Many of you have already had the vaccine while the majority of you are in cue for the various phases.  I am part of a nationwide physicians COVID group and we get actual real time reports of physician/patient covid experiences and the vaccine is one of the topics.  Read on to learn about how to prepare for your vaccine and potential side-effects from the vaccine.  You might be surprised to learn about the potential reaction of cosmetic fillers…..

Preparing for the vaccine

Do not take any ibuprofen or acetaminophen prior to getting the vaccine.  There has been some mixed reports of reduction in ability to work and blunt the immune response if taking ibuprofen/acetaminophen prior to the vaccine.  So, just to be on the safe side avoid them before the vaccine.  They are ok after the vaccine if you are having any symptoms.

If you are prone to anaphylactic reactions then you might consider taking a Benadryl prior to the vaccine and bring your own epi-pen. Also, be sure and get your vaccine in a healthcare facility or the health department. If you are allergic to polysorbate or polyethylene glycol (PEG) then you might consider not getting this vaccine.  PEG is in both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and polysorbate resembles PEG and can trigger the same reaction.   The rate of anaphylaxis has been report at approximately 11.1 cases per million doses (compared to 1.35/million cases with the flu vaccine).  Keep in mind, these are rough guesstimates because the volume of injections were low when these numbers were generated.

Getting the vaccine

The lines are LONG and many times people are waiting outside for over an hour in line to get in to get the vaccine.  Be prepared and bundle up.  They require paperwork to be filled out so print it before and bring it with you to avoid any delays.  Bring your ID with you.

Most of the time you will not know which vaccine you are signing up for unless it is your second dose.  Once you have had the first vaccine,  it is VERY important you get the exact same brand of vaccine for the second dose.  Many sites are giving out designated appointments for the second dose but a lot are putting you back in the mix and will require you to sign up again.  This is very specific to the center where you get your injection.  Pfizer second dose vaccine is recommended 21 days after the first one and Moderna recommends 28 days after.  You can do it later than these time frames but not earlier.

After the vaccine:

1st vaccine:  after your first vaccine you will be required to wait for 15 minutes to make sure you do not have a reaction.  There have been anaphylactic responses and majority of these occur within this time period.

2nd vaccine:  if you have had any type of allergic reaction to anything at all before they will require you to wait 30 minutes after the injection.  If you haven’t you will most likely asked to wait the minimum 15 min.

Side effects post-vaccine:

These vary greatly!  I have talked to many, many people and some don’t have any symptoms at all except a sore arm (everyone has this).  Don’t expect to have symptoms for this reason but many have had varied reactions so here is a summary of some of them.

1st injection:  most people seem to tolerate this one well however, I have had several people with reactions to the first one and then tolerated the 2nd one without any issues at all.  See the side-effects listed below under the 2nd injection.

2nd injection:  this one seems to be giving people the most reactions.

Common side effects of the vaccine include:

  •      Pain and swelling at the site of the injection
  •      Redness at site of injection
  •      Itching at site of injection
  •      Fatigue – this can vary but has been reported in at least 50% of the people. It can linger also but usually not as severe as the first 24-48 hours
  •      Muscle aches – This is very common
  •      Fever – this can be quite high (103 ish) accompanied by severe uncontrollable shivering. The timeline varies when this starts but it appears to be highest in the 10-24 hour post injection time frame.  A few cases will have a lingering fever but most resolve within 48 hours.  Acetaminophen is the preferred drug to relieve these symptoms.  If you cannot take acetaminophen then ibuprofen is ok (just may not work as well).  Limited studies have not indicated a reduced efficacy of the vaccine with these if taken after the vaccine.
  •      Headaches – many report a mild headache and this can linger beyond the 48 hour mark. If severe take pain relievers as needed.
  •      GI issues – many have reported mild to moderate abdominal pain/cramping often accompanied with diarrhea. This is usually self-limiting but if you are prone to GI issues it might linger.
  •      Cough – usually mild and while not considered one of the common symptoms it can occur
  •      Rash/hives – this can occur away from the injection site. If it does then take an antihistamine.  If it is severe you may need steroids so see your primary care physician.
  •      Delayed Itching – this can occur anytime after the injection and has been reported even occurring one week after the injection.
  •      Hot flashes – some women have reported the sensation of internal heat that can linger. The SPM Active I mention below might just help with this!
Ask the Doctor:  Sunscreen: Choosing the Right One

Unusual and rare side effects

  1.     Cosmetic fillers: there have been reports of people who have had fillers in their face have swelling in those areas after the vaccine.  This has been also reported after viral illnesses and other vaccines.  The incidence is very low and usually resolve without issue and is not a reason to avoid the vaccine
  2.     Herpes flare: there have been reports of flares involving herpes in the brain (encephalitis).  The question has been raised if the vaccine might cause flares with other herpes infections.  Unless you have had a serious brain infection with herpes, you should not avoid the vaccine for this reason.
  3.     Lymphadenopathy: there have been several reports of developing swollen lymph nodes in the armpit on the side of the vaccine.  This is self-limiting and will eventually resolve.  If it does occur and doesn’t resolve then please seek medical attention.
  4.     Skin infections: there have been a few reports of some serious skin infections and infection in the muscles.  If you start getting very angry red streaks or deep red, painful swelling radiating from the injection site that is progressing seek medical attention right away.  It is normal to have some mild/moderate redness after the injection but this is if it gets worse.

If you have persistent symptoms then we have discovered taking a product called SPM Active by Metagenics can help move you thru this faster.

I know this entire process of getting the vaccine is challenging.  Just be patient because while there are always ways this can be done differently, everyone is doing the best they can.  They do not always know when they are getting a shipment of vaccines and which ones so they can’t plan ahead.  In many places some armed forces personnel are helping and we are also very grateful for them trying to keep the lines moving along and orderly.

Even after you get the vaccine, you can STILL GET COVID!!!!!  Keep wearing your masks and practicing the social distancing you are already doing.  The hope is if you do get COVID the symptoms won’t be as severe or better still you may be able to fend off a minor exposure easily.

To your health,

Laura