How I Feel After Receiving the Covid Vaccine and One Issue to Consider

It’s more than a sore shoulder

My mostly de-identified vaccine record card

I can’t believe the day came this soon. This is not hyperbole: It was a joyful experience to receive this vaccine. There was a buzz and excitement at the hospital. Camera crews descended. Local media reporters interviewed hospital administrators and providers. Even the governor showed up. Why? Because this marks the beginning of the end.

As I waited in line with my colleagues on Tuesday, we shared a feeling that didn’t need to be verbalized, though it often was — the mutual understanding that it was an absolute privilege to receive this vaccine. I can’t express enough how thankful I am for the scientists who developed this, the patients who participated in the clinical trials, the suppliers, the distributors, the administrators, the organizers, the nurses, even the lab mice, even the leaders in our government who made this possible.

Two days later I feel great. No symptoms. My sore shoulder is back to normal. Here’s the thing to consider, though. Not everyone is going to have just a sore shoulder.

The latest reports estimate 100 million people could be vaccinated in the U.S. by March. That’s over 2,300 times more than the 43,448 individuals who received injections in the most recently published Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine trial. The sheer number who will be receiving the vaccine in such a short time frame creates significantly more occasions for symptoms and potential side effects to occur.

Over 328 million people live in the United States. Among us, over 4,000 people suffer from a stroke or a heart attack each day. Despite the hope that comes along with the vaccine for Covid-19, other medical conditions won’t be taking the day off. With such large numbers becoming vaccinated, by happenstance we are bound to see individuals suffering from adverse events in close proximity to when they receive the vaccine.

You’ll see it on social media; you’ll see it on the news: Someone received the vaccine in the morning and later that night he had a heart attack. Another vaccine recipient woke up with a stroke. People may hear such stories and mistakenly conclude that association equals causation. They will infer that the vaccine is causing some of these problems when they might be unrelated.

That’s not to say adverse events shouldn’t be documented. They should. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) developed a website designed for use on smartphones called “v-safe” that allows people to report symptoms after vaccination. I registered on v-safe shortly after receiving my immunization.

By compiling the data, the CDC will be able to assess whether or not certain symptoms among vaccine recipients are occurring at a rate higher than the general population. This would prompt the CDC’s medical experts to investigate the issue further and could lead to early identification of any previously unrecognized adverse effects of the vaccine.

So, please, if you received the vaccine, register on v-safe. If you have an adverse event, talk to your medical provider and make sure it’s reported. Be thoughtful about the information you share. This vaccine won’t reach its full potential if we spread unfounded fear, but with a little bit of truthful positivity, this could be really good.

For more on the Covid-19 pandemic and an inside look at how hospitalized patients are fighting the disease take a look here:

Health & science writer on Elemental & other pubs. Hospitalist physician in internal medicine & pediatrics. Interpreter of medical jargon.

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