Experts: what to expect after your second COVID-19 vaccine
Local experts say the second dose is vital, even though some people could experience temporary flu-life symptoms after receiving it.
LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – When it comes to the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, both companies – Pfizer and Moderna – are garnering a reputation for some recipients to have flu-like symptoms hours after the shot.
Two local experts tell Channel 8 what to expect when it comes to be your turn for your second shot, based on their experience and knowledge.
“I was feeling pretty rough,” says Dr. RoseAnn Schwaninger, a hospitalist at Bryan Health.
Schwaninger says she received her second dose on a Monday morning. Close to 12 hours later, Tuesday morning, she woke up with symptoms that looked and felt like the flu.
“I was shaky, and had a low-grade temp, I had body aches, some back pain, and some lymphadenopathy, that’s swollen lymph nodes, in my right armpit and my groin.”
Luckily, she says, they didn’t last long.
“So all of those symptoms lasted through the morning really, but by about noon I felt better to the point that I could move about. The aches were better and the fever had gone but the lymphadenopathy lasted for about three days. It wasn’t terribly large but it was manageable,” Schwaninger says.
Dr. Cory Shield, a hospitalist with CHI Health St. Elizabeth says he too had symptoms close to 12 hours after his second shot, though less severe.
“I was like ‘gosh I’m really tired, I’m having a hard time focusing,’ and then I realized it was the day after the shot,” Shield says. “Then that progressed to some chills, where I felt like I needed to put on my jacket. I was kind of complaining to my coworkers who were poking fun because they knew it was because of the vaccine, and they told me to take Tylenol, and I took some Tylenol and about an hour later the symptoms were gone.”
The second dose of the COVID–19 vaccine is what solidifies your immunity to the virus, but in Nebraska, officials say 6,000 people haven’t returned for it after getting their first shot.
Although it’s unclear why many haven’t returned, fear of an immune reaction could be a potential factor.
Despite the temporary discomfort afterward, Schwaninger and Shield say it’s every bit worth it to be fully protected.
“They haven’t been able to really interpret why it occurs in some people but not other people,” Dr. Schwaninger says. “The best explanation is just that your body is trying to use that vaccine and trying to produce the antibodies so that you can be protected from the virus if you were to be exposed in the future, it’s basically your immune response show that it’s working for you. You’re not getting COVID by getting this vaccine but your immune system is responding to it appropriately,” she says.
Dr. Shield says having a reaction is not bad or abnormal – he suspects it could be good.
“It’s almost a good sensation that you’re feeling achy, your muscle hurts, cause that means the vaccine’s working, your body’s responding to it and if your body’s responding to it, that means you’re going to get an immune response which is very important,” he says.
“It seems like everybody I’ve talked to has a sore arm about six hours later that can last two or three days, and then fever chills, it kinda feels like the flu, but you can feel comfort in knowing its not the flu, you’re not contagious, it will go away and when it does you’ll be back to feeling 100%.”
Experts say the first dose of the vaccine is about 50% to 70% effective, but immunity only lasts a few weeks to a month or two.
Dr. Shield and Dr. Schwaninger say the second dose brings efficacy up to 95%, and immunity could last months to years.
When you get your first dose, your body experiences a primary immune response, they say. By not getting the second dose in the 21 to 28-day time frame, your body may not go through the next level of the immune response, which grants immunity for a much longer time frame. If you wait too long, you may just repeat the primary immune response again.
The two stress the importance of returning for that second COVID-19 vaccination dose, saying it’s a step to ending this pandemic.
And while you can expect to at least have a sore arm after your shots, you can also expect pride and relief.
“Get it for yourself, get it for all your loved ones and get it for your family members around you so that we can get over this virus,” Dr. Schwaninger says.
“Getting the second shot is giving a gift to not only yourself and your family but your grandparents, their friends, and families,” Dr. Shield says. “So you should have some pride in getting the vaccine, you’re doing yourself and the people around you some good.”