Does the second dose of the COVID vaccine really pack a bigger punch?

Does the second dose of the COVID vaccine really pack a bigger punch?
Patricia Souza, 82, gets the COVID-19 vaccine by Pharmacare manager, Reece Uyeno. (Source: Pharmacare Hawaii)

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - You’ve probably heard a lot about the side effects associated with the COVID vaccine.

Some people have none. Others can experience quite a few.

So far, some 15% of Hawaii adults have received at least one dose of either the Moderna or Pfizer COVID vaccine. The state is still awaiting shipment of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

With all those vaccines administered ― more than 371,000 so far ― there have been few reports of major vaccine side effects in Hawaii.

When you get the shot, you’re far more likely to experience no side effects or relatively minor ones. Even so, medical experts encourage you to be prepared before you head in for your appointment.

What are some of the common side effects of the vaccine?

The CDC says the vast majority of side effects from getting a COVID vaccine are nothing to worry about. They’re a sign your body is building up its protection against coronavirus.

After being vaccinated, you might experience pain and swelling on the arm where you got your shot.

[Read more: Here’s what you need to know about COVID-19 vaccine distribution in Hawaii]

Fever, chills, fatigue and headache are also common.

Medical experts say you shouldn’t take any painkillers before your shot in a bid to prevent side effects. Instead, wait to see if you get them and then consider taking over-the-counter medicine.

Does the second shot really pack a bigger punch?

What you’ve heard is true: Just like some other two-dose vaccines (like the one for Shingles), stronger side effects are more common after the second dose of the vaccine.

In other words, that second shot can pack a bigger punch.

Why? Scientists say side effects mean your body is mounting an immune response. The second shot builds on the work done from the first ... and the result can sometimes have you feeling crummy.

It might be hard to believe when you’re going through it, but that’s a good thing. It means the shots are working. You should also keep in mind that side effects typically only last for a few hours.

Younger people tend to have more pronounced side effects, probably because they’ve got stronger immune systems. But more pronounced side effects can also happen to older people.

What percentage of people experience side effects?

CDC data indicates that the most common side effect is headache followed by fatigue.

According to clinical research trial data submitted to the FDA, 7% of those between 18 and 55 experienced fever after their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

But nearly a third reported fever after their second dose.

With the Moderna vaccine, 1% of those between 18 and 64 reported fever after the first dose but the number grew to 17% after the second dose.

Why do you have to wait 15 minutes after getting vaccinated?

To monitor for allergic reactions, people who have gotten the shot are asked to wait at the vaccination site for 15 minutes. Some people who have a history of allergic reactions are asked to wait for 30.

Allergic reactions to the vaccines are very rare, but if you have an allergic reaction to the first dose the CDC recommends that you not get the second dose.

What side effects should trigger alarm?

The CDC says any side effects that cause you concern should prompt a conversation with your health care provider.

Serious side effects, like an allergic reaction, typically happen within 30 minutes of getting the shot.

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