Ever since I got my second COVID-19 vaccine dose, I’ve been thinking about if, when, and how to end my weekly updates.
Tonight’s post is the culmination of that thinking.
My thinking was that it would be time to end these weekly updates once everyone in my family was: a) vaccinated, b) at full immunity, and c) in a neighborhood where the COVID test positivity rate was low.
And now, all three things are the case.
My parents their second vaccine doses in mid-March, I got my second vaccine dose in late April, and my younger brother got his second vaccine dose in early May. As all of us are not only fully vaccinated but to a point where we are all at maximum immunity, the risk of any of us getting COVID (let alone seriously getting ill from it) seems extremely low. It’s not impossible to get COVID even if you’re vaccinated (look at the outbreak that happened with the New York Yankees baseball team as an example), but the chances are very low.
Additionally, the test positivity rate for COVID in my neighborhood is now extremely low–at just over 1%. It is good news that the test positivity rate is as low as it is. The good news means that I am no longer reporting from a COVID hotspot, and it means that the concern that existed about all of us in New York when I started my first iteration of these posts (or even when I started my second iteration of these posts) does not exist to the same extent. If such concerns come back, I will resume these weekly update posts, but unless and until that happens, I think now is a good time to end these weekly update posts.
I should emphasize that just because I’m ending my COVID update posts doesn’t mean that COVID as a whole is over, either in the United States or around the world. Far from it. Hundreds are still dying from the pandemic every day in the United States, while worldwide we are at our highest death rate since January. If we think we’re done with this pandemic, we are very badly mistaken. To that end, those who aren’t vaccinated should get vaccinated, while at the same time practice the appropriate public health precautions until being fully vaccinated.
Last, but not least, I want to thank all of you, my readers, for being a part of this journey. It has been quite the journey, but I am thankful for the fact that many readers have joined me on it.
Please note that I will not write a post next Monday, since next Monday is Memorial Day.
I start today’s post with another dose of good news: my younger brother is now fully vaccinated!
He got vaccinated last Friday. His side effects were in many ways similar to mine: chills, a headache, fatigue, a sore arm, and nausea (which was something I didn’t have much of, though I had little appetite). And, like me, he started getting those side effects about 12 hours or so after his second dose, and the side effects lasted for 24 hours or less (with him, it was under 24 hours, with the exception of the arm soreness that lasted longer). I share my brother’s side effects (with his permission by the way) to yet again highlight that for all the vaccine hesitancy over side effects, the side effects are very short-term (the very rare blood clots from the Johnson & Johnson notwithstanding) and are child’s play compared to getting the virus (some of whom still suffer certain symptoms for months or over a year after catching the virus).
What this means is that everyone in the household I am in is now fully vaccinated, even if one member of the household (my younger brother) is still off at college. It also means that the risk of any of us catching COVID-19, which we were already all trying to limit through wearing masks and practicing social distancing, is even lower now. It’s a relief to know that all four of us are now vaccinated.
Also a relief is the fact that the test positivity rate for COVID has plummeted both in New York City and in my part of New York City. The test positivity rate citywide is now under 2% and it is just over 3% in my zip code. The days of test positivity well over 10% in my area seem so long ago and yet so short ago at the same time. I am hoping that we continue trending in that direction, and that we can get to a point with this awful pandemic that we can at least have this thing well under control.
The one piece of not-so-good news is that New York City, like many other parts of the United States, are starting to experience slowdowns in the number of people getting vaccinated. In early April, there were over 100,000 people per day getting vaccinated–that number has slowed down significantly since then. My guess as to what is happening here is that many of the people who were enthusiastic about getting vaccines have now been vaccinated (me being among them, as I got my first dose around the time that daily vaccine doses distributed in New York City was about to hit its peak). Now, in many cases, I think we are to the populations that were waiting for the right time to get vaccinated (in terms of work obligations) as well as the vaccine-hesitant.
I will be interested to hear how readers are doing!
Today’s COVID update post is somewhat less exciting than last week’s update post, for I do not have a vaccine (or its side effects) to report on. That being said, I am a few days away from having the maximum immunity built up (I took my second dose a week and a half ago), so having full immunity will be exciting.
