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When You Get Your Booster, Here Are 5 Things To Know

This is what you can expect.
FACT CHECKED BY Alek Korab

Booster shots against COVID-19 are now being offered to people who are eligible. They're a new front in the battle against the novel coronavirus, and you may be wondering who the shots are for, what protection they provide, and what you can expect after getting one. When you get your booster shot, these are five things you should know. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You May Have Already Had COVID.

1

Research Has Found They're Safe and Effective

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Right now, Pfizer is the only COVID-19 vaccine that has been authorized for booster shots for people who are over age 65, are in long-term care, are at risk of exposure because of their occupation, or are between 18 and 64 and at increased risk for severe disease. (Moderna and Johnson & Johnson have applied to have boosters authorized as well.) The Food & Drug Administration approved Pfizer booster shots based on data that found it safe and that its benefits outweighed any potential risks.

"Data from a small clinical trial show that a Pfizer-BioNTech booster shot increased the immune response in trial participants who finished their primary series 6 months earlier," says the CDC. "With an increased immune response, people should have improved protection against COVID-19, including the Delta variant."

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2

What It Can and Can't Do

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Getting a booster shot doesn't guarantee you won't be infected with the coronavirus. But it can help your immune system develop a more robust response, so you'll be better protected against severe disease or hospitalization—including from the Delta variant. 

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3

Don't Take Painkillers to Skirt Side Effects

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With the initial doses of vaccine, the CDC warned against taking over-the-counter meds in an attempt to avoid side effects. The agency has not changed that guidance for booster shots. "It is not recommended you take over-the-counter medicine—such as ibuprofen, aspirin, or acetaminophen—before vaccination for the purpose of trying to prevent vaccine-related side effects," says the CDC. "It is not known how these medications might affect how well the vaccine works. However, if you take these medications regularly for other reasons, you should keep taking them before you get vaccinated."

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4

You May Have Side Effects Similiar to Your Earlier Shot

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As with the initial vaccine doses, some people might experience mild side effects after getting the booster. These are a good sign that your immune system is learning how to fight off a coronavirus infection. (By the same token, some people don't experience side effects, and that doesn't mean the booster didn't work.) 

"The most commonly reported side effects by the clinical trial participants who received the booster dose of the vaccine were pain, redness and swelling at the injection site, as well as fatigue, headache, muscle or joint pain and chills," said the FDA. "Of note, swollen lymph nodes in the underarm were observed more frequently following the booster dose than after the primary two-dose series."

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5

You Should Still Follow COVID Best Practices 

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Again, the booster shot is meant to give your immune system a boost against COVID-19. It doesn't make you immune from the coronavirus. So continue to follow public health guidance and regulations in your local area about masking and social distancing. Both of those—and good hand hygiene—can help protect you against the flu as well.

RELATED: Major Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus

6

How to Stay Safe Out There

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Follow the fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.