COVID-19 advice for the public: Getting vaccinated

The world is in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic. As WHO and partners work together on the response — tracking the pandemic, advising on critical interventions, distributing vital medical supplies to those in need— they are racing to develop and deploy safe and effective vaccines.

Vaccines save millions of lives each year. Vaccines work by training and preparing the body’s natural defences – the immune system – to recognize and fight off the viruses and bacteria they target. After vaccination, if the body is later exposed to those disease-causing germs, the body is immediately ready to destroy them, preventing illness.

There are several safe and effective vaccines that prevent people from getting seriously ill or dying from COVID-19. This is one part of managing COVID-19, in addition to the main preventive measures of keeping a safe distance from others and avoiding crowds, wearing a well-fitting mask covering your mouth and nose, keeping indoor spaces well ventilated, cleaning hands regularly and covering coughs and sneezes.

As of 12 January 2022, WHO has evaluated that the following vaccines against COVID-19 have met the necessary criteria for safety and efficacy:

Read our Q&A on the Emergency Use Listing process to find out more about how WHO assesses the quality, safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines.

Some national regulators have also assessed other COVID-19 vaccine products for use in their countries.

Take whatever vaccine is made available to you first, even if you have already had COVID-19. It is important to be vaccinated as soon as possible once it’s your turn and not wait. Approved COVID-19 vaccines provide a high degree of protection against getting seriously ill and dying from the disease, although no vaccine is 100% protective.


All COVID-19 vaccines with WHO EUL are safe for most people 18 years and older, including those with pre-existing conditions of any kind, including auto-immune disorders. These conditions include: hypertension, diabetes, asthma, pulmonary, liver and kidney disease, as well as chronic infections that are stable and controlled.

If supplies are limited in your area, discuss your situation with your care provider if you:

  • Have a compromised immune system
  • Are pregnant (if you are already breastfeeding, you should continue after vaccination)
  • Have a history of severe allergies, particularly to a vaccine (or any of the ingredients in the vaccine)
  • Are severely frail

WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) has concluded that the Pfizer vaccine is safe to be used for those aged 5 and above, and the Moderna vaccine can be used for those aged 12 and above. A smaller dosage is required for children than for adults. Children and adolescent who are at high-risk of severe COVID-19 may be offered these vaccines alongside other priority groups for vaccination.

Children and adolescents tend to have milder disease compared to adults, so unless they are part of a group at higher risk of severe COVID-19, the priority should be to fully vaccinate older people, those with chronic health conditions and health workers.

Vaccine trials for children are ongoing and WHO will update its recommendations when the evidence or epidemiological situation warrants a change in policy.

It’s important for children to continue to have the recommended childhood vaccines.


Stay at the place where you get vaccinated for at least 15 minutes afterwards, just in case you have an unusual reaction, so health workers can help you.

Check when you should come in for a second dose – if needed. Most of the vaccines available are two-dose vaccines. Check with your care provider whether you need to get a second dose and when you should get it. Second doses help boost the immune response and strengthen immunity.

In most cases, minor side effects are normal. Common side effects after vaccination, which indicate that a person’s body is building protection to COVID-19 infection include:

  • Arm soreness
  • Mild fever
  • Tiredness
  • Headaches
  • Muscle or joint aches

Contact your care provider if there is redness or tenderness (pain) where you got the shot that increases after 24 hours, or if side effects do not go away after a few days.

More serious or long-lasting side effects to COVID-19 vaccines are possible but extremely rare. If you experience difficulty breathing, chest pain, confusion, loss of speech or mobility after your vaccine, contact your healthcare provider immediately. Vaccines are continually monitored for as long as they are in use to detect and respond to rare adverse events.

You should not get vaccinated if you have a history of severe allergic reactions/anaphylaxis to any of the ingredients of the COVID-19 vaccine, or if you have an allergic reaction to your first dose.

Most side effects go away within a few days on their own. You can manage any side effects with rest, plenty of non-alcoholic liquids and taking medication to manage pain and fever, if needed. We do not recommend taking medication for pain before being vaccinated, as we don’t know how this will affect how well the vaccine works.

Even after you’re vaccinated, keep taking precautions

Continue to take actions to slow and eventually stop the spread of the virus, even after you have been vaccinated:

  • Keep a safe distance from others and avoid crowds
  • Wear a well-fitting mask covering your mouth and nose
  • When indoors with others, ensure good ventilation, such as by opening a window
  • Clean your hands frequently
  • Cover any cough or sneeze in your bent elbow