We Got the Covid Vaccine & Here's How It Went
Since last March, Covid has been the only thing on people’s minds (...and Driver’s License, but we all knew that), but there is light at the end of the tunnel! With the vaccine rolling out across the country, we thought we’d give you all of the details to help you prepare for your dose.
The Vaccines, Explained
For all of those who are not concentrating in a life sciences field, here’s a brief rundown of the vaccine. More detailed information can be found from the CDC.
Vaccines introduce your body to a less harmful form of a virus in order for your immune system to recognize it and create protection in the form of a protein called antibodies. These antibodies are designed to target and attack specific viruses.
Pfizer and Moderna’s versions of the Covid vaccine are mRNA vaccines. These vaccines takes a tiny bit of genetic material from the virus called the messenger RNA, or mRNA, which contain instructions to create a bit of protein on the outside of the virus called the spike protein. Your body then takes this viral mRNA and uses it to create the spike protein.
Johnson & Johnson’s version of the vaccine is a vector vaccine. This type of vaccine inserts a harmless virus genetically modified to contain DNA from the coronavirus (otherwise known as a vector), and this vector uses the cells’ machinery to produce coronavirus spike proteins.
In both types of vaccines, the viral DNA does not get integrated into the vaccine recipient’s DNA! Once the spike proteins are made, the vaccinated person’s cells will display these coronavirus spike proteins on their surfaces. This spike protein is completely harmless and will not give you Covid. Your immune system will then create the protective antibodies to attack the spike protein, and by extension, attack the Covid virus. Thus, if you actually do get Covid, your immune system will recognize the spike protein on the virus and already has protections in place to destroy the virus.
Some of the many benefits of the vaccine include protecting you against Covid, reducing transmission, and potentially reducing the severity of disease. You can read more about the benefits of the vaccine on the CDC website!
The Writer Experience (Ellen)
I got the Moderna vaccine and logged all of my symptoms for both doses. Please note that everyone will react differently and this is not a set of instructions to follow after you get your shots!
I got my first dose around 6 p.m. on a Thursday at Boston Children’s Hospital and was immediately seated in a lecture hall for observation for 15-20 minutes. My arm grew progressively weaker throughout the evening, but since I can barely lift a 15-pound weight without sweating, that’s not saying too much.
The exhaustion I felt next morning was akin to the fatigue you feel on the Saturday afternoon of a four-day Halloweekend. Tired, but could definitely rally if needed. I couldn’t say the same for my arm, which hung limply at my side as I slogged through my work day. By the evening, my symptoms completely disappeared and I even felt like I could handle a workout. Instead, I watched Netflix.
By the time my next appointment rolled around three weeks later, I was stoked to be fully vaccinated. I received the shot at 6 p.m. again and went to bed, antibodies and serotonin coursing through my veins, blissful and unaware of what was to come.
At 7 a.m. Friday morning, I felt like I had been hit by a truck. I was feverish and cold despite being bundled in three layers of blankets, and my joints and muscles ached to the point where sitting up was difficult. After struggling out of my bed (read: one hour later), I registered a distinct headache and nausea, and swiftly called out of work only to collapse back into my bed. Not uncommon for the second dose, I experienced a 102-degree fever throughout the day with symptoms continuing until, you guessed it, I went back to bed.
By Saturday morning, my energy levels were back to normal, I was feeling healthy, and have been great ever since. Even though I experienced symptoms the day after, I can attest that the vaccine was infinitely worth it, not only to protect me against the virus but slow the pandemic and protect our community at large.
The Writer Experience (Christine)
Like Ellen, I received the Moderna vaccine. I won’t lie, I was a bit surprised by my experience with both the first and second doses…
I received my first dose in late February at Gillette Stadium, one of the largest general vaccination sites in the Boston area. My appointment was around 2:30 p.m. on a Sunday, and it was a fairly painless experience. I was ushered through the site in a very orderly fashion, had a lovely conversation with the nurse administering my shot, and was out of the stadium within an hour.
