The arrival of COVID booster shots can give many of us peace of mind that our immune systems are bolstered against COVID-19 this winter. The colder months are a time when viruses of any kind spread more readily because more people gather indoors. But a booster shot isn’t a license to be totally carefree. To ensure your booster shot’s optimal effectiveness, these are five things you should never do after receiving a booster. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.
You might have breezed through your first dose or doses of the COVID vaccine with no immediate ill effects, but the CDC still recommends that you wait at the vaccination site for at least 15 minutes after getting your booster. If you have an immediate allergic reaction to the vaccine—an extremely rare occurrence—medical personnel at the vaccination site can treat it and call for emergency care if necessary. If you have a history of severe allergic reactions or an immediate allergic reaction to a vaccine, you should wait 30 minutes after getting your shot.
The COVID booster, just like the initial vaccine doses, takes some time to create a peak level of antibodies—about two weeks. So if you got a booster shot to feel safer about attending an indoor holiday gathering, but that gathering is scheduled before your booster reaches peak effectiveness, you might want to take additional precautions to reduce your risk of catching or transmitting COVID-19.
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Experts don’t yet know exactly how much safer the COVID-19 booster makes us against the virus. One study found that people who got a single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine experienced a 35-fold increase in antibodies after receiving a Pfizer booster shot, and a 76-fold increase in antibodies after a Moderna booster. And the initial two-dose regimen remains extremely effective in preventing COVID-related hospitalizations and death.
But getting a booster doesn’t mean it’s time to throw away your masks and act like the pandemic is over. “Getting an additional dose of a vaccine does not make you Superman,” Celine Gounder, MD, a clinical assistant professor of medicine at NYU Langone Health, told HuffPost this week.
It’s important to continue with best practices, like mask-wearing and social distancing in public, and washing your hands regularly. “It’s still the same precautions, but the fact is that you have just improved your immunity,” Charlotte Baker, DrPH, MPH, assistant professor of epidemiology at Virginia Tech, told NPR last week. “So if you’re somebody who is not really high risk, you can feel a little bit better about your chances of contracting COVID.”
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Unfortunately, fully vaccinated and boosted people can still transmit the coronavirus, even if they’re not experiencing symptoms themselves. Some experts encourage the use of rapid COVID testing before holiday gatherings this winter—particularly if you plan to gather indoors with people who are at higher risk for a severe case of COVID-19, like people older than 65 or those with compromised immune systems. At-home rapid COVID test kits cost about $20 for a pack of two.
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“If you’re thinking, ‘OK, I kinda wanna start to get back out there in the world a little bit.’ I don’t see a problem with that,” advised Baker. “The bottom line is, we’re not in lockdown anymore. If you wanna go out, go out. Just be safe about it.” That includes staying informed about the COVID infection rate in your local area, and adjusting your plans based on your personal level or risk tolerance and current medical guidance. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.