What You Need to Know About the COVID-19 Vaccine

Doctor distributing COVID-19 vaccine to Tufts Health Plan member.

Haga clic para leer el artículo en español.

Getting vaccinated is one of the most important ways we can help protect ourselves and our families, end the pandemic and get life back to normal. As more and more people get a COVID-19 vaccine, the number of people getting sick should go down.

In Massachusetts, everyone 16 and older is now eligible to get the vaccine. Remember, the vaccine is free to everyone. There is no cost or copayment.

You’ve probably got questions about the vaccine. Here’s some information that may help.

Where can you get the vaccine?

When the vaccine was first available, getting an appointment was difficult for many people. As more vaccines became available and the supply increased, the process became a bit easier. Still, you may have to wait a short time to get an appointment for a vaccine after you become eligible.
Here are some tips to make it easier:

  • Preregister at VaccineSignUp.mass.gov. You will get weekly updates and will be notified when it's your turn to make an appointment at one of seven state-run vaccination sites. The sites are:
    • Hynes Convention Center
    • Gillette Stadium
    • Reggie Lewis Center
    • DoubleTree Hotel in Danvers
    • Eastfield Mall in Springfield
    • Natick Mall
    • Former Circuit City in Dartmouth
  • Visit VaxFinder.mass.gov to:
    • Search for appointments at general vaccination sites, such as health care sites, pharmacies and grocery stores.
    • Search for local vaccination sites. You’ll need to check to see if these sites limit shots to people who live in certain cities and towns.

If you have MassHealth, you can get a ride to your vaccine appointment. To learn more, click your plan name: 

If you are unable to leave your home, you may be able to get an in-home vaccine. Call 833-983-0485 to learn more.

What does the COVID vaccine do?

COVID-19 vaccines “train” your immune system to fight the virus that causes COVID-19.

After you get the vaccine, you are less likely to catch COVID-19. Even if you do catch it, your symptoms will probably be less severe than if you had not gotten the vaccine. The vaccines prevented hospitalizations and death in the vaccine trials.

You cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccine itself.

Are the vaccines safe?

Yes. COVID-19 vaccines were researched for many months by doctors, scientists and other experts, and tested in tens of thousands of people. They had to pass very strict safety requirements before they could be given to the public. The vaccines have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which has very high standards and will continue to monitor the vaccines for safety1.

Some people may be concerned because the vaccines were developed so quickly. This is a reasonable concern. However, even though the vaccines were developed quickly, best practices were followed in the testing process. People who took part in vaccine trials were carefully monitored in the months after they got the vaccine.

The risk of having serious problems from the vaccine is very low.

You might not have any side effects from getting the vaccine at all. But if you do, they will probably be a lot like the common side effects of other vaccines—things like a slight fever, muscle aches and soreness. These side effects should not last long and can be treated if they bother you.

The risks of COVID-19, on the other hand, are high.

Having COVID-19 can lead to hospitalization and even death. So it's much safer to get the vaccine than it is to get COVID-19.

Who should get the vaccine?

Everyone who is able to get the vaccine should get it as soon as possible. The more people get vaccinated, the better we'll be able to stop the spread of the virus.

A vaccine is especially important for people who are at high risk. This includes people who may be exposed to COVID-19 more often because of their jobs. It also includes people who are at high risk for complications from COVID-19 if they catch it. Some examples of people at high risk include those who: 

  • Work in health care
  • Are considered essential workers
  • Have certain health conditions, such as cancer, chronic kidney disease or obesity
  • Are older than age 65

Even if you've already had COVID-19, you may still be able to catch it again or pass it on to others. Getting a vaccine provides extra protection for you and your community.

And remember: Depending on which vaccine you get, you may need one dose or two doses. You might also need "booster" doses later on to help you stay protected. Follow the instructions of the health care providers who give you your vaccine.

Does it matter which vaccine you receive?

No. All of the vaccines that have been approved by the FDA are safe and effective.

How can you care for yourself after getting the vaccine?

If you have a sore arm or a slight fever after the vaccine, take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Experts warn not to take these drugs before you’re vaccinated if they are not part of your daily routine. You can also put ice or a cold pack on the sore area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.

Getting the COVID-19 vaccine is one of the most important ways you can help protect yourself and the people you love from COVID-19.

Remember to do everything you can to stop the spread. Double down on the safety basics—even if you have gotten the vaccine:

  • Wear a face covering when you are around others. Make sure you cover your mouth and nose.
  • Stay at least six feet away from others.
  • Avoid crowds.
  • Wash your hands often!