Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine: Information for Patients
Ending COVID-19 starts with you. It is important to get the vaccine as soon as it is available to you. The vaccine is the best tool we have to end COVID-19. Please speak with your doctor if you have any questions. You can also go to umms.org/vaccine for more information.
Before You Make an Appointment
Before you get the COVID-19 vaccine, it is important to talk to your doctor about any health issues. This is to make sure it is safe for you to get the vaccine. Talk to your doctor if you:
- Have allergies (see additional information below)
- Have a fever
- Have a bleeding problem or you are taking a blood thinner
- Have a weak immune system (your body doesn't fight infections well)
- Are taking medicines that affect your immune system
- Are pregnant or plan to become pregnant
- Are breastfeeding
- Have gotten another COVID-19 vaccine
History of Allergies
An immediate allergic reaction of any severity to a vaccine or injectable medicine is considered a precaution by the CDC. In other words, you may be at higher risk of having a reaction to the vaccine. If you have a history of immediate or severe allergic reaction to anything – especially another vaccine or injectable medicine – it is strongly recommended you talk to your doctor before getting the vaccine. This is so your doctor can confirm it is safe for you to get the vaccine.
Your doctor can help you weigh the possible risk of anaphylaxis following COVID-19 vaccination with your risk of getting COVID-19. Things to consider before you get the vaccine:
- Are you at high risk of being exposed to COVID-19?
- Are you at higher risk of exposure because you live in a congregate setting or long-term care facility?
- Do you work in a job that is high risk (for example, frontline health care, grocery stores, public transit)?
- If you were to get COVID-19, what is your risk of developing serious illness?
- Does your age group and/or underlying medical conditions (for example, diabetes, obesity) put you at higher risk for severe COVID-19?
- Have you recently recovered from COVID-19 (within the past 90 days)?
You cannot get the COVID-19 vaccine if you:
- Are allergic to any component of either vaccine (please see the FDA fact sheets for Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson for a list of ingredients).
- Are under the age of 18 for the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
- Are under the age of 16 for the Pfizer vaccine.
- Are sick with a fever or acute illness.
- Have had an immediate or severe allergic reaction to a previous dose of the vaccine.
- Have been treated for COVID-19 with monoclonal antibody or convalescent plasma therapy in the 90 days before your appointment.
- Have gotten another non-COVID-19 vaccine (for example, for shingles or the flu) 14 days before your appointment or plan to get one in the 14 days after. Note: for admitted patients, please talk to your care team to determine if it is still appropriate for you to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
- Have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the 10 days before your appointment.
- Have an active COVID-19 infection at the time of your appointment. If you are in quarantine or isolation due to COVID-19, please reschedule your appointment. This is important so you do not give COVID-19 to other people.
Making an Appointment
After you talk to your doctor as needed and you are ready to get the COVID-19 vaccine, you can make an appointment. Use the instructions below to schedule your shot.
Note: You must make an appointment. We are not taking walk-ins.
Skip to the next section called "Getting Ready for Your Shot" if you have already made an appointment.
- When it is your turn, you will get an email letting you know you can schedule your appointment. Click the link in the email to see available appointments. Select a date and time that works for you. A few important notes:
- The scheduling link is only for you. It should not be shared with anyone else.
- If you do not see any available appointments, please check back daily. New appointments are being added as they become available.
- Please do not make an appointment if you were diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past 10 days. Do not make an appointment if you have an active infection.
- Please do not make an appointment within 14 days of getting another vaccine, like for shingles or the flu.
- When you are ready to make an appointment, enter "Vaccine" under "Reason for Visit." Then click "Proceed to Next Steps."
- If you already have an UMMS patient portal account for MyPortfolio, please log in and make your appointment.
- If you do not have an account, please click "Continue as a Guest." We will need to get a bit of information from you to make your appointment. This includes your email address if you have one. You can sign up for an UMMS patient portal account later, after you have made your appointment.
- Once you make your appointment, you will see a page that says, "Thanks, your appointment is scheduled." If you do not see that page, your appointment has not been scheduled. Please contact MyPortfolio Support for help at 844-281-8667 or email@example.com.
UMMS MyPortfolio Patient Portal
The UMMS MyPortfolio patient portal is a secure site that can help you manage the vaccine appointment process. (Please note that you do not need a MyPortfolio account to schedule a vaccine appointment.)
- View details about your upcoming vaccine appointment.
- Get reminders for your upcoming appointment.
Speed up the on-site process at the vaccine location by:
- Checking in for upcoming appointments.
- Signing the vaccine consent form before your appointment.
Note that you cannot sign up for MyPortfolio until after you have made an appointment. View instructions for how to schedule your appointment, and if you don't have a MyPortfolio account, learn how to sign up for one:
Getting Ready for Your Shot
Below is a checklist of things to do on the day of your shot. Please do these things before you go to the vaccination site. If you are getting a two-dose vaccine, this checklist will help you get ready for both your first and second shot.
- Make sure you drink plenty of water and eat something before your appointment. These things may help prevent you from feeling sick after your shot.
- Remember to wear short sleeves under your jacket. This is so there is easy access to your upper arm, where you will get the shot.
- If you have an UMMS MyPortfolio patient portal account, you can check-in online before your appointment. You can also read and sign the consent form. If you do not have an account, you can do those things at the vaccination site. Please wear at least a cloth mask. If you do not have a mask, the vaccination site will give you one. You must wear a mask in the vaccination location at all times.
- The vaccine is free. If you do not have insurance, you will still get the vaccine.
