The Truth about Vaccine Side Effects

By Staff Reports

(Victor Valley)– San Bernardino County residents should be proud that more than 40% of our residents have had at least one vaccine dose, and that number rises every day. On the other hand, however, this number is still far too short to reach an acceptable level of protection (at least 70%) that would bring us back to a “normalcy” that puts COVID-19 on par with the flu.

All of which means, according to San Bernardino County Public Health Officer Dr. Michael Sequeira, we have to do all we can to encourage our family, friends and co-workers to get vaccinated. Over 212 million people in the U.S. have received a vaccine dose, and the evidence is clear vaccines are safe and they work.

For most of us, this means taking the time to jump online at SBCovid19.com/vaccine to make a convenient appointment. We have reached the point where there are enough doses and locations available for even same-day appointments.

But for others, there are still some fears and hesitations – and with the news of a temporary hold on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, people have questions about whether the side effects of a vaccine are worse than the chances of contracting COVID-19.

We took time with Dr. Sequeira to get some straight answers about not only the J&J concerns, but the vaccine side effects in general.

Q: Doesn’t the fact that the J&J vaccine was paused after a small number of people had serious blood clot issues a reason to be concerned about possible fatal vaccine side effects?

A: What the pause shows us is how meticulous we are being when it comes to the safety of our vaccines. This was a small number of cases out of nearly 7 million doses administered, and the truth is that this is a lower incident rate of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis than the general incidence of the same condition. In other words, the general population has a better chance of getting this blood clot condition for other reasons than from the vaccine.

We’ve now identified how it can be identified and treated. When the vaccine is approved for distribution again – and it likely will be – it will still be much safer than almost any other drug interaction for literally hundreds of current medical treatments in other (non-COVID-19) situations.

Q: We know the experts have said it is normal to feel some mild discomfort after receiving a shot, but we all know someone who said they felt just awful. What should people really expect?

A: Everyone will have their own individual reaction; some individuals will have no issues at all, while others will feel pretty lousy. This is pretty much like any vaccine and are normal signs that your body is building protection.

The arm where you got the shot may have some pain, swelling or redness. Overall, you may feel tired, nauseous, have overall muscle pain, chills or a headache, and for some, a combination of some or all of these. So, in short, some of us might not feel well for a few days.

What this means is you should go in knowing that the side effects may affect your ability to do some daily activities, so plan your schedule accordingly.

Q: What about the second shot (for Pfizer and Moderna)? Isn’t it worse?

A: Again, this is on an individual basis. For many, the side effects after your second shot may be more intense than the ones you experienced after your first shot. For others, there have been no side effects at all. Regardless, the side effects are normal signs that your body is building protection and should go away within a few days.

Q: So, what can we do about these side effects?

A: There are a few things you can do. For the arm soreness, a cold compress could help. For the aches and pains or fever, you can take aspirin, Tylenol or ibuprofen, as long as you don’t have any medical reasons that keep you from taking these medications.

A topical or oral antihistamine could help if your arm is itching. Any medication that helps with cold and flu symptoms might help with coronavirus vaccine side effects. One thing, though, is do not take anything beforehand to try and prevent side effects – you don’t want to do anything that might blunt the immune response from the vaccine.

Q: Is there ever a reason to call a doctor or go into ER or urgent care?

A: In some rare cases there might be an allergic reaction to the vaccine, but these usually happen fairly quickly after getting a dose. This is why we ask if you are subject to allergic reactions before giving you the shot, and why you will be asked to wait 15 or 30 minutes after receiving a dose. If you have a non-severe allergic reaction with hives, swelling or trouble breathing, it will happen within hours. In either case, the CDC recommends that you not get a second shot of that vaccine if you have a reaction.

Other than an allergic reaction, if other symptoms don’t go away or get worse after a few days – or if you’re simply worried about something – don’t hesitate to see your doctor or visit urgent care.

Q: I hear the Pfizer vaccine has worse side effects than the Moderna, but my friend says Moderna is worse. What’s the reality?

A: We have the benefit of now studying the response from millions and millions of people who have received vaccinations and the truth is there is no statistical difference in the reactions to any of the vaccines.

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