the coronavirus diaries: week 57

From other people’s stories, I’d known there was a good chance I’d get sick from my second shot, so I planned accordingly. I scheduled my week with a couple free days in which to recuperate, and the morning of, I washed my hair, shaved, and painted my toe nails. It’d been over a year since I’d last been sick and I wanted to look my best for my potential date with Misery.

The shot itself was a lovely, no stress affair, and all the rest of the day I felt great. On the way to the vaccine clinic, I’d stopped at a dollar store for ginger ale and crackers and now I worried I’d have a six-pack of ginger ale going flat in the pantry for the next year.  

But then.

Around one in the morning — almost exactly ten hours from when I’d gotten the shot — I woke up with fevers and chills (a phrase which sounds almost cozy, like “berries and cream” or “milk and cookies,” but was anything but). I could feel the fever rising, the heat radiating out from my core, my teeth rattling.  

Complicating matters, I’d tweaked my shoulder and neck getting dressed on Saturday (I know, I’m pathetic) and had been operating like a stiff, bent-over owl ever since. Now, my muscles rigid and sore from the fever, my shoulder and neck pain intensified. Finding a comfortable, restful position was impossible. 

ALSO, my arm hurt like the dickens. I’d thought it’d been sore the first time around, but this time I was only able to move it mere inches without pain. All night I cradled my useless appendage against my body and worried that I was going to give myself a frozen shoulder from lack of use. (Because I am rational when sick.)

Even with a steady diet of Tylenol and ginger ale, the fever didn’t let up, and the next day when my older son informed me that I was overdosing on Tylenol (oops), I went cold turkey, and then when I talked to him again he said I’d misunderstood him and that it was fine to continue the Tylenol and that I could alternate it with Ibuprofen, too. Apparently, when I get a fever, I lose my hearing.

I also had a crushing headache and bone-weary fatigue. Just mustering the energy to go to the bathroom took ages.

“Over the next few days, you might experience mild side effects” is what it said in the follow-up email I got from the vaccination clinic. 

Ha. Hahahahaha. Clearly someone does not understand the meaning of “mild.” Here, let me help. 

Mild side effects are when you have a mysterious low grade headache and then a day later you remember that Oh yeah, I had a vaccine yesterday so that’s why I feel bad. BEING KNOCKED FLAT BY A RAGING FEVER FOR TWENTY-FOUR HOURS, on the other hand, IS NOT MILD. It might be expected. It might be acceptable. But mild? No. 

If I hadn’t known any better, I might’ve thought I’d been injected with an honest-to-goodness case of Covid. 

(I still wondered….)

Sweet boy made me a breakfast that I declined (and he then ate).

In bed, miserable and aching, I marveled at the lengths I’d go for the sake of not getting sick with Covid, or not getting someone else sick. For the first time in this whole blasted pandemic, I felt like I was actually sacrificing for a greater cause. 

It’s only gonna last twelve hours, I told myself (because that’s about how long it’d been for my older son). Soon it’ll be over. 

But that evening I was still solidly miserable — I am not a pleasant sick person — and yet I knew I shouldn’t complain. Getting this vaccine was such a gift, and I was grateful beyond measure to get it. 

(I still complained.)

I slept fairly well that night and by the next day I was much improved. My body temp still had trouble regulating itself for the first few hours (I kept on-and-off sweating), and my head hurt (but now the painkillers worked), and I moved slowly, but I was vertical! 

I made coffee, glorious coffee, and drank it out on the deck, marveling at the warm weather and the birds and sunshine and how lovely it was to no longer feel like I was dying. 

And then my brain exploded. 

Suddenly I wanted to do all the things. I wanted to make something Italian and bake muffins and plan all the meals for the next week and also make all of them right now, and I wanted to get more house plants and paint a picture (huh?) and squeeze the calf out of Daisy so I could make creme fresh and yogurt and clotted cream and oh, I’d need scones to go with the cream and what about that blueberry muffin cake I just read about? and chicken meatballs! and am I actually out of frozen spinach? gotta write that down. 

It was like I had a caffeine buzz times ten. Suddenly, I’d unleashed — or tapped into — a huge reserve of creativity and energy. (Was this what people felt like when they get high? I wondered. Because if so, I can understand the draw.) Are other people getting this vaccine buzz? Step one, get sick. Step two, get better. Step three, fly high. 

Or maybe feeling like you can single-handedly take on the world is one of side effects?

Questions I Have

  • Why do some people get sick from the vaccine and others don’t? My son theorizes that a stronger reaction means there’s a stronger immune system, but I don’t know if that’s true. (Oh wait — maybe?)
  • Does the neanderthal gene have any effect on how a person handles the vaccine?
  • Do people who have had Covid still have a reaction to the vaccine? 
  • And what about all the people who were Covid-positive but asymptomatic? Does that have any effect on their reaction to the vaccine?

Oh, hang on. I just found some science.

My husband had his second vaccine the day after me. He had a touch of a headache but otherwise felt fine, lucky dog.* My younger daughter gets her second vaccine next week, and my older daughter got her first vaccine this weekend. Soon, there might be a vaccine for my younger son.

