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Louisville healthcare workers monitoring COVID vaccine side effects after 2nd dose

Updated: Jan. 7, 2021 at 10:25 PM EST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - UofL Health administered second doses of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine Monday to the first five healthcare workers, including Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jason Smith.

Smith told WAVE 3 News that unlike three weeks ago, he had side effects after receiving the second shot.

“The first dose I had no side effects whatsoever,” Smith said. “I didn’t even have a sore arm. The second dose I’ve had a lot of swollen lymph nodes in my arm, in my neck. That’s one of the side effects. It just means your immune system’s working. I also probably had a little bit of time there one night where I had a little bit of fever and chills, but they went away.”

Smith said the more severe side effects typically come after the second shot, because the first shot has generated COVID-19 antibodies in the recipients’ bodies, which then attack when the booster injection is given.

“You’ve got circulating antibodies,” Smith said. “You’ve got immune cells waiting for this and when they hit, it can rapidly turn on and it rapidly deploys all of its defenses to make this go away. And that’s what we want.”

Kaitlin Boone, an ICU nurse at Norton Audubon Hospital, is scheduled to receive her second shot on Friday. She said she had mild side effects after her first injection, including a sore arm and low energy.

She told WAVE 3 News she knows more serious side effects might be possible, but she won’t let it stop her from receiving the second dose. She hopes others won’t hesitate to receive the shot when it becomes available to the public.

“I miss being around my family,” Boone said. “I miss being able to hug them and be around them. So, me personally, getting the vaccine, hopefully will help me be able to do that within the next month or so. I would say do your own research and make the decision for yourself. But really, to help us get through this, I think the vaccine is going to be a very important part.”

Smith told WAVE 3 News that vaccinations will speed up in the coming weeks now that the holidays are over. He said the vaccine could be available to at-risk groups, like elders over 65 and people with pre-existing conditions, sometime in March.

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