LABUAN, March 29 – I received my second shot of the COVID-19 vaccine on March 20, twenty-one days after the first shot on Feb 27, and I knew that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was already working in my body.
Twelve hours after taking the second COVID-19 vaccine injection, at about 3 am the next day, I woke up suffering from intense fatigue, headache, and muscle pains, and had chills and a fever, with the temperature reading 38.05 degrees.
The arm where I had the injection was painful and I could barely lift it. I felt like I did not want to get out of bed. To tell the truth, I was in bed for the next 33 hours.
Journalists in Labuan were categorized as frontliners as well and were in the first batch of recipients of the COVID-19 vaccine, along with the healthcare workers. I, as the Bernama correspondent in Labuan, and Muqtadir Halim, the Bernama Labuan photographer, were among the 10 media representatives who were vaccinated.
Coming back to the rudely awakened scenario, my wife handed me a paracetamol tablet and a glass of water. I took the pill. An hour later, the fever subsided. The back of the COVID-19 vaccination card carries an advice on taking a paracetamol tablet when you develop a pain following the vaccination.
By the afternoon, the fatigue, muscle pains and fever had vanished, leaving just a slight headache and some pain at the place of injection. I remember that I only had a sore arm after my first shot.
Labuan Health Department director Dr Ismuni Bohari said the fever, headache and fatigue are signs that the body is beginning to build its defence against the coronavirus.
“It’s a signal that the vaccine is working. If you get hit by fever, fatigue or headache, particularly after the second shot, that is normal.
“And, if you don’t experience side effects, that’s totally fine. Your body is still doing its job. The good thing is not everybody gets a reaction,” he said.
Dr Ismuni, who himself experienced fever and chills after the second shot, said it is important to let the people know what to expect and that the side effects are a normal part of the process.
I must say that the side effects caught me off guard but I am grateful that the vaccine showed me its strength. That is how I look at it now.
Based on my understanding, the first shot of vaccine had done its work to help my immune cells recognise the virus DNA and that they were ready to do battle when the second dose, with the same trace of COVID-19 code, entered their orbit.
People have asked me whether I now feel that I am already immune to the disease as I have been fully vaccinated. I don’t. I continue to wear a face mask, wash my hands frequently and stay away from public places as much as possible.
I have still not got down to visiting old friends or driving or flying across the border to see family members in mainland Sabah.
Science tells us that those who have been vaccinated could possibly remain potential transmitters of the coronavirus, and I don’t want to get anyone sick.
I’m very grateful to have gotten the complete set of vaccine (doses one and two) and am able to have that protection, and really want to see that opportunity be made available to everyone.
Plan your schedule so that you can take time off from work or plan to rest after the second dose.
Kota Kinabalu Gleneagles Hospital infectious disease physician Dr Timothy William said that regardless of whether or not the vaccine triggers side effects, the vaccine is still working.
“If a person is vaccinated, the risk of getting infected or the risk of getting the disease is much less. The fever and other symptoms that may accompany the vaccine are usually mild. They may be the result of the body’s immune response to the vaccine,” he said.
Labuan Information Department photographer Jeffrey Nian said he felt good when he did not immediately have side effects after getting the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine last weekend. Later that night, he was struck with body aches, exhaustion and occasional chills.
“I couldn’t sleep well because of the discomfort,” said Jeffrey who hails from Kota Belud and was posted to Labuan seven years ago.
The next day, he just laid on the couch and watched TV, feeling too exhausted to move.
“I just knew I had to wait for some time and I’d feel better,” he said, adding that by the third day he felt fine.
Experts warn against letting one’s imagination stray. People simply react differently to vaccines.
“Although having symptoms is a sign that the immune system is reacting to the vaccine, the absence of symptoms does not mean that the vaccine is not working,” said a health officer of a hospital here.
RTM Labuan reporter Mohd Izuandy said he experienced fatigue and body aches after his second dose of the Pfizer vaccine.