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  • My COVID-19 Vaccine Experience

  • On Tuesday, December 29, 2020, I received the first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. This truly is a scientific breakthrough; I trust in the vaccine and its ability to prevent infection. It is natural to fear the unknown, but I hope my experiences and the resources listed will encourage more people to consider getting the vaccine.

    What Is COVID-19?

    COVID-19 stands for "coronavirus disease 2019," and it is caused by a virus called SARS-CoV-2. Some of the signs include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing (the infection affects the lungs, which results in pneumonia).

    What Are Vaccines?

    In just a few short words, vaccines are a way to prevent serious infections. When a virus enters your body, it makes copies of itself and attacks, which then makes you sick. Your immune system fights the virus and makes proteins, called antibodies, to help out.

    Vaccines are important because the number of people who die from infections has gone down significantly. Some examples include smallpox, tetanus, and measles. In fact, smallpox has been completely eradicated, saving 5 million lives annually.

    Experts believe the COVID-19 pandemic would be significantly controlled by the vaccine.

    How Does the COVID-19 Vaccine Work?

    There are multiple vaccines, and they work in slightly different ways. The one that I received is an mRNA vaccine. Essentially, mRNA is genetic material from the virus that is put in the vaccine to give the body instructions. Specifically, it instructs our body to make a piece of protein normally found on the virus. As a result, the immune system makes antibodies to attack the virus in the future.

    Note: None of the COVID-19 vaccines have the live virus, so it cannot give you the infection.

    My Experience

    Here are updates of how I have been feeling after receiving the vaccine.

    First Dose

    Day of the Vaccine (12/29/2020)

    2:30 pm: I just got the shot in my upper left arm, and I'm feeling excited about the vaccine! The nurses monitored everyone 15-30 minutes after receiving the shot.

    3:30 pm: I expected to feel some soreness in my arm by now, but I feel pretty normal.

    4:30 pm: My arm is starting to feel a little "heavier," but I can still go about my day-to-day activities.

    5:30 pm: My arm still just feels heavy, but I am noticing a little fatigue. My current temperature is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, which is normal.

    6:30 pm: I am definitely a lot more tired than normal! All good otherwise.

    7:30 pm: I had a drink with a small dose of caffeine to keep me going, so that has helped!

    8:30 pm: I am feeling the same as an hour ago, but I know I will be going to bed early tonight! The fatigue has hit me hard the past few hours.

    Day After the Vaccine (12/30/2020)

    9:00 am: I am experiencing soreness in the site of injection. My current temperature is 99.2 degrees Fahrenheit, which is still within the normal range for adults.

    10:00 am: I have been moving my left arm to relieve some stiffness. The soreness is still relatively mild and does not warrant painkillers.

    11:00 am: The stiffness in my arm has gone down, but it is tender at the site of injection.

    12:00 pm: My current temperature is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, which is my usual. Some people do experience a low-grade fever at this point, but I have not.

    1:00 pm: My arm feels back to normal except where I received the shot. That area is a little sore, but better than earlier this morning.

    2:00 pm: Currently, I am not feeling any symptoms. After a good night's rest, I have not experienced any fatigue so far today.

    3:00 pm: It has officially been 24 hours since I received the vaccine. Since I feel back to normal, my next check-in will be later this evening.

    10:00 pm: I am feeling completely back to normal. My temperature is 98.8 degrees Fahrenheit and the soreness in my arm is gone.

    Second Dose

    Day of the Vaccine (01/19/2021)

    7:00 am: I just received the shot in my upper left arm and I am feeling good! Once again, the nurses monitored everyone for 15-30 minutes after getting the vaccine.

    8:00 am: I am noticing soreness in my arm almost immediately this time around.

    9:00 am: I felt more fatigued than usual, so I took a short nap.

    10:00 am: Still napping 🙂

    11:00 am: I felt better after taking a nap. However, around 11:30 am I had a mild headache.

    12:00 pm: My headache is much worse, and I have a temperature of 99.8 degrees Fahrenheit. I do not feel feverish, but definitely warm to the touch. My left arm is also sore at the site of injection.

    1:00 pm: I still have a headache, but it is milder than before. My temperature has gone down to 98.4 degrees Fahrenheit and I feel like my normal self.

    2:00 pm: My headache is dull, but persistent. My arm is much more stiff compared to 12:00 pm.

    3:00 pm: I have been trying to move my arm around more, so it is less sore. I still have a headache, and it is at about the same intensity as 2:00 pm.

    4:00 pm: My temperature is still at 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. The soreness in my arm has gone down quite a bit, but my head is throbbing.

    5:00 pm: The headache still has not gone away, but it is tolerable. I can still do my day-to-day activities without feeling bogged down.

    Evening: I still have a dull headache, but I am feeling well otherwise.

    Day After the Vaccine

    Morning: I woke up with a pounding headache. My temperature is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit and I do not have any other side effects.

    Afternoon: I have a very mild headache (almost gone!), and I decided to take Tylenol for complete relief.

    Evening: My headache is gone and I am feeling back to normal!

    Why Should I Get the COVID-19 Vaccine?

    Getting vaccinated decreases your chances of getting sick. In case you do get COVID-19, the vaccine will prevent you from getting seriously ill.

    This virus spreads easily, so getting the vaccine will likely help protect other people (called "herd immunity"), especially those who are at a higher risk of getting very sick or dying.

    Only when a lot of people have been vaccinated will the virus stop spreading so fast and far. Vaccines only work if enough people get it!

    Even though people may be skeptical because the vaccine was developed very quickly, it is safe to take. All vaccines have to go through the same regulated process to ensure safety. Experts from all around the world have come together to come up with an effective solution, so now it is up to all of us to put an end to this pandemic.

    * Note: All of the material in this article, besides my own experiences, was based on information from the UpToDate website, a scientifically backed resource for medical professionals.

    Resources

    Sometimes, it can be hard to tell what articles are true and what are not. I've compiled several articles and Twitter accounts below to guide you to reliable information.

    Infographic

    This infographic is a great diagram of what is in the vaccine and why. It was created by Unbiased Science Podcast.

    Articles

    Coronavirus Disease 2019 (CDC)

    COVID-19 Vaccination (CDC)

    Coronavirus Disease (WHO)

    COVID-19 Vaccines (WHO)

    COVID-19 Vaccine Myths Debunked (Mayo Clinic)

    Twitter Accounts to Follow

    Natalie E. Dean, PhD

    Atul Gawande

    Leana Wen, MD

    Gabriel Bosslet

    Amesh Adalja

    Florian Krammer

    Professor Akiko Iwasaki