One by one….


*I spoke too soon:

Thirty hours in, after working (albeit slower and slower and slower, according to my son) for 8 hours, Lucky Dog bites the dust.

This same time, years previous: the coronavirus diaries: week five, the quotidian (4.8.19), missing Alice, fifteenth spring, yellow cake, this slow, wet day, writing it out, coming of age.


  • MAC

    I had no reaction to either Pfizer shot. Maybe, maybe I had chills four days after the second one, but that’s it. Grateful.

  • Thrift at Home

    Oh no, that sounds horrible! I got my first (Pzifer) shot this morning and was surprised at how sore my arm is tonight.
    I had a mild case of COVID in February, so am curious to see if that affects my response to the second shot.
    Either way, I cried behind my mask as I waited for the shot – from relief, hope, and this long, weird, stressful year.

  • Elva

    I am only commenting to help keep encouraging people to get vaccinated. I just got my second Moderna shot on Friday afternoon, and I have had no problems other than a mildly sore arm. It just happened that I had a lot of work to do on my farm on both Friday afternoon and all day Saturday, and i don’t know if keeping very physically active helped in some way. Today, Sunday, I do feel very tired, but that just could be a result of yesterday’s hard work. I am sorry that you had such a severe reaction, but I am happy that you are vaccinated!!!

  • Jen J

    I had my first shot today (Pfizer) and had awful nausea, fatigue and a headache later in the day. I almost never get sick so this threw me. Now after reading your experience (and others) I’m dreading the second shot. But still very grateful we’re finally here with the vaccines.

    • Jenny

      Jen J, I had a reaction to my first Pfizer shot, tired & dizzy for about 24 hours, but no reaction to my second shot (which I got on Tuesday).

  • Nancy

    My husband and I had both vaccines (Moderna) and felt no side effects from either. (soreness in my arm where I got the shot but I don’t consider that a side effect). We are 65 & 67. Very grateful we got them-we are retired and have mostly stayed home for over a year. Please, lets all get vaccinated and look forward to the future.

  • Lisa

    My husband and I had Covid together in December…brought to us by a co-worker who attended Thanksgiving with family who “did not believe it was real” and therefore massless. Hideously sick for 2 weeks. Had 2nd vaccine on Wednesday. Yesterday was filled with headache, nausea, aches and very sore arm. Felt guilt for crabby about it. hahaha. Women often have a more significant reaction as our immune systems are typically more robust 🙂

  • Monica B

    My husband had gastro issues the first go around (Pfizer) which was nothing compared to the second shot. He has gastro issues, flu like symptoms – but no fever and no chills, sore arm and it did seem like he had some type of brain fog because he started freaking out about not feeling well (he has other heart related issues) and said “I don’t know what is wrong with me, I can’t even think of what to do.” And was very emotional. It took about 5 days for all the symptoms to clear, but he does take medication that lowers his immune system, so maybe it takes longer, like if he is got sick with a cold, flu, etc. now it would take him a lot longer than a normal person to recover.

    I have only had my first shot and I only had a sore arm later that day. Two days later I had a really bad headache that I could not get rid of and then magically it disappeared. I am not sure if it is related but about 4 days after the shot I went up my stairs (which I do at least 20 times a day) and I was completely winded and it felt like my heart was going to beat out of my chest. Lasted a few seconds, then was gone. Second one is next Friday.

  • Becky

    My husband was out flat for two days after his first shot (Pfizer), while I had a sore arm from mine (Moderna). However, I combined my first shot with colonoscopy prep, so was I slightly woozy from the anesthesia and no solid food for two days or was it from the shot? We’ll never know.

  • Becky R.

    I had side effects from my second shot as well, although they were not as extreme as yours. Mine were also delayed until the day after I got the shot. I had flu-like symptoms and lots of horrid GI problems that lasted a couple of days. It was a surprise in that it all came home to roost just when I thought I was home free! I am still very glad to have received the vaccine, and I breathe a bit easier under my mask when I am out in public these days.

  • Rachael

    I had Covid 19 in January. Most symptoms lasted about a week, but it wasn’t that bad for me…no fever but body aches, fatigue, and loss of taste and smell (which has lingering and random effects, like suddenly carrots taste like dirt instead of crunchy deliciousness). From what I’ve heard, the second shot is pretty rough for a lot of people, worse than my experience of actually having the virus, but the symptoms don’t last as long. I was advised to wait at least 90 days after having Covid before getting the vaccine. My understanding is that for some reason the reaction to the vaccine is much worse if you get it within the 90 day window. I’m not sure why. But, when I get the vaccine I’ll let you know what it was like for me after having had the virus.

  • suburbancorrespondent

    I, too, set aside the whole next day for the side effects of my second shot and was, quite frankly, disappointed as it slowly dawned on me the next day that there was absolutely no reason for me not to go ahead with my regular routine (except jogging – I skipped that). Reading your description, though, has made me less disappointed!

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