My Moderna Vaccine Experience (After the Second Dose) and FAQs

Disclaimer: I am not a physician, please do not take my experience or advice as a prescription on how to handle your situation. Contact your PCP for any health related issues or questions.  

For those who don’t know: I am a healthcare worker at an outpatient facility (travel and blogging are my hobby not my career)

 

It’s been a while since I last wrote on here and that’s been for good reason. The distribution of vaccine at our clinic and the consequential work involved has taken up a vast sum of my time. Man what a different world we live in already one month into 2021. COVID-19 cases are on the downtrend, 8-10% of the US population has been vaccinated, we have a new president (finally), and a ton of people have now invested their savings into the GME short squeeze (we like this stonk)

Anyway yes we are living in some interesting times, but the reason for this post is because I promised I would related my experience getting the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine comprehensively. Yesterday marked 14 days after the day I got my second shot of the Moderna vaccine. According to the Phase III trials of the Moderna vaccine, I now have 94.5% immunity against the COVID-19 variant which was seen earlier in the pandemic. I must note though that the road here was a bit rougher than one might expect after taking the first shot of the vaccine.

Full disclosure: I wanted to see how bad it would get so I didn’t take any anti-inflammatory medications until well past the 24 hour mark.

I took the shot on the morning of Tuesday, January 19. It was like before, no pain at all, I didn’t even realize the needle was in at all. I did however forget to take a picture this time. So please indulge me as I share the image from the first time. It all honesty the scene wasn’t that different lol.

Within 1 hour after shot:
My left arm was sore and heavy to lift. This feeling took a couple of hours the first time I took the vaccine. 
 
10 hour mark:
I went to bed feeling sore and sleepy. I’m assuming sleepy because it was a very long day. 
 
Next morning (18 hour mark):
I woke up feeling like I ran the marathon the previous day and perhaps feeling 40-50 years older? My body just felt too heavy to lift, my back was really sore, and my legs felt like they had just finished cramping.
Getting down the stairs wasn’t easy and so I mostly sat on the couch watching the inauguration. I pretty much had to take the day off and ended up working from home. I drank lots of fluids for what it’s worth and didn’t take any anti-inflammatories. 
 
20 hour mark:
Felt a bit feverish, I was so sore that I couldn’t really move. At times it was hard for me to even lift my phone to type so I pretty much went off the grid. I really didn’t have any chills so I didn’t take an Ibuprofen or Naproxen for pain relief. It was a good thing my mom was home because I didn’t feel like moving even to get food. 
 
28 hour mark:
I dragged myself to bed and fell asleep feeling like I just finished another intense workout at the gym. It’s the kind of feeling you get when you’ve done 
 
36 hour mark:
I woke up almost feeling normal except for some residual soreness from the “marathon” run and a lot of joint pain. 
 
48 hour mark:
Started feeling sore, tired, and the joint pain seemed to worsen even when compared to the previous day so I took two ibuprofen. I started feeling better about 2 hours after the medication. The soreness was still there but it wasn’t debilitating anymore. 
 
72 hour mark:
Still some moderate joint pain and soreness. Took another 2 Ibuprofen and felt much better.
 
96 hour mark and after:
On and off joint pains persisted but they didn’t impede my daily function. In fact these joint pains didn’t last for more than 20 minutes at a time. This was something I saw all the way through week 1. 
 
6 day mark (144 hours):
I went out and biked 15 miles, felt absolutely fine. No additional soreness or fatigue which was vaccine related. I did have an episode or two of joint pain near my knees and elbows though which was lasted 10 minutes at a time. From what medical professionals say, this is perhaps due to the continual stimulation of the bone marrow to produce antibodies and other types of immunity to protect me against the virus. 
Additional plot point:
My cousin (Sasidhar) who is the other blog contributor got his second dose last week (he is also a healthcare worker). He experienced fever and chills for a better part of 3 days before all symptoms subsided. He pretty much took the around the clock Tylenol and Motrin (every 6-8 hours) I talk about earlier and it helped him push through. I could be wrong as of this moment, but he said earlier today that he had no more symptoms from the vaccine. Though he had more severe side effects than I did, he seemed to have recovered faster from it much faster.
 
Recommendation: Take the day after the shot off if you start feeling symptoms the night of your shot. Regardless of whether you take the day off or not make sure to take Tylenol or Motrin (Ibuprofen) every 6-8 hours. AND DO NOT PREMEDICATE with either medicine before your vaccine shots. It may interfere with proper immune response. 
 
