Millions of people around the world have now been safely vaccinated against COVID-19, bringing us all one step closer to getting back to doing more of the things we enjoy with the people we love. For many the COVID-19 vaccines couldn’t come fast enough, but others understandably have questions about the vaccination process and what to expect when it comes to their turn.

We spoke to UNICEF health experts to find out about the vaccination process and tips on what you can do before, during and after.

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Before you go

Check your eligibility. Each province has different criteria for who can receive vaccines and when. To ensure you are eligible to book a vaccine appointment, check your provinces COVID-19 site for more information. You may also be able to book through your local health network or health provider so check their website for additional information as well.

Talk to your doctor. People should take the vaccine that is offered to them but if you have any concerns about which vaccine you should receive or questions about the medications you are currently taking, talk to your health care provider before your appointment.

Take care of yourself. Get a good night’s rest and hydrate well before your vaccination so you can feel your best on the day.

During the appointment

Stay safe. Make sure to follow safety precautions at the vaccination facility such as physical distancing while waiting and wearing a mask.

Communicate. Let the health care professional know if you have any medical conditions that could be considered precautions, such as pregnancy or a compromised immune system.

Keep your records. You should receive a vaccination card that tells you which COVID-19 vaccine you received, when you received it and where you received it. Make sure to hold on to this card as you will need the information it contains to book another appointment for your second vaccine dose.

After you’ve been vaccinated

Stay for monitoring. The health care provider should observe you for about 15 minutes after the vaccine is administered to make sure you don’t have any immediate reactions. However, it is extremely rare for severe health reactions.

Be prepared for some side effects. Vaccines are designed to give you immunity without the dangers of getting the disease. While it’s normal to build immunity without side effects, it’s also common to experience some mild-to-moderate side effects that go away within a few days on their own.

Some of the mild-to-moderate side effects you may experience after vaccination include:

  • Arm soreness at the injection site
  • Mild fever
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Muscle or joint aches 
  • Chills
  • Diarrhoea

If any symptoms continue for more than a few days or if you experience a more severe reaction, then contact your health care provider immediately.

Take some time for yourself. While plenty of people get the vaccine with no side effects, anticipate that you may experience some of the above side effects and if possible, plan to take a day off work or school to allow yourself to recuperate and recover.

Be patient. Building immunity takes time. You will be considered fully vaccinated two weeks after your second dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, 15 days after your second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine or two weeks after the single-dose J&J/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine.

Keep yourself and others safe. While these vaccines are showing to be highly effective at protecting people against serious illness from COVID-19, we’re still learning about whether it is possible for a vaccinated person to still spread the virus, even without symptoms. Therefore, it is important to continue practicing safety precautions to protect yourself and others, including avoiding crowded spaces, physical distancing, hand washing and wearing a mask .

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