My booster shot

October 1, 2021 • 12:00 pm

Yesterday at about 10 a.m. I got the booster shot for the Pfizer vaccine at the University of Chicago Hospital, which was offering it to all staff (I count). I confess that when I called my doctor to ask his advice, he didn’t think it was necessary. This is because given the low infectivity rates, a waning of immunity over six months of about 10% makes almost no difference in your chance of landing in the hospital or dying. I raised the objection that I wasn’t worried about those outcomes, but simply about getting sick, as even a breakthrough infection can last several weeks and make you miserable.  When I added that I was likely to be on a ship in Antarctica this winter, and wanted extra protection in that situation, he said that that a booster was fine for me.

Here I’m reporting my physiological reaction to the booster.

I had no reaction to the first Pfizer jab save a bit of soreness in the arm that abated within a day.

The second shot, though, had more severe effects, as it does with many people. I got that one about 8 a.m. on January 25, and was fine for the rest of the day. I also woke up the next day and felt good. The side effects didn’t set in until about noon on day 2: a flu-like feeling, malaise, some chills, and general debility. I went home early, a no-no for me, and woke up the next day completely fine.

I suspected that the effects of the booster would resemble those of the second shot, which represented my antibody reaction to the spike protein after my system was programmed. And, sure enough, that’s what happened. The effects did come on a bit earlier. My arm was sore most of yesterday, but otherwise I felt fine. I woke up this morning, though, and knew I was AFFLICTED. I trudged into work in the dark and labored away at those three posts, and then took a nap at my desk for an hour. After checking on the ducks (there are ten now, including Honey and Dorothy), I still felt like the bottom of a birdcage, and so took two Advil. I don’t know if it was the pills or the side effects are wearing off, but I feel much better now.

Everyone has to make their own decision on this, though I see nearly all the gub’mint experts are recommending getting a booster. To me, it’s worth a half day of malaise to avoid the possibility of a breakthrough infection, even though a booster may not have a substantial effect on even that.

If you’ve had yours, report in below on the effects.

Oh, and I have received NO pictures of polydactylous cats from any reader, despite my plea. Seriously, I don’t ask much from you, so if you own a Super Scratcher, send me a photo or two (paw and cat, perhaps), and a short paragraph of explanation.

Credit: Mike Kai Chen for The New York Times

44 thoughts on “My booster shot

  1. was AFFLICTED. I trudged into work in the dark and labored away at those three posts, and then took a nap at my desk for an hour.

    Your sacrifice on our behalf is much appreciated. May the coming naps be restful and plentiful!

    1. “Your sacrifice on our behalf is much appreciated. ”

      Yazikus, no disrespect to either you or Jerry, but does anyone really believe that people get vaccinated out of concern for their neighbors’ welfare? Let’s be honest. The motivation for getting vaccinated or not getting vaccinated is the same–namely, fear: on the one hand, fear of getting Covid; on the other, fear of having an adverse reaction to the vaccine. I don’t see that one fear is more noble than the other. As for which fear is more reasonable, that’s a different question.

      1. Yes, I do believe that people get vaccinated out of concern for other people’s welfare, like parents who get vaccinated so they won’t infect their kids. I’m not sure how you can be certain about everybody’s motivations in the world.

  2. “When I added that I was likely to be on a ship in Antarctica this winter […] ” – did I miss some news?

    1. They’ve decided to send two ships to Antarctica for multiple expeditions from December through March. That’s good news, and I soon will find out if I’ll be aboard them as a lecturer. I think the chances are better than even, but it’s a weird year. Anyway, the first hurdle is crossed: the trips will take place.

  3. Pharmacist here in a small SD city. The demand for boosters is incredible. We administer more boosters than initial doses by far.

    1. I am glad to hear that because an old colleague in Vermillion’s wife is an MD in Critical Care there. Last I heard from them, she was beleaguered.

  4. Have not had the booster yet but my sister got it a few days ago. Very little side affects. I think everyone is different just like with the virus itself.

  5. I always get side effects for vaccines, so if I get “the boost” (Moderna), I can look forward to feeling like crap.
    What would worry me is that if getting regular boosters is something that is essential for this damn thing, then participation is gonna drop further b’c people don’t keep up with it.

    1. It’s likely this will become a regular thing as new variants emerge and whenever the next pandemic comes along. There’s talk of combining it with the seasonal flu shot. Like it, we’ll probably never get above 50-60% compliance.

      1. My 91 year old mother in law got her flu shot and covid booster concurrently. It seems her care home had lined up the two together earlier this week. I can certainly see that becoming a normal scenario, whether it’s one shot or two.

