What to expect when you get a COVID-19 vaccine
Here’s how to set up an appointment, what to expect at a drive-thru clinic and information about possible side effects
Now that the new local dial is in place, local officials are gearing up for a big push to get 70% of the community vaccinated in order to move into level green and remove most restrictions on businesses and individuals.
For those interested in receiving a vaccine, here’s what you need to know.
How to make an appointment
As of early April, all Coloradans ages 16 and older are eligible to receive a vaccine. Because vaccines are in short supply, all residents should preregister for an appointment at CoMassVax.org, which is used for the county’s drive-thru and neighborhood pop-up clinics.
When residents preregister, they are essentially putting their name on a contact list. Public health officials draw names randomly each week and notify those individuals about available appointments. Brian Bovaird, director of emergency management at the county, said this usually happens soon after the county receives confirmation from the state regarding how many vaccines it will receive for the upcoming week.
Residents are notified about upcoming appointments through an email, which typically comes Friday through Monday, depending on when the county receives confirmation from the state about its vaccine allocation. Public Health Director Amy Wineland said the emails are occasionally getting lost in inboxes and that residents should check their spam folders.
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The email will have a link that allows residents to sign up for an appointment. If they are not able to sign up for an appointment that week, their name remains on the contact list to be selected another week.
Bovaird said residents who do not have email should call the county at 970-668-9730 to get help registering. A staff member is available during business hours Monday through Friday to help residents sign up, but individuals can also leave a voicemail after hours. If their name is selected in the system, the county will call and help them schedule an appointment.
Bovaird reiterated that preregistering does not mean individuals are signing up for an appointment. Instead, it just gets them on the list for when appointments become available. Since the county draws names randomly, it could take some time to be notified about available appointments.
To increase the chance of getting the vaccine sooner, Bovaird recommends signing up for appointments at other local vaccine providers, including pharmacies, the Summit Community Care Clinic and Centura Health, which owns St. Anthony Summit Medical Center.
- Centura Health: Centura.org/vaccine-scheduling
- City Market pharmacies: CityMarket.com/rx/covid-eligibility
- Safeway pharmacy: Safeway.com/vaccinations
- Walmart pharmacy: Walmart.com/cp/flu-shots-immunizations/1228302
- Summit Community Care Clinic: SummitClinic.org/index.php/care-services/covid-19-information
Residents also can sign up in different counties at CoMassVax.org.
“They can sign up in multiple different counties as long as they are in Colorado,” Bovaird said. “We’re obviously not doing vaccine pods every single day, and so the advantage of signing up in different counties, if you’re able to make it there, is that if timing is an issue or they have clinics on days that we don’t, then that’s great.”
For step-by-step instructions and a guided video on how to register in the statewide system, visit SummitCountyCo.gov/vaccine and click “scheduling vaccinations.”
What to expect when you get the vaccine
Each provider’s process for administering a vaccine differs, but the drive-thru clinics have the same system each week.
The mass vaccination clinics are held at the Summit Stage bus barn at County Commons, 0222 County Shops Road in Frisco. Individuals are instructed to show up 15 minutes before their appointments.
At the first check-in, an attendant will verify that a resident has an appointment. At the second checkpoint, individuals receive a quick health screening to ensure they don’t have COVID-19 symptoms. At the next checkpoint, individuals receive their vaccine. Afterward, they are instructed to pull into a waiting area. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends individuals wait at least 15 minutes after they’ve received their vaccine to make sure they don’t have any adverse reactions.
Bovaird said adverse reactions are rare, but if they happen, the county is ready with an ambulance crew staffed at the site.
Usually, the entire process takes about 30 minutes to an hour, and individuals can remain in their cars the entire time.
What are the possible side effects?
Though not approved by the Food and Drug Administration, all three vaccines — Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson — have been authorized for emergency use in the U.S.
Dr. Rebecca Blackwell, director of medical affairs at St. Anthony Medical Summit Center, said that doesn’t make the vaccines any less safe.
“The number of people who have received the vaccine through the emergency-use authorization is greater than the number of people who would receive a vaccine in a vaccine trial whose data would go toward a full FDA approval,” Blackwell said. “So we actually have, at this point, more information about this vaccine than we would typically have about a vaccine that went through a full FDA approval for the first time.”
While the vaccines are safe, each is considered to have possible side effects. In addition to redness, swelling and pain at the injection site, individuals who receive the vaccine could experience a headache, fever, muscle pain, chills, tiredness and nausea. The side effects could occur within a day or two of getting the vaccine.
Health officials have emphasized that the side effects are signs of an immune system response, which means the vaccine is working. But if symptoms worsen or do not go away after a few days, people are advised to contact their doctors.
Life-threatening reactions to the vaccine are extremely rare. Anyone who experiences an allergic reaction should call 911.
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