Post by Rosemary Alpert, contributing author.
Across the country, vaccination distribution is ramping up. Each week, Skagit Public Health has been working diligently to provide updated, reliable information and notice on vaccine availability. Together, we have experienced an unbelievable year of unknowns, questions and challenges. Each of us, hopefully, doing the best we can and getting the most updated accurate information.
Since June, I’ve had a firsthand viewpoint on the pandemic, registering thousands of community members to get tested for COVID-19, and now as a part of the vaccination team. Last week, I had the privilege to receive my second Moderna vaccination. Prior to receiving my first vaccination, I had heard all kinds of rumors, including what I read scrolling through social media platforms. I understand how challenging it can be to keep up with information pertaining to the vaccines. And most importantly, making sure to get information from reliable sources.
My vaccination experience
Engaging with the community has reminded me how unique we all are. Our responses and reactions to COVID-19 and the vaccination are also individual. I would like to share my experience. Because of this work at the testing site, in early January, I was able to receive my first vaccination. My reactions to the first shot were a sore arm and tired the day after receiving the vaccine. I rested and was grateful.
Prior to receiving my second shot, I heard the possibility of a stronger reaction. Since the data is still being gathered, I had no idea how my body would respond. Some people that I talked with post second shot had little reactions to full blown flu-like symptoms. Within 24 hours of receiving the second vaccination, I experienced a whopper headache, chills, body aches, fever and extreme exhaustion. As uncomfortable as I felt, I knew my body was responding to the vaccine. I personally waited 24 hours before I took a Tylenol for the headache and fever. I rested, kept hydrated and the fever passed.
Within a few days, I felt reinvigorated and sincerely appreciated the opportunity to receive the vaccine.
While resting, I thought about all the lives touched by this virus. Tears fell for the 500,000 people who have died, along with thoughts for their family and friends. Also, grateful for the incredible medical teams of nurses and doctors across the country caring for the patients and administering vaccinations. This reinforced how important it is to be informed with accurate information.
Upon returning to work, I spoke with my most reliable sources and true “Rock Stars,” the lead nurses at the testing/vaccination site. I shared my body’s response and they said, “That’s great! You have a strong immune system!” I felt much better hearing their words.
Over these many months, the nurses, in addition to the Skagit County Public Health website, have kept me informed. I asked the nurses about frequently asked questions they hear and any suggestions they have pertaining to the vaccinations. Here are their responses.
Can I get COVID-19 from the vaccine?
NO. The vaccine contains a “blueprint” for a specific type of protein so your immune system can recognize that protein if you become exposed to the virus. The vaccine does not contain the actual virus.
Can I take a pain reliever for any symptoms after receiving the vaccine?
Yes, you can. Research says that people can take an anti-inflammatory and it doesn’t affect the efficacy of the vaccine.
Which arm should I get the vaccine?
It doesn’t matter.
The nurses also provided the following suggestions:
- Please eat before you come to get your vaccination.
- Don’t be afraid of reactions; it’s your body responding.
- Be aware of physical and emotional responses. Some people are overwhelmed with relief, gratitude and hope. This can be a tender time.
- Please keep wearing your masks and social distancing, even after receiving your second vaccination.
- Get your information from reliable sources, not social media. The CDC is always a great place to start, and the WA Department of Health has great information pertinent to our state specifically.
- Reach out to assist community members who may not have access to computers.
Common Side Effects
Each of us responds differently to vaccinations, and this is normal. The side effects that I experienced post-vaccine—though uncomfortable—all fell within the normal range.
In large clinical trials, most side effects have been minor. When side effects occur, they typically last just a few days. A side effect or reaction isn’t necessarily all bad, by the way; it may indicate that the body is building protection against the virus.
Common side effects may include:
- Pain at the site of the injection
- Painful, swollen lymph nodes in the arm where the vaccine was injected
- Muscle or joint aches
- Nausea and vomiting
- Fever or chills
Severe Side Effects
Rarely, a potentially life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis may occur, most often in people known to have had severe vaccine reactions in the past. Signs of anaphylaxis include:
- Trouble breathing
- Swelling of the face and throat
- Low blood pressure.
Severe side effects usually occur soon after vaccination and can be treated with epinephrine (like an EpiPen). That’s why people are observed for at least 15 minutes after receiving the vaccine with epinephrine at the ready. If you experience any severe reactions post vaccination, please call your doctor or go to emergency department immediately.
V-Safe After Vaccination Health Checker
People can download the V-safe smartphone-based tool that uses text messaging and web surveys to provide personalized health check-ins after you receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Through V-safe, you can quickly tell CDC if you have any side effects after getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Depending on your answers, someone from CDC may call to check on you and get more information. For more information, visit: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/safety/vsafe.html.
As a community, we are moving forward. Please keep informed and share reliable sources with your family, friends and neighbors. March is here, spring is approaching, and hope is refreshingly leading the way forward. Stay Healthy!
For more information about the Fairgrounds Vaccine Clinic, call the Skagit County Public Health COVID Vaccine Hotline at 360-416-1500 or visit www.skagitcounty.net/covidvaccine.