Moderna, round two, did not go well for me. As anyone who read my blog post about my first shot already knows, round one didn’t go well for me either. It’s been a bit over two weeks since my last shot. As promised, I’m here to share some details. My goal? I hope to encourage readers, even ones like me who are drug sensitive, to not be afraid to get vaccinated. I think it helps to know what you might expect, too. I know that not knowing how the second shot might go for me, especially since the first one was so rough, made things that much more stressful and even frightening.
Knowledge is power, I think. Don’t you think so, too?
When I wrote my first blog post about the initial shot (“What Happened When I Got my First COVID Vaccine (And Why I’m Still Glad I Got Vaccinated“) I hadn’t yet experienced “COVID arm” and my then-mild vertigo seemed to be diminishing. At the time of that blog post, I thought that the thirty-six hours of misery I wrote about was pretty much it, and that I was on the mend from the effects of the first shot.
Not so fast, dear reader.
Just under two weeks after the initial injection (and soon after the aforementioned blog essay), I experienced acute muscle spasms on my left upper arm. Then the injection site swelled up like I had a rice grain or a pencil lead sticking out of it. It was hard, red, and hot. My neck started to hurt, my ear started to ache, my eye sockets got puffy, and I developed floaters in my left eye. (The CDC, at present, doesn’t appear to have a lot of reports of eye-related trouble post-injection, as per the article “The COVID-19 vaccine: Will it affect your vision?” However, I think that is because not everyone reports their adverse events. Vaccines can damage eyes, as one can see from this research study, “Vaccine-Associated Uveitis“).
Accompanying the stress and pain of the second wave of injection reaction was a most unwelcome development. To wit: my hair started to fall out.
I had lost some hair after the initial response to the first injection but I attributed it to a combination of vaccine-induced stress combined with exhaustion from the snow storm that leveled Texas just a week before I got vaccinated. Two weeks later, though, for the second wave of reaction to shot number one, I knew it was a response to the adverse events I was experiencing.
So what about the second vaccination? And would I change anything or refuse to get vaccinated in future after all that I have endured as a result of these shots?
Without wishing to rewrite my first blog post on the topic here, I will say this much: I would still get vaccinated. I’m not too happy about my experience (to put it mildly). Trust must be earned, and the CDC demands a level of trust that I’m not entirely certain is warranted. HOWEVER, it is also true that people need to report their adverse events. I simply do not believe, for instance, that I am only the second person in the history of Moderna shots that had puffy eyes (as might be inferred from reading the above-cited article, “The COVID vaccine: Will it affect your vision?”). If everyone whose eyes went bonkers after their shots reported their experience, then maybe I wouldn’t have been so shocked and scared when mine did. For example. FURTHERMORE (declared in my best Professor-Bruno-is-making-a-point-here tone), I do feel that the CDC and the various public health officials are between a rock and a hard place. If they clearly outline every single possible nasty adverse event, then the anti-vaxxers would have a field day AND the people on the fence about the matter, people who probably wouldn’t even have those reactions anyhow, would be too scared to get vaccinated. In a way, then, I think the CDC and other public health authorities can be forgiven for not clarifying in numbing detail all the potential horrors of vaccinations in their push to get the vaccine-hesitant on board.
Finally, and this is a crucial point: not everyone has vicious adverse events to vaccinations. I have always had horrible responses to Pharma drugs and that is what compelled me to try Chinese medicine. For me, this is the medicine that works and that doesn’t hurt me. I love it so much that now I am an acupuncturist and herbalist. Meantime, my beloved mentor in the profession got his two Moderna shots and had no real reaction beyond a reasonably sore arm and a bit of fever. Many of my patients had no reaction to the first and mild reactions to the second shots. I know people who have recovered from confirmed COVID who had no reaction to either shot. I know a few people who have had somewhat but not overly-horrible reactions to one or the other shot. A small number of people have reached out to me via social media to tell me that they, too, had a really, truly hard time with their shots and that they appreciated my candor. So it varies. Not everyone will have adverse events in response to the shots. I do believe that the shots are safe for most people and that, under our current circumstances, we all need to do our part and get vaccinated.
That said…so what about round two?
Things started out promisingly. Austin Public Health has really gotten it together as far as convenience and efficiency. I was in and out within a half an hour and–I loved this–the MD who gave me my shot pronounced my name correctly (the Spanish way) and when I remarked–in Spanish–that I love when people get my name right, she then spoke only Spanish to me. This was comforting. She told me to wait the full 15 minutes for safety’s sake and while I waited, I chatted with the guy who had been behind me in line as he waited for his wife to finish getting her vaccination. All good.
