8 Things You Should Know Before Your Second Covid-19 Vaccination

We, and I say we as a collective global entity, have been battling Covid-19 for more than a year now. 

I’m over it. You’re over it. America’s over it. The entire planet is over it

And, with the vaccine now making its rounds throughout the globe, maybe we actually can be over it in the near future. That’s the hope at least, right? 

But, this vaccine in particular is a little different than the others that folks have grown accustomed to over the years. 

The flu shot for instance requires one injection, an annual thing for those who get it, whereas the Covid-19 vaccination requires two separate injections. 

And, you likely don’t even know of the manufacturer of the flu vaccine that you receive annually. Yet, most people are becoming acquainted with the companies Pfizer and Moderna in light of the Covid-19 vaccination. 

But, timeframe and manufacturers aren’t the only things to consider when it comes to getting this vaccine, especially if you’re gearing up for your second dose. 

Whether you’ve received that first dose and are gearing up for the second or you’re trying to stay informed for when you are able or willing to receive the series of vaccinations when permitted, there are some very important pieces of information that you need to know before receiving this vaccination. 


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1- Don’t Stress Too Much Over Timing

By now I’m sure you’re familiar with the fact that there is a schedule to be followed regarding the amount of time between the first and second doses of the Covid-19 vaccine. 

But, that schedule differs between manufacturers. 

The Pfizer vaccine recommends the second dose to be given roughly 21 days after the first, and the Moderna vaccine recommends the second dose to be given 28 days after the first dose. 

But, while it is not advisable to receive the second dose of either vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna) earlier than recommended, if you must receive your second dose a little bit later than planned, don’t fret. 

In other words, if you find yourself having to cancel your appointment for your second dose, as long as you receive it within 6 weeks of the first shot, you’ll be fine. 

In the words of infectious disease specialist William Schaffner, “your immune system will work perfectly well if you take more time (between doses).” 


2- Skip The Pain Meds Until Afterwards

Another bit of information that is all too familiar when it comes to most any vaccination is that recipients of vaccines sometimes experience pain at the injection site. 

So, if you received a side of pain with your first Covid-19 vaccine dose (or any other vaccine in your lifetime for that matter), you may be tempted to take some form of pain medication prior to your second dose to avoid experiencing such pain or discomfort. 

One word in this regard: don’t. 

The CDC advises vaccine recipients to avoid the use of pain medication, unless otherwise directed by your doctor, until after the second dose has been administered. 

Taking pain medication prior to receiving the shot in an attempt to avoid the possibility of pain may actually lessen the effectiveness of the vaccine. 

After you receive your second dose of the vaccine, if you begin to experience side effects such as pain, fever, headache, or chills, it is okay to take an OTC pain reliever (such as Tylenol, acetaminophen, Advil, or Motrin). 

If you’d prefer not to take pain medications, applying a clean, cold damp cloth can also reduce any pain and/or discomfort at the site of the injection.


3- Don’t Switch Manufacturers

Another common question surfacing amongst those looking to receive their second Covid-19 vaccination: Can I get the second dose of the vaccine from a different manufacturer?

Short answer: no!

While the CDC has allowed mixed doses in instances where a patient doesn’t know which vaccine they received for their first dose (Pfizer or Moderna), the fact remains that “the safety and efficacy of a mixed-product series have not been evaluated.” (per the CDC)

Basically, switching manufacturers for your second dose may prove unsafe, and it may mean that you will not be protected from Covid-19 as well, despite having received two doses of the vaccine. 


4- Avoid Other Vaccinations In Between Covid-19 Vaccine Doses

Especially during these winter months, while other vaccines are routinely offered (such as the flu shot, shingles shot, or even a scheduled Tdap vaccine unrelated to season), it is important to note that the CDC advises against receiving other such vaccines before and after both Covid-19 vaccine doses. 

Specifically, individuals are recommended to avoid other immunizations for a minimum of 14 days before and after both Covid-19 vaccine doses. 

This guidance is largely due to the fact that the safety and effectiveness of receiving other immunizations within this timeframe hasn’t been studied. 

It is also generally wise to isolate immunizations so that any adverse reactions can be attributed to the proper cause. 


5-  If You Had A Rash With The First Shot, This Isn’t A Cause To Skip The Second Shot

Between 3-10 days after receiving the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccination (from both manufacturers) some people may have experienced a rash at the site of injection. 

If you did receive such a rash, the CDC still advises receiving the second dose of the vaccine, though their recommendation is to get the second dose in the opposite arm. 

Over the counter antihistamines such as Benadryl are considered effective treatment for mild allergic reactions (such as these rashes) according to doctors. 


6- Stronger Side Effects For The Second Shot

It is important to note that the second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine carries with it a greater tendency for intensified side effects. 

There are many people who report having little to no side effects accompanying their first dose of the vaccine. However, these same individuals reported instances of fever, aches, and chills, along with muscle and joint pain after the second dose. 

One infectious disease doctor explains this occurrence as an “indication of a vigorous immune system response.” 


7- Immunity Takes Time

You shouldn’t expect to be fully immune to Covid-19 immediately following your second dose of the vaccine. 

Experts suggest that it takes your body at least 2 weeks after the second dose of the vaccine to build up full immunity from the virus. 

But, it’s not until 3 full months after the second dose of the vaccine that the CDC states fully vaccinated individuals who aren’t exhibiting any symptoms “no longer have to quarantine if exposed to someone with Covid-19.” 


8- Vaccination Won’t End Mask Usage

As there is said to still be a slight chance that you could get Covid-19, even after vaccination, the CDC recommendations of mask usage and social distancing will continue. 

In fact, at this time, there is no prospect on when such recommendations will end as even the experts cannot agree on whether vaccinated individuals will be able to safely resume normalcy in society. 

Therefore, until immunity is reached amongst a large percentage of the population, mask usage must continue “to stop the spread of the virus.”


Recap

If you have received your first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, before your second dose, remember: 

  • The second dose of the Pfizer vaccine is recommended to be administered 21 days after the first dose. And, the second dose of the Moderna vaccine is recommended to be administered 28 days after the first dose. However, as long as your second dose is received within 6 weeks of the first dose, you’ll be fine. 
  • Avoid the use of pain medication, unless otherwise directed by your doctor, until after their second dose has been administered (in other words, don’t take pain meds prior to receiving the second shot just to avoid pain). 
  • Stick with the same manufacturer for your second dose. 
  • Avoid other immunizations for a minimum of 14 days before and after both Covid-19 vaccine doses.
  • If you received a mild rash from the first dose, you should still receive the second dose (albeit in the opposite arm). 
  • Side effects are more common after the second dose (fever, aches, chills, muscle and joint pain). 
  • You won’t become immune to Covid-19 immediately following your second vaccine dose. 
  • Mask usage and social distancing are still recommended even after receiving the second dose of the vaccine. 

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