Covid-19 Vaccination Guide: Why It’s Safe, Where to Go, What to Expect

The Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 is wreaking havoc on the US right now. It accounts for 89 percent of the 85,000 daily reported Covid-19 infections among Americans. Delta is more transmissible than earlier strains of SARS-CoV-2, and it increasingly is putting younger, healthier people in the hospital compared to what we witnessed in 2020. But some good news: The data is in, and Covid-19 vaccines are working. It’s time to get a shot.

The vaccines might not prevent you from catching Covid-19 entirely. Delta can still break through, but the point of being vaccinated is that, even if you do contract the Delta variant—or any other variant—you’ll have a much milder illness. Breakthrough cases—even mild ones—are still quite rare. So far, less than 7,000 people (0.004 percent) of the 160+ million fully vaccinated people have developed a case of Covid-19 severe enough to cause hospitalization or death.

The three vaccines used in the US have been taken by hundreds of millions of people around the world by now, and they’ve been found to be safe and effective. All three use unique technologies to stimulate an immune response in your body, but none of them involve injecting a live virus into your arm. In short, they cannot get you sick with Covid-19.

Vaccines, along with social distancing, masks, and smart policy decisions regarding reopening businesses, will be our ticket out of this hellish mass experience. States, territories, and our one state-like district (DC) all have wide latitude to set their own Covid-19 policies and procedures. Advice and paths to a Covid-19 vaccine are going to differ based on which part of the US you live in, but we’ve put together a guide that should give you an accurate overview of how to get the jab.

If this guide (or any other) may help others get vaccinated, please send them a link.

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Updated August 2021: We’ve updated information on where to find vaccination appointments, statistics about the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, and which vaccines are available for kids age 12 and over.

Table of Contents

  1. Check Your State’s Rollout Process
  2. Find Places You Can Get Vaccinated
  3. What to Bring to Get Vaccinated
  4. Getting Your Vaccine
  5. A Few More Things to Know

Step 1: Check Your State’s Rollout Process

All adult Americans, regardless of age or preexisting health conditions, are able to sign up for a vaccination appointment. Also, children age 12 and up are able to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Odds are that a vaccine appointment is already available near you. About 90 percent of the population in the US has a vaccine site within 5 miles of where they live.

There’s no federal or nationally centralized list onto which you sign up for a vaccine. Each state, territory, and freely associated state has sign-up information available on its own health department website.

Here is a list of health department websites for each state.

Some health department sites are more helpful than others, offering telephone hotlines, statewide sign-up lists, and eligibility checkers that will say whether you can get a vaccine yet if you answer a few questions about your age, gender, profession, and health conditions. Other states merely direct you to a list of vaccination providers to call yourself.

Back to Table of Contents

Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images 

Step 2: Find Places You Can Get Vaccinated

Check out VaccineFinder, built by Boston Children’s Hospital and the CDC, to locate available vaccines near you, and follow its Twitter account for updates. Other places to check include:

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