What you Need to Know About the COVID-19 Vaccine

There are now vaccines available that help you develop immunity to the virus that causes COVID-19.

March 31, 2021  

This is great news! As more and more people get a COVID-19 vaccine, the number of people getting sick should go down. Getting a shot is one of the best ways we can help protect ourselves and our families. It will also help us end the pandemic and get back to normal life.


You likely have questions about the vaccine. So here’s some information that may help.

What do the COVID-19 vaccines do?

They “train” your immune system to fight the virus that causes COVID-19.
After you get a vaccine, you are less likely to catch COVID-19. Even if you do catch it, your symptoms will be less severe than if you had not gotten a vaccine.
The COVID-19 vaccine will not give you the COVID-19 infection.

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. The FDA will continue to monitor the vaccines for safety.1
Some people may be concerned because the vaccines were developed so quickly. We can put your mind at ease. Even though the vaccines were developed quickly, best practices were followed in the testing process. People in vaccine trials were closely monitored in the months after they got vaccinated to make sure the vaccines are safe.

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

You might not have any side effects from getting a vaccine. But if you do, they will be a lot like the common side effects of other vaccines. The arm may be sore where you got the shot. A fever, itching, chills, tiredness and headache are also normal. These side effects should not last long and can be treated if they bother you.

The risks of getting COVID-19 if you don’t get vaccinated are high.

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

Who should get a vaccine?

Everyone who is eligible should get a vaccine as soon as possible. The more people who get vaccinated, the better we'll be able to stop the spread of the virus. Keep in mind that as of March 2021 no vaccines are recommended for kids younger than 16.
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 a vaccine?

When you are eligible, you can get a vaccine at some local CVS or Walgreens pharmacies, or at state-run sites. Each city or town is also organizing its own vaccinations and will have its own website for making appointments. Your town’s website will keep you updated about which groups of people are eligible for vaccines, based on their age, medical condition and job. To learn more, visit your town’s or city’s website. There is no cost to you when you get a vaccine.

What if I live in a high-risk community?

You may be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine sooner based on where you live. Rhode Island is focusing on getting vaccines to high-risk areas, like Central Falls, Pawtucket and Providence. Visit your town’s or city’s website to find out about vaccines in your community.

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 get your shot if they are not part of your daily routine. It’s a good idea to talk with your provider before taking any medication. There could be life-threatening consequences if you mix medications. 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. Follow the safety basics—even if you have gotten the vaccine. You can learn about the CDC guidelines for those who are fully vaccinated here.