What You Need to Know About the COVID-19 Vaccine

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

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As you’ve probably heard, there are now vaccines available that help the body develop immunity to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. This is great news! As more and more people get a COVID-19 vaccine, the number of people getting sick should go down. 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.

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

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 participated in vaccine trials were carefully monitored in the months after they got vaccinated.

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.

Where can you get the vaccine?

In Massachusetts: To find out when and where you can get the vaccine, and to make an appointment, visit the Massachusetts COVID-19 Vaccine Information website or call 211 for the vaccine helpline. The vaccine is free to everyone. There is no cost or copayment.

In Rhode Island: Each city or town is organizing its own vaccinations and will have its own website for making appointments. Your town will announce when different groups of people are eligible for vaccines, based on their age, medical situation and occupation. For more information, visit your town’s or city’s website. The vaccine is free to everyone. There is no cost or copayment.

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!

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