Remember: The side effects are not dangerous. They are in fact a good thing, indicating a robust immune response and as close to proof as you can get that what you got injected with is the ‘real deal.’ Also note that there are various forms of immunity (I won’t get specific) so not having these side effects isn’t necessarily bad.
It’s your YMMV situation with the second dose of this vaccine, but having vaccinated about ~550 second doses at our office, many above the age of 50 experienced few symptoms, if at all any. So the immune response appears to be more robust in younger patients according to my anecdotal experience.

 

Here are some FAQs which keep circling back to me now that I have the vaccine and have been a part of the administration efforts

 

What are my plans now that I have the vaccine?
Nothing changes for me as far as life goes. I wear a mask everywhere I go and I still try to limit the number of times I go out shopping (I do home delivery all the time). In-room dining is still a big no for me as case loads are still fairly high and all my favorites places do curbside pickup. I make sure to tip generously of course. I know there are many people jumping at the seams to have the chance to get back to normality, but for us to come out on the other end, we need to continue to be cautious. As far as travel goes, I do have a trip planned to Hawaii in March because my parents have a Westin timeshare (aka a complete waste of money) our family hasn’t used in many years. There has been talk of Hawaii waiving quarantine for fully vaccinated travelers, but it hasn’t happened as of yet. I’m not sure how feasible it is at all given our busy work schedules, but there is still hope.

 

What does being fully vaccinated mean?
It by no means give anyone a ‘get out of mask free card’ for the rest of the year. Studies are still being done as we speak regarding the rates of transmission of virus from vaccinated individuals and policies are evolving based on that. Just this morning Oxford University said that the AstraZeneca vaccine was shown to reduce transmittance of disease. However there is no definitive evidence that I or any vaccinated individual can’t give it to another person (one that wasn’t vaccinated yet). Please be safe rather than sorry.

 

What is my very non-expert opinion on the COVID-19 variants and vaccines?

While the vaccines we have now may not be efficacious to the levels seen in the Phase III trials and studies, my guess is that the vaccines do provide a high level of protection to prevent the worst outcomes: hospitalization and death. The worst part about this pandemic has been the lack of hospital beds and resources, which has caused a very large number of people to not get the care they need in time. With more people being vaccinated, the pressure on the healthcare system will hopefully go down far enough to where patients won’t be denied care based on the severity of their symptoms. When hospitals finally have some breathing room (no pun intended), we will see better clinical outcomes there as well.
So basically if you are doubting the vaccine because of the variants you keep hearing about, know that some immunity is better than no immunity at all. If enough people get vaccinated, the transmission will be low enough to where we won’t see as many future iterations of this virus. Do your part and get vaccinated when it is your turn! 

 

What happens if you test positive for COVID-19 after getting the first shot?

There is a lot of gray area going on here regarding whether patients should get the second dose. A recent study pointed out that one dose may be enough for these patients, while the CDC says as long as you aren’t symptomatic you can get it. I think the best thing for you to do in this scenario is to consult your PCP to go over the pros and cons.

 

What do you think is the greatest bottleneck to vaccine rollout? 

Not enough vaccine to go around is of course the biggest issue. However. regulation was probably the biggest bottleneck in states like NY. The saddest part about this distribution process has not been that certain people got it before others, but the fact that vaccines were wasted because they expired by the time they reached arms. There is nothing more precious than vaccine right now and we have to make every drop of it count. It literally saves lives.
I’m not usually for favoritism on this realm, but I will proudly say that TX has done this right from the beginning. It’s important to have a line and priorities for vaccination, but no one should be punished if vaccine is given out to those of a lower priority because time is running out. The types of stories we are hearing out of Oregon and Washington are encouraging signs that the situation continues to get better.

 

What do I think of the single dose JnJ vaccine?

The JnJ vaccine (mechanism of action found here) looks extremely promising given its storage requirements and single dose nature. The most crucial piece of information to cull from the sea of information on that vaccine is that it was 85% effective in reducing the severity and hospitalization rates of COVID-19 across all variants (including the South African one). The Phase III trial of this vaccine was also conducted in the midst of the peak of the pandemic so it provides great evidence of a functional real world application.

 

When do you think we will have “normality”?

No clue on the exact date here. If the volume of vaccinations continues to ramp up (we are currently at around 1.2M doses per day in the US), we could be looking at somewhat of a normality at the end of summer. Given that winter can bring the mayhem of the flu and COVID-19 once again and the fact that children aren’t going to be vaccinated, it’s more likely that it will be Summer of 2022 before it feels like 2019 once again.

