Stride Community Health was busy Friday afternoon providing second doses to people who received vaccines at JeffCo Stadium for people older than 70 on Jan. 8.
“I’m sure it’s better than COVID, that’s the way I look at it,” said Katherine Frisk as she got her second shot. Reports of people having reactions to the second dose are spreading as more second doses are being administered.
Liz Wilkinson, a 35 year old who works for Stride, knows it well.
“Within a couple hours I started to feel some headache and some nausea, but then within six or seven (hours) I experienced pretty severe flu symptoms; nausea, vomiting, headache.” She kept telling herself there was a benefit. “That was like the good thing about it. Like no one likes to have the flu, but I just kept reminding myself, I know it worked now.”
“You got something real, and it wasn’t the placebo,” echoed Dr. Michelle Barron, an infectious disease specialist at UCHealth Hospital. “I kind of scan our list every day to see what gets reported. Fatigue, headache, the sore arm of course. Some people including myself had muscle aches and body aches, but they lasted maybe six hours.”
Sometimes symptoms last longer. Nurse Sarah Hudson didn’t feel too swell for a day. Her temperature rose.
“Like 101, 102 (degrees) for about 24 hours. Aches and chills.”
Hudson says it felt like a really bad cold.
“And then just drink plenty of fluids and get plenty of rest. That’s what I did,” she said.
Wilkinson’s problems stretched into the next day as well, but they did go away like clockwork.
“It went away in nearly exactly 24 hours from when I got the vaccine,” she said.
Barron says people who feel poorly can take ibuprofen or acetaminophen if that’s okay with your doctor.
The discussion about reactions to the COVID-19 vaccines is widespread because it’s new.
“There’s obviously some element of fear, but there’s also just the unknown that everybody wants to know,” said Barron. She noted many people also have a tough time with other vaccines.
“I was talking to a patient and actually the shingles vaccine is the one that seems to kick all of us in terms of pain and symptoms.”
Complaints about other vaccines are routine, she says.
“Anybody that’s gotten a tetanus will tell you they got a sore arm and feel maybe a little tired afterwards. Most people aren’t going to call their friends up and say, ‘I got my tetanus shot and it hurt.’ You’d be like ‘Uh huh. Whatever, good for you.’”
Both the Moderna and the Pfizer vaccines have brought on the symptoms.
“They both seem to overlap quite a bit. Again sore arms very common. Fever chills, less common, but associated with both. Moderna at least in the clinical trials had a little bit more headache.”
Younger people, who tend to have more vigorous immune systems have seemed to show a greater degree of reaction, but the percentage is not large says Barron. The degree of reaction is not an indication of how effective it might be.
“There’s not necessarily a correlation between side effects and how well you respond. It may be that your body is just more sensitive to things going into it and so it’ll react and say, ‘Hmm, I don’t like this so much.’”
The difficulty is certainly worth the benefit Barron says.
“Couple hours of feeling crummy versus not getting COVID, you know. It’s easy to sort of look at that risk benefit issue and know what the benefit is,” Barron said.
Hudson echoes that.
“The end result is you’re going to be vaccinated against COVID and we can someday get back to normalcy.”
Wilkinson was mostly over it in a day and completely over it in 48 hours.
“If you feel sick after getting the vaccine then just know that’s because it’s working.”