More COVID-19 Vaccine Questions
Our Delray Beach primary care doctors continue to receive COVID-19 vaccine questions, so we want to bring you up to date on what we know.
Q: I’m concerned about the side effects of the vaccine. What can I expect?
A: Not everyone will experience aftereffects or side effects from the vaccine. Fewer than half experience some unpleasant symptoms. These symptoms possibly include injection-site pain, fatigue, fever, nausea, headache, muscle or joint pain, or chills. Others report no side effects at all.
A U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) analysis found that for both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, the side effects were more common and more intense after the second dose. Those who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine tended to experience fewer side effects, but some had fatigue, headaches, and/or pain at the injection site.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains that such side effects are normal signs that your body is building protection against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The side effects should go away in a few days.
Q: Is there any way to prevent side effects?
A: As for preventing such effects, the CDC recommends you not take any over-the-counter (OTC) medications before receiving the injection. This is because it is not yet known how they could affect the vaccine’s efficacy.
Afterward, however, it is probably safe to take OTC drugs such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, aspirin, or antihistamines to relieve post-vaccination side effects. Ensure that you have no other medical reasons that would prevent you from taking these under normal conditions.
If you have any questions or concerns about taking such medications, please check with us.
For pain or discomfort at the injection site, apply a clean, cool, wet washcloth over the area. Also, exercise your arm.
To reduce discomfort from fever, drink plenty of fluids and dress lightly.
Call us if:
- the redness or tenderness where you got the shot gets worse after 24 hours, or
- if your side effects are worrying you or do not seem to be going away after a few days.
Warning: If you get a COVID-19 vaccine and think you might have a severe allergic reaction after leaving the vaccine site, seek immediate medical care by calling 911.
Q: I got the COVID-19 vaccine, but didn’t get any side effects. Does that mean I’m not protected?
A: No. As we mentioned above, not everyone will experience side effects, and of those who do, most will be mild.
Dr. Robert Finberg is a professor of medicine and a physician who specializes in infectious diseases and immunology at the Medical School at the University of Massachusetts. Dr. Finberg recently told The Washington Post that there doesn’t seem to be any link between side effects and vaccine efficacy. This is because everybody is different and will react differently to the protective effects of the vaccine.
“Scientists haven’t identified any relationship between the initial inflammatory reaction and the long-term response that leads to protection,” he said. “There’s no scientific proof that someone with more obvious side effects from the vaccine is then better protected from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. And there’s no reason that having an exaggerated innate response would make your adaptive response any better.”
Q: If I already had COVID-19, do I still need to get the vaccine?
A: Yes. The CDC says that’s because experts do not yet know how long you are protected from getting sick again. We know the protective effects of the vaccine lasts at least six months, and likely far longer.
They caution, however, that if you were treated for COVID-19 with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma, you should wait 90 days before getting a vaccine.
Q: Should I get antibody testing to see what my immunity level is?
A: The FDA issued a statement on May 19 saying that “results from currently authorized SARS-CoV-2 antibody tests should not be used to evaluate a person’s level of immunity or protection from COVID-19 at any time, and especially after the person received a COVID-19 vaccination.”
It explains that such tests help health care providers identify whether or not someone has been infected with the virus. It does not identify whether or not they have sufficient immunity to it.
Q: Will I need to get a booster shot?
A: It’s too soon to tell. One school of thought says that, because coronaviruses don’t mutate as quickly as influenza viruses, our protection from current vaccines could last for years. Other experts say that because there’s still so much we don’t know about the coronavirus, it’s quite possible we will need boosters in the coming months.
At this point, we’re concerned with making sure as many people as possible receive the first doses of the vaccine. All available evidence shows that all three of the approved vaccines are safe and highly effective at reducing illness and deaths from COVID-19.