        I’m not that convinced that I need to get one for now at least, and since I got the Moderna shot it’s not an option anyhow. At work we are required to be covid, and flu, vaccinated but the booster is listed as suggested for those who initially got Pfizer, but not required. I’m guessing that will change down the road.

  6. Getting my booster tonight. I am right there with you; give me a half day or even a full of feeling like the bottom of a birdcage over experiencing COVID anytime!

  7. Too young to qualify (…yet…); I’m on the state notification list though, and when they send me a ‘get it’ email, I will.

    But I got my shingles shot last week. That one is supposed to be a real humdinger too, but my only symptoms were (a) arm hurt a lot for several days and (b) tired around 5pm the day after I got it.

    1. Yes re Shingles. I felt awful; even had a temperature over 100. I am not looking forward to getting the 2nd shot, but having to take a day off, walking around saying, “I feel awful!” beats the heck out of getting shingles.

      1. The older vaccine is Zostavax, injected under the skin.
        The newer, and more effective, vaccine Shingrix needs
        two separate injections into muscle
        and seems people have more adverse side-effects.

      2. Yep, two a couple months apart. This was my first; doc will notify me when it’s time for the next one. I’ll remain cautiously optimistic for myself, but empathize with everyone who spends a day or two recovering.

  8. I had my Pfizer booster three days ago and while the first shot back in March had me feeling no side effects and the second three weeks later with only a mild fatigue after 24 hours, the booster gave me chills and a fever for almost two days. Of course I also elected to get a flu shot at the same time so this might just be the result of my body getting a double-whammies worth of vaccines. In any case, I feel fine today.

  9. Got my Pfizer booster four days ago. With all three shots the only reaction I had was soreness at the injection site. I’m beginning to think I’m part of a double secret trial and am receiving the placebo. Yikes!

    1. I had my Pfizer booster at Guy’s last week, eight months after the second, and I was never so ill for the next 48 hours. It was two days of the worst flu like symptoms I’ve ever had, with shivers, uncontrollable shuddering, fever, vomiting, dry heaving, and more. I’m in my eighties and perhaps that was the root of it. 🙁

  10. I am 83. Got my first Pfizer shot in March. Absolutely no side effects – not ever a sore arm. I got my second shot three weeks later – still no side effects. My third shot was a few weeks ago. Again, no side effects.

  11. Jab 1, 12/26/2020 nothing much except a sore arm, similar to a flu shot.

    Jab 2 1/11/2021 my arm got a honking sore knot at the site of injection which developed over a couple of days, and was gone after about a week. Nothing much systemic that i recall. (It was a LONG time ago, ha)

    Jab 3, 9/28/2021 at about 1030 Tuesday felt fine, I went to work Wed and throughout the day got more and more fatigued with head, body, joint pain. Finally went home early, had a nap, got up, took beloved spouse for HIS jab, came home. More nap, ate dinner, went to bed and woke up Thursday HEALED.

    Felt crummy a total of about 18 hours. Beats the heck out of what everyone has said covid feels like.

    Lots of people say the vaccine is unnecessary if one has no co-morbidities (sp?). I”m thinking, why take the chance? I’ve always been lucky, but maybe this time lucky means, I’m here working in a hospital where i go down between patients to get a jab.

  12. Even though the CDC only cleared the booster for Pfizer, they are also administering Moderna where I live.
    My husband and I both got boosters this morning (Moderna) at CVS. We are both over 65 with no other qualifying afflictions. Most pharmacies here in OC will give you Moderna or Pfizer. I made appointment online yesterday but I’m pretty sure one could just walk in and get the shot.

    1. I already got a Pfizer-BioNTech booster at a drug store, even though I’m not yet 65. I looked at the data (esp. out of Israel) and decided that I should get the booster to protect myself and my family (one of whom is in her 90s and another who is on chemo). You have to attest that you are eligible for the vaccine. As long as you do, you can get the shot. According to CDC guidelines, providers are not to question these self-attestations.

      I think the CDC was wrong no to authorize a booster for all adults. Although the chances of a younger person getting a severe breakthrough case are slim, the chances of becoming infected are not. According to an Israeli study effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccine against infection is only about 50% after 6 months. And if you are infected, you can infect someone who is in a high-risk group.

    2. Update two days later: (Moderna booster) First day slight sore arm. Second day slight fever and malaise. Third day (today) I feel fine, completely normal. This is the same for my husband. I am in my 80’s for what it’s worth.

