The second COVID vaccine tends to come with more side effects. Should you skip it?


AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — It is no secret that the second dose of the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines have more side effects. Some of the symptoms are headache, fever, chills, or more.

Would that stop you from getting the second shot? Rodney Young, M.D., the Regional Chair of Family and Community Medicine at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, said the benefits outweigh the risks.

“There is likely a significant degree of protection, but not what it would be; not that 95% number that we cling to,” said Dr. Young. “It’s probably categorized under missed opportunity.”

Dr. Young said it is not dangerous or harmful if you do not get your second vaccination, but he said you are also not able to reliably know that you will realize the true benefit from that vaccine.

Why do some people report a stronger side effect with the second dose? Dr. Young said the first vaccine is kind of like a tutor working with a student on a topic they know nothing about, but they become more adept at learning how to deal with it.

“The second dose of the vaccine; now what’s happened is your immune system has been introduced to this protein before. It knows it and has generated an antibody response, which is your immune response,” said Dr. Young. “Now when it sees this protein again, in the future, it’ll generate a more robust, healthy immune response.”

Dr. Young also addressed that the symptoms that one experiences when sick come from the body’s immune response.

“It’s really the things that our body makes us part of the immune response trying to be inhospitable to this invader,” said Dr. Young. “So when you get the second dose of a vaccine, you’re really boosting the immune response to try to get those antibody levels up high. So that’s why you feel, commonly, not always, but a lot of people will have more the symptoms that we would describe as flu-like. They may feel a little tired, a little achy, a little sore, a little feverish, but not to the level of you know, the actual infection itself.”

There are currently three COVID-19 vaccines available: Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. For those who are still nervous about the effect of the second dose effect, or if you are wanting to take a “one and done” approach, Dr. Young says the J&J vaccine is a great option.

“It’s very well tolerated in their large and well-done studies, and you don’t have to worry about that second dose phenomenon,” said Dr. Young. “The Johnson & Johnson vaccine did an excellent job preventing severe illness and hospitalization, and no one that had been vaccinated died from COVID in that study. So that’s a very important thing to underline about the vaccine. It is definitely offering high levels of protection against the things that matter most to us when we choose to get vaccinated.”

Dr. Young said if a lot of other people make the decision to not take the second vaccine, the broader sense of immunity within the community is not as high as may have been able to achieve.

“I guess that you wish you weren’t in the category that felt bad [after getting the second vaccine], but if you are in that category, you’ve got, you know, a good first-hand knowledge that you’ve developed a nice robust immune response to the vaccine,” said Dr. Young. “So it’s kind of like paying the Piper but now you have, you have a good experience to suggest that your immune system is well equipped to face it in the future.”

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