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  • Writer's pictureMaria H. Drzaszcz

Things to keep in mind after your COVID-19 vaccination

At Hammonton Middle School on March 20, MediLink RxCare provided the first does of the Moderna novel coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine to educators in the Hammonton Public Schools district. Nurse Gina McIntyre administered the first does of the vaccine to Hammonton Middle School teacher Brian Reed. Read more in the March 24 edition. (THG/Joseph Berenato. To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

If you are awaiting an upcoming appointment to get your COVID-19 vaccination or you have already received it, congratulations. This vaccination is an important step towards ending this pandemic for good. I’d like to go over what you can expect after your vaccination(s) and a few important do’s and don’ts to keep in mind.

The Pfizer and Moderna shots require two doses spaced 21 and 28 days apart respectively. The new Johnson & Johnson vaccine that just received FDA approval will be coming to vaccination sites by the time you read this. This vaccine is a one and done shot. While most people don’t get to pick which vaccine they are receiving, it’s important to find out what vaccine you’re getting and find out how and when to schedule your second dose while you are there for the first. You will be given a vaccine card which will be filled out with the date, manufacturer and lot number of your vaccine. Keep this card in a safe place and remember to bring it back with you when you get your second shot. You should get your second shot at the same place as you received your first. There is a little bit of flexibility when scheduling your second, however it is recommended by the CDC to adhere to the 21 and 28 day recommended interval. Your second dose may be given up to six weeks later, if necessary. You should not get the second dose earlier than the recommended interval.

Mild to moderate side effects are expected. These side effects are normal signs that your body is building protection. These side effects may affect your ability to do daily activities, but they should go away in a few days. Common side effects include: pain, swelling or redness at the injection site (upper arm), fever, chills, headache, fatigue and body aches. These side effects are more common after the second vaccine, but can still occur after the first vaccine, particularly if you tested positive for COVID-19 in the past. Some people will not have any side effects from either and this is completely normal as well.

Fever and pain reducing medications are fine for after effects, just don’t use beforehand. If you need to take acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin), take as directed after the vaccine. It is not recommended to premedicate right before the vaccine, as this may affect the body’s immune response to the vaccine. Lots of clear fluids and rest will also help with any side effects.

Don’t ditch the mask just yet. It takes time for your body to build up full immunity to the vaccine, so even if you have completed the series of two shots, we still must practice our public health mitigation strategies. Cover your mouth and nose with a mask when around others, stay six feet away from others, avoid crowds, avoid poorly ventilated spaces, stay home if you’re ill and wash your hands often. COVID-19 vaccines that require two shots may not protect you until a week or two after your second shot, so while it may be tempting to shed the mask we have to hold out a bit longer. Schedule your vaccine when it’s your turn and stay healthy Hammonton.

Maria H. Drzaszcz, a Hammonton resident, is a registered nurse with 14 years critical care experience and is the proud mom of three young children.


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