It’s no longer news that the FDA has approved the Pfizer vaccine for public use. Of course, it will take a while for everyone to get it, but at least there’s progress. This comes as a huge relief, considering we were seemingly stuck in one spot for months.

We have toppled the first step to ridding the planet of this deadly virus with the creation of a safe and effective vaccine. The next step, and perhaps the most important, is rolling out the vaccine. Right now, the public’s perception is of the vaccine is generally good, which is another piece of good news. Look at that, two favorable news in one article, we’re on a roll! 

However, our death rate hasn’t improved; it’s worsening. We are recording record cases and deaths every other week. That is bad news. I know the vaccine is available, but it’s not an excuse to neglect COVID protocols, particularly if you’ve not been fully vaccinated.

Talking of full vaccination, I got my second Pfizer dose some time back, 21 days after the first. I think it’s safe to say I have ~95% immunity now. My symptoms were simply arm soreness, and a headache. The second time around some chills. But it was nothing Tylenol couldn’t take care of. I was back to work the next day, taking care of COVID patients. And I am relieved. I have been working on the front-lines taking care of COVID patients since the beginning, always afraid whether I had caught COVID or not. Now, I am more comfortable seeing patients. Don’t get me wrong, I will continue to wear full PPE. My colleagues and I feel a sense of relief!

I noticed many people are skeptical about the vaccine because they are unsure of the side effects and long-term effects. And I can confidently say you have nothing to worry about on both fronts. People that bring up the uncertainty of the long-term effects of the vaccine are more driven by emotions rather than data and figures.

There is no indication whatsoever that the vaccine can be potentially dangerous to us in the long run. None at all. And this is coming after several tests and studies before the vaccine got FDA approval. If the results of past vaccines are also anything to go by, you have nothing to worry about on this front. Vaccines help to end diseases, not start new ones. 

Then to the immediate side effects of the vaccine. Luckily, there is little to worry about here too. There are little to no side effects at all in many people. It’s saying a lot when the commonest side effect is pain around the injection site. Don’t get it twisted; the vaccine itself does not cause the pain. It’s just your body reacting to a needle breaking into your skin. About 85% of people that took the vaccine reported this. But not to worry, it goes away in a few days or even hours in some people. I didn’t have any real injection site reactions.

Other symptoms people experience are headache, fatigue, and body pain. These are the less common symptoms. I had some fatigue and headaches, but when you work more than 200 hours a month treating COVID patients, you can’t pin that to a vaccine.

These symptoms, just like the reaction to the injection site, also pass in a few days at most. You can accelerate this by using an analgesic, like Tylenol. That’s it. You see, there’s nothing to fear.

However, it would help if you also took some precautions to make your experience very smooth. First, take the vaccine on your free day or after work hours. While the headache is usually minor, if any at all at that, you can aggravate it by stressing yourself after. The same applies to fatigue and body pain.

You should also be prepared for slightly worse reactions to the second dose. This makes sense when you think of it. After the first dose, your body is already familiar with the vaccine, generating some immune response. Taking the second dose will see your body exhibit a stronger immune response to the vaccine because it already has the immunological knowledge and ‘tools’ to fight the virus. That’s obviously an oversimplification, but it should do the trick.

Finally, remember you aren’t completely safe until you take the second dose. You may still get the virus if exposed in the 21 days between the first and second dose. So, again, you shouldn’t neglect COVID guidelines because you have taken a dose of the vaccine. 

Stay safe.