23 Feb My Moderna Vaccination Story
Recently, I had my first vaccine reaction!
It was from the first dose of Moderna’s mRNA vaccine in mid January. As I write this now, my upper arm itches and burns, tolerable but very annoying since it’s been 5 weeks since the vaccination. Not to fear though, I am on the mend and I’ve heard I’m not alone, rare but not alone.
My reaction could have been due to human error. If a vaccine is not put into the muscle, it can create a subcutaneous nodule and allergic reaction. In fact, I have 2 colleagues who experienced this after the tetanus shot. Neither of them had any problems with the COVID vaccination though. At least 100 of my colleagues posted their COVID vaccination stories.
Out of all of them, only one had unusual side effects. She has lupus and her symptoms were triggered for a couple of weeks.
I received my COVID vaccination on 1/14/2021. It didn’t hurt at all. The next day, I had mild arm soreness in the injection arm, mild headache, chills, aching, and fatigue. These were all signs that my immune system was responding well.
Then, on day eight, I experienced what’s called a delayed hypersensitivity reaction.
Hypersensitivity reactions were observed in about 0.8% of Moderna vaccine recipients. Perhaps you’ve heard of the COVID arm. It’s a local allergic reaction which clears in 3-7 days. My reaction was a little different though. I didn’t have any of the classic redness, only pain and swelling.
At first, I thought I’d gotten off lucky. But the pain and swelling didn’t resolve within one week. I also had a large grape size nodule near the injection site. For a week or so, I took high dose quercetin but felt no improvement, I started taking Allegra. That helped but not enough so I reached out to an allergist who recommended a much higher dose. I really don’t like taking antihistamines. They caused horrible brain fog and insomnia! They took all the pain away though.
The allergist approved of gentle massage to move the swelling so I employed the great talents of Helena Reinken, massage therapist extraordinaire! Her 5 minute lymphatic massage triggered a low grade fever within hours but the following day, the swelling was mostly gone. Powerful stuff!
Will I get dose #2?
No. The allergist has instructed me not to. She reports that my reaction is rare but she’s seen one other case…and it is exactly what she has seen after tetanus. I will improve but it may take months to completely resolve. It’s likely the one dose has given me sufficient protection against COVID but unfortunately, neither Pfizer nor Moderna followed any one dose groups. We do know that Israel has measured an 85% decrease in new cases among healthcare workers one month after dose one. That is just incredible!
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t regret getting vaccinated but I had no way of knowing I’d have an allergic reaction. I’m happy that I have some immunity. Pfizer and Moderna claim up to 90% protection after the first dose in younger people. That protection starts around 2 weeks post injection.
My reaction won’t stop me from receiving other vaccinations in the future.
I’ll likely get a booster COVID vaccination but one that is not mRNA and not until my allergist approves it. I studied pre med and public health at UC Berkeley. Vaccines have rid the world of so many infectious diseases. When I volunteered with people with Burmese refugees in the 90s, most had family members who had died from infectious diseases. Some of these were diseases we hadn’t seen in 2-3 generations in the United States.
One of the things that drew me to naturopathic medicine was its focus in preventative medicine. Vaccines are another part of that preventative medicine arsenal. I would have preferred a vaccine that had been studied for years. Unfortunately, we don’t have the luxury to wait in a pandemic. People are dying. My neighbor’s wife died from COVID. He’s now alone. Two patients lost a parent. I don’t want anymore people to die from this. This was another reason I got the vaccine-to help stop the pandemic. It was my duty as doctor and as a caring human being. I was scared but I put my big girl pants on, rolled up my sleeve, and got the jab.
It really upsets me to hear of conspiracy theories claiming this vaccine will cause infertility, change your DNA, or make you sicker if you catch COVID.
If it could make you sicker and lead to more deaths, we’d be seeing cases increase right now but instead, cases are decreasing. It’s also not something that is seen in people who get COVID twice. This conspiracy theory of the vaccine causing infertility claims that the vaccine antibodies attack the placenta. An antibody made from a vaccine is not different from one made from getting a virus.
And mRNA cannot change your DNA.
Anyone with any past coursework in college genetics or cell biology, would know that. mRNA codes for a protein and then it’s destroyed. When in doubt, ask your doctor and not the internet.
There are people who should skip it.
Who should skip the vaccine right now?
1. Those who experienced anaphylaxis after the first dose.
2. Those who have a known allergy to any components in the vaccine.
3. Allergies to polyethylene glycol or polysorbates.
4. A severe hypersensitivity reaction, like mine, following dose #1.
*In all these cases, please consult with an allergist.
It’s important that you know what to expect after vaccination. Please refer to CDC advice before you are vaccinated.
FYI, hydrate. Although unlikely but if high fever and vomiting occurs, dehydration and loss of electrolytes can be very dangerous.
Long-term risks of these vaccines?
No-one knows but the mRNA technology has been around since the 90s. It’s been used to treat cancer. It’s been studied for flu, HIV, and ZIka. It’s just never been used at this scale. To learn more about why this vaccine is likely safe long term, watch this video. https://www.chop.edu/centers-programs/vaccine-education-center/video/what-are-the-long-term-side-effects-of-covid-19-vaccine
Long-term risks of COVID?
No one knows but I know one man, mid 50s, who after 4 months still tests positive and suffers. He is essentially disabled. I have 2 naturopathic colleagues suffering from post COVID syndrome. I’ve had 2 patients reporting post COVID syndrome. Ground glass appearance is being found in young people’s lungs who tested positive but never showed symptoms.
I decided to get vaccinated because I preferred to take a chance on unknown risks of the vaccine versus known risks of COVID. I also thought of my grandparents who chose vaccination for themselves and their children against polio, measles, smallpox without knowing the long term risks. They did it because they’d seen and knew infectious disease could kill and disable. We’ve become complacent because until now, we haven’t seen the harm infectious disease can cause.
Can anything be done to help those with post COVID syndrome?
From natural medicine to pharmaceutical, we are all sharing treatment ideas and protocols. I wonder if post COVID syndrome could be caused by the immune system not turning off. I see this in post viral fatigue syndrome which I’ve treated and seen my patients regain most of their energy. But post COVID is different – most have fatigue but accompanied by a myriad of other symptoms like insomnia, heart palpitations, numbness, shortness of breath, loss of smell and taste.
What about Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine?
There is no data yet available but this is an entirely different vaccine. It’s a DNA vaccine. This means that it goes into the nucleus of a cell to tell it to make the COVID spike protein. Once the cell makes the spike protein, the cell is destroyed by the immune system. I like that J&J uses an adenovirus to deliver the DNA. We’ll see once more data is released but I suspect there will be less side effects than the mRNA vaccines which use an adjuvant (like Red Bull for the immune system)…but it’s one dose vaccine so it’s gonna have to be super potent to elicit an immune response. And unfortunately, your immune system will remember that adenovirus wrapping and destroy it the 2nd time it’s seen. A different adenovirus will need to be used in the future or the booster will need to be mRNA, protein sub unit (NovaVax), a killed antigen, or something entirely different.
Relief is on the horizon.
We can all get through this. Until then, my advice is to find something that brings you joy. For me, it is daily hikes with my hiking buddy. We mask up and hit the trail with my dog. Happy trails everyone!
Dr. Kimberly Brown, ND, LAc
San Jose Integrative Medicine
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