How to prepare before getting a COVID-19 vaccine

Feb. 8, 2021

Many Coloradans have questions about how to prepare before getting a COVID-19. We reached out to Dr. Katie Markley,  a primary care physician at UCHealth Primary Care – Hilltop,  to answer questions about what to expect and how to stay as healthy as possible when getting the vaccine.

How to prepare before getting a COVID-19 vaccine is essential. A gentleman gives a thumbs-up after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.
How to prepare before getting a COVID-19 vaccine is important. In this photo, a man gives a thumbs-up after receiving a vaccine at a mass vaccination clinic at Coors Field. Photo: Cyrus McCrimmon.

Even though vaccinations are being distributed in Colorado, it’s still important that everyone continues to wear a mask, wash your hands and practice social distancing.

Dr. Markley, a Colorado native, has tips and answers to some commonly asked questions about how you should prepare before getting a COVID-19 vaccine. More information is also available here.

Should I wear loose-fitting clothing to get my vaccine?

Wear clothing that allows a clinician to easily access your upper arm. The vaccine is delivered to the deltoid muscle, the big muscle on your shoulder. Consider wearing a short-sleeved shirt, or wear a short-sleeved shirt under a sweater or jacket that can be easily removed.

How to get your COVID-19 Vaccine 

  • For information on getting COVID-19 vaccines through UCHealth, please click here.
  • If you have a My Health Connection accountyou are added to the vaccine list and will automatically receive updates (by email and in the app) regarding the vaccine once it’s your turn to receive it.
  • Governmental and health leaders with the State of Colorado determine the order in which people can receive vaccines. For more information on priority groups click here.
  • If you do not have a My Health Connection account or are new to UCHealth, create a My Health Connection account to be placed on our list to receive the COVID-19 vaccine when it is available for your phase, according to the state’s plan.
  • You do not need to be a current UCHealth patient to receive a vaccine through UCHealth.
  • You do need an appointment to receive a vaccine.

If I have questions about how to prepare for getting the COVID-19 vaccine what should I do?

Please go to this website for the latest information on how to receive a vaccine in Colorado:

Staying hydrated is a great way to prepare for getting a COVID-19

Drinking water every day is important for your health. Drinking water contributes to overall health and can prevent dehydration, a condition that can cause unclear thinking, result in mood change, cause your body to overheat, and lead to constipation and kidney stones. Staying hydrated before the vaccine will contribute to your well-being.

Do you need a COVID-19 test before getting the vaccine?

No, a COVID-19 test is not required before receiving the vaccine, but wear a mask and stay 6 feet apart from others. In addition, people do not need a COVID-19 antibody test after receiving the vaccine.

Dr. Katie Markley
Dr. Katie Markley

Can I take ibuprofen or acetaminophen if my arm is sore after getting the vaccine?

If you develop soreness in your arm, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends holding a clean wet warm washcloth over the area or an ice pack. You can also take acetaminophen or ibuprofen, if you are permitted to do so. It is not recommended to take acetaminophen or ibuprofen before your vaccine. If you regularly take acetaminophen or ibuprofen, you can continue to do so.

Which arm should I select to get the vaccine in?

Either arm is appropriate for getting the shot. Many individuals, however, select their non-dominant arm. It is entirely up to the individual to choose which arm works best for them. If you sleep on your side, and put pressure on your right arm, it might be best to get the shot in your left arm.

What happens right after I get the vaccine?

You will be asked to wait 15 minutes in the vaccine clinic after getting a shot to monitor for any reactions.

While most people report only mild discomfort in their arm at the injection site right after receiving a COVID-19 shot, some people say they feel feverish or sweaty after receiving the second shot. These symptoms go away in fewer than 72 hours.

Do shots hurt?

Many people who have been vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine say they barely felt the needle going into the muscle in their shoulder. A very small gauge needle is used to deliver the vaccine. Your arm may be sore for 1-3 days after you receive the shot, this is normal.

Share health information with your provider

If you have had an allergic reaction to vaccines in the past, make sure to let your vaccinator know.

Before getting vaccine, use tools to manage your anxiety

Sit upright in your chair and take deep breaths. This will help to calm you. Relax the arm in which you are receiving the shot. You can dangle your arm to the side to relax your muscle.

Limit intake of alcohol the night before to prepare for your vaccine

Drink water, not alcohol, before getting a vaccine.

Drinking too much alcohol can lead to dehydration and a hangover. Do not place yourself in a position to be fighting a hangover and possible side effects from the second shot.

It’s OK to eat before getting a vaccine?

Having a meal before getting a vaccine may help people who have fear of needles or a history of fainting.

Are there reasons to not get the vaccine?

Yes. There are a few reasons to wait to get the vaccine.

    1. If you’ve recently had COVID-19. You should be recovered and have completed your isolation period before getting a vaccine. Isolation is generally 10 days but may be longer if you were hospitalized or have certain medical conditions.
    2. If you were exposed to COVID-19, wait 14 days from your exposure. If you haven’t developed symptoms in that time, you can come to your vaccine appointment.
    3. Wait 90 days if you have received convalescent plasma or monoclonal antibodies to treat COVID-19.
    4. If you are due to receive a vaccine other than a COVID-19 vaccine, you should wait 14 days to get the other vaccine. If you have already received a vaccine other than the COVID-19 vaccine, you should wait 14 days before getting either the 1st or second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • If you have a severe reaction to the first COVID-19 vaccine dose, you should check with your provider and perhaps seek a consultation with an allergist. 

About the author

Erin Emery is editor of UCHealth Today, a hub for medical news, inspiring patient stories and tips for healthy living. Erin spent years as a reporter for The Denver Post, Colorado Springs Gazette and Colorado Springs Sun. She was part of a team of Denver Post reporters who won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news reporting.

Erin joined UCHealth in 2008, and she is awed by the strength of patients and their stories.