  13. My 1st Pfizer shot was totally uneventful. No symptoms of any kind. My 2nd Pfizer shot resulted in a bit of mild soreness round the injection site. I’m still waiting for the booster. Not available for my age group (74, no unusual conditions) yet. My wife got the booster already because she has MDS. It caused a saucer sized rash followed by a red area around the injection site. She had a bit of soreness from the first two shots.

    1. I thought the recommendation was for everyone 65 and over, regardless of health conditions. I’m 74 also and I got my booster this past Monday.

  14. I got my booster tow days ago, along with seasonal flu shot in the other arm. Flu shot site hurt a little more, but neither one was veryy sore. Two days later, booster arm is fine, slight soreness if I press on the flu site. No other effects, nor did i have any beyond one day of mild arm soreness for the first two Covid shots.

  15. I received my booster yesterday, too, and had your symptoms. A period of chills and a blah feeling impervious to coffee! All things considered, fair trade.


    Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine antibodies disappear in many by 7 months

    Six months after receiving the second dose of the two-shot vaccine from Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE, many recipients no longer have vaccine-induced antibodies that can immediately neutralize worrisome variants of the coronavirus, a new study suggests. Researchers analyzed blood samples from 46 healthy, mostly young or middle-aged adults after receipt of the two doses and again six months after the second dose. “Our study shows vaccination with the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine induces high levels of neutralizing antibodies against the original vaccine strain, but these levels drop by nearly 10-fold by seven months” after the initial dose, Bali Pulendran of Stanford University and Mehul Suthar of Emory University said by email. In roughly half of all subjects, neutralizing antibodies that can block infection against coronavirus variants such as Delta, Beta, and Mu were undetectable at six months after the second dose, their team reported on Thursday on bioRxiv ahead of peer review. Neutralizing antibodies are not the immune system’s only defense against the virus. Still, they “are critically important in protecting against SARS-CoV-2 infection,” said Pulendran and Suthar. “These findings suggest that administering a booster dose at around 6 to 7 months following the initial immunization will likely enhance protection against SARS-CoV-2 and its variants.”

  17. I got my booster this past Monday, Sept 27 — by happenstance, exactly 7 months after the 2nd. I didn’t have much of a reaction; a bit of a sore arm and a bit tired for two days, but not tired enough to nap.

    I had no reaction to the 1st shot, not even a sore arm. Both my husband and I felt tired enough after the 2nd shot to spend a lazy Sunday, curled up under quilts, doing nothing much. I did have an allergic reaction after the second shot. My upper arm was red, very itchy, and bumpy. But the rash looked like the outline of the band-aid. Two bright red rectangles separated by a less red area between them. Whatever the cause, topical Benedryl cleared it up in a day or two.

    I’m glad I got the booster. All the adults in our house are vaccinated, but there is also a 3-year-old member of the household. I worry about him every time he gets the sniffles. We have already lived through a measles outbreak before he was old enough for his MMR vaccine, counting down the days until his 15-month birthday, I have no sympathy for anti-vaxers. I have no respect for elected officials who molly-coddle the jerks.

  18. Just a trivia from a far away land: In Hungary the booster shot must be a different type than the originals (unless the sensitivities of the recipient make it impossible). I got Pfizer for the first two rounds, so I am eligible to Janssen, Sinopharm, or AstraZeneca (doctor’s pick, not the decision of the recipient).
    I have not yet decided whether I take it or not. I got my second jab at the end of May, four months ago.

    1. Strange. Do they have a medical reason for the different booster shot? In Belgium my wife got a Pfizer third shot, just like the two first ones. People with medical histories get the third shot first, I didn’t get mine yet.

      1. Yes, that is the official reasoning, and I think it might be a valid one. However I suspect there is another purpose with the part where they do not let people pick from the available options: they completely stopped buying new vaccines (even pulled out from the EU shared acquisition deal) and they want to manage the uneven stock.
        (They also gave away some of the surplus for other countries.)

  19. Too early for a booster shot for me or immune-compromized spouse. I think it’s about time that Pfizer updated their spike mRNA to something that fits the newer variants better.
    I had never heard about the Amish school massacre, read it up on Wikipedia and literally sobbed when I read how they treated the shocked and bereaved family of the killer.
    As regards Duchamp’s urinal, I don’t know who recently pointed me to this link
    (it could have been a reader here), the short video shows how judiciously some of the Western money for development and democratization of Afghanistan was spent.

  20. I had the booster shot one week ago and had no side effects at all. The first two, also, produced no side effects.

  21. I received my Modena booster two weeks ago. No ill effects other than slight sore arm. For some reason our local healthcare system is providing Moderna boosters ahead of FDA approval for > 65’s. My doctor got his and recommended I do the same. An easy decision.

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