While I felt fine right afterwards, my arm got heavier as time went on. I actually wasn’t too concerned about it; this is the most common side effect given that the shot is administered into the muscle. By 7 p.m. I was feeling quite nauseous and shivery, which doesn’t seem to be very normal for the first dose, though experiences definitely vary widely.
The next day was somewhat near hell for me: I was incredibly tired, could not lift my arm even an inch or two from my side, and experienced intense cold sweats by mid-afternoon. After passing out to nap into the evening, however, most of the nausea was gone, though I was still pretty exhausted. I went to bed early — washing up was quite an ordeal with my dead weight of a limb — but woke up on Monday morning with nothing more than the sore arm, which finally went away by Tuesday afternoon.
After the unexpected nightmare that was my first dose, I was gearing up for another painful weekend of cold sweats and heavy limbs. Receiving my second shot once again around 2:30 p.m. four weeks later, I was pleasantly surprised by what happened next.
My arm felt, once again, slightly heavy and sore in the area where I received my shot. However, beyond this, I experienced no other pressing physical symptoms that warranted extra layers of blankets or cups of tea (I did let myself eat generous helpings of ice cream after dinner, though).
Even the next day, I was shocked to find I could raise my arm and perform basic tasks, like washing the dishes and brushing my hair, that were virtually impossible for me the first time. I was still rather exhausted, but after several naps throughout the day, was pretty much back to normal by the evening. I still allowed myself several servings of Cookies ‘n Cream and Korean reality TV shows as a congratulatory gift for finally receiving both doses.
All in all, I seemed to have a fairly difficult experience with my first shot, while my second shot entailed little more than a sore arm and slight fatigue. I experienced something of a symptom reversal between my first and second doses compared to most, but of course this is not necessarily unexpected; everyone has different experiences.
The Writer Experience (Georgia)
I received the Pfizer vaccine and have only had my first dose as of writing this article. Here’s how it went:
Nearly eight weeks after I first became eligible for the vaccine in my state, I was finally able to book an appointment 90 minutes away from where I live. After weeks of playing whack-a-mole (vaccine) with pharmacy websites, my mom and I secured appointments at a hospital in a more rural and well-supplied part of our state for a Sunday night in mid-March.
We arrived early for our 8:05 p.m. appointment and were quickly welcomed and given our CDC dose cards, then ushered to the absolutely wonderful health care workers administering the vaccine. As I was taking a deep breath in so I could exhale (apparently that’s supposed to help make shots less painful?), the nurse jabbed me with the vaccine unexpectedly. She said that she felt my muscle do a weird little contortion because my muscle was surprised. It probably made the shot a little more painful that it otherwise would have been, but to be completely honest, I was so thrilled to get the vaccine that nothing could possibly faze me.
After that we walked into an auditorium to wait for 15 minutes after receiving the vaccine, then jumped in the car for the 90-minute drive home (with an ice cream stop on the way). I tried to move my arm around a bit while I rushed to finish my weekend homework, then went to bed feeling great.
The next morning, I woke up, reached for my phone, and my arm felt like a log. My entire upper arm was sore and I could barely reach above shoulder height for my first few waking hours. Over the course of the day, it got better, but remained super sore. When I got the vaccine I was told to use an ice pack or Tylenol for any pain, but I decided to rough it out because I was too lazy to find Tylenol.
Whether you are eagerly awaiting your turn for the Covid vaccine or have already received a dose or two, remember that a sore arm is well worth helping to protect the more at-risk individuals in our community. Check out this resource from the CDC to learn when and how you can sign up to receive the vaccine, along with that highly coveted “I’m vaccinated!” button. If you’re looking for more resources on eligibility, or need help booking an appointment for yourself or someone else, definitely check out Covid Vaccines Info Guide. The website, created by Catherine H. Yeo ’23-22 and Eric Z. Lin ’22, is probably the least confusing masterlist of Covid vaccination information that we’ve run across so far. You can also sign up for email alerts, so you’ll be the first to know when guidelines change in your state. Best of luck snagging a vaccine appointment! Believe us, those freebies were almost as good as getting the vaccine itself.