Tips for scheduling and receiving your COVID-19 vaccine

It’s official — I am fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Instead of trying to scare you with horror stories of side effects — of which you may experience NONE — I am going to give you some tips on scheduling and receiving your COVID-19 vaccine(s). And, bonus: There are links to data throughout. Yay!

Scheduling and preparing for your vaccine

Get up early if you want to find an appointment. I had trouble finding an appointment, and on the day I woke up around 5 am and checked, there were 1000 appointments available within the next two days at a local vaccine clinic. I’m a morning person, so I was fine with the early-rising. If you’re not, well…you might want to get over it. An articled published in WSJ notes that appointments at some drugstores, such as CVS, seem to open around 6 a.m. eastern time.

Be ready to cancel plans. Most experiences I am aware of go like this: Person checks scheduling system. Appointments are available today and tomorrow, but not after. So, cancel plans! If you can find an appointment, SCHEDULE IT. Your employer could probably get in serious trouble if they caused you grief about missing work for a five-minute COVID-19 vaccine appointment.

Check your calendar. Remember that the MRNA vaccines are two-dose vaccines. Some scheduling programs (like what I used through Mahoning County Public Health) will automatically schedule you for both shots, but others send you down to a scheduling table after you receive the first one so that you can schedule your next one. Pfizer vaccines are scheduled three weeks apart; Moderna vaccines are scheduled four weeks apart. Johnson & Johnson, of course, is one-and-done! Really, though, do not register for a shot if you’re going on vacation during the next one. It seems like common sense, but you’d be surprised.

Talk to your doctor or pharmacist prior to taking NSAIDs (Advil, Tylenol) before your vaccine. The CDC’s official guidance is that people who do not take NSAIDs for other health reasons should not pregame with them before the vaccine just to prevent potential side effects. The data is still out on whether NSAIDS taken prior to the vaccine may blunt the immune response. Everyone’s situation is different, so talk to your doctor OR, be like me and become a regular on Walgreens pharmacy chat.

Ask your doctor or pharmacist about other potential drug interactions. I was locked and loaded with medication by my bed stand the day of my vaccine. I had a bottle of sumatriptan in case I got the dreaded headache so many complained about (spoiler alter — I did not get even an ounce of headache), Pepto and Zofran because I am a five-year-old when it comes to anything stomach related (another spoiler alert — I had zero GI effects and barely lost my appetited). I checked with the pharmacist about these medications ahead of time, and that she stated that there are not any known interactions. She did, however, stamp a “no” on the lidocaine patch for pain relief at the injection site (she told me to use an ice pack instead, which…did…nothing).

Showing up and receiving your vaccine

Don’t think you’re going to get jabbed and walk out the door immediately. You will likely be required to wait 15 minutes after your vaccine to ensure there are no serious reactions. At some locations, you are able to kill time by waiting in line to scheduling your next vaccine. I brought a book, but I didn’t read it — fifteen minutes go by faster than you think.

Follow the directions. The confirmation email may have very specific instructions on it. Mine said to come to the door of the clinic building at 9:25 a.m. and that I would move through to get my vaccine at 9:30 a.m. There are several individuals who showed up early, and guess what? They were congregating at the door and unable to social distance. Read and follow all of the directions, and don’t show up early. It’s a vaccine clinic, not a job interview. Don’t try to leave before your 15-minute wait time is up, either. Would you like to be embarrassed by someone directing you back to your seat because you tried to leave 5 minutes early? I think not.

Be ready when you sit down in the chair. Have your photo ID and any other documents in your hand. If you’re able, expose your shoulder when you’re walking over to sit down. No really, do it — my mother-in-law is an RN, and instead of administering the vaccines at a huge townshipclinic, she had to make sure others had their arms exposed. Not only will you help others get in-and-out efficiently, but you will help ensure that all the vaccines can be used. People who hold shit up don’t seem to remember that the MRNA vaccines require quite a process with freezing, room temperature standing, etc. Check out this OHSU document for a little bit of insight into the handling and storage of MRNA vaccines.

Take a self with your card, and remember that people already know your name and can find your birthday literally anywhere. It’s like a right of passage. If you don’t take a selfie and post it on social media, did you really even get the vaccine…?

Moderna #1
Moderna #2

Talk to your doctor, but the CDC says that you can take pain relievers after the vaccine (if necessary). Again, talk to your doctor. If you are medically able to take NSAIDs, the CDC says “go for it” after your vaccine (just not before). I have heard mixed information about this, but I choose to follow and cite the CDC guidelines.

After your vaccine

Register with V-Safe. V-Safe is asks for daily check-ins regarding your vaccine side effects. It takes just a few minutes to register, and it takes about thirty seconds to complete each check-in . The check-in questions are multiple choice, and some of them include optional text fields if you’d like to include more insight. Reporting your side effects (or lack of side effects) helps scientists and public health professionals learn more about vaccine side effects.

Use data to guide your thinking when it comes to side effects. People on social media are overdramatic. You may get side effects with one, both, or neither vaccine. A lot of the “story-telling” we see on social media is subjective. All of us define “severe pain” differently, right? I was scared shitless about the side effects from the second vaccine, and then I was like hmm, wait — I had my abdomen cut open notice, but twice, to remove a human being AND I WAS AWAKE THE WHOLE TIME. So, no. I wouldn’t rate the side-effects as anything I couldn’t handle. If you want to see charts of data produced by the CDC, click here.

Be prepared to cancel plans or work. I’m not trying to scare anyone, but the fatigue alone can cause people to stay in bed all day. I didn’t experience the terrible fatigue with the second shot, but I did with the first. With both shots, I would have been useless within the next 30ish hours. Luckily, both of my vaccines took place on Friday, so I was able to chill for the weekend.

Tell everyone you’re vaccinated and keep talking about it. It’s a big day! This is the beginning of the end of the pandemic for you. Tell everyone on social media that you are fully vaccinated and are ready to hug other vaccinated people in two weeks. You can be extra cute, too, and get one of these buttons that I got on Etsy!

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