What a year will do, right? This time last year, we had a crazy man for a POTUS while we were just settling into the reality that the pandemic known as COVID-19 was going to change our lives in a very real way. Well, if you're reading this, pat yourself on the back because your resilience caused you to survive both. And now, here we are—a new president and, as of the time of this going to press, three vaccines being available in order to get us back to some sense of normalcy.
If you know that getting a COVID-19 vaccine is probably the best thing to do yet you're still curious about how it will ultimately benefit you, there are three main reported reasons. First, you can start to meet up with other vaccinated individuals without the need for social distancing or wearing a mask (imagine that!). Two, you can travel domestically without the need for testing or quarantining. And finally, you can also feel more confident about spending time around unvaccinated individuals. Basically, you can start seeing your peeps and enjoying having some sort of a social life again.
If that feels good to you yet you've still got a few questions about it all, I get that. After all, these types of vaccines are still new and things are ever-changing. That's why I wanted to do you a solid and provide you with 10 tips to get you physically—and somewhat mentally and emotionally—prepared for your vaccination—so that with a new sense of freedom, you can also have peace of mind.
1. Research the Different Vaccines First
Whew, y'all. It was March 16, 2020 when I wrote "Before You Freak Out: 12 Things To Know About The Coronavirus". A little over a year—and a mind-boggling 554,000 COVID-related deaths—later, we are now at the point where a vaccine is available so that our bodies can begin to develop an immunity to the virus. However, before making an appointment to get vaccinated, it's important that you know as much as possible about the three different kinds that are currently available. There's Moderna. There's Pfizer-BioNTech. And there's Johnson and Johnson's Janssen.
As far as choosing which one is personally best for you, as it stands at the time that I'm writing this, Pfizer-BioNTech is 95 percent effective, Moderna is 94 percent and Johnson and Johnson's Janssen is 66 percent effective (according to CDC clinical trials; it's 85 according to the FDA) at preventing the virus. (As of 4/13/21, Johnson and Johnson has been paused due to six people getting blood clots from the virus.)
Still, you may want to check with your doctor for their insight on which vaccine they feel is actually best for you (by the way, each vaccine is hyperlinked to detailed data about each one of them).
2. Hit Up VaccineFinder.org (or Check with Your Local Pharmacy)
Probably one of the most common questions when it comes to getting vaccinated is where do you go in your local area to get your shot? A website that's pretty helpful is VaccineFinder.org. If you go to its page, it'll ask for your zip code. Then it will provide you a list of different places that are administering the vaccines, along with which brands are available at each location and who currently qualifies for what. Another option is to hit up your local favorite pharmacy to see if they are administering the vaccine of your choice. If they aren't, they should be able to tell you if another one of their pharmacies is. (For the record, you can check with your local health department for this kind of info too.)
3. Boost Your Immunity a Week Beforehand to Getting the Vaccine
It probably comes as no surprise to you that the better state your immune system is in, the more you decrease your chances of experiencing the worst kind of side effects from your vaccination. Some medical experts recommend being intentional about boosting your immunity approximately seven days prior to your first dose of the vaccine and maintaining whatever regimen you created for seven days after as well. If you'd like some quick tips on how to do that, check out "Ready To Try 10 Quick & Easy Immune-Boosting Hacks?" Also, make sure to take a probiotic (it helps to bring "good bacteria" to your gut which is where 80 percent of your immune system resides), to take some zinc and/or eat foods that are high in zinc (it builds up immunity) like hemp or flaxseeds, meat, cashews, eggs and wholegrains, and to get some (extra) amino acids (they assist with fueling your immune system) into your body with the help of turkey, mushrooms, quinoa and fish. And what if exercise is your way of keeping your immune system on-point? That's all good. Just avoid working out two hours prior and following your shot(s). Oh, and try and avoid taking a hot shower during that same period of time (two hours). Some folks have said they had an allergic reaction to their vaccination when they did immediately following it.
4. Mentally Prepare for Possible Side Effects from the Vaccine
The overall purpose of a vaccine is to stimulate your immunity to produce antibodies in a way like you already had the disease. However, this does not mean that getting a vaccine will give you, in this case, COVID-19. That's because none of the vaccine brands that are currently available actually contain the live virus within it.
That said, it's not uncommon to experience some side effects, whether it's after the first or second shot (it seems to be more common with the second shot)—or with both. And what are some of those side effects?
- Pain or swelling where the shot was administered
- Muscle and/or joint pain
- Swollen lymph nodes
And when does all of this typically go down? On average, around day three after getting vaccinated. That's the bad news. The good news is the symptoms typically subside within 1-2 days after they first kick in. The other good news is it's not a given that you will have some. Still, it's important that you get to know as much about the vaccination process as possible. Also, the person who gives you the shot doesn't typically administer it and immediately send you on your way. They will require you to stay close by for 15-20 minutes, just so they can see if you have an immediate reaction to the shot or not.
