COVID-19 Team Update: Vaccination Basics

Banner showing COVID-19 virus

More than 90 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the U.S., reaching nearly one fifth of the population with at least one dose. Over two million shots are being given each day, and more members of our Smithsonian community are receiving vaccinations. If you were unable to join our All-Staff Meeting on vaccines and would like to learn more about the basics, you may view the recorded webcast here. Below, please find information about what to expect post-vaccination and how you can continue to protect our community after being vaccinated.

Reactions to Vaccination: Reactions to the vaccine vary. Some people may experience common side effects such as tiredness, headache, and muscle pain, while others feel fine. Reactions are a natural side effect, and in both cases, the body is building protection against the virus. To learn more, review the CDC’s tips for preparing for vaccination.

Safety Precautions After Vaccination: You are considered “fully vaccinated” two weeks after the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or two weeks after a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. If exposed to the virus, you should not experience severe illness and will likely not become sick at all. Until we know how well vaccination stops the asymptomatic spread of the virus, everyone should keep taking safety precautions in public places to protect those in our community who have not been vaccinated. These precautions include wearing a face covering, practicing social distancing, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces. The CDC also provides guidance for fully vaccinated individuals on how you may gather with others in private settings and when to get tested and self-isolate if you have been exposed to COVID-19. 

Although the CDC has loosened some precautions for fully vaccinated individuals in private settings, on site at the Smithsonian, face coverings are still required regardless of vaccination status. Multi-layer face coverings shall be worn in all common or shared work areas, inside or outside, including conference rooms, areas with open floorplans, and cubicles. Continue to practice social distancing, maintaining six feet of distance between yourself and others, and be especially aware of situations when you are not able to maintain this distance or must remove your mask.

Whether you are vaccinated or not, continue to ask yourself the health screening questions before reporting to the workplace. If you feel ill or have any unusual-for-you symptoms, even mild ones, do not report to work. Contact your physician, get tested, and follow their advice. Be especially vigilant as the weather warms and pollen starts to trigger allergies.

Reporting Your Vaccination: Smithsonian employees (and volunteers) are encouraged to send a copy of their vaccination card to Occupational Health Services’ (OHS) at after their final dose. This information will help OHS understand the needs of our community. As always, your medical information will be kept private.

We are grateful for your tremendous interest in this topic and will continue to provide updates to frequently asked questions about vaccination on the COVID-19 website. In the meantime, please continue to reach out to the COVID-19 Response Team with your questions.

Posted: 10 March 2021
About the Author:

Alex di Giovanni is primarily responsible for "other duties as assigned" in the Office of Communications and External Affairs. She has been with the Smithsonian since 2006 and plans to be interred in the Smithson crypt.