything’s back to normal.

DON’T stop precautions

“There’s this phenomenon of, ‘I have relief, I have excitement, I should go do everything,’” he said. “The answer is really no, that’s not the case.”

It is the case that COVID is still out there, so Anderson stresses you keep up precautions, regardless of what stage of the vaccination process you’re in.

“We can all do our part to protect the community,” he said. “Right now, some are doing that by being vaccinated. Everybody should do that by mask-wearing and avoiding gatherings.”

DO defer other non-urgent, routine vaccinations 

When you are able to schedule your COVID-19 vaccine, you’ll want a 14-day window on either side clear of any other non-urgent routine vaccinations.

“Deferring those for a period of time to make sure you have that window and get the best immune response from the COVID vaccine would be important for people to understand and remember,” Anderson said.

DO keep side effects in mind

Although not everyone gets them, you should remember potential side effects including pain at the shot site or symptoms such as fever, headache and fatigue, and schedule accordingly.

“You may want to do it before a day off or a weekend,” Anderson said, adding that such symptoms mean the vaccine is working.

“That’s your immune system responding to the vaccine,” he said. “That’s a good thing.”

DON’T call clinics asking when it’s your turn

For people waiting, health systems ask you be patient and do not call clinics asking when it’s your turn, though you’re welcome to call with any questions about the vaccine itself.

“We’re working as fast as we can, and really that’s supply dependent,” Anderson said, adding that UW Health patients can sign up for MyChart to get the notification when they are eligible for the vaccine. UW Health also set up a website with more information.

DO ‘strongly consider’ getting the vaccine, even if you’ve had COVID

When your time for the vaccine comes, Anderson encourages you to strongly consider it.

“We’ve had really good success with tolerance, and we know the effectiveness data is really strong, as well,” he said.

Because reinfections have happened, you’re still advised to get the vaccine if you’ve already had COVID, but should wait until you’re fully recovered.