The cover of the “Insight Guides” Iceland book. We’re so excited to be planning travel again.

I Got my First Dose of the Pfizer Vaccine Yesterday

Side effects, long-lasting immunity, and traveling again

Wowza, was all I could think last night, as I tried to stay warm under three blankets. Everything on my body hurt, and I had a temperature of 103.˚My head throbbed like I was in the midst of a stampede of horses and my arthritic fingers burned.

If you’ve had COVID-19 already, your body treats the first dose as if it is the second one — at least this is what the pharmacist told me.

But, despite the discomfort, this was strangely reassuring to me, because I knew that this meant that the vaccine was doing exactly what it is supposed to do.

Although it varies wildly, according to the CDC, side effects after your second shot “may be more intense than the ones you experienced after your first shot.” It was completely random which vaccine I received, but I had the Pfizer vaccine. I’ve heard it is the same with Moderna.

Reported side effects of COVID-19 vaccines have mostly been mild to moderate and only last a few days. Typical side effects include pain at the injection site, fever, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, chills and diarrhea. The chances of any of these side effects occurring after vaccination differ according to the specific vaccine.

But, if you’ve had COVID-19 already, your body treats the first dose as if it is the second one — at least this is what the pharmacist told me.

The shot, itself, was just a little prick. I hardly even felt it. And I went to bed thinking that I’d escaped the side effects. But I woke up in the middle of the night with the whole gamut.

Antibodies

I had a pretty bad case of COVID-19 last March. And I have repeatedly been tested for antibodies. I’ve still got them. But with all of the variants circulating right now, I knew that it was a good idea to go ahead and get the vaccine.

A new study has shown that the vaccine is protective against many of these mutations, even the worrying South Africa strain which researchers feared had evolved to evade the protection of vaccines.

Studies of people’s immune responses after being vaccinated against coronavirus show they produce high levels of antibodies and then, after a few weeks, the body produces immune cells, known as B cells, that continue to produce fresh protective antibodies, says Dr. Fauci.

That makes for lasting immune protection. The vaccine (and likely the natural immunoprotective response of the body after having COVID), is probably long-lasting. According to Dr. Scott Hensley, an immunologist at the University of Pennsylvania who has studied mRNA vaccines like Pfizer’s and Moderna’s for years, that fact that we are seeing strong protection after six months means the vaccines are likely to protect people for even longer — years, possibly.

So, my husband and I waited our turn and, when it became available to us in California, we jumped on it.

Iceland, here we come!

We love to travel. It’s probably the single thing that we indulge in the most. That wanderlust is just in our blood and we’ve backpacked our way through Peru, been to India multiple times, seen a lot of Mexico, Europe, Norway, and South Africa too.

Last summer, after being tested to see if we still had antibodies, we took a trip to Alaska. Seeing the wildness of the arctic tundra and all of her creatures without the usual crowds was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

We’ve now planned a trip to Iceland (which requires vaccination to enter, unless you want to quarantine) for October. Every morning, I spend a little time reading about Icelandic culture and about the wild beauty of the place. Our excitement is growing.

I’m also looking forward to traveling to Minnesota this summer to see my mother, who I haven’t been able to visit (she lives in a nursing home) since October of 2019. And my sister and I have planned a trip to the Oregon coast.

Embracing the discomfort

So, when I woke up in the night with a horrific fever and body aches, I actually smiled to myself. Although I am still a bit fevery and achy, I am embracing the discomfort, because I know that the world is about to get back to a “new” normal.

Honestly, I find it staggering that humanity was able to ramp up the testing of the MRNA vaccine technology so fast, and that we seem to be getting a little more control over this situation.

There are a lot of things that humanity has failed with — global warming, mass extinctions, loss of biodiversity — but, with this technology, we probably just altered the course of the world. Can you even imagine living in the dark ages when you just had to let illnesses like smallpox and the black plague roll through society? As hard as this past year was, things could be a whole lot worse right now.

Erika Burkhalter is a yogi, neurophilosopher, cat-mom, photographer, and lover of travel and nature, spreading her love and amazement for Mother Earth’s glories, one photo, poem or story at a time. (MS Neuropsychology, MA Yoga Studies). Erika is also an editor for Mindfully Speaking.

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Photos and story ©Erika Burkhalter. All rights reserved.

Photographer, yogi, cat-mom, lover of travel and nature, spreading amazement for Mother Earth, one photo, poem or story at a time. (MA Yoga, MS Neuropsychology)

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