I really want to get the COVID-19 vaccine. How do I get it?

I really want to get the COVID-19 vaccine. How do I get it?

There are a few different avenues you may utilize to receive a COVID-19 vaccine: Public Health, as well as your local healthcare providers, and some pharmacies. For the sake of this blog post, we will assume that you are receiving your vaccine through public health.

The North Dakota Department of Health has created an online COVID-19 Vaccine Locator that tracks availability across the state. For more information visit Please note the inventory availability is updated daily based on provider vaccine inventory. North Dakota providers who are not receiving vaccine through the North Dakota Department of Health may have vaccine available that is not indicated in the vaccine locator.

What are Priority Groups?

The first thing you need to determine is which priority group you are in. The North Dakota Department of Health has determined three priority groups (called Phases) that will receive the vaccine prior to it being opened up to the general public. Within each phase are smaller groups (called Tiers) that are given order priority. For more information about phases/tiers, visit

  • Phase 1A includes healthcare workers, first responders and long term care residents and staff. As of January 25, 2021, all regions have completed, or have nearly completed, this phase.
  • Phase 1B includes older individuals, people with underlying health conditions, other congregate settings, child care workers, and employees of preschools and K-12.
    • Persons age 75 and older
    • Persons age 65-74 with two or more high-risk medical conditions
    • Staff and persons living in other congregate settings (i.e., corrections, treatment centers, homeless shelters, etc.)
    • Persons age 65 and older with one or more high-risk medical conditions
    • Persons age 65 and older with or without high-risk medical conditions
    • Persons with 2 or more high-risk medical conditions, regardless of age
    • Child care workers
    • Workers employed by preschools or Kindergarten through 12th grade: (Teachers, nutritional services, aides, bus drivers, principals, administrative groups, custodians, etc.)
  • Phase 1C includes essential workers and people of any age at increased risk for COVID-19
    • National Guard, not previously covered
    • Workers enabling access to human food (i.e., grocery workers), not including restaurant workers
    • Public safety answering points (911)
    • Manufacturing related to the development or supply of COVID-19 vaccine
    • Other healthcare/public health workers not included in Phase 1A
    • Free standing clinical laundries
    • Public transit, including bus, taxi, ride share
    • Persons age 16-64 with one or more high-risk medical conditions
    • Blood bank workers not previously vaccinated
    • Information Technology
    • All other essential workers per Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)

How do I sign up?

Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health (Eligibility Determination Survey) and Custer Health (Vaccination Interest Survey) both have created surveys that will get you started on the road to COVID-19 vaccination.

By completing this survey, you will identify your appropriate tier know when you can receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Please note that by completing this survey you have not secured your COVID-19 vaccine. Presently, both vaccine interest surveys are only open to individuals in Phase 1B. As Phase 1C gets closer, the surveys will open to these additional groups.

As vaccine is made available, public health units will contact individuals who have completed the interest survey and were placed in the appropriate phase/tier to attend a vaccination clinic and receive vaccination. At this time, Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are being utilized at public health unit vaccine clinics, meaning you will need to receive two rounds of the vaccine 21 days (for the Pfizer) 28 days (for the Moderna) apart. Individuals wanting to be vaccinated will reserve their appointment time through a link shared by the health units. Please note that if you have not reserved your appointment time, you will not be able to receive a vaccine at a public health vaccination clinic.

What do I do the day of my vaccination?

Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health is conducting its vaccine clinics at Bismarck Event Center (located at 315 S Fifth Street in Bismarck). Custer Health is conducting its vaccine clinics through its office (located at 403 Burlington Street SE) in Mandan.

Once you have that appointment time reserved, there are just a couple of reminders:

  • Be sure to wear a mask to your vaccine appointment. Universal precautions have made a huge impact in dropping our overall positive case count – take care of your fellow humans!
  • Wear loose-fitting clothing. You will be getting your vaccination in your upper arm, so make sure you won’t need to shed clothes in order to get your shot.
  • You should receive a vaccination card or printout that tells you what COVID-19 vaccine you received, the date you received it and where you received it.
  • Once you receive your vaccine, you will need to be monitored for 15-30 minutes, depending on your history of allergic reactions. For more information, visit You may want to use your monitoring time to get signed up for V-Safe.
  • Sign up for V-Safe at This online symptom monitoring system uses text messaging and web surveys to quickly tell CDC if you have any side effects after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • If you are receiving your first round of the COVID-19 vaccine, be sure to register for your follow-up dose.

What should I expect after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine?

Individuals receiving a COVID-19 vaccine have reported some side effects, including pain or swelling on the arm receiving the shot. Some individuals have also reported fever, chills, fatigue and headache. If you have pain or discomfort, talk to your healthcare provider about taking over the counter medicine such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. If you have concerns about any potential vaccination side effects, it is important to discuss those with your healthcare provider prior to vaccination.

