After I went public that I received the coronavirus vaccine, I have received a lot of questions about the vaccine, especially about the side effects. I realized that there is a lot of vaccine hesitancy due to fear and misconceptions around the vaccine. Many people have therefore adopted a ‘wait and see approach so that they can decide whether to go for the vaccine ‘ later ‘, but ‘ when will they go for it? ‘
I have decided to add my voice to address this serious issue of vaccine hesitancy by documenting my post coronavirus vaccine journey as I share daily reflections, and address frequently asked questions on the vaccine.
Woke up with a dull ache and heaviness on my left arm around the injection site. No skin changes or swelling at the site. I am sweating more than usual but the temperature is normal. I figure that this is because it’s a hot Nairobi day. I go to work but start feeling unusually tired in the afternoon. By 4 pm I am too tired to go on and I have to go home and rest.
Reflection: Vaccine side effects. How common are they?
Some people have no side effects after receiving the Coronavirus vaccine (CDC). When they occur, the side effects are usually mild and are much less serious than developing Coronavirus or complications associated with Coronavirus. Any side effects usually go away within a few days.
I woke up today feeling under the weather with low-grade fever, fatigue, and general body aches. The injection site is okay today. In the afternoon, I started shivering despite the warm weather and had to cover up to keep warm.
Reflection: Am I developing Covid-19 symptoms?
It is quite common to develop a fever after Coronavirus vaccination. This normally happens within 48 hours of the vaccination and usually goes away afterward. Although the fever is similar to Covid-19 disease symptoms, you do not need to self-isolate or book a test unless you have other Coronavirus symptoms.
Here is an article about the side effects of the vaccine.
Today I woke up with a headache and sweat-drenched bed sheets. I took paracetamol which helped me feel better. During the day, the headache lingered and I got some episodes of fever and chills.
Reflection: How can I alleviate vaccine side effects?
Unless you have a condition that prevents you from taking paracetamol or ibuprofen, or otherwise advised by your doctor, you can take these medications to reduce discomfort after getting the Coronavirus vaccine. There is no need to take the medicines before vaccination to try to prevent side effects. For more tips to reduce side effects, read.
Today the vaccine seems to have settled in my gut. I experienced abdominal discomfort, nausea, loss of appetite and diarrhea.
Reflection: Why am I experiencing vaccine side effects?
About 1 in 5 people experience vaccine side effects. However, the side effects are more common in instances where the body is likely to mount a stronger immune response to the vaccine, such as in persons who have been infected with Covid-19 disease, or after the second vaccine dose. Pronounced side effects may actually be an indication that you may have unknowingly been infected with Covid-19 before.
Today I woke up perfectly fine and went around my normal duties without any issues. Now I can focus on the reason I went for the vaccine in the first place.
It typically takes a few weeks to build immunity (protection against the virus that causes COVID-19) after vaccination. This means it’s possible a person could be infected just before or just after vaccination and still get sick (CDC). You cannot get Covid-19 from the vaccine but you can catch it before you get your vaccine and not know you’ve got it until afterward.
I now seem to be past the side effects phase, I woke up feeling fit as a fiddle.
However, I got asked so many questions the past few days, it only makes sense if I answer them. So here goes.
How many doses of the vaccine will I need?
Remember your second appointment if your doctor asks you to go back for the second dose. Some Coronavirus vaccines require 2 doses for you to get full protection from Covid-19 disease. The second dose is likely to prolong the duration of protection against COVID-19. Please consult your local health practitioner for your recommended vaccine schedule.
#Day7of10 Can I still get the Coronavirus vaccine if I have previously been infected with COVID-19 disease?
Although natural exposure to the virus through infection stimulates the immune system to produce antibodies, we still don’t know how long this immunity will last. What is clear is that vaccination offers more reliable and sustained immunity than a previous infection. It is therefore advisable to get the vaccine, even though you have been infected with COVID-19. The vaccine can be given as soon as you have recovered from the disease and completed the mandatory period for isolation.
#Day8of10 Is the vaccine safe for people with allergies?
Serious allergic reactions to Coronavirus vaccine (also known as anaphylaxis) are extremely rare (1:1million), although it is more likely to occur in people with previously identified allergies. Despite this, specific allergies to other vaccines, foods, or medicines are not considered contraindications to receiving the Coronaviruses vaccine.
However, please consult your doctor and go over the patient information leaflets with them, to make sure that you do not have a specific allergy to any of the ingredients of the vaccine before going for your vaccine appointment.
Finally, as a precautionary measure, if you have had a previous history of serious allergies/anaphylaxis, you are advised to remain at the vaccinating center for at least 30 minutes for observation, after the vaccination, as compared to other persons, who only have to stay for 15 minutes for observation.
#Day9of10 Can I take ‘a drink’ after receiving the coronavirus vaccine?
You may want to delay your celebratory drink of alcohol. While there is no evidence that alcohol directly affects the immune system, you are advised to avoid alcohol 48-72 hours before or after the vaccine.
The simple reason for this is that the side effects of the vaccine mimic those of a hangover, and experiencing both at the same time can make you feel significantly worse.
#Day10of10 Do I still need to take COVID-19 precautions after I am vaccinated?
You still need to take full Covid-19 precautions until you are fully vaccinated. After receiving all the recommended doses of the vaccine (2 doses in Kenya), you may be able to start doing some things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic, especially when interacting with other fully vaccinated persons. However, it is important to know that you still need to take full precautions (including wearing masks, social distancing and hand hygiene) to protect yourself and others against the virus when in public places, even though you are fully vaccinated. You will also still need to watch out for symptoms of COVID-19 .
Especially following an exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, and should symptoms develop, you must isolate and be treated as per the treatment guidelines. This is regardless of vaccination status.
It’s been an exciting 10 days of sharing my post-vaccine reflections, as well as answering your questions on the vaccine.
The coronavirus vaccines have been developed to protect us against severe forms of COVID-19, as well as dying from the disease.
Like many people, I experienced moderate side effects for a few days, which is an indication that the vaccine is working.
However, people react differently to the vaccine and it doesn’t mean that the vaccine is ineffective if you don’t get side effects.
On the other hand, severe or long-term side effects are uncommon, and this should not be used to discourage anyone from getting the vaccine, because the benefits of receiving the vaccine outweigh the risks by far. Please go for your dose today and let’s fight this pandemic.
This article first appeared on Dr.Grace Ikahu’s Website.