How To (Physically) Prepare For Getting A COVID-19 Vaccine

Have you booked your vaccination appointment yet, sis?

Human Interest

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


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

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
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Chills
  • Nausea
  • 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 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 Shot


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

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

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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