Things to know before getting vaccinated

  • Do I need to get tested for COVID-19 before getting vaccinated?
    • If you do not have symptoms of COVID-19, it is not recommended that you get COVID-19 testing before getting vaccinated. 

    • If you have symptoms of COVID-19, yes. You should get a COVID-19 test. You should delay vaccination until you have a negative test and your provider has determined your symptoms are not due to COVID-19. 

    • If you have had a confirmed exposure to COVID-19 in the past 14 days, you must delay vaccination until you are done quarantining. 

  • Do I have to pay for the vaccination?

    No. Getting a COVID-19 vaccine is free for all Massachusetts residents. 

    Health insurance companies (including Medicare and Medicaid) will cover the cost of administering the vaccine. All vaccination sites in Massachusetts must agree they will not charge patients any out-of-pocket fees or deny anyone vaccination services if they cannot pay. Learn more at mass.gov.

  • Will I be screened for COVID-19 symptoms or exposures before my appointment?

    Yes, just like at any appointment at Mass General Brigham, you will be asked several questions about your health status. Questions will include whether you have had any COVID-19 symptoms or have been exposed to COVID-19. For more information, see "Preparing for Your Office Visit."

  • Should I delay my procedure or surgery if I get vaccinated?

    Generally, procedures or surgeries are not delayed for other vaccinations like the flu vaccine. However, your clinician or care team may recommend not getting vaccinated for a period of time before or after a procedure or surgery. They may want you to delay COVID-19 vaccination so any potential side effects (like fever) do not complicate your procedure or surgery. For specific questions, please talk to your clinician or care team.  

  • I am 12-17 years old. Do I need parental consent to get the vaccinated?

    Yes, eligible patients 12-17 years old who receive an invitation for vaccination at a Mass General Brigham location need a waiver signed by a parent to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

    Download the waiver form

    Please bring the signed form with you to your appointment.

Day of appointment

  • Do I need to wear a mask when I get vaccinated?

    Yes. We require all employees and patients to wear a mask. When you arrive at our facilities, you will be given a procedural or surgical mask to wear. If you have a mask from home, you will be asked to replace it with the mask we provide. Please see our mask policy.

  • Will I have a choice of which vaccine I receive?

    People getting vaccinated will not have the option to select which vaccine they receive (Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson).

    Mass General Brigham vaccine supply is provided by the state and federal government, and we do not choose which vaccines we get in our distribution. The best vaccine is the one that is available to you on the day of your appointment. All vaccine options available to our patients are highly effective.

    The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines each require two doses. After you receive your first dose, your second dose will be from the same manufacturer. That means if your first dose is the Pfizer vaccine, your second dose will also be Pfizer; if your first dose is the Moderna vaccine, your second dose will also be Moderna.

  • Will I receive anything to show proof of vaccination?

    You will receive a vaccination card or printout that tells you which COVID-19 vaccine you received, the date you received it, and where you received it. You should also receive a paper or electronic version of a factsheet that tells you more about the specific COVID-19 vaccine you will receive. Learn more at mass.gov.

Getting the first dose of the vaccine

Joseph Betancourt, M.D., MPH, Senior Vice President for Equity and Community Health at Massachusetts General Hospital, takes viewers step-by-step as he receives first dose of his COVID-19 vaccine.

View more videos from Mass General Brigham

After the appointment

  • Do I need to return for a second dose?

    The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines each require two doses. It is very important that you get the second dose of the vaccine. The second dose makes the vaccine most effective. If you got the Pfizer vaccine, your second dose will be about 21 days after your first dose. For Moderna, your second dose will be about 28 days after your first dose. Please make every effort to receive your second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

    The Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) vaccine only requires one dose. 

  • Can I stop wearing masks and social distancing after getting vaccinated?

    COVID-19 in the community is currently decreasing. You can find more information on: the CDC website, the Massachusetts state website, and the New Hampshire state website. Note that state and local guidelines may vary for masking and indoor/outdoor gathering. Your local town may have different guidelines so it is important for you to check your local guidelines.

    Patients with solid organ transplants or who are immunocompromised should speak with their care team to discuss recommendations about masking and social distancing.

    If you have symptoms, you should talk to your health care provider. You may need to be tested for COVID-19. See more information on the CDC website.

  • How long will immunity last after I get vaccinated? Will I need to be vaccinated every year?

    We do not know this yet. The clinical trials will continue to monitor participants to see how long protection lasts. We will provide updated information as it becomes available. Visit the CDC website for ongoing information about the vaccines.

Appointment FAQs updated June 14, 2021

Potential side effects

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People can have different reactions to vaccines. Most reactions are mild and get better within a few hours or a day or two after your vaccination. The following provides an overview of potential reactions.

Common side effects: Symptoms like fever, chills, muscle aches, fatigue, headache

Common side effects: Redness, swelling, and/or itching where you got the vaccine

  • Is this normal? What should I do?

    This is normal. It can be very large. This usually lasts for 2 or 3 days but can last as long as 7 days. It can also start 7–10 days after your vaccine. You may get swelling in the armpit of the arm you got the vaccine. This should get better on its own within 7 days.

    If there is itching, you can take an antihistamine (like diphenhydramine). If there is pain, you can take acetaminophen. Ice can be helpful for swelling.

  • When should I worry?

    If the redness and swelling stay at the site you got vaccinated and you have no other symptoms of allergic reaction (see below), then you do not need to see or talk to anyone.

    If you also have any allergy symptoms, see below for guidance.

    If the swelling in your armpit lasts longer than 7 days, you should contact your provider.

  • For Pfizer/Moderna, can I get my 2nd dose?

    As long as you have no allergic symptoms, you can receive your second dose of vaccine. You should get your second dose with the standard 15 minutes of monitoring.

Mild allergic reactions

  • What are the symptoms?

    Hives, itching, rash (except where you got the vaccine)

    You can take an over-the-counter antihistamine, such as diphenhydramine 50mg or cetirizine 10mg, as directed on package labeling.

  • When should I worry? For Pfizer/Moderna, can I get my 2nd dose if I had a mild allergic reaction?
    • If this occurs within 4 hours of your vaccine, please contact your provider.

      You should be evaluated by a doctor to determine whether you can receive a second dose. You may need skin testing.
    • If this occurs more than 4 hours after your vaccine and you develop other allergic symptoms (see below), seek emergency care. If you do not develop further symptoms but are concerned, please contact your provider.

      If you don’t develop any other allergic symptoms, you can get your second dose of vaccine but should be monitored for 30 minutes.

Severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis)

  • What are the symptoms?
    • Swelling of lips, face, eyes, tongue
    • Nausea/throwing up or belly pain
    • Tightness in throat or difficulty swallowing
    • Persistent difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
    • Cough or wheezing
    • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • When should I worry?

    For most people, this usually occurs immediately after the vaccination – within 15 minutes. You will be monitored at the vaccine clinic during that time.

    If you have these symptoms after you go home, please call your provider or seek emergency care.

  • For Pfizer/Moderna, can I get my 2nd dose if I had a severe allergic reaction?

    You should be evaluated by a doctor to determine whether you can receive a second dose. You may need skin testing.

Side effects FAQs updated July 1, 2021