17 March 2021 (updated)

To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate: The COVID-19 Vaccine

Millions of people worldwide have received a COVID-19 vaccine in the past few months. But is getting vaccinated the right choice for you?

Should I Get a COVID-19 Vaccine?

Dear Amelia,

My work sent me a notification that I’m eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. I was so excited to go home and tell my husband, and I’m surprised that he and others aren’t more excited. Hearing about people who choose to opt-out and others who are getting really sick from it is confusing to me. I want to get it, but I’m second-guessing it a bit. I've been hoping for this since I first learned about the coronavirus a whole year ago.

Craving COVID's End

Dear Craving,

The vaccine is an exciting reality for those who see it as a way to find some normalcy again. And like all things, there are many differing opinions. Some people can’t get their COVID019 vaccine fast enough, and others have questions and are taking a more cautious approach.

The anxiety surrounding getting the vaccine is understandable. Many ask how the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines were approved so quickly and did they go too fast? There has been a lot of reports on the clinical trials and how this happened. In short, these vaccines got to go to the front of the line for approval. That doesn’t mean it skipped testing stages; it means it didn’t have to wait so long between stages, as is the case with other non-pandemic-related meds waiting for their green light. Everyone is over the coronavirus.

The responses people's bodies have to their vaccine also vary. Some have minimal side effects, and others report being out of commission for a few days. And while we’re still learning about COVID, it seems.

Following up With Christie Pelow

Christie Pelow, who had COVID-19 in April and was featured in one of our site’s COVID Survivor Stories, recently received the vaccine during her pregnancy (she just welcomed a beautiful baby girl, congratulations!). She has amazing information to share as a nurse, mom, and someone who did a good deal of her own research.

“Since I had COVID and had tested positive for antibodies, my body should have had an immune response, which it did,” said Christie. (To make sure readers are clear since this vaccine is an mRNA vaccine, it does not have the actual virus in it) “My symptoms were light. I was very tired, with aches and a low-grade fever. I was grateful I was able to lounge around for the day,” she explains. “Since my body had already encountered the virus before, it knew what to do. And it felt a lot better than when I had COVID, so I was fine.”

Going into my own vaccination process, the first shot mostly left me with a sore arm for a day. I, too, was anxious about how I might respond to the second dose. I’m not a doctor, but here are some tips I heard before heading into round two.

Hydrate and Relax When Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine

I drank lots of water the morning of my second dose. Close to three-fourths of a gallon. I also added some electrolytes to it, like what you can find in Propel packets or Mio Sport. I hoped that this would prevent the achy sore feelings some have mentioned.

The morning after my second dose, I felt fine and decided to take my son to the store to grab a few things. While we were there, I got a little lightheaded and a few chills. So we quickly wrapped up shopping and headed home.

I had recently bought a new bag of Epsom salts and decided to relax in a bath for a bit. Mr. Teal’s Epsom salts comes in a few different scents, and the eucalyptus and spearmint one I had was wonderful. It made such a nice aroma, and that combined with the warm water, helped the slight ache pass.

Consider Your Schedule

The day after seems to be where most people are concerned. My sister, a nurse practitioner, was advised to get coverage ahead of time in case she was not well. Even if you don’t react, a free day and fewer appointments may allow you to feel a bit more relaxed about what could happen. If you have kids at home, consider seeing if family or a sitter could help for the day. It’s always ok to ask for help, even if you aren’t completely sure you’ll need it.

To Medicate or Not to Medicate

At both doses, I asked nurses their thoughts on taking Tylenol or ibuprofen to aid soreness. With the first dose, they told me not to take anything so that the vaccine would have a more robust response. The second, the nurse said it didn’t really matter.

I did take Tylenol after the second dose. My arm was very sore. If you’re on the fence, it could be worth discussing with your primary care physician or calling their nurses line. Someone with your medical record may have better information for you based on your medical history.

Sill on the Fence About the COVID-19 Vaccine?

Even with all the information tipping the scales towards yes, some people are still hesitant. Back to our conversation with Christie, she consulted with her doctors.

“The decision to get the vaccine while pregnant was not made lightly. There wasn’t a whole lot of information about pregnant women getting the vaccine. I did research and did what I would tell any woman to do was take the information to my provider, who I trust.” After conversations with two different doctors at her practice, personal research, and her own knowledge about mRNA vaccines and their safety with pregnant women, she decided to go ahead with the vaccine. Christie is also a nurse who works largely in the ER and ICU, so her exposure risk is high. This was another factor in her decision to get the vaccine.

While the proteins in the vaccine wouldn’t pass the placenta to her baby, her daughter, now, does benefit from the antibodies through breast milk. Her ability to share the benefits with her baby confirmed the decision for her. Christie does emphasize the importance of getting the vaccine for anyone, especially while pregnant. This should be a decision you feel comfortable with and that you’ve consulted with your doctor. Everyone’s experience, medical history, and other elements that can be a factor here need to be discussed with providers who know that information about you.

Make the Best Choice for You

It feels like a big decision for many people, to vaccinate or not. And in the end, we all have to make the best choice for ourselves. This isn’t a vaccine; most of us get at routine doctor's appointments when we are kids. It’s new. And it may also feel like one more new thing to face. It’s ok. Take things a day at a time.



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