- Please do not bring anyone to your appointment. There are two exceptions:
- Individuals with a disability may bring one designated support person. This applies to people who have a physical or mental impairment that greatly limits one or more major life activities. The support person must wear a mask at all times.
- Individuals who are 16-17 years old must have a parent or guardian with them when they get the vaccine. The parent or guardian must wear a mask at all times.
- Please do not come to the vaccination site if you are feeling sick or if you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 within 10 days of your appointment. We cannot give you the vaccine if you are sick. Please reschedule your appointment for when you are no longer sick.
- If you are getting a two-dose vaccine, look at your personal and work schedules before your first appointment. Come to your appointment ready to schedule your second shot. If you are getting a one-dose vaccine, you do not need a second shot.
- The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is given in two doses, at least 21 days apart. The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is given in two doses, at least 28 days apart. You must get both doses. Full protection is usually achieved two weeks after your second shot.
- If you get a one-dose vaccine, you do not need a second shot. Full protection is achieved 28 days after your shot.
Getting Your Shot
Your vaccine appointment (both first and second shot) will take about 45 minutes total. This section tells you what to expect when you get your shot
- Look at the scheduling email that you used to sign up for your shot. This is where you will find the address for the vaccination site. If you made your appointment by phone, the scheduling team will give you the address. You will also get an appointment reminder. The appointment reminder will include the address. Please give yourself enough time to park and walk to the vaccination site.
- Please do not arrive more than 15 minutes before your appointment. The appointments are spaced to reduce crowding.
- Before you get the COVID-19 vaccine, you will have to answer screening questions. This will be done on site. Please be ready to answer questions about your medical history. This includes any known health issues and allergies.
- You will need to read and sign the consent form to get the vaccine.
- Note: If you are 16-17 years old and getting the Pfizer vaccine, you must have a parent or guardian with you. The parent or guardian will sign the consent form.
- Be ready to stay on site for 15 minutes after your shot. This is so the vaccination team can monitor you. This monitoring time is recommended by the FDA and CDC. If you have a history of immediate or severe allergic reaction or allergies that require you to carry an EpiPen, you will be asked to stay on site for 30 minutes after your shot.
- If you are getting a two-dose vaccine, you will schedule your second shot before you leave. If you are a patient admitted at an UMMS hospital when you get your first shot of a two-dose vaccine, your second shot will be scheduled during your stay or after you are discharged.
- You will get a wallet-sized vaccine reminder card after your first shot to help you keep track of your COVID-19 shots. The card will include the date, time and administrator of your first shot. It will also include the date and time of your second shot. Please keep this card in a safe place and bring it with you when you get your second shot. If you are getting a one-dose vaccine, you will still get a vaccination card that documents your shot.
After You Get Your Shot
You must continue to wear a mask, practice social distancing, wash your hands and avoid all gatherings. Do this even after you get your second shot. The COVID-19 vaccine will protect you but there is a chance that you can still give COVID-19 to people who are not protected.
Understanding Vaccine Side Effects vs. COVID-19
You cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccine. Some vaccine side effects, like headache and feeling tired, may be similar to COVID-19 symptoms. These side effects should go away 24-48 hours after you get your shot.
Possible Side Effects
Possible side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine are:
- Pain, swelling or redness at the shot site (most common)
- Feeling tired
- Feeling sick to your stomach or not feeling well
- Muscle pain
- Joint pain
- Swollen lymph nodes
If you have side effects, like muscle pain or fever, you can use anti-inflammatory medicines (like ibuprofen or naproxen) or acetaminophen. Please talk to your doctor first. Side effects are more common after the second shot. You can also have side effects after the first shot.
There is a very small chance you may have an immediate or severe allergic reaction. Everyone will be observed for 15 minutes after getting the vaccine. If you have a history of an immediate or severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis from any cause, or a history of an immediate allergic reaction to an injectable medication or vaccine), you will be observed for 30 minutes.
Signs of a severe allergic reaction include difficulty breathing, swelling of your face and throat, a fast heartbeat, a bad rash all over your body and/or dizziness and weakness. If you have any of these symptoms while you are still at the hospital or vaccination site, please alert a nurse or a member of the vaccination team as soon as possible.
Please call your doctor if you have any side effects after you leave the hospital or vaccination site. If you do not have a doctor, please call the UMMS Nurse Call Line (1-888-713-0711). The UMMS Nurse Call Line is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Adverse events are unusual or unexpected effects that happen after you get the vaccine. They do not include the common side effects listed above.
Please call your doctor for medical care for adverse events that happen after you leave the hospital or vaccination site. Go to the closest Emergency Department or urgent care location if you do not have a doctor, or if you need immediate care.
After your first shot, if you are told you are allergic to the vaccine or if you are hospitalized due to an adverse event, you must talk to your doctor. For two-dose vaccines, you will need permission from your doctor to get your second shot. We will NOT give you your second shot if you do not get approval from your doctor. The vaccination team will not be able to give this approval. Your doctor may also recommend you get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine instead.
You must wait at least 28 days after your first shot to get another vaccine. Per the CDC, it is recommended that you speak with an allergist if you are allergic to any one of the COVID-19 vaccines or its components and are considering getting a different COVID-19 vaccine.
If you have any adverse events after your shot, you can also report them to the FDA/CDC Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). You can do this online at vaers.hhs.gov or by calling the toll-free number (1-800-822-7967).
The CDC also has an optional text-message-based tool called v-safe. You can report any side effects to CDC v-safe. You can also get automated, personalized health check-ins after your first COVID-19 shot and reminders about the second shot. Please see the CDC v-safe fact sheet, available at cdc.gov/vsafe, for more information.