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COVID-19 vaccine – checklist before you get your jab

Written by Caidr's team of doctors and pharmacists based in UK | Updated: 26.01.2023 | 4 min read

The vaccine slot’s booked, you’re all set to go, but first, just run through our checklist to make sure you’re in the best position health-wise to get your jab.

I’ve recently been ill – what now?

If you have symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, a persistent cough or a change to your sense of taste or smell), you should delay having your COVID-19 vaccine. Book a PCR test as soon as possible and isolate at home in line with the government guidelines.

Similarly, if you have had a positive test without getting symptoms, put your vaccine off. It is advised to wait at least 28 days from a positive test result, before receiving your jab or booster.

It's also best to wait until you are fully recovered from any considerable non-COVID-19 illness, such as pneumonia or tonsilitis. There are two reasons for this – firstly to let your immune system concentrate on the virus it is trying to fight off, and not over-burdening it.

Secondly, you want to be in the best possible health for the vaccine, so that your immune system is stimulated to respond really well – you're asking your immune system army to fight two enemies at once if you have an infection and have the vaccine at the same time.

On a community level, you also don’t want to infect others going for their vaccine or the vaccine staff themselves.

If you’ve been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, as you are not double jabbed, you're advised to isolate and book a PCR test - if it's negative, you can go for your jab.

If you have post-COVID syndrome, sometimes called long COVID, you can go ahead with your vaccination.

If you’re pregnant, it's safe to have the vaccine at any point in your pregnancy, and advised as COVID-19 carries a higher risk to you and your baby. You can also have it if you're breastfeeding.

I take certain medications – should I stop them?

Let’s start with immunosuppressants. Advice regarding these medications depends on what you’re taking and why, and it’s best to get your hospital specialist’s opinion on this. Some recommend holding off for two weeks before your vaccination, so seek out this opinion as early as possible, so you’re ready when you’re offered a vaccine slot.

With anticoagulants, you should not stop this medication prior to getting your vaccine. Most people that are stable on this treatment can go ahead with the vaccination. The only exceptions are if you’re on a high dose or have a high target range INR above 3. In these cases, it’s best to speak to your anticoagulation clinic, specialist doctor or doctor beforehand.

Don’t panic if you’re reading this on the morning of your vaccination and don’t know what to do. There are doctors on hand at every vaccination centre to advise you. Continue all other medications as usual.

I’ve recently had my flu vaccine – should I go ahead?

If you’ve just had your flu vaccine – or indeed any other vaccination, including tetanus or those for foreign travel – you should wait at least 7 days before having your COVID-19 jab. This is because you want your immune system to mount the best response it can to both vaccines, rather than spreading itself thinly and risking low immunity.

You may have been enrolled in a COVID-19 vaccination trial. If you’re offered a vaccine, speak to your trial team to confirm if you’ve received the vaccine or a dummy version. They will advise whether you should go ahead with any other vaccine offered. Unless it’s part of a trial, it’s not recommended to mix vaccine manufacturers.

Am I immune once I’ve had my vaccination?

It takes about two weeks to fully build your immune defences after your first shot of the vaccine. You can be vulnerable at this time, and you can have caught COVID-19 in the days leading up to your vaccine, too.

You top up this immunity to optimum levels once you’ve had your second dose – this is given 8 to 12 weeks after the first. If you've had both doses, you’ve significantly reduced your risk of getting COVID-19, and of being very unwell or dying from it.

No vaccine offers zero risk of infection, you can still catch COVID-19, but low risk relies on either low infection rates in the community (so you’ve less chance of bumping into the virus) or everyone getting the vaccine (similarly, so less people are catching it to spread around). So you should still be careful while virus rates are high and vaccines are yet to reach everyone, by following government guidelines: wear your face mask, keep your distance and maintain good hand hygiene even once you’ve been vaccinated.

Fortunately, if you do catch it once you've been vaccinated, you’re likely to have much milder symptoms and much less chance of ending up in the hospital.

*Information correct on 17 January, 2022

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