Francis (he/him/his): MSU College of Human Medicine, 2nd-year Medical Student
I’m thankful that I, along with some of my peers, could get access to the vaccine prior to beginning our new semester. The fact that many of us were able to get the vaccine via drive-thru instead of in-person was a privilege considering access and logistics needed for administering the vaccine in such a manner. I was fortunate that I was able to schedule an appointment and receive the vaccine within a few days while some of my peers had to wait a bit longer, but through a partnership between the institution, public health department, and local hospital system, I believe most students were/will be covered in a timely manner, again a privilege I am thankful for.
A few hours after my first dose, there was some shoulder pain as well as some fatigue. While the fatigue resolved by the next day, some shoulder soreness remained. I tried to exercise/keep the shoulder moving/massage the injection site as recommended for this injection (as well as the flu shot), and the fatigue and shoulder pain did not interfere with my usual home workout. Overall, the fatigue lasted about 8 hours, while shoulder pain resolved in about 24 hours.
I hope sharing our individual experiences will ease any concerns so that we can best protect each other and ourselves. As medical students and as future physicians, I believe this is part of our duty to our patients and communities, to research and disseminate knowledge however we can while rebuilding trust with communities that healthcare has harmed so that we can protect others and promote health.
I’m happy to report back that after my second dose, my side effects were similar to my first, with some fatigue later in the evening of my shot as well as some shoulder pain. I tried to keep my shoulder mobile which I think helped as the soreness was present for about 24 hours but bearable as I was still able to exercise. I was very aware of many of my colleagues, however, who had quite intense second dose reactions, some reporting that they felt fine the first 24 hours but after that reported lots of fatigue, fevers, shoulder pain, and swollen lymph nodes. Most told me they took some Tylenol and rested for the second day with symptoms almost completely resolving around 48-72 hours after.
While I am grateful that my side effects were rather minimal compared to some others, some peers and colleagues are worried about the potential side effects for a booster shot in the near future depending on what research will show with regards to the new strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus as well as how long vaccine immunity will last. While they acknowledge that the benefits still greatly outweigh the risks of not getting the vaccine, this is definitely a concern some of my peers have shared.
I feel it is also important to always acknowledge the privilege of having access to the vaccine at this point in time and to also highlight the inequity of vaccine access. While trust is definitely a barrier we hope to help overcome, vaccine demand is still high and vaccine shortages remain a challenge. What limited vaccine we have had access to has not gone to BIPOC communities, those who have been hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic. We must continue to communicate, to build trust, and to advocate for equitable access to all resources necessary to overcome the pandemic. While getting the vaccine when we can is one way to protect ourselves and our communities, we have to continue to do all we can to protect our communities, including practicing proper hand hygiene, properly wearing a mask or two, socially distancing, and following any other additional public health guidelines.