Here’s why the second dose of COVID-19 vaccine may cause symptoms

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Many people are having reactions to the second round of the COVID-19 vaccine. The WATE Six On Your Side team wanted to find out why. Who better to ask for answers than the researcher who helped invent it?

“Let me get rid of my Star Trek background,” Dr. Spyros Kalams, with Vanderbilt University, said via Zoom.

You might remember Dr. Kalams from his Star Trek Zoom backdrop. He’s a Trekkie. He’s also a leading researcher for the Moderna vaccine at one of the top hospitals in the country.

He knows the second shot can make you feel sick.

“That was apparent even from the trials when we had vaccinated a lot fewer people,” he recalled.

A group of medical students in their 20s also know that.

“Really the first day there weren’t any symptoms or anything like that. Overnight, though, I got relatively feverish, got some night sweats,” Jesse Woodall, a med student in Mississippi, said.

Woodall’s family lives in Knoxville. He got the vaccine along with fellow med students.

Fever, headache, and body aches have all been reported after the second dose. Dr. Kalams said these aren’t side effects; they are a response.

“This is because the first shot did such a good job priming your immune system so that your cells in your body see that what’s in that first shot,” Dr. Kalams explained.

He said the vaccine revs up the T cells and B cells in your body. T cells are helper cells that help the B cells make antibodies. They’re part of the immune response.

“They’re primed and ready to go, so now you give the second shot what is like a boost and so now those cells they start to multiply. They’re making what we call cytokines. They’re making proteins that help them get the signal and start churning out the antibodies,” he said.

He said young people would likely have more symptoms than older people because their immune systems are more active. Those symptoms were good news to one of Dr. Kalam’s trial participants.

“I believe it was after his second shot, he said that he had a headache, nausea, fever, and he said he nudged his wife and said ‘I am so happy because he thought I’m having an immune response to the vaccine,'” Dr. Kalams laughed.

He said the symptoms usually go away after about 24 hours. Not everyone will have them.

“Some of us got them a little bit stronger. Some of us didn’t get anything at all,” Woodall said of the med students.

If you do develop symptoms, Dr. Kalams suggested Tylenol or ibuprofen and rest. He also had one more recommendation.

“I don’t know about chicken soup. I suppose it wouldn’t hurt! Whatever makes you feel better,” he laughed.

Ultimately, it’s a matter of waiting it out. Both Woodall and Dr. Kalams said a day of discomfort is far better than the virus itself.

Dr. Kalams reiterated that the COVID-19 vaccine cannot give you the virus. The vaccine is not made of dead virus.

No one has died from the vaccine, but allergic reactions have happened. They are very rare.

These symptoms and responses can happen with both the Pfizer vaccine and Moderna. In future trials, Kalams hopes to learn if more symptoms correlates to stronger antibodies.

In the spirit of re-branding, if you don’t trust the scientist, trust the Trekkie.

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