What To Expect After Getting The Shot
By: Renee Limpus, MCH Education Manager

Some of the questions and comments I keep hearing are, “Do I even need the 2nd shot because I heard the first shot gives me a huge immunity boost?”, “I won’t get the second shot because I hear horror stories” and “I had a terrible reaction to the first shot- why should I do that again.” These are all very valid questions, and I would like to address each of them.

Do I even need the 2nd shot because I heard the first shot gives me a considerable immunity boost? A report published by WHO (World Health Organization) earlier last month stated the Moderna vaccine’s first dose is offering 92% coverage against COVID-19. I have two thoughts on this. First, CDC is the guideline for our safety, and this includes their interpretation of the many studies that are coming out regarding the vaccine. As the authority on all things COVID they are still recommending that we all receive that 2nd dose of vaccine. Secondly, most people fail to recognize that the 92% that WHO referred to was not complete coverage against the virus, but instead, it relates to serious illness related to COVID-19. As in, you have a 92% chance that you won’t end up in the ICU on a ventilator. You still have a relatively high percentage of getting ill and feeling terrible.

Speaking of feeling terrible – I won’t get the second shot because I hear horror stories. Well, on this point, I think we need to prepare ourselves for feeling pretty bad. I had heard about the chills, aches, and headache, and as a nurse, I thought “piece of cake.” Ha. I found myself developing a significant headache at about hour 6 post-vaccine and began to feel pretty tired at bedtime (about 8 hours post-vaccine). I went to bed about that time and woke up about 3 am feeling like maybe I had been attacked by a wild bull in my sleep. I was able to sleep the night through and woke up about 10 am, thinking I would get up and take a shower. I stood up and quickly sat back down. Yuck! I slept the day away, quite sure that I was either dying or some other severe disease had taken over my body. I finally gave in and took some Tylenol, and that helped. I went to bed that next night and woke up at 3 am again, drenched in sweat (broke my fever). I fell right back asleep and woke up at 7 am better than ever. It was the weirdest thing. NOW- I say that to say I had not prepared myself for feeling that bad. Knowing my husband was getting his 2nd dose the following Saturday morning, I spent the remainder of the week preparing him about his impending doomsday, especially since he is a HUGE baby when it comes to feeling bad. I had him so scared he wanted to cancel, but he did it anyway. He was fine all day Saturday, minus a sore arm. I kept waiting for the shoe to drop, so when we went to bed, I had Tylenol bedside for him, a massive glass of water, and a rag if I needed to cool him down with a fever (I am an excellent nurse J). I woke up at 6 am, surprised he hadn’t woken me up, and gently asked him if he needed anything. He opens his eyes- moaned, and said, “I’m FINE.” Unbelievable. He complained of a minor headache and sore arm, but we spent the next day doing house chores and watching the Super Bowl. Just like COVID-19, we have no idea how our bodies are going to respond. I would say that I am now hearing about 50/50 people feeling awful and people feeling fine.

So about the last comment, I had a terrible reaction to the first shot- why should I do that again? – We have a theory on this one. The idea behind the 2 part series is that we give you a little piece of RNA for your body to recognize and develop an immune response. An initial reaction is caused by the frontline attackers that are essentially spraying down the “bad guys” with a disinfectant to kill it. You also have the EVS crew in the area cleaning up the mess and taking the “specimen” to the lab to review and develop a defense. Lots of activity going on in that area, hence the sore arm. It doesn’t take long for our unique immune system to develop a strategic plan against the new invader. Those defense plans are developed and recorded into a long term memory storage plant. When we throw that same foreign invader into the same area where it was once detected (let’s say- left deltoid), the few front line soldiers left in the place hit it fast and hard. They double down the disinfectant like spray (Cytokines. Sorry- I am a nerd) and call to arms all the long-term memory cells that already have a plan in place. When this occurs, it is our natural immune response. We get a temperature to try to make the atmosphere uncomfortable to the invader. Those muscle aches and tiredness tell us to go to bed and let the strategic defense run its course without our interference. OK- you get the point. So why did the first shot cause this type of reaction to some people? Well- the theory is that they probably already had exposure or infection from the virus. When we inject that same “bug” into their system, their body may recognize it and are prepared with that all out war. But once again, we only know and have studied the 2 part series outcomes, so CDC is still telling us to get the second shot, even if we have a strong reaction to the first- because we JUST DON’T KNOW yet.

Some other thoughts on the vaccine:

  • The science behind the vaccine is to create an immune response, as we talked about above. The recommendation is to not “prepare” for your dose with Tylenol or Motrin before your vaccine because it may blunt or impede the same response that we are trying to induce. There is little research in this area, but it is known that Ibuprofen may hinder the production of antibodies. I waited as long as possible before I took a fever/pain reducer, but every person is different.

  • Even though the vaccine teaches your body to fight against the COVID virus, that doesn’t mean that you won’t carry it around for a day or two if you are exposed to it. Since the transmission is usually by talking, coughing, sneezing, etc., if you are unknowingly walking around with the virus hanging out in your nose/mouth, you could give it to someone who is not vaccinated. So yes, until we develop herd immunity and way more people get the vaccine, we still need to wear masks to protect others.