What to Expect During and After Your COVID-19 Vaccination

As New Jersey gradually broadens its eligibility for COVID-19 vaccination, the glimmer of a light at the end of this unrelenting tunnel is finally coming into view. But for many of us, that anticipation is tinged with uncertainty. 

The two vaccines currently authorized for emergency use in the United States, by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech, are the first messenger RNA, or mRNA, vaccines. And while they were shown to be remarkably effective during their clinical trials, it’s been hard to ignore the stories of crippling side effects and severe allergic reactions during the early days of their rollout.

To give you a better idea of what you can expect to happen during and after your vaccination, we’re going to take a closer look at the potential side effects of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines here.

Will the vaccine make me sick?

First, with two other vaccines reportedly on the horizon, by AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, it’s important to recognize that side effects will vary based on the type of vaccine. Because AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson haven’t yet applied to the FDA for emergency authorization, we know the most about the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.

Their potential side effects are about the same because they’re  the same kind of vaccine (mRNA). Most commonly, people have experienced irritation and soreness at the injection site. Fatigue, muscle aches, chills, joint pain, and a low-grade fever have also been reported, though these symptoms are occurring much less frequently than the arm soreness. And when they do appear, it’s usually only for a day or two, and no longer than a few days.

They are, however, a bit more likely to occur after the second dose. (Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require two separate doses administered three to four weeks apart.) 

Unpleasant as the symptoms may be, they’re actually an indication that the vaccines are doing what they’re supposed to be doing, William Moss, MD, the executive director of Johns Hopkins’ International Vaccine Access Center, told Futurity.

“These side effects are typical of the inflammation induced by vaccines and are a sign of the body’s immune response to the vaccine,” he says.

Severe allergic reactions are not part of that response. They’re also very rare and not specific to these vaccines. Some people simply susceptible to severe allergic reactions to certain vaccines and injectable medications. 

To be on the safe side, you’ll likely be asked to stay put for 15 to 20 minutes after getting your shot so that you can be observed by medical professionals. If you were to have an allergic reaction to the vaccine, it would occur within that timeframe.

Reason to remain cautious

It’s also important to note that as effective as these vaccines are at preventing COVID-19, the first dose will not provide complete protection. In fact, Dr. Moss says, “it will take about seven days after your second dose before you will achieve a full protective level of immunity that develops in about 95% of vaccine recipients.”

Until then, it’s still possible to get COVID-19. Even once you’re protected by the vaccine, you may still spread the virus. Researchers are trying to figure whether the vaccines can also halt transmission, but the early data seems to indicate that it’s unlikely. So, for the time being, continue wearing a mask, regularly washing your hands, and keeping a safe distance from others.

How you can help us

For the last 55 years, NORWESCAP has been helping to support low-income families and individuals across Northwest New Jersey. Today, as our region and country face the threat from COVID-19, that commitment is stronger than ever.

If you’re looking for opportunities to volunteer, donate materials, or otherwise support NORWESCAP’s work during this crisis, call MaryBeth Ringo at 848-459-5882 or email her at Monetary donations may be made here.