There has been much talk about what someone can do if they are fully vaccinated. Given all the discussion on what a fully vaccinated person can do (or should do), and what a fully vaccinated person should still be cautious with, I’m going to get involved in that discussion by talking about how I plan to conduct myself once I am at maximum immunity starting in a few days. The goal of talking about how I plan to conduct myself once I have that immunity built up is to hopefully get others thinking about how they want to move forward when they are fully vaccinated.
How I plan to conduct myself, in terms of the activities I am willing to do, will depend on answers to several questions:
What COVID-19 variants are around? Furthermore, are said variants deadly? And if said variants are deadly, how well do my Moderna shots protect me from getting those variants? If there are deadly variants around, I want to be sure that my Moderna shots protect me from getting said deadly variants. If I’m not sure whether the Moderna keeps me from contracting a deadly variant going around, then I would still act with some level of caution. To use a relevant example, unless there is information I have missed, there’s still more to learn about how well the vaccine responds to the deadly Indian variant, so I will want to act with a bit of caution (especially when it comes to the riskiest activities from a COVID standpoint, such as dining indoors and being in crowds indoors). According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the Covaxin vaccine that’s being used in India is preliminarily showing promise against this variant, but alas, the vaccine shot I got was not Covaxin but Moderna. One note I should add is that if we’re in a place where none of the variants are deadly and/or the Moderna vaccine is known to be effective against the most serious variants that are around, then I would be willing to engage in even the riskier activities (though I imagine there will be a mental barrier to get through on the first occasion that I, say, dine indoors for the first time since pre-COVID).
How much community spread is there of the virus where I live, and how much community spread is there where I want to go? Even if I’m unsure how well my Moderna shot works against certain variants, if community spread of COVID-19 is pretty low, then I would feel safe with a wider variety of activities than if community spread were pretty high. In my case, I live in a county (Queens County) where the rate of infection is below 1.0, which in layperson’s terms means that at the rate we’re going, we’re going at a rate to slow and hopefully eventually stop the spread of the disease. As such, I might be willing to do somewhat more in terms of activities (especially given that I’m fully vaccinated) than I would even if I were vaccinated and community spread (particularly spread of variants with unknown effectiveness with the Moderna) were widespread.
If we don’t know whether my Moderna shots react to a deadly variant going around, is the activity I’m thinking of an activity that’s relatively safe even if I were unvaccinated? We have a fair bit of data of which activities are safe or unsafe for even unvaccinated people, and the results may be surprising. For all that public transport has a reputation for being a germ factory, for example, there is no correlation found between riding subways and COVID-19 spread. On the other hand, if you are indoors in a place with poor ventilation, having six feet of distance between yourself and someone else may not be enough.
Before wrapping up my post, I should also note that the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has its own chart on which activities are and are not safe for both fully vaccinated people and unvaccinated people. My approach to COVID as a fully vaccinated person seems to be a little more cautious than what the CDC’s guidance lays out currently, but at the same time, the CDC’s guidance is worth noting because as I have said to my parents on multiple occasions, following their guidance has helped me get this far without catching COVID.
While I don’t know how much (if at all) my readers will agree with my guiding principles for what activities I do, post-vaccination, I hope that at least this post will get other people thinking about what they do after getting vaccinated. Overall, getting the vaccine is worth it to me because it protects us against so many troublesome variants, but I plan on acting with caution with certain activities until we learn more about how the Moderna vaccine responds against other troublesome variants; notably, the Indian variant.
As readers can tell by the title of tonight’s COVID update blog post, I have now received my second and final shot of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine!
I got the shot last Sunday, April 25th.
The directions for heading into the facility for my second shot could’ve been better, as a number of us were confused as to where exactly we should be going. However, once I got into the facility that was doing the vaccinations, it was a pretty quick and smooth process to get from check-ins to the vaccination, and from the vaccination to post-vaccination monitoring.
As for side effects, they were more severe after the second dose than after the first dose–something which is apparently the case for many people. After my first dose, I just had a sore arm for a short period of time. After my second dose, I started with a sore arm. However, on the night after I received my vaccine shot (night of the 25th/morning of the 26th), I woke up to my shivering. I had chills. In addition to chills and the sore arm, I ultimately had the following side effects:
Reduced appetite (which for me often comes with having fatigue and/or a headache, so it’s hard for me to say whether this was an actual side effect or the result of other side effects)
Fever (at one point, a fever of 100.5)
Such side effects are apparently not unusual, for many people report having low-grade COVID symptoms after their second vaccine dose (with both Pfizer and Moderna) for anywhere between one day and few days. In my case, the most severe side effects lasted for 24 hours (with only a little bit of arm soreness after I recovered from other side effects). However, each person’s body is different, and as such, each person’s reaction to their second vaccine dose is going to be different. Regardless, if you feel unwell for a day or two or even three, don’t panic. If you still feel unwell even after a few days have passed, I would recommend calling a doctor.
