I was extremely fortunate to receive the initial dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on December 17, the first week it was offered in the United States outside of the clinical trial phases.
My hospital received the doses in the first national shipment and all the health workers in my hospital who showed interest through a survey received the vaccine, among which I was included.
I barely felt the first injection, beyond a very subtle pain in my arm that I had the next day
I also signed up to record my symptoms in the symptom tracking tool launched by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States (CDC). My reports were straightforward; fortunately, as expected, I had no symptoms that impacted my life or activities in any way.
I wondered if I would be as lucky after the second dose, since more people have reported uncomfortable side effects after that injection.
Before I knew how my body would react to the second dose, I prepared myself for the possibility of feeling bad 1 or 2 days later.
If I could have, I would have asked for the day off after the second dose to feel more confident.
However, it was not possible, so I filled the fridge with food before I received the injection and bought the same items as if I had a cold or flu (water, soup, crackers, etc.). I also made sure my pets had enough food and water.
In addition to food and drink, I improvised a “vaccine bag” with other supplies to keep on hand
That little bag included a thermometer to check my temperature and some remedies to calm my fever. To combat the contrast between the fever and chills that some people had reported suffering from, I tucked in some cloths to use as cold compresses. I also tucked a weighted blanket and down comforter near my bed.
I received the vaccine the afternoon of January 7th. Here is my hour by hour reaction
3 pm (Zero hour): I received the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine, no immediate reaction.
9 pm (6 hours later): I felt fine until six hours later, when I started to feel sick (the medical word for that vague feeling when you know something isn’t quite right).
Mild muscle aches soon followed, as well as soreness at the injection site similar to a tetanus shot, meaning slightly worse than a flu shot.
January 8, first day after injection
3 am (12 hours later): I woke up with a fever, chills, and insomnia.
5 am. (14 hours later): There was an improvement in the fever and chills, but, when I woke up, the muscle aches persisted and the headache also appeared, similar to what I would feel when I skipped my morning coffee.
11 a. M. (20 hours later): I still had a headache and the fever and chills returned and persisted throughout the day, along with exhaustion and a general feeling of ‘bah’.
11 p.m. (32 hours later): I still had a headache, fever, and chills when I went to bed at 11 p.m.
January 9, two days after the injection
I woke up sweaty, probably from chills and mild night sweats. I stepped on the scale and saw that I had lost about 6 pounds since I weighed myself the morning of the injection on January 7th. This loss could be due in part to dehydration and, on the other hand, as a side effect of my body battling what was thought to be COVID-19.
3 pm (48 hours later): I felt totally normal.
January 10, three days after the injection
I felt good all day. I exercised in the morning and most of the weight came back when I increased my water intake.
Overall, all my symptoms were mild and a very low price to pay for protection against COVID-19. I believe that temporary discomfort should not be an impediment to receiving the vaccine, and I know that these symptoms are a sign of a robust immune system and that my body is preparing to fight the coronavirus, exactly what it is supposed to do.
It is important that we are prepared for the possibility of these side effects
The Pfizer vaccine has been reviewed by regulatory bodies (the Food and Drug Administration in the United States and the European Medicines Agency in Europe), who have determined that it is completely safe.
Millions of people should be prepared for the potential side effects of licensed COVID-19 vaccines such as fatigue, headache, muscle aches, fever and chills, which are more common with the second dose. For most, these potential effects may be uncomfortable, but they will not pose a threat.
Differences between coronavirus vaccines: Oxford-AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna
According to the latest estimates by Dr. Anthony Fauci, Fernando Simón’s counterpart and visible face of the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, approximately 90% of people need to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity and to be able to resume normal life. It is our civic responsibility to vaccinate ourselves according to the recommended dosage regimen to end the pandemic.
It’s smart to prepare for the possibility that the second dose of the licensed COVID-19 vaccine will be a little harsher than you might imagine. Still, having seen all that SARS-CoV-2 can do to the body, I can say that I would rather spend a night feeling awful on the couch watching Netflix than COVID-19.