MECHANICSVILLE – When I got the first of the series of two shots of the Moderna COVID vaccine, it was pretty much painless save for a sore arm.
Lest readers get their expectations too high, I must warn: The kick from the second of the two shots proved quite a doozy.
My experience was not unusual. What I went through with the Moderna vaccine is similar to the experiences of those receiving the two-dose mRNA vaccine developed by Pfizer-BioNTech.
For the second round, I had to travel to Saluda to the Three Rivers Health District offices. Registration for the second shot was a bit quicker as I had already been through the process. I also had my COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card, which is required for one to get a second dose – the card may also may be vital if one needs proof of vaccination to work or travel later.
As it was with the first dose, I went through a drive-up vaccination setup. One vaccination site volunteer checked to see if I was on the appointment list (a requirement in this instance), another directed me to a parking space. Another brought and retrieved the registration paperwork and yet another gave me the vaccine.
As with the first dose, I had to wait on-site for observation in case I developed a severe allergic reaction.
While there, the volunteers warned me that I might really feel the effects of the second dose the next day. Among the effects I might expect were fever, chills and fatigue. They suggested I start taking acetaminophen that day to possibly head off or minimize the severity of the aftereffects. Since I already take NSAIDs for arthritis, I did not bother with the acetaminophen. It might have been a mistake.
The rest of the day after the second shot, I felt fine. The next morning proved a different story. I woke up with chills and a fever and just wanted to sleep most of the day. By Saturday morning, I was back to (Abby – a nod to Mel Brooks’ “Young Frankenstein”) normal.
The fact that I was hit harder by the second dose should come as no surprise. The first dose, as an analogy, primes the immunological engine – kind of like pouring a bit of gasoline in a carburetor to help a stubborn engine start (something we used to do, and possibly shouldn’t have, back in the “old” days). The second dose gets the immune system fully engaged under its own power (like the way the .307 engine in my old Chevy Malibu would roar when I hit a good straightaway).
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that more people report side effects from the second dose than from the first. The CDC recently released data on side effects of the Pfizer-BioNTech, which has been in use longer than the Moderna vaccine.
According to the CDC data, reported by vaccine recipients via the agency’s V-Safe, 74.8% of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine recipients reported pain at the injection site after the second dose compared with 67.7% after the first. Other differences in responses between the two doses included:
m 50% reporting fatigue after the second dose compared with 28.6% after the first;
m 41.9% reporting headache after the second dose compared with 25.6% after the first;
m 41.6% reporting muscle pain after the second dose compared with 17.2% after the first;
m 26.7% reporting chills after the second dose as compared with 7% after the first;
m 26.7% reporting swelling after the second dose compared with 6.8% after the first;
m 25.2% reporting fever after the second dose compared with 7.4% after the first; and
m 21.2% reporting joint pain after the second dose compared with 7.1% after the first.
Similar patterns have been reported for those receiving the Moderna vaccine.
While anaphylactic reactions can be serious, and a handful of people have reportedly died after getting the COVID vaccine – because of anaphylaxis or for reasons yet to be determined – and some people have medical conditions that should prevent them from getting the shots, the fact is that the vast majority of us are perfectly good candidates for the shot and the majority of us who have received the vaccine so far have not had any serious aftermath.
For me, the brief misery after the second dose of the vaccine is better than the risk of serious illness or death from the disease itself.
This brings up another relevant experience I have had. A couple of years ago I got the two-dose Shingrix vaccine against shingles. I was warned it had quite a kick, and the Shingrix vaccine most definitely did. I felt like a freezing, soaking, whipped dog for a day or two after each shot.
But … I also have had shingles. I never, never, never – with maybe a few other nevers thrown in for good measure – want to have shingles again. The misery I may have felt from the vaccination was nothing in comparison to the misery caused by the disease itself.
Dave Lawrence, sports editor of The Mechanicsville Local and Ashland-Hanover Local, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.