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Do we have to do a PCR test before getting vaccinated?

This article was published on
April 21, 2021

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You do not need to have any kind of COVID-19 test before you are vaccinated. It is recommended that you do not receive a vaccine until you are free from a prior COVID-19 infection for 90 days.

You do not need to have any kind of COVID-19 test before you are vaccinated. It is recommended that you do not receive a vaccine until you are free from a prior COVID-19 infection for 90 days.

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What our experts say

You do not need to have a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test or any other kind of test before being vaccinated. Clinical trial results have shown that people with previous COVID-19 infections can be vaccinated for the virus safely, even if they had any infection from the virus ranging from severe to asymptomatic. However, people should wait 90 days after their infection before they receive the vaccine. If you are having COVID-like symptoms before getting a vaccine, you should wait to be vaccinated and isolate for 14 days along with potentially getting a test for the virus five days after your symptoms begin.

If a person has been exposed to anyone with COVID-19 before being vaccinated and either has COVID-like symptoms or has tested positive for infection, they should wait to be vaccinated until they have recovered from the acute illness and they meet the criteria to stop self-isolating in their region, if they have symptoms. The United States CDC recommends 10 days of isolation after symptoms appear and at least 24 hours without a fever. Otherwise, they should quarantine for 10 days before being vaccinated if they have no symptoms.

The PCR COVID-19 test is the most reliable, accurate test for diagnosing the infection. This test is considered the 'gold standard' for COVID-19 testing and looks for genetic material from the virus to see if someone has an infection or may have recently had an infection.

Having a COVID-19 vaccine will not make you test positive for COVID-19, as the vaccines test for active infection, not immunity.

Context and background

Recent social media posts and messages have suggested that PCR testing is required for people before they receive a COVID-19 vaccine, which is not accurate in most cases. Since COVID-19 infection cannot be improved or treated by a vaccine and may potentially expose healthcare workers giving vaccines to infected people, many people may wonder if a negative test is required before receiving a vaccine. Additionally, as PCR tests are the most accurate tests in determining whether or not someone has an active COVID-19 infection, requiring this specific type of test would likely give a person a much more definitive positive or negative test result. However, you do not need a test before receiving a vaccine unless you are experiencing symptoms or have been exposed to someone with the virus, in which case you should isolate for 10 to 14 days and consider getting tested after that time period before getting vaccinated. If you are feeling fine, it is safe to get the vaccine even if you have an asymptomatic infection.

Resources

  1. Interim Clinical Considerations for Use of COVID-19 Vaccines Currently Authorized in the United States (U.S. CDC)
  2. When to Quarantine (U.S. CDC)
  3. COVID-19 and PCR Testing (Cleveland Clinic)

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