Friday, January 22, 2021

Covid 19 Vaccines: What to Expect Before and After You Get the Vaccine

Every day, more and more people are getting the Covid-19 vaccine, which will hopefully lead us out of this pandemic and back to a more normal life, again.  Along with the number of people who have already had Covid and recovered from it, we could be able to reach herd immunity sometime late this year, if we manage to get the mutations under control.  

I have now had both my first and second dose of the Pfizer vaccine and the only symptoms I experienced were a little tenderness in my arm after each of the vaccinations, and I felt the need to take a nap immediately afterwards. I had no other side effects. One of our daughters who is in her early 50s and also received the vaccine, had the lymph nodes swell up under the arm where she received the Moderna shot. This is now considered a common reaction, particularly in women. One of our son-in-laws developed a rash a few days after receiving the first dose of the Moderna vaccine, and this was also determined by his personal physician to be a normal reaction.  If you have questions about any reactions you experience, you should consult your personal doctor. 

While you are waiting to get your vaccine, or if you have received it recently, you may have questions. Fortunately, the January/February AARP Bulletin and other sources have answered many of these questions, and a summary of the information is provided below.

In addition to the vaccine, what else can I do to reduce my Covid-19 risk?

In addition to being vaccinated, which is the most effective preventative, there are a few other things you can do to reduce your risk of getting Covid or, at least, having a bad case of it.  Here is what they have found to be the most effective:

    * Wear face masks, especially surgical masks or N95 masks

    * Wash hands and/or use hand sanitizer frequently

    * Get an air purifier with a HEPA filter (Ad) 

    * Test yourself using home COVID tests (Ad)

    * Take Vitamin D pills long before you are exposed.  People who regularly take statins and melatonin seem to have a lower risk of death from Covid, too.

My husband and I purchased two WINIX air purifiers (Ad) for our home and we are very happy with them.  Even Dr. Fauci mentioned that he has a couple of air purifiers with HEPA filters in his house, now.  They can be helpful in reducing the level of bacteria and viruses in your home, especially if it is necessary for you to allow repairmen and other strangers to enter.

Should I take NSAIDS or over-the-counter painkillers before or after getting the vaccine?

According to the University of California in Irvine newsletter from UCI Health, taking over-the-counter painkillers like acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil) before receiving any vaccine could reduce its ability to work and blunt your immune response to the vaccine.  The Explore Health website also recommends that you not drink alcohol the night before getting a vaccine, since the vaccine may give you flu-like symptoms, and you do not want a hangover on top of feeling like you have the flu! In fact, it is actually normal to have a reaction to the vaccine.  It means your immune system is mounting a response.  After the vaccination, it is OK to take an over-the-counter medication if you have symptoms which make you uncomfortable, although some of the websites recommended that you wait at least six hours before you do so.  If you currently take Tylenol, Advil or another NSAID or anti-inflammatory for arthritis or a similar condition, stop it a day before getting the vaccine, and start it again the following day. 

On the other hand, if you are prone to having allergic reactions to medications, Dr. Jen Ashton, who is a medical contributor to ABC News, has mentioned that she took an antihistamine before getting her vaccine, and she believes it helped. She also took Motrin a few hours after the vaccine, when she developed a fever.  Discuss you options with your personal physician and follow their advice. 

What side-effects can I expect from the Covid-19 vaccine?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, you could have the following side-effects:

  • Pain at the injection site
  • Swelling in the arm where you got your shot
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Tiredness
  • Headache

Moving your arm frequently for several hours after receiving the vaccine, and putting a cold cloth on it can reduce the pain and swelling at the injection site. Drink plenty of liquids to reduce fever and chills.  If you are really uncomfortable, talk to your doctor about taking Tylenol or Advil a few hours later.  I have heard some experts recommend that people take the day off after getting the vaccine.  In some cases, the second shot has produced more side effects than the first one.

Could I have an allergic reaction?

A very few people who have received the vaccines have had a serious allergic reaction, but that has been limited mostly to people with a history of anaphylaxis, which is a severe allergic reaction. The British government has recommended that people with severe reactions to drugs, food or vaccines should not take the Pfizer vaccine.  Our FDA is still considering what their recommendation should be.