 

A quick tidbit for fellow healthcare providers and organizations out there:

The Moderna vaccine comes in a 6.3 mL vial and there are up to 12 doses inside. So much of the educational material talks about 10-11 doses in each vial and that’s probably what you will get if you use the 21G syringes provided by McKesson and the CDC. What syringe you use can really change the number of doses you draw. If you use a 25G syringe or similar, like we have been. you have a better shot at drawing 12 doses out of each vial of vaccine. Please be careful when extracting the doses!

This concludes my special programming on the COVID-19 vaccine, stay tuned for posts on travel, deals, and of course my favorite: photography!

24 Comments

  1. ds1

    Congratulations!

    I also got a Moderna vaccine twice. Logically, I felt my situation should be given high priority because I live with my 90 year old grandmother so I thought of various ways to get the vaccine ASAP. I got mine as an extra dose at closing time. In New York, that is not allowed resulting in wasted doses because the governor threatened up to $1 million fines and lost of license if anyone besides the elderly and inmates got it. But I am not in New York.

    The Moderna vaccine has 10 doses but usually they can get 11 out of it. So the last bottle is meant for 10 people and some places will give it to you if you ask nicely at closing time and say that you’ll wait outside. Then someone waves you in. I saw an article that people in Los Angeles were doing this.

    I have kept my vaccine success mostly secret because I don’t want to brag. After my first dose, everything was fine except 1/2 day of very slight tingling of my head but not even enough to call it a headache. My arm was only sore if I really pushed hard on the injection site. The day after my second dose (day 30, second dose on day 29), I was so achy that it took 90 minutes to get out of bed. I would rise up 12 inches and go back to bed. The day after that (day 31), just minimally tired and very minimal shoulder ache. I hope people will not refuse the vaccine because they are afraid they will have aches.

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience. And Congratulations you are definitely one of the lucky ones.

      I’m a healthcare worker but I also take care of my grandparents, both of whom are 80+ so I understand where you are coming from. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had to self quarantine after a week where we saw covid patients at the clinic quite frequently.

      You can actually get up to 12 doses in a vial if the drawing is done properly. I’m so glad to hear Cali isn’t wasting vaccine, every drop of it counts toward herd immunity.

      1. ds1

        Despite getting both doses, I continue to try to stay at home as much as possible and wear good masks. I have a small supply of N95 masks for grocery shopping and surgical masks for times that contact will be either very minimal or non-existent. Getting the vaccine is not a ticket to invite some friends over. Incidentally, the most common source of getting sick is when you invite just one or two friends over, like watching the Super Bowl. It’s not from having a wild sex party with 300 people in a room.

  2. Hey Teja, Thanks for the detailed review about the vaccination. I’ve been hearing so many rumors about the side effects and infections after taking the vaccine. But you’ve cleared the air and I’ll definitely take it if I get a chance!

  3. Super777

    When I saw your photo my first though was damn, young guy get Vax and I don’t? Then I read the 8,000,000 mentions of being in health care. Good to see health care peeps getting vaxxed up. Also apprecaite the details on side effects. Can’t wait for them to call my #.. Yeah in about 6-9 months.

  4. Jane

    Your article was just what i was looking for, took awhile however.
    Keep on traveling, that is what makes americans get a clue i find!
    Tahoe area again,, 8 years Honolulu, My heart in London everyday. people places convenience culture pubs.
    Many thanks for writing your piece.
    Jane ( san fran native)

    Ps yes a rough 4 year nightmare!

  5. Name

    Your comments sounded interesting, but I closed the article after “we have a new president (finally)”.

    This belongs in a political arena commentary, not for grown men and women.

  6. Ron

    we have a new president (finally)…

    Just had to insert politics into this whole thing right? You would have had the chance to even GET the vaccine if it wasn’t for the “previous” president.
    When he is elected again in 24, go scream at the sky OK?

  7. David S. Pope

    When you say “Also note that there are various forms of immunity (I won’t get specific) so not having these side effects isn’t necessarily bad.”, do you mean herd immunity?

    1. Hey, no I’m talking in terms of immunology. There’s innate and adaptive types of immunity (under which there is T-cell mediated immunity, B-cell mediated immunity, and various combinations). It can get really complicated, really fast.

      1. David S. Pope

        Ah, right. The memory cells. Meaning that individual already had COVID or some infection that looks close enough for our bodies to recognize. The kind of immunity that occurs naturally as people pass the infection between themselves.

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