4 people who got COVID-19 booster shots share what it felt like to get an extra vaccine dose
A healthcare worker will receive a booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine in Bangkok on August 9, 2021. Vichan Poti / Pacific Press / LightRocket via Getty Images
The US has approved Pfizer's third dose of COVID-19 vaccine for adults over 65 and others at high risk of developing serious illness.
More than two million Americans already know what it feels like to get a booster shot.
The side effects, they say, are similar to those after a second shot, with some arm pain and fatigue.
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The federal government is beginning to recommend third vaccination of COVID-19 vaccines to large numbers of vulnerable people living in the United States.
Back in August, the US Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved a booster for all immunocompromised people who had been vaccinated at least a month beforehand.
This week the FDA expanded its booster approval to a much broader population, and the CDC is now recommending a third vaccination for certain adults who have received Pfizer's vaccine at least six months after their first vaccination.
But the truth is, many people have already taken it upon themselves to be promoted, whether they are in priority groups or not. They say their side effects are broadly similar to what they had after a second dose of Pfizer or Moderna.
Most stick to the same brand and report milder side effects
According to CDC data, more than 2.3 million Americans have received booster doses, a number that certainly includes people who are not immunocompromised.
"It doesn't happen by accident," said Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown School of Public Health, recently told a group of journalists how he had recently been to a dinner that saw about a quarter of the participants strengthening themselves. "It's wealthier people, it's more educated people who go out and get boosters themselves."
More than 21,900 people have reported their third dose side effects through the CDC's v-safe text messaging system.
Almost all (more than 98%) remain loyal to the same brand when they return for a third shot (Pfizer recipients boost with Pfizer, Moderna recipients with Moderna). the same thing while others top it up with a splash of mRNA vaccine from Pfizer or Moderna.
In general, the responses to the third dose of the two mRNA vaccines appear to be quite similar to the second dose, although the side effects of the third dose may be slightly milder.
'Out of order for one day'
Steve Walz, director of international relations at Israel's Sheba Medical Center, spoke to Insider after his third dose of Pfizer. "The only thing that bothered me was that I was extremely tired for 24 hours," said the 60-year-old. "That's it. I didn't have the chills, or fever, or all of the other reactions that most people have.
Younger adults told similar stories to insiders.
Alec Lynch, who is 21 years old and takes drugs that affect his immune system, said he was "only off duty for a day" and was in bed after receiving a third shot of Pfizer in August. Lynch described feeling "tired and sore" and "kind of gross" but without a fever.
32-year-old Andy Sparks, who boosted his single-shot J&J vaccine with a shot of Moderna, said his arm hurt "much worse" after the Moderna boost than it did the first J&J.
Katie Bent, 30, reinforced her J&J with Pfizer and said she was so tired after that second shot that she slept for 15 hours while using the J&J just "was a bit tired and sore after".
(She cautioned, however, that she is generally "quite a sleepless person," so it's unclear whether this fatigue was solely due to the shot.)
She said it felt like "when you've been sick for a while and then the fever breaks and you know you're fine."
Arm pain and swelling
By far the most common side effect after a third dose of COVID-19 is arm pain at the injection site.
Fatigue and other muscle pain (myalgia) are also common in the week after a third mRNA injection.
Data presented by Pfizer to the CDC this week also suggested that more people may have swollen lymph nodes after a third dose of the vaccine than after a first or second, but this is temporary and only occurred in about 5% of their studies Falls on.
More than 21,000 people who received a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer or Moderna reported their side effects to the CDC. CDC ACIP meeting, September 22, 2021.
Health authorities are not yet convinced of the widespread need for boosters
The new CDC recommendations on who should receive a booster vaccination from Pfizer include people who:
are 65 or older
live in a long-term care facility (such as a nursing home)
Are 50-64 years old and have pre-existing conditions that put them at higher risk of severe COVID-19
The CDC also suggests that other adults who have received Pfizer can, if they wish, have a third vaccination at least six months after their primary vaccination if they:
Are 18-49 years old with previous illnesses
or 18-49 years old and at increased risk of COVID-19 exposure and transmission "due to the professional or institutional setting" (e.g. health workers, prisoners and other frontline workers)
The CDC emphasizes that adults under the age of 50 should make their decision about a booster dose "based on their individual benefits and risks".
Independent advisors to the CDC have been torn about recommending booster injections to young adults at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 in the workplace, such as health workers, frontline workers and prison guards.
They said that giving out boosters won't end the pandemic. Getting more people vaccinated would help more.
The areas of the country hardest hit by the virus, with more hospital admissions and more deaths, are where many people go without a single shot.
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