Updated 5/16/2022

Taking a COVID-19 vaccine is an important step to protect yourself and others. 

Some vaccines require more than one shot for you to be considered fully vaccinated. Booster shots are recommended for most people several months after your initial series to improve your body's ability to fight the virus.

Pfizer and Moderna (mRNA vaccines) 

Most people need two doses of the Pfizer and Moderna ( mRNA vaccines) to be fully vaccinated. Some people, due to a medical condition, may require additional doses. If you believe you need an additional dose, call your healthcare provider or ask a pharmacist. 

The timing between your first and second doses depends on which vaccine you received and how old you are. It is usually between 3-8 weeks. Ask when you get your first shot or call your doctor’s office to find out when you should return for your second shot.

If you have to get the second dose later than the recommended time, that is ok. Get it as soon as you can. You don’t need to start over. 

Get the same brand for your second dose as you did for your first.

You are considered fully vaccinated 2 weeks after your second dose.  

Johnson & Johnson (vector vaccine)

After more study, national and state health officials have decided that for most adults, an mRNA vaccine is preferred. People who are unable to receive an mRNA vaccine will still have J&J as an option. Talk to your doctor about your specific questions.

You only need one dose of the Johnson & Johnson (vector vaccine) to be fully vaccinated. 

You are considered fully vaccinated 2 weeks after one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

Booster shots 

A booster shot is an additional shot strongly recommended for people who have already been vaccinated to make the vaccine more effective over time.

You may get a COVID-19 booster shot if you are over 12 years old and

  • you received two doses of Pfizer or Moderna more than five months ago, or
  • you received a Johnson and Johnson vaccine more than two months ago. It is recommended that you get one of the mRNA vaccines as your booster if you received the Johnson and Johnson vaccine as your first dose.

Booster doses do not have to be the same brand as your initial series. When you have received a booster dose you are considered up to date on your vaccination.

Vaccine Boosters and Additional Doses 

Short-term side effects

Many people have side effects after getting a COVID-19 vaccine. These side effects are not COVID-19. The vaccines do not contain live virus and cannot give you the disease.

Vaccine side effects are signs that your body is doing what it is supposed to do. It’s building protection against the virus. Some people have no side effects, but the vaccine is still building protection inside their bodies.

Common side effects can include:

  • Soreness or redness where you got the shot
  • Headache
  • Tiredness
  • Fever

Side effects usually go away on their own within a few days. If they don’t, call your doctor or clinic. If you don’t have a doctor, call 211 for help finding one.

Get the second dose of Pfizer or Moderna even if you have side effects after the first — unless a vaccination provider or your doctor tells you not to. For many people the side effects are more noticeable after the second dose. Even though some side effects are no fun, they don’t last long and are worth it to be protected from COVID-19.

Treating side effects

To reduce pain and discomfort where you got the shot, apply a clean, cool, wet washcloth over the area. Use or move your arm, if it is sore.

To reduce discomfort from fever, drink plenty of fluids. Dress lightly.

Over the counter medicine

Do not take fever-reducing medicine before your appointment. Wait to see if you need it to relieve side effects.

You can take over-the-counter medicine, such as ibuprofen (Advil), acetaminophen (Tylenol), aspirin, or antihistamines, if you have pain and discomfort after getting vaccinated. Take these medicines only if you have no medical reasons that prevent you from taking these medications normally. If you have questions, talk to your doctor or clinic.

Pregnant people might be at more risk if they get a high fever and should use Tylenol to treat fever. Talk to your doctor or clinic if you have questions. 

Rare, but serious, problems

It is rare, but some people have had a severe allergic reaction within 15 to 30 minutes of receiving the vaccine. All of these people received medical help right away. If you had a severe reaction, talk to your doctor before getting a second dose.

Johnson & Johnson

The Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine could be linked with a very rare, but serious blood clotting disorder. 

If you receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, watch for these symptoms for three weeks after your shot:

  • a severe headache or a headache that won’t go away 
  • blurred vision 
  • chest or severe belly pain 
  • leg swelling or pain 
  • trouble breathing 
  • easy bruising or tiny blood spots under your skin outside of where you got your shot

If you have any of these symptoms, call 911 or seek medical attention. It is important to tell the medical provider that you got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine so they can take care of you in the right way. 

While people of any age or gender could experience blood clots following J&J, women ages 18-49 should be aware of the rare but increased risk.

Symptoms of blood clots generally show up 1-2 weeks after vaccination. Anyone whose last J&J was at least 3 weeks ago no longer needs to watch for symptoms of a blood clot. 

See CDC information for staying up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines.

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