On Wednesday, I received the second dose of the coronavirus vaccine.
It’s a day that I've been anticipating and dreading. Anticipating because of the sense of relief I’d feel afterward, the sense that I'd be one step closer to returning to normal. Dreading because of the possible side effects people have reported experiencing, the side effects that I am currently feeling. Fever, chills, headaches, body aches, fatigue. You name it. I either felt it last night or am feeling it right now. And it sucks. It really does. And with vaccine eligibility open to folks 16 and older, I know a lot of other people will be getting the first or even their second vaccine dose soon, and that many of those people might be anxious about the imminent potential side effects.
So for this week on Footnotes, we spoke with Dawn Nolt. She’s a professor of pediatrics at Oregon Health and Science University, with a special focus on infectious diseases. I spoke with her yesterday—just after my second dose appointment—about the importance of taking both COVID vaccine doses, second dose possible side effects, and why feeling these side effects is actually a good thing.
Coronavirus Vaccine Second Dose Potential Side Effects
Hello and welcome to another episode of Footnotes, my name is Gabriel Granillo ,and I'm the digital editor at Portland monthly. So, yesterday was a very exciting day for me and my partner Kelcie.
[sounds from OHSU Hillsboro vaccination site]
Yesterday we received a second dose of our Coronavirus vaccines.
It's a day that we've been anticipating and dreading anticipating because of the sense of relief we'd feel afterward, the sense that we'd be one step closer to returning to normal. Dreading because of the reported side effects people have been experiencing the side effects that I am currently feeling—fever, chills, headaches, body aches fatigue—you name it, I either felt it last night or I'm feeling it right now. And it sucks. It really does. And with vaccine eligibility opening up to folks 16 and older. I know a lot of other people will be getting their first or even their second vaccine doses soon, and that many of those people, like I, might be anxious, of the evidence side effects.
So for this week on Footnotes we spoke with Dawn Nolt. She's a professor of pediatrics at Oregon Health & Science University, with a special focus on infectious diseases. I spoke with her yesterday—just after my second dose of appointment—about the importance of taking both COVID vaccine doses, second dose side effects, and why feeling the side effects is actually a good thing.
I've personally had been reading stories about people who have been skipping on their second dose people who've gotten the first dose of the vaccine, and have opted out of getting a second Coronavirus dose. How important is it that we get both doses of the coronavirus vaccine? Does it truly make a difference from just getting one for one versus getting both of them?
So, the mRNA vaccines were studied as two dose vaccines. They were never meant to be one and done. So we know that there is some protection after the first dose, but that protection is not long lasting. So to get optimal protection you should have the second dose, and that will make it even stronger and more fast after you get COVID-19, if you did, and the protection less months longer.
A concept in immunology, in terms of how well an immune response works, is really to have the first dose be the first exposure, or what's called the prime. Usually, a second dose is regarded as the boost. So the mRNA vaccines were designed with that immunology concept— that the first dose provides the first exposure. It can result in a decent immune response, but the second dose, which is the boost, that's really the one that's going to cinch the deal in providing the best immune response.
Let's move on to a little bit of the symptoms that people are experiencing. What are some of the more common symptoms that people have reported to have been experiencing after their first or their second dose?
I want people to view side effects in a[n] optimal light, that this is a way for the body to provide protection. And so, after the first or second dose you can have symptoms that can be sort of characterized in two ways: Local side effects into your arm, such as the redness and swelling and pain, or the overall body side effects, such as the fatigue and the headaches and the fever. Some people feel a little nauseated. And those side effects can come on, or they may not. But if they do, they'll go away in about two to three days.
It's interesting that you talk about like you want to you want to make people see the side effects in an optimal light. I guess helped me break that down, you know, for people who don't quite understand that concept that like ‘no actually getting these side effects are good.’ What exactly is happening to our bodies? What are our bodies doing when we start to feel these side effects?
It’s interesting to realize that there's a lot of crossover between your immune response and your inflammatory response. Those two systems share a lot of cells and a lot of proteins. And so if the vaccine is coming in and your body feels that that is a foreign agent, which it is, it's going to recruit cells and proteins, and you may have some side effects, but knowing that your protection is being built. But it's a combination of all these cells and proteins that can cause both a good immune response, but also may cause you some side effects.
Are there any factors that determine what sort of demographic or who gets these side effects, or why certain people experience these side effects and why some people don't necessarily have these side effects?
So our experience from the clinical trials that studied these vaccines, and also our real world experience is showing that there are certain parts of the population that could have side effects or feel them stronger. So those who are younger, so under 55 years of age. That's maybe, mainly the big, big component.
Everyone's immune system on an individual level is different, so you may have a little bit of differences based on, we talked about, age, gender, the type of vaccine that you get, whether or not it's from the manufacturer of Pfizer or Moderna, and other conditions that you may have that could influence your immune system.
If you don't experience side effects, please don't take it as your immune system isn't working against the vaccine. There are a lot of factors as to why you may or may not get side effects, but be assured that if you get your two doses of your mRNA vaccine, you will be immune two weeks after your last dose, and that immunity will last many, many months.
As I mentioned earlier, there have been some recent articles that have been coming out that are suggestive of the fact that people are skipping out on their second vaccine for reasons, either they're afraid of the potential side effects, or they feel as though the one shot gives them enough protection and they don't need to get another vaccine.
I guess from your standpoint, as a health expert, what are some of the things you want people to know about the second dose and receiving one, and what sort of messaging we should be relaying to the public in an effort to sort of get fam on board with getting a second dose.
So from a effectiveness standpoint, the second dose is very important to make sure that you have the optimal immune protection and it last for the months and hopefully years that they could. From a safety standpoint, it's hard to predict the side effects you might experience. What you experienced after your first dose may not predict what you will experience after your second dose.
And I think in the media we have given a lot of attention to side effects after the second dose that I do think it's making people more cautious, but I want to reassure people that these symptoms are a sign that your body is providing protection, and that these symptoms will go away in two to three days, and if you need to you can always take something like Tylenol or Motrin to alleviate those symptoms.
I think as more and more of the population is vaccinated, we're seeing that we're able to return to some activities of daily living. And the one thing that I have looked forward to is that after vaccination and as more people around you get vaccinated, I can go outside and take my mask off. I'm having an increasing sense of relief that as we get vaccinated, I will be able to see people's faces more.
Yes, I have a similar experience. I try to run an exercise outside as much as I can and, and yes it would be such a relief to run without my mask hanging over my chin.
You can breathe easier from so many aspects. You can breathe easier because you have the mask off. You breathe easier because maybe the pandemic is slowly coming to an end. Lots of good things.
[end interview – outro]
That was Dawn Nolt, a professor of pediatrics at OHSU. To read more of our coronavirus coverage and to listen to more episodes of Footnotes, visit us at pdxmonthly.com
A final note before I go, we're currently gathering personal stories from fully vaccinated folks on the things they've been able to do now. Have you been able to have your parents or your grandparents? Finally have those friends over for dinner? Or maybe you saw an actual movie in an actual cinema? We want to hear from you, call us at 971-200-7015, and tell us your story. Your voice may be heard on our podcast.
Thank you so much for listening to this week's episode of footnotes. We'll see you next week.