First of all, I am incredibly grateful and lucky to have received the Pfizer vaccine. I’m also incredibly fortunate that the company I work for had the resources, knowledge, and structure to implement a successful vaccination plan for its employees.
For those of us who have received the vaccine, most are in direct contact with COVID+ patients. Others are exposed on a daily basis to the community at large due to teaching, essential work, etc. An interesting phenomenon? Feeling guilty about getting the vaccine. I’ll admit that at times, I wonder how I got so lucky, especially since I don’t work in the ICU or ER. However, treating a few patients last week who were COVID+, I am relieved that I have more than just my PPE to defend myself. I am now fully vaccinated. If you’re lucky enough to be offered it, don’t waste the opportunity!
It’s been well documented in previous posts my decision making process in getting the vaccine at all, and then how the second round went. I updated the second post to add that I did have a much stronger reaction the second go-round. This was to be expected and, in fact, a welcome sign that my body had an appropriate, albeit unpleasant, response. My story is not unlike that of my colleagues.
So, what were the issues? As follows, after the second dose, most people reported:
- Arm soreness that appeared more quickly. For the first dose, it was about 12-18 hours after, lasting about a day. The second dose, this soreness appeared within hours, and seemed to last longer overall.
- Chills. Most of my colleagues reported this issue about 12 or so hours after the first dose. This only lasted a few hours. This sensation may or may not have been accompanied by a fever. My highest recorded temperature with chills was 98.8, but I had a couple of colleagues who spiked fevers over 100 degrees.
- Brain fog. Again, a fairly universal complaint. Arising a few hours after the injection, and lasting about a day. This was most apparent while performing detailed work like documentation.
- Temperature regulation issues. Hot flashes were common. For some of my colleagues, it was the same day; others, like me, had this the next day.
- Headache. Some of my colleagues reported a headache that responded well to ibuprofen. I actually started day two after with a mild headache and took a dose of ibuprofen myself.
- For those who had Covid recently, their reactions to both doses were anecdotally worse than those who likely don’t have antibodies to the virus.
For me, for most of day 2 after my second dose, I felt amazing. No pain. No fatigue. Great mood. I actually went out after work and ran my fastest 5k in months. I was not the only one of my colleagues to experience this sensation. I honestly wish this gift to all who get the vaccine!
I came across this article about why some people with Covid-19 don’t have symptoms, and it was fascinating. It has to do with the spike protein of the virus binding to pain receptors, essentially nullifying any sensation of pain. This is a very sophisticated virus. It still doesn’t answer the question about why some of those infected have no symptoms, and others have severe effects. But since the vaccine utilizes the spike of the virus as its tool for stimulating the body’s immune response, was this the reason why I felt so amazing? Had my white blood cells working to recognize the spike also pass the binding information to my pain receptors? Or was it the early morning dose of Advil to stave off a potential headache? Who knows. Any effects from the ibuprofen would have certainly worn off by the time I ran that afternoon, though!
The most important thing to understand is that everyone I know who has received both rounds of the vaccine have had a full recovery from the immune response. And, well, yay for 95% immunity! I feel very lucky, indeed.
In Virginia, we have moved into phase 2 of vaccine administration: group 1b. I’m so excited to see pictures of my friends who are teachers and non-hospital based healthcare providers with their CDC cards! Don’t know where you fall in line with receiving the vaccine? You can visit the Virginia Department of Health website or for that of your state for more information. The Good Rx website also has a page with multiple links to resources, including national pharmacies who are ready and waiting to administer the vaccine when it becomes available to the general public.
As far as the rollout is concerned, there are already problems. It’s been slow, and seemingly chaotic. According to usafacts.org, only 16.2 million Americans have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and only 2.8 million have completed the series. That’s less than 1% of the nation who are fully vaccinated. There are many who have already missed their second dose. There are already reports of shortages of the vaccine.
And another hurdle? The shortage of skilled clinicians who are available to administer the vaccine. I had this conversation with a fellow runner who has been volunteering for the State of Virginia’s Medical Reserve Corps testing, and now vaccination clinics. I now have 2 friends who are a part of this effort! She says it’s been really challenging to find nurses and pharmacists who are not working elsewhere and are available to assist with these clinics. So, the plea by President Biden for retired medical professionals qualified to give injections to help is warranted.
Speaking of President Biden, I’m encouraged by new federal leadership taking over, hopefully forming a more organized rollout of the vaccine than we’ve had thus far. We need to give the new team, including a new CDC director, time to get their acts together, as the transition was not smooth at all. In fact, it was well into January before they were allowed access to vaccination data. I’m happy to see Dr. Fauci in his element and able to speak freely about science. I’ve even seen posts rolling out from the US Department of Health and Human Services providing science-based information regarding COVID-19 on social media. Amazing. Science is real. Public health education actually works. We just have to provide it.
For those of us who are generally following the rules, wearing masks out in public, avoiding large social gatherings outside of our quarantine circle, it’s enormously frustrating to see others who deny science and don’t do their part to control the spread. I have been guilty of losing my patience in the grocery store when I see maskless shoppers. This phenomenon has been dubbed “panger.” And trying to explain the benefit of wearing masks even to some of my patients who question the practice is often like talking to a brick wall.
Even though the vaccine is rolling out, we still must follow public health measures to control the spread. We still don’t know if those who are vaccinated can still carry the virus. And based on the numbers, we have a long way to go before we reach herd immunity. We also don’t know how the emergence of new strains will affect the efficacy of the vaccine, although scientists are optimistic for now. We will have to wait and see.
If you’d asked me 5 years ago if I would expect to be a part of the biggest epidemiological experiment in history, I would have said no. Yet here we are. There are still evolving answers to how much, how long, and what type of protection the vaccine affords us. I still feel better having it, though. If you are waiting for yours, I hope you gain access soon.
Have you received both doses of the Covid vaccine? If so, what was your experience, and which one did you receive? I’d love to hear about it! As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.