What to Do After Your COVID Vaccine — and What to Avoid

Can you drink alcohol after getting vaccinated, and other common questions

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As more and more people receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Massachusetts and across New England, questions are starting to arise about what individuals can do once they're fully vaccinated.

As of this week, over 5.3 million total COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in Massachusetts. The number of people fully vaccinated against COVID-19 is over 2.1 million.



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Here are the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions by those who have received the vaccine, from the Centers for Disease Control.

Can I drink alcohol?

There has been no guidance from the CDC that people need to avoid drinking alcohol after being vaccinated.

But medical experts say heavy drinking should be avoided because dehydration could make other symptoms worse, and it could also weaken your immune system, which needs to be at full strength to avoid an adverse response to the vaccine.

Can I take pain relievers?

The CDC says you should talk to your doctor about taking over-the-counter medicine, such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, aspirin, or antihistamines, for any pain and discomfort you may experience after getting vaccinated. You can take these medications to relieve post-vaccination side effects if you have no other medical reasons that prevent you from taking these medications normally.

What are some common side effects?

According to the CDC, pain, redness and swelling are all common side effects on the arm where you got the shot. Throughout the rest of your body, you may also experience fatigue, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever and nausea.

Remember, side effects after your second shot may be more intense than the ones you experienced after your first shot. These side effects are normal signs that your body is building protection and should go away within a few days.

What can I do to reduce discomfort?

In the area where you got the shot, the CDC recommends applying a clean, cool, wet wash cloth over the area. They also suggest using or exercising your arm. To reduce comfort from fever, drink plenty of fluids and dress lightly.

When should I call the doctor?

In most cases, discomfort from pain or fever is a normal sign that your body is building protection. Contact your doctor or healthcare provider:

  • If the redness or tenderness where you got the shot gets worse after 24 hours
  • If your side effects are worrying you or do not seem to be going away after a few days

If you get a COVID-19 vaccine and you think you might be having a severe allergic reaction after leaving the vaccination site, seek immediate medical care by calling 911.

How long does it take to become immune?

It takes time for your body to build protection after any vaccination. People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, or two weeks after the single-dose J&J/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine, according to the CDC.

What can I do once I'm fully vaccinated?

If you've been fully vaccinated, the CDC says you can do the following things:

  • Visit inside a home or private setting without a mask with other fully vaccinated people of any age
  • Visit inside a home or private setting without a mask with one household of unvaccinated people who are not at risk for severe illness
  • Travel domestically without a pre- or post-travel test
  • Travel domestically without quarantining after travel
  • Travel internationally without a pre-travel test depending on destination

What should you keep doing even after being fully vaccinated?

  • Keep wearing a mask, staying at least 6 feet apart from others and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces when in public, gathering with unvaccinated people from more than one household or visiting with an unvaccinated person who is at increased risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19 or who lives with a person at increased risk
  • Continue to avoid medium or large-sized gatherings
  • Take steps to protect yourself and others if you travel, including wearing masks on planes, buses, trains and other forms of public transportation
  • Watch out for COVID-19 symptoms, especially if you've been around someone who is sick
  • Follow guidance at your workplace

Can I still get COVID after being fully vaccinated?

The CDC says it is "keeping a close eye" on COVID-19 cases in fully vaccinated people. Last week, the CDC said it had reports of approximately 5,800 so-called breakthrough infections, out of the nearly 77 million individuals in the U.S. who have been fully vaccinated.

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