Things to know before getting the vaccine

  • Do I need to get tested for COVID-19 before getting the vaccine?
    • If you do not have symptoms of COVID-19, it is not recommended that you get COVID-19 testing before getting the vaccine. 
    • 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 have been released from quarantine. 
  • Do I have to pay for the vaccine?

    No. The 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

    If you are being vaccinated in another state, please review that state’s website for cost information.

  • 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 the vaccine 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.  

Day of appointment

  • Do I need to wear a mask when I receive a COVID-19 vaccine?

    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?

    No. Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are currently being used across the nation. People receiving the vaccine will not have the option to select which vaccine they receive.

    Once you receive your first dose, your second dose will be from the same manufacturer. For example, if your first dose is the Pfizer vaccine, your second dose will be too.

  • 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

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

Appointment FAQs updated 2/3/21

Potential side effects

الاطلاع على المستند باللغة العربية 查看中文版本 Gade nan Kreyòl Ayisyen Ver en español Exibir em português

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

  • Is this normal? What should I do?

    This is normal. It can start within 24 hours of getting the vaccine. It can last for 2 or 3 days.

    You can take acetaminophen or ibuprofen, as needed to help with these symptoms.

  • When should I worry?

    If you have any of the symptoms below, call the Mass General Brigham COVID-19 Nurse Hotline at 617-724-7000 for further advice, as you may need a COVID-19 test:

    • A high fever
    • Symptoms lasting more than a few days
    • Symptoms that could be from COVID-19 (like a new sore throat, cough, nasal congestion, runny nose, loss of smell or taste, or shortness of breath)
    • A new exposure to someone who has COVID-19

    If you have an upcoming visit, procedure, or surgery and are having symptoms after getting the vaccine, please let your care team know.

  • Can I get my second dose if I had these symptoms?

    You can get your second dose with the standard 15 minutes of monitoring.

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.

    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.

    You may get swelling in the armpit of the arm where you got the vaccine. This should get better on its own within 7 days.

  • 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.

  • Can I get my second dose if I had these symptoms?

    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? Can I get my second dose if I had a mild allergic reaction?
    • If this occurs within 4 hours of your vaccination, please call your doctor or the Mass General Brigham COVID-19 Nurse Hotline at 617-724-7000.

      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 vaccination, please monitor for other allergic symptoms (see below). Seek emergency care if you develop any of the additional symptoms below. If you do not develop further symptoms but are concerned, you can call the Mass General Brigham COVID-19 Nurse Hotline at 617-724-7000 for additional guidance.

      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, abdominal pain, or vomiting
    • 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 doctor, the Mass General Brigham COVID-19 Nurse Hotline (617-724-7000), or seek emergency care.

  • Can I get my second 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 1/29/21