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Feeling unwell after a COVID vaccine shot? Experts say that's a good thing

Your body's immune system is responding to an antigen
Posted at 4:24 PM, Mar 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-17 18:21:21-04

(WXYZ) — While Detroit has been praised for the efficiency of its vaccine roll-out at TCF Center, the city’s overall vaccination rates lag behind other counties.

To find out what’s causing "vaccine hesitancy" a recent survey was done with the homeless population.

"The two things that we noticed were people were scared about the side effects and people didn’t want to take the vaccine and die," said Denise Fair, the city of Detroit's Public Health Officer.

"People are really concerned about taking this vaccine which is incredibly new," she said.

Those fears have been expressed beyond the homeless population — and beyond Detroit, according to Dr. Leonard Johnson who runs the infectious disease program at Ascension St. John in Detroit.

"I’ve run into patients — as well fellow health care workers — who have reluctance," said Johnson.

The physician, however, points out that while these fears may be real, dangerous reactions have only occurred in the rarest of cases, and a mild reaction is in fact very normal. Specifically, with the second shot.

"This is true of being exposed to a lot of things besides vaccines, as well as medications and sometimes even things like bee stings," said Johnson, explaining that upon first exposure to an antigen — anything foreign to our body such as a vaccine, medication or bee venom — the body may not recognize what they're being introduced to so the reaction is less significant.

"Upon re-exposure, the immune system has a more significant response because it's already seen it before," said Johnson.

The point was reiterated by Dr. Mustafa Bohra is an infectious disease doctor at Beaumont Health.

"That’s actually a sign that an immune response is being mounted. And again, that is the whole point of the vaccine," said Mustafa, noting that some common responses are: body aches, fevers, chills.

Both physicians, however, point out that it's also normal to have no response to the vaccine.

"Not everybody will get a strong reaction, some people get little to no reaction," said Mustafa.

Johnson doubled down explaining that a fear would be people would think they're less protected if they don't have as a strong of a reaction.

"We don’t want to think that some people have a more severe reaction than others that they’re going to have more protection from the vaccine," said Johnson. "I don’t want people to think 'Oh, I had not much of a reaction at all, I’m not well protected.' The data doesn’t say that either."

For Johnson, the main point is: Get the shot.

"We all have to be on board with this and the fear of a vaccine reaction must not hold us back otherwise we’re going to delay our ability to go back to normal," he said.

Johnson recommends staying hydrated before and after one’s vaccine shot. He said people can still plan to go to work after the shot. Most of the side effects start about 8 to 12 hours and peak around 36 hours later.