Date: April 23, 2021
From: Tom McLarney, MD
Subject: Vaccine Side Effects
To the Wesleyan community:
As previously announced, the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine will be administered to our students on April 24-25 with the second dose on May 15-16.
We encourage everyone to take advantage of the vaccine. It is safe and effective, and has been shown to keep people out of the hospital. The vaccine may cause side effects, which means that our immune system is responding appropriately. The types, level, and duration of side effects can vary from one individual to another and do not indicate the degree of immune response.
You will most likely experience a sore arm, redness, and/or swelling at the injection site that may last a day or two. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advises individuals not to ‘’pre-medicate’’ with anti-inflammatory agents just prior to receiving the vaccine. There is a concern that pre-medicating may inhibit our immune system response.
You may also experience fatigue, headache, muscle aches, chills, fever, and/or nausea, which may last one or two days and prevent you from attending work or classes. Supportive measures such as rest, adequate hydration, cool compress at the injection site, Tylenol or Ibuprofen can help ease discomfort.
During this period of campus-wide immunization, we would ask for flexibility for community members who have been vaccinated. Specifically, we request that those who miss a day or two of classes or work not be required to get documentation from a healthcare provider. Because symptoms are similar to those that we screen for at the testing site, we recommend that anyone who has had a COVID-19 vaccine in the past 48 hours and has these symptoms receive a test.
If you are concerned about or experience any post vaccination symptoms, please contact your healthcare provider (staff and faculty) or the Davison Health Center (students):
- Increasing arm redness after 48 hours
- Shortness of breath
- Severe chest or abdominal pain
- Significant lightheadedness or fainting
- Mental status changes
None of the messenger RNA vaccines including the Pfizer vaccine have been associated with the rare blood clotting phenomena known as Vaccine Induced Thrombotic Thrombocytopenia (VITT).
Most experts agree that one is fully immunized at two weeks following the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine. Until we achieve campus herd immunity, we will still need to adhere to all COVID-19 guidelines.
Anyone who has had COVID should receive a vaccine as soon as possible after release from isolation. Initially, the recommendation was to wait 90 days (natural immunity could be expected to provide protection for at least that long). This recommendation was based on the concern that there was not enough vaccine available for the general population, but supply is no longer an issue.
Wishing you all wellness and safety,
Tom McLarney, MD