Before I get into my experience with the Moderna COVID vaccine, I have to say: writing this post feels surreal. This past year has been long, hard, and incredibly scary. To be sitting here typing this, vaccinated and seeing our society be so close to reaching the light at the end of what sometimes felt like a never-ending darkness, brings me to tears.
I am not a doctor and I am not trying to start a debate about vaccinations. I want to share my vaccination experience in case it’s helpful for others who are wanting to know what they could possibly expect after getting vaccinated. This is just my experience. I know enough people that have had completely different experiences to know that it does not determine yours.
Cliff’s Notes: I am 1000% happy I got the vaccine and would do so again in a heartbeat but woof the side effects were rough.
In the middle of March, my husband and I were fortunate enough to receive our first Moderna COVID shots. Getting vaccinated was simple. We walked into the designated area of our local pharmacy, masked up and bouncing with excitement, and picked an arm for them to poke.
The shot wasn’t cold or painful or otherwise notable in any way for either of us. It felt like getting a flu shot. We high-fived and headed out to get celebratory takeout. The next day I noticed my arm had swelled around where I got vaccinated. It was red and tight and pretty sore. It looked like how my skin swells when I get a bug bite. I react pretty strongly.
I was also incredibly sleepy. I napped for most of the next day, and when Josh took my temperature, he noticed it was the high end of 99.
Josh had no pain, no swelling, no tiredness, and no fever. He said his arm was a little sore but that was about it.
After 24 hours, my arm was still sore and swollen but we were both completely normal otherwise. It took a few days for my arm to de-swell. I was so excited when it finally did only to find a few days later it had re-swelled, angrier and bigger and more tight.
I got a little panicked and asked Josh if I needed to go to the doctor. Thankfully I had the sense to Google and found out I had what’s called “Covid arm”. It’s completely harmless and happens to less than 1% of people who get vaccinated. It’s basically a swelling that happens in the injection site about a week post-vaccine. WebMB said it would go away within a day or two and sure enough it did.
We counted down the days until our second COVID vaccination. We’ve lived a pretty isolated existence this past year, keeping to ourselves and relying on delivery for food and goods. I’m so excited by the idea of just walking around masked in a Target at this point.
Time flies pretty quickly in quarantine and before we knew it it was time to get our second Moderna shot. This time we were scheduled at a different vaccination site and it was a much bigger operation.
We pulled into a parking long where we were checked in and told to head to what looked like a warehouse building. There were stations inside to check your information, check you into the system, and then to get you the shot.
You could tell operations had really expanded and streamlined in the last month. For there being more people, things moved incredibly quickly. Before I knew it I was getting poked again. I alternated arms this time since I had a reaction to the last one. I didn’t expect it to do much but figured it couldn’t hurt.
If it’s possible I felt this shot even less than the first one. (Which that one I barely felt.) I walked out wondering, “Huh, is that just a quicker shot? Or did I not get as much?” Which makes no sense because you’re given the exact same shot both times but Josh and I both experienced this.
We went home and for the rest of the day felt completely fine. I finished out work, we had dinner, and gradually started to feel soreness in our arms. Early that night I started to feel tired and Josh said he felt a little feverish.
And that is the start of what I have dubbed the rollercoaster of sickness for us. While neither of our arms ever swelled, that night we both spiked fevers, piled on all the blankets, still felt freezing, and then sweat through the sheets. There’s no other way to describe it. We both just felt bad. Josh said it’s what the flu feels like.
I woke up the next morning and while I was worn out, my head was clear. I was so excited. (Josh unfortunately still felt crummy.) I decided to get some work done and then take the day off to rest. I figured it would be precautionary more than anything.
Unfortunately shortly after scheduling my out of office notification I felt the shakes and the fever pull me back under. I was under three blankets but if my sweatshirt rode up just a little bit my skin felt freezing. I slept practically the whole day. We both had fevers around 101.
That night, we ate some soup and were both excited that we were finally maybe on the other side of it. It had been 36 hours since the shot and 24 hours since symptoms set in. Unfortunately that night we were back on the rollercoaster of spiking a fever and sweating and shaking throughout the night.
The next morning we woke up and just felt rung out. We were tired of being sick, but also happy that it meant our immune system was reacting to the vaccine and our bodies were doing what they should. We realized it would have been smart to stagger our vaccinations so we could care for one another, and that if we had kids to take care of we would have really hated the last two days. (Thankfully our cat is very low maintenance.) I took off work again and the rest of the day we just napped and rested and had slightly higher temperatures than normal but nothing over 100.
That night, at the 48 hour mark of initial symptom onset, we finally felt like we were both getting back to normal. We went to bed early and the next morning woke up feeling good.
I have older family members that have had no reaction to either shot, of the Moderna or Pfizer. And then I have younger family members that have had reactions like mine to the second Moderna shot but theirs only lasted 24 hours. I’m curious to see if studies find that age does end up playing a factor in who gets second shot side effects and who doesn’t. Regardless, I count us all so lucky to both be safer for ourselves and doing our part for society.
And that is my COVID vaccine story. While it sucks to feel like crap, I’m so thankful for this vaccine and the opportunity I had to get it. It was nothing I couldn’t handle to do my part to get our planet back on track to living a life filled with hugs and travel and Costco samples.
If you’re not vaccinated yet I hope you can get yours soon and that you have no symptoms when you do. To play it safe, I’d recommend planning to lay low for a few days after you get your second shot just in case.
Questions of the Day: Which vaccine did you get? Did you have any symptoms?