I Received Both of My COVID-19 Vaccines: What to Expect?

Cameron Maeda 

Honolulu, Hawai‘i–Nearly a year after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak as a global pandemic, Bloomberg has reported that more than 176 million individuals worldwide have received the vaccine to end the outbreak. On January 29, I was fortunate enough to join this statistic and received the first of my two Pfizer/BioNTech doses through my job in healthcare. 

Most vaccine scheduling will be appointment-based to control the number of people within the immunization area at all times. Due to the high demand for the vaccine, the United States population is being immunized in waves. First in line were the healthcare workers who 

were at the highest exposure to COVID-19, followed by residents in long-term-care facilities. It is expected that the vaccine should be made available to the general population by June 2021. 

I’ll admit I was among the skeptics when I first received the invitation to have my vaccine administered. Conspiracy theories have been flooding social media platforms ever since the beginning of the pandemic. You may have heard about the one regarding the microchip trackers or the connection to the Bible and talks about the injection being the mark of the devil. Whether it be through Instagram story reposts on my feed or videos on my TikTok’s ForYou page, my head was being pulled in different directions with each passing day. It wasn’t until I had a sit-down talk with my mother and decided that my grandfather’s health was more important than whatever theories the users on TikTok were trying to instill in my head. 

Upon arriving at the vaccination site, I showed the employees my confirmation email, received a temperature check, and was handed an immunization checklist to complete prior to immunization. The checklist lets the immunizers know of any history of allergies the patient might have to previous vaccinations and establishes their current state of health. Upon completing the checklist, I was sent over to a desk where I provided my insurance card and driver’s license to verify my identity, completing the last registration stage. In total, the registration process took about a quarter-hour. 

To answer the burning question: no, the shot didn’t hurt–not in my case, at least. According to the CDC, vaccination needles are typically an inch long, which is the same as your regular flu shot. The needle barely felt like anything at all–I had to ask my immunizer if the shot had gone through before I realized that the job had already been done. The COVID-19 vaccine doesn’t hurt any more than that of a flu shot, possibly even less than that. Of course, this is subject on which people differ. Two colleagues who chose to remain anonymous shared their experience receiving their vaccines. One colleague who received the Moderna vaccine gave insight into his experience with his first dose. “There was a rash that appeared at the immunization site and slowly retreated

Within a matter of three days. It came back a little over a week later and disappeared again for the last time.” 

Although both the first and second doses are the same injection both chemically and in size, it is important to note that the second dose has been seen as the shot to provide more intense side effects. This is primarily due to the fact that the first dose is simply set up as a training wheels protocol, in that it is teaching the body that the virus is the enemy. When the second dose is given, the body recognizes the injection as a foreign substance and starts to give off an immune response. A colleague who had received the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine reported her own list of side effects. “I was completely unwell for 24 hours–102-degree fever, chills, and an unforgiving headache. After the 24 hours were over, I felt completely fine. All that was left was the pain [at the injection site].” 

The CDC provides a small 3.5×4 inch piece of paper as proof of immunization after the shot has been administered–this is the most important part of the entire process. The COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card is known as “the piece of paper that you might need to get on a plane one day.” Due to its importance, it is recommended that patients refrain from posting images of their COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card on social media or other public platforms. This slip of paper is to be treated with the same importance as a social security card or birth certificate. The health officials working at my vaccination site couldn’t repeat it more: don’t lose it! 

After immunization, it is required that you remain in the designated waiting area for approximately 15 minutes before you are given the green light to leave. The purpose of the waiting period is to check for any severe reactions you may have to the vaccine. Epinephrine injections are kept on-site in the event that someone may need them. I was fortunate enough to not have any reaction to the vaccine other than the typical muscular pain. As reported in the vaccine’s Phase III trials, 91.6% of Moderna patients and 84.1% of Pfizer patients had a reaction to the shot at the injection site, whether it be arm pain, swelling, or redness. 

As vaccines are slowly on track to being made available to the general public, more information regarding immune response to the vaccine is being discovered. In most states, six million vaccine shipments were delayed due to the intense winter storms. Be sure to constantly keep yourself updated with vaccine news within the coming months for a chance to be immunized if you have not yet been already! 

https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/12/what-we-know-about-u-s-covid-19-vaccine-distribution -plan.html 

https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/covid-vaccine-tracker-global-distribution/ https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/admin/downloads/vaccine-administration-needle-length.pdf https://medshadow.org/arm-pain-covid-19-vaccine/https://www.cnbc.com/2021/02/19/winter-storm-has-delayed-shipments-of-6-million-covid-vacci ne-doses-in-the-us-health-officials-say.html