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See the latest news and updates about COVID-19 and its impact on the Charlotte region, the Carolinas and beyond.

What To Know Now That NC Residents 16 And Up Can Get The COVID Vaccine

COVID-19 vaccine
Claire Donnelly

Roughly a quarter of North Carolinians are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to state health department numbers. Starting Wednesday, anyone in the state 16 and older is eligible for a shot. WFAE has answers to common COVID-19 vaccine questions.

Which Vaccines Are Available To Which Age Groups?

Pfizer is the only vaccine currently federally approved for anyone age 16 and older. The vaccines manufactured by Johnson & Johnson and Moderna have each been authorized for people 18 and older.

What Should You Bring To A Vaccination Appointment?

It depends on where you go.

If you received a paper vaccination card at your first dose appointment, you should bring it with you to your second one. You do not have to bring a photo ID. Some vaccine clinics may ask for insurance information, but you do not need insurance to get vaccinated. You’re also not required to be a U.S. citizen, and your immigration status should not be checked.

How Much Does It Cost To Get A COVID-19 Vaccine?

The vaccines are free everywhere in North Carolina, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.

What Side Effects Can You Expect?

It varies from person to person, said Dr. Meg Sullivan, Mecklenburg County’s medical director. According to Sullivan, some of the most common side effects are a sore arm, tiredness, achiness, headache, a low-grade fever or chills.

“If you do have those post-vaccination side effects, it’s just a sign of your immune system responding to the vaccine,” Sullivan said. “They usually start about 12 to 24 hours after the vaccine and only last for a couple of days and then go away.”

What If You Have No Side Effects?

Many people have reported minimal or no side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine. Sullivan said that’s fine and is not a sign that the vaccine was ineffective or that the immune system is not working.

Are The Side Effects Different For Each Of The Three Vaccines?

There are three COVID-19 vaccines being used in the U.S. — produced by Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. But do they have different side effects? Not really, according to Sullivan. She said that during clinical trials of all three vaccines, people reported the same general side effects. But she said a larger percentage of people experienced side effects after the second dose of Pfizer or Moderna than after the first dose or after the single-shot Johnson & Johnson.

What Medications Should You Avoid Before Getting Vaccinated?

Before your shot, Sullivan said it is a good idea to eat something and drink water, especially if you’re nervous around needles. But she said you should not take ibuprofen or Tylenol ahead of your appointment because it could affect your body’s immune response. If you have questions about a medication that you take regularly, Sullivan said you should talk to your doctor.

What Should I Do After My Vaccine?

After your vaccine, you will be monitored for 15 to 30 minutes at the vaccine clinic in case you have an allergic reaction, which is rare. Sullivan said you can try moving your arm regularly to try to stave off soreness. According to Sullivan, if you start to experience side effects like muscle aches or a low-grade fever, you can take a pain reliever like Tylenol or ibuprofen.

“I think people overfocus and over worry about the side-effects,” said Dr. Ryan Shelton, a physician at Tryon Medical Partners. “You can’t change what your body’s going to do and you need the protection from the vaccine. So I think people need to try not to be too worked up about it and too nervous.”

What Do I Do With My Vaccination Card?

Vaccination cards are small paper cards that serve as a record of your vaccine. They include your name, date of birth, which kind of vaccine you received and the date or dates that you were vaccinated. Sullivan said these cards could become important in the future for activities like traveling.

“What we recommend is that people hold onto that,” Sullivan said. “If they think they are going to lose it —or maybe even if not — to take a picture with their phone just so that they have a record of it.”

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