COVID-19 Vaccine Prep and Administration, Part II

If you are interested, check out my post about the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, which you can access here. I was offered and accepted the two-dose Pfizer vaccine through my local cancer center in February of 2021. The first dose was extremely anti-climactic as you can read about, but I knew to be a little more cautious about the second dose based on information I'd heard from others.

Vaccine preparation

In preparation for the second dose of the vaccine, I again stopped the medication that reduces my white blood cell count a week before receiving the vaccine and only restarted it a week after I received the vaccine. This was done to hopefully ensure that my immune system was sufficiently robust to respond to the instructions from the mRNA in the vaccine. My medical oncologist was on board with this plan and I do have to say that I'm a little disappointed that I had to come up with a plan myself rather than the manufacturer providing some guidance.

Vaccine process

Anyway, the process for getting the second vaccine was the same as for the first and I got the shot from a similar needle in the right arm. As you may remember, I had some lymph nodes taken out on the left side of my body with my lumpectomy and there have been some noted lymph node swelling as a result of the vaccine doses, so I made sure to avoid the left side. This meant that I had both doses in the right arm, which didn't raise any red flags for anyone that I asked.

Side effects

I again had some injection site tenderness (they really do push the needle deep into the muscle) and a friend suggested that it was actually good that I had the injections in my dominant arm since I use it more and that ensured the dose circulated well. Perhaps that did help, but it certainly wasn't the most comfortable for at least 24 hours. I had some chills about 12 hours after the injection and the body aches after that were pretty intense. Good thing I have lots of body aches normally, so I had plenty of remedies on hand. I also had a headache for about a day or so, just a low-level headache.

One thing I noticed, which I've also heard from others, is that my body aches were centered mainly in the areas where I've had active mets or there are still active mets.  Nothing too intense, just a dull deep ache that made me want to curl up in bed and sleep with a heating pad strategically situated.

Which I did.

All in all, I was definitely not 100% for about 48 hours. Others that I know who have a more robust immune system felt quite a bit of symptoms for a week or so.  Regardless of the time period, I am frankly happy that I had some side effects. It helped me to know that my immune system was responding to the cues in the vaccine and hopefully it would be effective.

CDC

As I suggested in my first post, if you get the vaccine, be sure to report your symptoms and experience to www.vsafe.cdc.gov.  I got a text message each day for the first week and then weekly for several weeks. This is how the CDC will collect sufficient data to know how best to move forward and, I really hope, they will be able to one day separate out the data about us, those with advanced cancer, to see how we respond as a cohort.

Just another way to ensure that those who come after us will be better equipped!

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