By the time I got home, I had a lighter version of the buzzing I experienced the first time. I felt full-body coldness that alternated with a burning sensation in my nose and philtrum (the groove between the bottom of the nose and the Cupid’s bow part of the upper lip). My head started to ache on the left side. My arm throbbed. I suddenly felt extreme, and I do mean EXTREME, acid reflux and nausea like I have never experienced in my life. Did I mention headache? It was incredibly, incredibly painful. I got colder and colder and colder, except for when my temperature would abruptly shift, at which point my nose, philtrum, chin, and eyelids at the lash line burned. I could not eat or drink anything for 28 hours because the nausea was so extreme. All I could do was rinse my mouth occasionally, but even that would set off a cascade of retching. The point where my nose meets the philtrum split and bled at some point while I was asleep. My eyes puffed up and the floaters in the left eye increased. My left temple swelled and my skin burned. True to form (I guess), the acute reaction lasted 28 hours, while my extreme response to the first shot went on for 36 hours before tapering off and becoming manageable.
My hair, in the subsequent days, fell out to the extent that I will now have to cut it off because what was once abundant, beautiful, curly hair is now thinned to the point where I feel akin to Gollum from the Hobbit.
I got this second shot on 3/25/21 and, as I write now, a third of the way through April, I am still recovering. I have full swaths of the day where I feel fine, but as soon as I’m tired, the nausea and headaches return and my philtrum burns. I am sad about my hair. I did experience telogen effluvium once, about ten years ago (yes, there is a blog post about it, titled “Hair Loss And How To Grow It Back: Holistic Health Information And A Message Of Hope“) so I’m confident that my hair will grow back. Acupuncture treatment has reduced my floaters to one tiny smudge that only appears if I’m stressed or fatigued. At the two-week mark, my arm started to burn and throb, which was demoralizing, but that only lasted a short while. I do have an appointment to get my hair cut off, which makes me cry (to be honest). To reduce inflammation, I’ve created a combination diet that relies partially on AIP principles, somewhat on Mediterranean diet guidelines, and primarily on tenets of Chinese medicine’s views on nutritional therapy. I do think I that I will recover fully from this second vaccination and yes, I will be reporting my current experience in detail on the VAERS web site that I linked above.
So that’s where I’m at, cat.
This has been a tough blog post to write. I do not wish to scare anyone away from the vaccine. On the other hand, I went into the second round genuinely afraid because I could not find anything useful regarding the second shot. The jolly assurances along the lines of “Sure, the second shot is worse than the first so take a day off work and plan for it” did not reassure me. I couldn’t find anyone else’s blog that truly outlined a bad experience like mine. I felt embarrassed about being the only person I know with such extreme reactions to the shot. And seeing how happy most people are about being vaccinated left me feeling alienated. I am happy and grateful to be vaccinated. But I did not experience this as just a li’l Fauci ouchie that passed after a day or so. This has been exhausting and painful and traumatic.
It is still better than dying of COVID19 or becoming a long-hauler. It is still much better than inadvertently infecting a patient or my treasured mentor or other loved ones. And I’m proud to say that I did my part to flatten the curve, even though it has entailed some sacrifice on my part. If we need boosters, I’ll see how I do with the single-shot Johnson & Johnson next time. I remain confident that most people don’t react the way I did, and I can say with full confidence that if you, dear reader, have a hard time with your shot, then aftercare via Chinese medicine can help you. If you’re worried beforehand, Chinese medicine can help you. As for me? Well, I know exactly which herbs and acupuncture points I’ll use on myself if I need to have a booster shot in the future. I’ll plan ahead better. Things are going to be ok for me. And if you are worried? Talk to your doctor or your acupuncturist. Make a plan, and then focus on what matters. Right now, that’s getting a handle on COVID19. (One book that I just read, which brought me to tears more than once, is The American Plague: The Untold Story Of Yellow Fever, The Epidemic That Shaped Our History. Oh, did it resonate!). I’m glad I got my shots and I’m relieved to be on the mend. I wear my mask, I wash my hands, I stay home when possible, and I am vaccinated. It is a moral obligation to do these things, I think, and I have done them. I will continue to do them until we have a grip on this terrible virus.
We all have to do our part, don’t you agree?
Paula Bruno, Ph.D., L.Ac., is a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist, an AOBTA-CP traditional Chinese bodywork therapist, and a wellness educator. She maintains an active and growing practice at her Austin, TX office. Dr. Bruno is also available for distance appointments for wellness consultation or coaching.
In her first career, she was a Spanish professor.
Dr. Bruno’s specialties as a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner include: • Musculoskeletal health (acute or chronic pain relief; Ehlers Danlos syndrome & hypermobility support) • Digestive support, gut health, and weight loss • Aesthetic treatment, including scar revision • Men’s health • General preventative care and immune support for all persons.
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Note: Material on this web site site is not intended to diagnose, prevent, treat, or cure any disease, illness, or ailment. A TCM practitioner in Texas identifies syndrome patterns but does not diagnose illness. Material on this web site does not purport to identify syndrome patterns.