PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – Lined up for your second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech but have heard stories about stronger side effects than the first and you are bracing for the next shot?
Greg Poland, M.D., an infectious disease expert at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and director of Mayo’s vaccine research group, told AARP.org that he had only mild symptoms after his first dose. Yet, he said the second one left him shaking with chills and a temperature of 101.
“I took one Tylenol and went to bed and woke up the next morning 90 percent improved, and by midday I was back to normal,” Poland told the magazine. “This is not an indication of something going wrong; it is an indication of a vigorous immune response.”
Some people have expressed fear that they may be sick with COVID-19 like symptoms because they’ve been injected with the virus. Not true. You can’t get COVID-19 from being vaccinated since there is no live virus in the vaccine. Traditional vaccines, like those for measles and flu, insert a weakened or inactivated germ into the body to trigger an immune response. Not so with the latest mRNA vaccines.
So how likely are you to have some after effects from the second dose?
In Pfizer’s clinical trial, for instance, 31 percent of participants ages 18 to 55 reported a fever after the second dose, compared to only 8 percent after the first one. Fatigue, chills, headache and muscle/joint pain were also more common after the second injection for both vaccines.
Maybe the older the better. Among those age 55 and up in the Pfizer trial, 22 percent experienced fever after the second dose, and 3 percent had a temperature after the first dose.
On Thursday, Pfizer released an updated analysis of its COVID-19 study, which found that no serious safety concerns were observed in trial participants up to six months after the second dose. Side effects were generally consistent with previously reported results.
Other findings after Pfizer’s six-month study include:
- The vaccine was 100% effective in preventing severe disease as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and 95.3% effective in preventing severe disease as defined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
- It was 100% effective in preventing COVID-19 cases in South Africa, where the B.1.351 lineage is prevalent.
- Vaccine safety was now evaluated in more than 44,000 participants 16 years of age and older, with more than 12,000 vaccinated participants having at least six months follow-up after their second dose.
So what can you do to make things a little simpler the second time around? Avoid stress and get a good night’s sleep.
Medical experts also advise that although you may be tempted to take a pain reliever before your shot; it’s not a good idea. According to the Centers for Disease Control, pain relievers taken preemptively ahead of a shot could hamper the effectiveness of the vaccine.
However, you can take take acetaminophen (Tylenol) or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug like Advil or Motrin after your vaccine to treat side effects such as pain, fever, chills or headache. Some people are swearing, too, by drinking Gatorade or a Powerade type drink to lessen the side effects.
And above all, don’t skip the second dose if you’ve received a vaccine that requires two shots. The first dose primes the immune system while the second dose revs up the immune response and production of antibodies. Your immune system needs the booster to produce a robust enough level of antibodies that if you’re exposed to a virus, your body can effectively fight it.
It is also important to make sure that your second dose is from the same manufacturer as your first. The CDC says don’t get a different second dose because the vaccination site is closer or for some other reason. The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are not interchangeable.
Remember, it takes two weeks after you second dose for your body to build the antibodies required to keep the virus at bay.
Even after those two weeks, the CDC still recommends wearing a mask and keeping a distance because there is still a slight chance you can get COVID-19.