When I first visited America, an aunt said something that would define my perception of America 20-plus years later:
This is America. If it’s hard, you’re doing it wrong.
She said this in response to me fighting with the can opener. I had never used an electric one before and just couldn’t get a hang of it. In fact, it wasn’t until moving to Atlanta that I found the nerve to try them again.
Nevertheless, her words stuck. For as long as I was visiting or living in America, if something was hard, I would stop and remind myself that this is America. I don’t remember a single instance where something was hard and I wasn’t doing it wrong.
Why Are Americans Skipping the Second Vaccine?
When someone posted on my feed about 8% of Americans skipping the second vaccine, I was one of the few people who didn’t find it surprising. The second vaccine isn’t easy for most people. We have all heard the horror stories and doctors have confirmed them while urging us to take the shot anyway. So, naturally, quite a few Americans will skip it. Taking the hard route has not been the American way for decades.
I am not American-born and have been told I tend to take the hard route on purpose. Naturally, I did not think twice about taking the second shot. In fact, I got mine a day early.
Why Does Canceling COVID-19 Vaccine Appointments Matter?
When I got my first shot, it was an almost two-hour drive to the organization distributing them in Riverside, California. I RV in rural areas, so we just didn’t have a lot of places to choose from nearby. A week before my second shot, I learned Walmart was now an option. All we needed was to book an appointment and bring in our first vaccination cards.
The drive all the way back to the Riverside center did not appeal to me. It was a beautiful drive, but what if the symptoms hit early? And anyway, who really wants to drive two hours to do something that could be done 30 minutes away at the local Walmart? Not me! So, I canceled my old appointment and booked a new one with Walmart.
Canceling your appointment is important. Please do not just book multiple appointments and pick the one most convenient to you. Always cancel at least 48 hours before. It gives the organization enough time to find people to fill the spot or those vaccines will go to waste. Hundreds of thousands of vaccines have gone to waste for this very reason. The rest of this story is an excellent example.
Can You Get Your COVID-19 Shot Earlier?
I scheduled my shot for Saturday. Friday morning, I woke up to a missed call from Walmart. They said they no longer had shots for Saturday but had extras for Friday and were begging me to come in and take it so it wouldn’t go to waste. Kevin called after I hung up with them. He had the same appointment and received the same desperate phone call.
He decided one day early couldn’t hurt and started making plans to leave. Being high-risk, I think twice before making certain guesses about my health. I spoke to a doctor via my insurance company’s Telehealth service. He informed me that getting the vaccine a day early was fine. In fact, up to four days was generally okay.
I am not a medical doctor and you should not take anything I say as medical advice. I’m only repeating what my doctor told me. Guidelines change frequently regarding the vaccines, so speak to a doctor before making your decision.
What Were the Side Effects of the Second Vaccine?
I recently shared the side effects experienced by me, Kevin and my parents after our first shots. I’ll follow the same format to share how the second round affected each of us.
On the day I received the vaccine, I had no side effects. My arm was barely as sore as the first shot. When I woke up the next morning, I could barely get out of bed. I forced myself out to make breakfast, made the bed, made a sickbed on the jackknife sofa and went back to sleep. Then, I woke up in the afternoon for lunch and went back to sleep. I woke up again before sunset for dinner and then went back to bed.
It wasn’t until 10:55 that night that I finally woke up and stayed up. I didn’t make it back to bed until 4 AM. By the time I got up the following morning, I was 90% back to normal. I was fine by Monday. One strange symptom I had was a lower-than-normal temperature. I usually have a temperature of 97.5 to about 98.7. My temperature was 96 degrees on Saturday and Sunday. I have been fine since Monday with no more side effects or exhaustion.
Kevin started complaining of side effects from the evening of the first day. He said his arm was very sore. The following morning, when I finally dragged myself out of bed, I went to pound on his door to make sure he was alive. He complained that his feet hurt. Kevin slept through the day and then through the night, but was fine by Sunday. He still complains about foot or leg pain every once in a while. Aside from this, he is fine.
You might remember from the previous article on our first shots that my dad had the worst symptoms out of all of us. He had fevers, chills, and the whole nine yards. Naturally, he expected things to be even worse on the second round and braced himself for it. Nothing happened. He had no symptoms. I suspect his strong reaction to the first shot may be that he had an asymptomatic COVID-19 infection before.
Mom also had a rough time with the first vaccine but has only mild reactions to this one. Her one complaint was foot and leg pain. She visited her doctor and he told her it was not vaccine-related. Still, I shared with her that Kevin had similar complaints. Mom had blood clots in the past and has been a little anxious since the Johnson & Johnson fiasco. I suspect she might have also had an asymptomatic COVID-19 infection.
How Long Can You Wait To Get Your Second COVID-19 Vaccine?
America is way ahead of virtually any other country in the world when it comes to COVID-19 vaccinations. California is even further ahead than the general population. Most other countries, including Canada, are struggling to get people the first vaccine. So, many people will have to wait a much longer time than the recommended three-to-four weeks. Consequently, the people wondering how long they can wait are not just the 8% of Americans who received their first shots and haven’t gone back for the second one.
According to the CDC, you should get vaccinated within six weeks or 42 days of receiving your first shot. This is general information, so talk to your doctor about whether and when you should return for the second. Note that some people who had a severe reaction to the first vaccine have been advised against getting the second shot. Only your doctor can determine whether this applies to you. Generally, severe reactions include the likes of experiencing anaphylactic shock.
What Are Some Tips for Powering Through Side Effects of the Second COVID-19 Vaccine?
I think I made some great choices beforehand. However, there are a few things I wish I had done differently. If you haven’t yet gotten your second shot, learn from my mistakes.
Talk To Your Doctor
This is one of the things I did right. Not only did my doctor confirm I could get my shot early, but he also told me what to expect. He then advised me on when to seek medical attention.
Take Time Off
This is another thing I did right. I added Monday to my days off, just in case the vaccine side effects lingered. If I had gotten the vaccine on Saturday, as originally planned, I would have needed that Monday. If you end up not needing the extra day, at least you get some time to relax.
My doctor told me to get Tylenol beforehand, but I forgot. I didn’t need it, but if I had, I would have been screwed. Ask your doctor whether they recommend taking anything and what that is. Note that some medications actually worsen the side effects and can prolong them.
Another thing I didn’t do is plan my meals. I recommend meal prepping ahead of the vaccine or even on the day you receive it. If this isn’t your style, buy takeout or get TV dinners. If you get hit with that sleep hammer, as Kevin and I did, you might not feel up to making any healthy meals and you do need to eat.
Can You Stop Wearing Your Mask After Getting the Second Vaccine?
Today, while walking to the office with another vaccinated person at the campground, I noticed they didn’t have their mask. When I asked them where it was, they told me vaccinated people no longer had to wear masks. This is false information: fake news, in the words of an Orange Man who once occupied the White House.
According to the CDC, you are only considered immunized two weeks after receiving your second shot of a two-dose vaccine or the same period after one shot of a one-shot vaccine. Immunized persons can now ditch the masks outdoors, when not in large groups. However, when indoors, you can only ditch the mask in the company of other fully vaccinated individuals.
Personally, I’ll keep wearing my mask when inside public spaces to put other people at ease. My vaccine protects me, but my mask protects them. Also, in all honesty, masks do not bother me. I’ve been wearing them since before the pandemic because of horrible allergies I had in Georgia. I will likely continue to wear them during allergy season long after the pandemic has gone.
Have you received your second shot? What side effects did you experience and what did you do about it? Can you share any recommendations?