Opinion: My second dose vaccine side effects were not fun. Here’s why I’d do it all over again


Zach Kaplan, iNews editor-in-chief

Six hours after I got my second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Sunday, I was feeling invincible. Against the better wishes of my parents, I was playing basketball and tossing a ball in my room and experiencing only mild soreness in my arm. Twelve hours later, I had a 101-degree fever, chills, muscle aches, and unbearable soreness in my arm. If you would’ve talked to me then, I would’ve been miserable, but looking back on it, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. 

According to the CDC, millions of Americans are not returning to their original vaccine site to receive their second dose, mainly because a lot of people are fearful of the side effects that I and many others experienced following their second dose. While those side effects were definitely not fun, I considered myself close to being out of the woods the following morning after a long, hot shower. 

When I look at the headlines coming out of India, with oxygen shortages, daily COVID case counts through the roof, I consider myself lucky that I was even able to roll up my sleeve and get the two-dose regimen. After my second shot, I was monitored for 15 minutes by two nurses, both of whom had been on the frontlines of this pandemic and have seen what kind of a toll COVID can really do. 

In younger people, one of the nurses told me, she’s seeing never-before-seen heart issues, permanent lung scarring, and people coming into the hospital with a rash and ending up on ventilators. 

Even a so-called “mild” case of COVID-19 could result in one being bedridden for 10-14 days and with side effects that aren’t fun yet aren’t severe enough to require hospitalization. The entire night, as I was tossing and turning, feeling achy, chilly, and feverish, two thoughts came into my head. Not only is it a scientific marvel that this vaccine exists, and one that is so effective at preventing severe disease and death, but I also thought to myself how little the symptoms I was experiencing were as it compares to taking the risk with the virus. 

Nearly every scientist or epidemiologist agrees that it’s imperative to go back for your second dose. “It really is prudent to get both doses,” said Dr. Luke Davis, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health in New Haven, Connecticut, noting that the second dose takes you to the “next level” of protection. 

As to why the body responds so aggressively to the second dose is explained very well by Summer McGee, Dean of the School of Health Sciences at the University of New Haven. “What you’re seeing is that your body has already recognized the vaccine particles and the genetic code before (from the first dose), and now it knows to respond even more aggressively when you get that second dose,” McGee said. “It’s your body really giving you that full immune response, and so that’s why people can experience more severe side effects the second time around.”

If you’re reading this and are someone who either got their first dose and skipped out on their second, or one who is hesitant to get the vaccine at all, take it from me. I won’t sugarcoat it and say that the second dose was fun, but I also have to say that compared to getting the actual virus, this was a walk in the park in the grand scheme of things. 

Besides, the vaccine comes with a return to normalcy; when two weeks go by, I’ll likely be able to see fully vaccinated friends and family outside without a mask on, something I haven’t been able to do in over a year. I’ll be able to go to sporting events, amusement parks, likely even back to school without much worry about COVID. Even if I do somehow get COVID-19 in what’s called a ‘breakthrough case,’ chances are it won’t feel like much more than a sniffle or a cold. That’s how much protection this vaccine offers, and if you think avoiding the second dose side effects is a good trade-off to only having partial protection, I would call that unwise. 

So, what is my point in writing this article? I’m writing this article as someone who had a rough battle with the 2nd dose side effects of the vaccine; one who had no sleep the night after getting the vaccine and experienced nearly every expected side effect of the vaccine. 

I am telling you that if you are on the fence about getting the vaccine entirely but especially if you’re on the fence about getting your second dose, and in both of those scenarios if you’re worried about the side effects, don’t be. It’s incredibly necessary that you get your second dose if you got the first dose already, and if you think that having only partial protection against COVID while avoiding the second dose is good, it’s not. Please go out and get your second dose!