Obviously, in terms of side effects, you want to hope for the best. Still, if you want to “prepare for the worst” (which is nothing compared to actually having COVID), those who are taking their second vaccine doses should be prepared to:
Potentially feel unwell for somewhere between one day and a few days
Drink lots of water if you feel unwell (a special shoutout to the friends of mine who told me the same thing)
Rely on the help of others for a day to a few days (or, if you have nobody else to rely on, prepared to not do much for a day to a few days if at all possible)
Use sick leave at work, if your job has such a thing as sick leave
For all that I’ve talked about my side effects from the second Moderna shot in this post, I should emphasize that I have zero regrets about getting the second shot. If I had to make the same decision all over again about whether to get a second shot, I would get my second shot without the slightest bit of hesitation. Likewise, I would urge others to not be hesitant about getting that second shot, even with stories of side effects from people like me. For one thing, the science says that you need both vaccine shots of the Pfizer and Moderna in order to have maximum protection, so while some are foregoing their second shots because they believe they have adequate protection from COVID, the science simply does not match up with that belief. For another thing, while one can experience side effects from the second vaccine shot, the side effects are child’s play compared to actually getting symptoms of the virus–a virus that has killed nearly 3.2 million people worldwide as of the time of my writing this post. As such, I beg those who are hesitant about having a second vaccine dose to keep things in perspective, and remember that having COVID (or putting yourself at risk for having COVID through not being fully vaccinated) is much riskier than having a COVID vaccine (even the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is a single-shot vaccine and has had blood clot issues reported with a tiny number of vaccine recipients).
I know that my paragraph above was rather lengthy, but given that apparently close to 8% of people in America who’ve received their first shots of the Pfizer and Moderna not receiving their second doses, I want to do my part in addressing the hesitancy that seems to exist with regards to getting a second shot (a lot of which seems to center around concerns about side effects as well as the belief one is protected). A lot of the talk around vaccine hesitancy is centered around getting a shot to begin with, but there’s also hesitancy around getting a second shot–hesitancy that I think those of us who have received our second shots have a moral obligation to address as best as possible.
If other readers have received their second shots of the Pfizer or Moderna, or received their single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, please let me know if there’s anything to add beyond what I covered in this post!
I hope everyone is healthy and safe, regardless of where you live.
I am on the verge of being fully vaccinated! I am scheduled to get my second dose next Sunday. I look forward to being fully vaccinated, even if there are certain public health precautions I should follow even after vaccination. Next week, I will make sure to give a full report of how the second dose went and how I felt after the shot.
Thankfully I have not heard of any other deaths of friends of friends, friends of family, colleagues of family, etc. in the past week, so that is nice for a change. I know that a couple of my COVID update posts recently have been on the sorrowful side, so it’s nice not to have tonight’s post be on the sorrowful side as well.
In other positive news, the hospital closest to where I live is under somewhat less stress from COVID now than it was a number of weeks ago. While a significant number of hospital beds and ICU beds are still taken up by COVID patients, those numbers are not as high as they were several months ago. To give my readers a contrast of how much things have changed in this regard, at one point nearly 80% of ICU beds were taken up by COVID patients at the hospital closest to where I live, but now that number is down to 43%.
The test positivity rate in my part of New York City is 7.9%, which is slightly down from where the test positivity rate was at this point last week. People continue to get vaccinated, but with my neighborhood’s numbers the way that they are, and with my city’s numbers the way that they are (test positivity rate is just above 6%), it’s a reminder that COVID is still very much going around.
One disclaimer I should add to this post is that the situation I’m reporting on is the situation in New York City, and in my part of New York City, at that. What may be the case where I live is not necessarily the case nationwide in the United States. I offer this reminder as I hear about parts of the United States going through yet another wave of this virus.
I’m more than happy to hear how my readers are doing. Hopefully everyone else is staying healthy!