Other suggestions to help reduce pain:

  • Apply a clean, cool, wet washcloth over the area
  • Use or exercise your arm
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Dress lightly

In most cases, these side effects will last only a couple of days. If redness/tenderness where you got your shot increases after 24 hours, or if your side effects are worrying and do not seem to be going away after a few days, contact your doctor or healthcare provider.

A printable handout for what to expect after receiving your COVID-19 vaccine is available at

More Resources?


The Economic Benefits of a Flu Vaccination: Prevention is Wealth

This fall and winter, both COVID-19 and influenza will be circulating at the same time. Both are respiratory illnesses and have similar symptoms. Without testing, it will be difficult to tell the difference between the two. Luckily, we have a way to prevent the burden of having two deadly respiratory diseases circulating at the same time. That prevention is the influenza vaccine.

While the influenza vaccine is not 100% effective, it can substantially decrease influenza illness, hospitalizations, and deaths. During the 2018-2019 influenza season, when the vaccine effectiveness was estimated to be only 29%, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that over 50,000 hospitalizations and 3,500 deaths were prevented. This was with approximately 49% of the United States population receiving a flu vaccine. Imagine what could be prevented if everyone received a flu vaccine.

One major component to North Dakota’s COVID-19 response has been to preserve hospital capacity. A severe influenza season while COVID-19 is still circulating in North Dakota has the potential to wreak havoc on our already stressed healthcare system. Health care workers are already stretched thin caring for positive COVID-19 patients. Adding influenza increases the number of beds in use, increases the numbers of patients requiring a ventilator, and increases the need for health care workers. Every hospital bed that is not used for an influenza patient can be saved for a COVID-19 patient.

North Dakota makes it a priority to keep schools and childcare centers open and one sure way to keep these establishments functional is to keep their students and staff healthy. Influenza vaccination of children and staff plays an important role to ensuring that parents can continue working and continue to provide for their family.
North Dakota also strives to keep businesses open and when we have healthy employees and thriving businesses, we can ensure a healthy economy. When employees are vaccinated, employers see a drop in absenteeism and it also reduces the workload burden of healthy employees when sick coworkers are unable to perform their duties.

While it may seem like there is so much out of our control during this pandemic, getting vaccinated against influenza is within our control and will protect not only those who receive flu vaccine but also our friends, families, and neighbors. By everyone doing their part and getting vaccinated the citizens of North Dakota can continue to protect the health of our state.

Misty Anderson, DO
North Dakota Medical Association

Q: I’ve been tested, now what?

This information is provided by the North Dakota Department of Health

A: Following testing, you should monitor your health. Your next steps are dependent on your specific situation:

  • If you have COVID-19 symptoms (fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea) and are waiting for your test result, you need to isolate at home away from others.
  • If you are NOT a close contact, don’t have symptoms and are being tested for COVID-19, you need to practice physical distancing, and it is recommended that you take precautions such as mask wearing when you are at work or in public places.
  • If you have been identified by public health as a close contact to someone who tested positive for COVID-19, you need to quarantine at home for 14 days from the last time you were exposed.

When you receive your COVID-19 testing results:

  • If you test positive, you will need to stay home for 10 days from your symptom onset or from the date of the test, if you are asymptomatic.
  • If you test positive, you need to isolate from others until:
    • You are fever-free, without using fever-reducing medications for at least 24 hours AND
    • Your other symptoms have improved AND
    • It has been at least 10 days from the onset of your illness if asymptomatic, it has been 10 days since the collection date of your test.
  • If your test results are negative and you are NOT a close contact, you should continue to practice physical distancing and limit interactions as much as possible. You may participate in everyday activities (work, groceries, etc.) but should limit exposure to non-essential public gatherings/places.

If you have additional questions, feel free to contact the state COVID-19 hotline at 1-866-207-2880, Monday through Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. However, individuals seeking specific medical advice should contact their healthcare provider.

Additionally, you may want to create a list of people you have come in contact with, and places you may have visited. Waiting for your COVID-19 Test Results? Review some key steps that can help. You may also want to proactively automate this process by downloading the Care 19 Diary app to track places you have visited or the Care 19 Alert app to help track if/when you may have come in contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19. Both apps are available for Android and IOS platforms.

More information is available through the ND Department of Health.

Q: When Should I Get Tested? Should I wait until I’ve been exposed to the virus, have symptoms or ‘Just because’?

A: According to the North Dakota Department of Health the following individuals should be tested for COVID-19:

  • Individuals with symptoms (fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea).
  • If you have had contact with a COVID-positive individual, testing should occur ideally 7-10 days after the last exposure or if symptoms occur. If you are asymptomatic but have had contact with an individual who has tested positive, testing is beneficial because asymptomatic individuals can spread the virus.

For more information, visit Where to get a Covid-19 Test.

These parameters for who should receive a COVID-19 test are reflected in CDC guidance. If you are unsure if you should be tested, CDC provides an online self-checker tool that may help you make decisions about when to seek testing and/or medical care.