If you are concerned, anaphylaxis usually happens within the first half hour after being exposed to an allergen, so it is suggested that you get your vaccine in your doctor's office or a similar safe facility with medical staff nearby who are prepared to treat anaphylaxis, and wait for an hour before leaving.  If you have serious side-effects after you have already left, call your doctor.  If you have a mild reaction, your doctor may suggest you take an antihistamine.  Remember, the risk to your health from getting Covid-19 is far greater than the risk of getting the vaccine.  

How long after getting the vaccine will I develop immunity to Covid-19?

According to Pfizer, you only have 52% effectiveness 21 days after the first vaccine dose. Israeli researchers have found that the effectiveness of one dose may be even lower, possibly as low as 33%.  The Moderna results are similar, except it takes 28 days to reach 50% effectiveness.

This basically means that if you are exposed to Covid, you have a 50/50 chance, or higher, of still developing a serious form of the disease, and some people have died from Covid even several weeks after receiving the first dose of the vaccine.  However, several weeks after the second dose of the vaccines, you can reach up to 95% effectiveness.  So, if you receive the first dose in mid-February and the second dose in mid-March, it could be mid-April before you have reached peak effectiveness.  You cannot hurry things.  In addition, it is important to remember that even after BOTH vaccinations, there is still a 1 in 20 chance that you could get Covid.  However, even if you do, being vaccinated appears to drastically reduce your risk of being hospitalized or dying from Covid.

After receiving both shots, can I go back to normal?

No.  That is very important to remember. You should still continue to practice social distancing, wear a face mask, and avoid travel.  This is because even after getting the vaccinations, 5% to 10% of people will not be completely protected from Covid-19.  Some people in your circle of friends who have already had Covid, and believe they are safe, could become reinfected.  Other people, because of allergies, medical treatments, or other health issues, will be unable to be vaccinated. Even after you have had both vaccinations, you still have a chance of getting it, especially because the virus is mutating and that is lowered the effectiveness of the vaccine.  Your best defense is to get the vaccinations, and then continue to wear a mask and socially distance until we reach herd immunity as a nation, and infection rates in your community have dropped to a very low number.

Here is the part I considered most surprising from the AARP Bulletin article:

"The vaccine itself doesn't prevent you from contracting the virus; it simply prepares your body to mount a vigorous defense so that, if you do become infected, the resulting illness is far less likely to be life-threatening."

Did you read that carefully?   You can still get Covid-19 and pass it to others, even after getting the vaccine!  It is less likely to kill you, if you've been vaccinated, but it could still kill an unvaccinated person you pass it to.  As a result, we all have to continue to be careful until at least 80% of the people in the country, especially the people we associate with, have had the vaccine.  Then, everyone you are around will be much safer from the serious consequences of getting Covid.

If you are concerned about how Covid-19 became such a serious problem, and how to prevent the next pandemic, you may be interested in reading "COVID-19: The Pandemic That Never Should Have Happened and How to Stop the Next One."  (Ad) It is fascinating. 

Should I get the vaccine even if I have already had Covid?

Yes.  Some people who have had Covid have gotten it a second time and, in some cases, it was much worse the second time. The best way to reduce your risk is to get the vaccine.  You should wait at least 30 days after you have recovered and finished your quarantine period, and then it will be a good idea to get vaccinated. 

How long will immunity from the vaccine last?

We do not know how long it lasts.  We hope it will last a year or two, but we will not know for sure until it stops working for some people.  When that happens, we will have to go through the whole process again, and everyone will need a booster shot.   It is possible that it will last much longer than we expect, much like the polio vaccine, and that would be very good news.

It is possible, according to Dr. Fauci, Bill Gates, and other people who are carefully analyzing the results of the vaccine programs, that we may need to get booster shots annually or every two years.  This is how they expect to deal with the inevitable mutations and keep them under some control. Be prepared to expect to get vaccinated again the future, although you will probably receive the vaccine through your local healthcare provider or in the same way you currently receive your flu shot. 

Hopefully this information helps everyone get the most benefit possible out of the vaccine so we can all move forward and return to normal as soon as possible.

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  1. Very good information. It lines up nicely with my research of information about this as well. We get our vaccine in the AM, so it is helpful.

    1. I hope your experience with the vaccine went well. I wanted my readers to have as much information about the vaccine as is available at this time. Thanks for commenting!

  2. I was finally able to get my first vaccination. My response to it was worse than yours. I actually couldn't do anything for 3 days.
    Does that mean that I won't get the second vaccine? No. I'd much rather be out of commission for a few days than catch COVID.
    Thanks for your article!
    I'm looking forward to the day when we can all see each other again.


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