5. Avoid Taking Over-the-Counter Meds 48 Hours Prior To
After reading about the potential side effects that you could experience, you might think, "No problem. I'll just take some ibuprofen to head them all off." While that might seem logical, it's actually not the best idea. The reality is, there's just not enough medical data (yet) to reveal what could happen if you did that. On one hand, you might be fine. On another, over-the-counter meds could mess around and throw the immune response of the vaccine way off. So, just to be on the safe side, avoid those medications altogether. Now that I'm thinking about it, this is a stellar reason to not book your vaccination appointment around your period either. Not only are you probably going to feel pretty icky going in but if you rely on Advil, Tylenol, etc. to get you through your discomfort, because of everything that I just said, it's wise to get your vaccine when your cycle is not an issue.
6. Go Easy on Your Allergy Medications
As far as allergies go, being that this is peak allergy season, let me touch on a couple of things. First, so long as you don't have a history of having an allergic reaction to vaccinations or any form of injectable medications, you should be able to get the vaccine. On the other hand, if you do, that is something that you should definitely discuss with your doctor before making your vaccine appointment (you can also get vaccinated if you have an existing health condition, so long as you run that past your physician first too).
And what if you currently take some type of antihistamine or other allergy med? Since there've been some reports of severe allergic reactions to the vaccine brands, you might think that you're protecting yourself by taking your allergy medication before getting your shot. You're not. Not only are they (currently) unlikely to prevent you from having an allergic reaction from the vaccination, they could actually make potential reactions much worse. This is the general medical recommendation. Of course, if you've got specific questions or concerns, speak with your doctor before getting vaccinated.
7. Get No Less than Six Hours of Sleep the Day Before Your Vaccine Shot(s)
Sleep helps our body to rejuvenate itself, so definitely don't decide to stay up all night working on a paper, a project or binge-watch your favorite show to get your mind off of your vaccination appointment the night before. There are already too many people who have shared that not getting proper rest—especially after their second dose of the vaccine—totally wiped them out. So, make sure that you get no less than six hours before each appointment. Also, if you can, try and take a sick or personal day on the day following each shot. The more you rest and take it easy, the better you'll be able to rebound from your vaccination.
8. Do Not Drink 24 Hours Before (and After) Your Appointment
If you hate, even the mere idea of getting a shot, you probably want to drink at least a couple of glasses of red wine before and/or after your appointment. That's understandable. Still, don't do it. What researchers have discovered is that, in some cases, alcohol has had the ability to trigger allergic reactions. While you might think that you are the exception in this case, don't gamble with your health. Avoid alcohol altogether 24 hours before your appointment and 24 hours after you get vaccinated.
9. Know the Timing of When You Should Get Your Second Vaccine Dose
Unless your doctor says otherwise—and until the vaccines further develop—with most vaccine brands, it's recommended that you get two shots in order to be as protected from the virus as possible. Although your healthcare provider and the person administering your vaccine should definitely tell you what I'm about to say, I'm just sharing for safe measure that the Moderna shot is currently available for individuals who are over 18; they will need to take their second shot between 28 days and six weeks after their first dose. As far as the Pfizer-BioNTech goes, currently individuals 16 and over can take it; the second dose can be administered between 21 days and six weeks of the first dose. And Johnson and Johnson's Janssen? It's for those 18 and over. A bonus with it is you only need one dose of it. Make sure to keep up with these dates. Your vaccine is only as effective as the details that come with getting it.
10. Avoid the Following Activities Right After Your Vaccination Shot
Even though you may feel invincible once you get your vaccine, there are a few things that you should avoid doing, until about a week or so following each shot. Definitely don't push yourself to exercise. After sharing the possible side effects that you might feel (especially after that second dose), you may not feel your best. Give your body no less than three days to recover before going full throttle on your workout routine again. If you've been thinking about getting some new ink (you know, a tattoo), because it could potentially trigger an immune response, you should wait about seven days after your second shot before having that done. Another thing that you should definitely avoid doing is booking any other vaccination appointments around your COVID vaccine one(s). Because all three vaccines are still relatively new, you should wait at least two weeks from your second shot before trying to get any other vaccine into your system.
Data is changing every day, so I'm sure there is more happening in the vaccination world as we speak. Still, if you needed a bit of a cheat sheet to get your soul right before getting vaccinated, I hope this helped so that you can get just that much closer to… "normalcy".
For more information and vaccination-related tips, visit CDC.gov. If you want to watch an interview featuring Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, a key player in the Moderna vaccine (and a Black woman), click here.
Featured image by Shutterstock