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What to Expect at Your Vaccine Appointment

by Fabienne Blanc


We've been speaking to people who have been vaccinated or volunteered at vaccination clinics to try to get a sense of what people can expect at their appointment. Here's a rough list of the advice we've received. However, we can only provide general information and tips. Procedures might differ from one vaccination site to another, so carefully read any instructions from your provider and get personal medical advice from your physician or advice nurse.


Making your appointment:

If you make an appointment for a vaccine that necessitates 2 doses, make sure you will be available exactly 3 weeks from the date of the first appointment. It is usually difficult to schedule the second appointment for a different day, and there might not be a large window during which to get your second dose.


Do not schedule an appointment within 2 weeks of having gotten a different vaccine. Volunteers have reported that people who have gotten vaccines too soon before the covid shot are turned away and told to reschedule.


Volunteers have reported that clinics are very busy early in the morning and in the early afternoon. If you can, schedule your shot in the late morning, during lunch time or later in the afternoon to avoid waiting in line.


If you have to work the day of and the day after your appointment(s), free up your calendar of any meeting that cannot be rescheduled at the last minute, just in case you experience side effects. It is impossible to predict who will have side effects, whether they will have them after the first or second dose, and how severe they will be.


On the day of your appointment:

Eat and drink as usual, unless instructed otherwise by a medical professional.

Arrive on time, not too early, not too late. Some vaccination sites will not take anyone who arrives more than 15 minutes early or is over an hour late. Plan your trip ahead whether you take public transportation or drive to avoid unpleasant surprises (like closed streets around a clinic, or discontinued MUNI lines.)


When you arrive at the vaccination site, you will be asked to clean your hands and wear a surgical mask provided by the clinic. A nurse will ask you basic health questions and take your temperature before you check in for your appointment.


Once you arrive at the station where you will get your shot, the nurse will ask you further health questions to double-check that it is safe to inject you with the vaccine and to determine whether you will need to be in the observation area for 15 or 30 minutes. Make sure to mention any allergic reaction you may have had in the past and any medication you are currently taking. It's better to wait 15 minutes longer at the clinic than to get sick on the way back home.


The nurse will ask you on which arm you want the shot. Most people have a very sore shoulder for a couple of days and therefore choose their non-dominant arm. If you are a side-sleeper, you might also want to take that under consideration and choose to have the shot in the arm that you don't sleep on.


If this is your first dose, you may need to make your second appointment before leaving the vaccination site. Make sure to follow the instructions from your nurse to make the second appointment.


There will be nurses in the observation area. They may not talk to you, but they are available for questions, and if they don't know, they will find a person who can help answer your question. If you have questions about possible side effects of the vaccine, and how to treat them should you have some, this is a good time to ask. It's ok to make people repeat information twice - everyone there knows it's difficult to understand each other because of the masks.


Many people want to take selfies of themselves getting a shot or in the observation area. Ask an attendant if it's okay, and make sure no other patient is in the shot. Many clinics have selfie spots outside.


Bring your own lollipop. They will only give you a sticker!


After your appointment

You will be given a CDC card that gives the name of the vaccine you got, the lot number, and the date of injection. Do not lose it and bring it back for your second appointment. Take a picture of it after each appointment, so that you have a copy on your phone.


If you got your shot at a facility that is not run by your medical provider or insurance, reach out to them to see how to add your vaccination information on your medical record.

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