What side effects can you expect from the COVID booster?


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Looking to get your booster shot? You’re in luck. On Friday, CDC and FDA experts gave the green light for all Americans over the age of 18 to get the third shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.

Several New York doctors were on hand to talk about the importance of the booster shot. “When we look at our cases—our vaccinated cases, in particular—we noticed that folks that have been beyond six months vaccine, the efficacy wanes and we see cases arising from that,” said Jennifer Rodriguez, the Public Health Director of Livingston County. “I’m very happy about increased booster availability for all.”

As COVID cases continue to spike statewide, doctors say that, for many reasons, the vaccine will play an important role in preventing breakthrough cases and better protecting those who have already been vaccinated. “One of the reasons is our transmission rate and the number of new infections,” said Emil Lesho, an infectious disease doctor for Rochester Regional Health. “Last time I checked, we were among, if not the highest in the state, our positivity rate is something like 8%. And unfortunately, we’re seeing more and more patients in the hospital, including the ICU, which is a concerning trend.”

For those over 18 looking to get the third shot, experts say it won’t be very different from the COVID vaccines you’ve already received. “Fortunately, what we’re seeing in all the patients and colleagues that get it is the reaction to the booster shot is very similar,” Lesho said. “It’s often no worse at all than what type of reaction you had with the first or second shot.”

Symptoms could include a fever, sore arm, fatigue, or a headache. Doctors say these symptoms usually last for about 24 to 48 hours after you get your shot. Lesho said you should not have any issues breathing after you get the vaccine. “You shouldn’t be short of breath, shouldn’t have any difficulty breathing after any type of the vaccine, and that could be a sign of a different infection or an actual COVID infection,” he said. 

Doctors say that any symptoms following the shot are often far less intense than actually getting COVID. “The mild reactions you get after you get vaccinated for 20 to 24 hours or so—imagine that multiplied by 10. And think about it—for a minimum of 10 days, if not longer,” said Angela Branche, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Rochester. “That’s what COVID feels like.”

Dr. Branche said COVID isn’t always just a week-long illness and then you get better. For many people, it can last weeks or months. “COVID increases risk of blood clots. COVID increases risk of stroke. COVID increases risks of long-term heart disease and inflammation of the heart,” she said. “Being treated for COVID could exacerbate your underlying respiratory illnesses, your heart disease, your diabetes.”

While getting the third shot is important, doctors say what’s most important is that those who haven’t been vaccinated yet get their first shot. “Up to nine out of 10 patients who are in the intensive care unit for COVID and on the ventilators, are on heart-lung machines, are unvaccinated patients,” Lesho said. “It’s more important to get the primary series, because that has been proven safe and very effective at keeping you out of the hospital, keeping you out of the intensive care unit.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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