Explaining the potential side effects of COVID-19 vaccines

"Side effects after a vaccine are your body learning how to fight COVID"
Explaining the potential side effects of COVID-19 vaccines
Posted at 1:25 AM, Mar 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-20 03:25:39-04

EL PASO COUNTY — As more Coloradans become eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, it's important to remember side effects are common with any vaccination.

Kristi Durbin is the immunization program manager for El Paso County Public Health. She says everyone responds differently to the vaccines. "Some people have side effects with dose one, and not dose two. Some with dose two, and not dose one. Some with both. Some don't have any side effects at all. So it varies, certainly, from person to person and vaccine to vaccine," said Durbin.

Durbin said side effects after a COVID-19 vaccine are a sign of the immune system working. "Side effects after a vaccine are your body learning how to fight COVID... It's basically giving your immune system a picture of the enemy and showing how to fight it off," said Durbin.

Durbin said side effects may include redness, swelling, and pain near the injection site. Other side effects could be a sore arm, fatigue, a headache, muscle aches, body aches, nausea, vomiting, and fever.

"If you acquire COVID, we really don't know what that's going to look like for you. It could be very severe, you could have lasting effects, I mean, it could be deadly. So having a vaccine reaction, feeling crummy for a day or two, is certainly worth it in my mind to get protection and to get us back into that sense of normalcy."
Kristi Durbin, immunization program manager, EPCPH

Aubrey Huey is the president of the Pikes Peak Education Association, and teaches choir at Fountain Middle School. She's gotten both doses of the Pfizer vaccine. After the first dose, she felt perfectly fine, but the second dose was a different story. "The lightheadedness and the nauseous feeling went away after a few hours. So, I thought I was home free, and got ready to go to bed that night... I was freezing and just like shaking uncontrollably for about an hour," said Huey.

Huey's advice was to schedule a COVID-19 vaccine on a weekend. "In the long run, it's worth it. I definitely recommend if you have the opportunity to get it on a non-work day... Hopefully the more of us that are vaccinated, the sooner we can start seeing some normalcy in our world again," said Huey.

CNBC reported both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have side effects more frequently on the second dose, which is to be expected, since the first shot triggers an immune response and the second one builds upon it.

AARP reports younger people are more likely to experience intense side effects, because their immune system is more robust.

Durbin said the side effects typically end after a day or two. "If people are experiencing those side effects, we want them to stay hydrated, to rest if they don't feel well. They could also consider taking an over the counter medication like tylenol or ibuprofen if that's normally a safe thing for you to do... If you had a severe reaction, like if you were having trouble breathing or something like that, we'd certainly want you to seek immediate medical attention," said Durbin.

Durbin said the side effects from a shot are nowhere near the risk one takes if they contract COVID-19. "We don't want people to be afraid. We want people to go ahead and get vaccinated. If you had side effects with the first dose, don't let that stop you from getting your second dose," said Durbin.