What It Was Like Getting My Second COVID Shot

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Photo by ziphaus on Unsplash **author not shown in photo

By now you’ve read all about people getting their vaccine. You’ve seen the photos of people taking their #vaccineselfie or showing their vaccination card on social media. You probably also know that the vaccine is given in two doses, roughly four weeks apart, but what they might not have told you is that there will probably be side effects from that second dose, and they aren’t pretty. Let me walk you through my experience.

I got my first COVID-19 shot on January 15th; it was the Moderna one, hot off the Emergency Use Authorization. I work for the U.S. government in Italy so I was fortunate enough to be offered the vaccine through my job, along with the rest of my office (we were deemed “essential,” but honestly everyone is IMO lol). It was a fairly simple process. I filled out some paperwork; sat through a quick info session (they had a nurse on hand to answer about any questions one-on-one, which was cool); lined up and got shot. It was painless. I literally didn’t feel the shot at all. I was in and out of there within 30 minutes, including the mandatory 15-minute waiting period to make sure you’re not allergic to anything in it. The next day I had a sore arm but otherwise nothing out of the ordinary. The second dose was not that. Let me explain.

Day One: Second-Shot Day

Because of where I live my entire office had to show up at the medical clinic on the same day, at the same time for the first shot, so we did pretty much the same thing for this second shot. We all file in, medical forms in hand and our shot card. (Pro Tip: Don’t lose that sucker. Laminate it, keep it in a safe place, take a photo of it–something, anything, because you will need it to show proof of your first shot.)

After proving that I was in fact who I said I was and that it was time for my second shot, I was put in a group of about 10 people. They do this because each vial of vaccine roughly holds 10 doses, so for efficiency sake they want to have the vials prepped and doses ready. We wait for about 15 minutes as others go before us and then they march us into the room.

There are vaccination stations set up around the room and we wait to be called by a medical professional. When my name is called, I go up, hand him my paperwork, he verifies my information and then I roll up my sleeve. He preps the area and in goes the shot.

*cue the tik tok song, Oh no, Oh no, Oh no no no no.*

That sh*t BURNED. I’m not a fan of shots, but the first dose was relatively painless, this one for whatever reason felt like fire. I jumped, he apologized, and within 10 seconds it was over. The burning sensation lasted all of 10 seconds as well, it just caught me off guard.

After the shot, we wait for 15 minutes to make sure there are no allergic reactions and they bid us farewell. Simple and easy. The nurses checking our forms told us to make sure we stay hydrated and that we can take ibuprofen or acetaminophen if we have any side effects.

I was really hoping I wouldn’t have any side effects because it was the Friday of Valentine’s Day weekend and my husband and I planned a small getaway the next day. So my plan was to go home, grab a few bottles of water, grab my ibuprofen and hunker down in the living room for the night. But you know that saying,”the best laid plans… often go awry?” Well mine went all the way to tequila, literally.

For some reason I agreed to go to lunch with some coworkers after our vaccination appointment. That lunch turned into two bottles of wine, then before-dinner margaritas, and then to a full blown house party with actual shots of tequila (and no actual dinner). Hydration? We don’t know her.

I was supposed to be home by 1 p.m. I didn’t get home until 9 p.m. I stumbled through the door, grabbed a bottle of water, took three swigs, hoped for the best, and fell asleep.

Day Two: Am I Hungover?

I generally do not sleep more than five hours a night. I always wake up around 3 or 4am for some reason or another. When I cracked my eyes open at 3am, all seemed fine with the world. I chugged some more water and decided to go back to bed. My arm felt a little sore, but that’s expected.

Around 7am I woke up again, this time I had this odd sensation that my breathing was “weird.” I could breathe, but it felt like my lungs and rib cage were really tired. If you ever spent all day in the pool as a kid and then got out only to find how tired your lungs felt, that’s how it felt. I was alarmed but also wasn’t completely sure I was feeling what I was feeling–I also still felt drunk.

I got up and immediately my head started pounding. I cursed the tequila, drank some water, wandered into the kitchen, ate a small breakfast and got on the couch. By this time my arm was really sore, like I could barely move it sore, so I figured a little rest would be the remedy.

By this time my arm was really sore, like I could barely move it sore, so I figured a little rest would be the remedy.

By 10am, I could barely move. My entire body was sore, my joints hurt, my head was pounding, and my arm was immobile. Even making a fist made me grimace. This was no hangover; this was the vaccine doing a doozy on my immune system.

I hobbled my way over to the medicine cabinet, grabbed the ibuprofen, took a few and headed back to the couch. I was slightly freaking out because we were supposed to leave for our trip by 12pm. That definitely wasn’t going to happen. I was also extremely tired. I kept falling asleep no matter how hard I tried to stay awake.

Around 1pm I decided to drive to the grocery store for Gatorade and to get my husband’s Valentine’s day present (so last minute, I know). Well, I definitely almost fell asleep behind the wheel. I parked in the parking lot, realized there were too many people at one store, so I took a 5 minute nap and journeyed on to one that would be less crowded. I just knew I couldn’t deal with crowds at this point, I was barely functioning. I make it to the other grocery store, slowly walk inside and make a b-line for the Gatorade. I make my purchases and guzzle the gatorade while sitting in the parking lot.

At this point it was 24 hours post second dose and I was wondering how much longer this would last.

My husband and I finally hit the road for our trip around 4pm. I pretty much slept the entire way. As soon as we got to our AirBnB, we popped open the champagne the host had left for us–bad idea. After a sip or two, the aches and headache came back double strength, but me being me, I kept drinking and popped two more ibuprofen (mama didn’t raise a quitter).

At the end of day two I crawled into bed, hoping day three would be better, or at the very least, I would make better life decisions.

At the end of day two I crawled into bed, hoping day three would be better, or at the very least, I would make better life decisions.

Day Three: I Survived

I woke up on day three feeling completely refreshed. I could move without pain, my head wasn’t in a vice grip, things were looking up. However, as I went through the day I did notice my level of tiredness was still pretty high and the headache would come and go depending on how much I exerted myself. For the most part, I was back to normal and could live to tell about it.

After returning to work I learned I was actually one of the lucky ones. Some people had it way worse than I did: fever, swelling of the injection site, and chills. The experience was a wild ride to be sure. I definitely don’t suggest you do what I did if you’re about to get your second shot. Stay hydrated, take ibuprofen every 4 hours, and rest.

Overall I’m really happy that I got the vaccination and definitely encourage others to do so if it’s available and you’re eligible. COVID-19 has killed millions and impacted even more lives. Like many, I had my reservations but I realized they were rooted in fear and not logic. So get the shot, help keep the virus at bay, one less person in the hospital is a good thing.

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Team Unruly
Team Unruly
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