What It’s Like To Get The COVID Vaccine

The long-awaited COVID vaccine is finally here. While we’re far from the end of the pandemic, the vaccine makes it feel like we’re one step closer to a return to normalcy. But many people still have questions about it, including potential side effects and whether they should be following guidelines even after receiving both doses. 

healthcare ambassadors vaccine

To learn more about what it’s really like to get the vaccine, we asked some of our ambassadors — all of whom work in healthcare in some capacity — about their experience receiving the first and/or second doses.

Side effects

Everybody reacts to vaccines differently, and the aSweatLife ambassadors are no different. They encountered the following:

  • Soreness. Along with a number of ambassadors, Sarah Alley, a women’s health nurse practitioner in an OB/GYN private practice, experienced this symptom. She got the first dose of the Moderna vaccine in mid-January and had “mild injection site soreness,” but it peaked around 24 hours and was gone after 48 hours.
  • Swollen lymph nodes. In addition to muscle soreness, dentist Mariah Boyd said she had “a little inflammation of the lymph nodes in my underarm” on the side where she got her shot. “This was so mild I would have missed it if I was not actively looking for side effects,” she noted. Boyd had the same response to the second vaccine dose, though the symptoms didn’t last as long.
  • Fever. Anne Jenisch is a nurse practitioner for a major device company in the cardiac surgery field. “After the first dose, I had a fever up to about 101 degrees about 12-ish hours after injection,” she said, adding that it broke quickly. She then felt intense muscle aches, which lasted about 10 hours. She also had a brief fever (with a slightly lower temperature) about 12 hours after her second shot, followed again by muscle aches. “Because the symptoms subside as quickly as they arrive, I was able to bounce back to everyday life activities within about 48 hours,” Jenisch said.
  • Strange body sensation. Aside from some arm pain, Samantha Mitchell, an occupational therapist and outpatient therapy supervisor, didn’t feel any side effects after her first injection. But after her second shot, her body got warm and her fingertips were cold. Mitchell felt “a different type of sensation, almost like a tingling throughout my entire body.” She noted that it “wasn’t painful, just a sensation [she’s] never experienced before.” After taking an Aleve and heading to bed, she woke up the next morning feeling normal.
  • Headache and body aches. “The first dose of the vaccine was actually worse for me than the second, contrary to most people’s experience,” said Jessica Baker, who works in patient engagement. Her first shot left her with a sore arm as well as fatigue, head, and body aches. “I ended up sleeping for the greater part of three days,” Baker said. After the second dose, she had a headache for the first day.
  • Not much of anything. “With both shots I had minimal to no side effects—arm soreness with the first shot and nothing with the second,” said Ariel Breaux, the lead psychologist for a few correctional facilities in Indiana.

Nerves and anxiety

The past year has been nothing short of a whirlwind, and we’ve dealt with so much in such a short amount of time. While the vaccine certainly provides much-needed hope, you may be feeling a little nervous about receiving it. Perhaps you have some questions swirling through your brain: Is it safe even though it was developed rather quickly? Will it protect against the new variants of the virus?

The ambassadors have some words of advice to ease your anxiety.

Logan Nichols, the operations coordinator for an outpatient cardiology clinic, urged people to think about how getting the vaccine not only protects you, but also helps others. “There is a lot of misinformation floating out there, but make sure your research from a reliable source,” she said. “Trust science—it is worth it.”

Amy Charvant, an occupational therapist in the acute care hospital setting, agreed. “I had my hesitations, but I put my trust in science and I know it is the step we need to take together to get any sense of normalcy back,” she said. Reading evidence-based resources or consulting your doctor are the best ways to get your questions answered, Charvant added.

The CDC is an excellent resource, and points out that the vaccines are both safe and effective. In fact, the agency “recommends you get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as you are eligible.”

What next?

Say you’ve already received both doses of the COVID vaccine. Now what? Can life go back to the way it used to be, free from masks and social distancing?

To be blunt: No.

“We should continue to take precautions,” said Amy Luo, a clinical pharmacist working at the Indian Health Service in Crownpoint, New Mexico. That means masking, social distancing, avoiding large gatherings, and the like.

After all, Luo noted that it takes a week or two after being fully vaccinated to develop immunity. “Just because you got the vaccine two days ago doesn’t mean you should have a maskless party,” she said.

Malaiya Khantakharn, an acute care travel nurse currently working in California, added that it’s key to protect yourself with masking and social distancing, especially since the virus is mutating and wants to keep living. “We’re in a new age of disease and healthcare management,” she said. “I think a little of this is going to become a social norm.”

Although the future is uncertain, the vaccine makes the overall world outlook more optimistic. If you have any questions about the COVID vaccine or your eligibility, talk to your healthcare provider or visit the CDC’s website.

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About Erin Dietsche

Erin ran track from an early age, but it wasn’t until her parents “forced” her to join her high school cross country team that she fell in love with running. Since then, she’s become an avid runner and learned how to balance her running with her interest in eating chocolate. In recent years, Erin has embraced other forms of fitness like lifting weights. When she’s not working out, she enjoys anything theatre-related, writing plays, reading, listening to rap music, and playing the piano.