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What is it like to receive a COVID-19 vaccine? Three Filipinos abroad share their experience

By CHUCK SMITH Published Mar 02, 2021 6:32 am

The Philippines has just started its inoculation program, prioritizing frontline healthcare workers, using Sinovac's donated CoronaVac vaccine that arrived on Sunday, Feb. 28. 

But many Filipinos abroad—including eligible healthcare workers and students— have already received the COVID-19 vaccines as many countries started their inoculation program much earlier. According to the Financial Times, a total of 244,265,363 COVID-19 vaccine doses have already been given globally in 122 locations.

Janelle Pusta Lorzano of The Philippine Star’s social media team interviewed three Filipinos who got three different COVID-19 vaccines—namely, Pfizer-BioNTech. Moderna, and AstraZeneca—to find out their experience after receiving the jab.

The summary? All three experienced varying side effects—varying from mild to “intense”—but they remain well after the jab.

AstraZeneca

John Steven Dimapilis Soriano received the AstraZeneca vaccine on Jan. 13, 2021, at the Sunderland Royal Hospital in the United Kingdom, where he is currently working as a nurse.

“My main reason as to why I've decided to get vaccinated is to protect myself. Of course frontliner po ako,” he said.

Soriano said he felt light-headed around 30 minutes after he got the dose.

He developed a fever five hours after the vaccination. Later, his arm that received the vaccine felt numb, though he didn’t feel too concerned because “'yun naman talaga ang initial side effects ng mga bakuna na natatanggap natin.”

A day after receiving the AstraZeneca dose, he experienced body pain. “Nagtagal po 'yung fever, body pain, headache, fatigue, and arm pain for 48 hours, for two days po,” Soriano said.

The symptoms eased after 72 hours. “Normal na po ang lahat. Malakas na po ako, feeling great, feeling energetic na po ulit ako after three days no'ng nakuha ko 'yung bakuna,” he said.

He hasn’t received his second AstraZeneca dose yet—according to the UK’s coronavirus website, 20,275,451 people have already received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, while 815,816  have already gotten their second dose as of February 28, 2021.

“Pero usually po after three weeks ang second shot,” he said.

Soriano shared that he contracted COVID-19 eight days after receiving the first dose. But he didn't experience severe symptoms while he had the coronavirus.

“I'm still grateful po kasi imagine kung hindi ko nakuha 'yung first shot ko tapos nakuha ko 'yung virus, baka malala po 'yung mga symptoms na na-experience ko,” he said.

Moderna

Angelic Liwanag is part of the Guest Services Department at the University of California San Francisco in San Francisco, California. She received her Moderna jab on Jan. 13, and her second dose on Feb. 16, 2021.

Liwanag said that at their workplace, employees receive either the Pfizer-BioNTech or the Moderna vaccine—but they cannot choose. “I actually randomly got the Moderna,” she shared. She received the dose at the Mission Bay campus of the University of California San Francisco.

She experienced no severe side effects apart from soreness on her left arm three to four hours after receiving the first dose of Moderna.

“My left arm was sore until the next day. But nothing too crazy for side effects. It was just all normal other than that,” she said.

But Liwanag experienced more “intense” symptoms after her second dose. She received the second dose on Tuesday afternoon; she experienced soreness on her arm, a low-grade fever, and headaches. The following day, she felt “muscle pains throughout my body."

“It was bad. It was intense. I can feel it through my bones like everywhere I move,” she said.

Liwanag said she was “fully recovered” by Friday, three days after receiving her second Moderna dose.

“Everything is okay. Everything is normal,” she said.

Pfizer-BioNTech

Nicole Kimble from Charlotte, North Carolina received the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Dec. 27, 2020. She received her second dose on Jan. 14, 2021.

Hours after her first dose, Kimble felt numbness on her arm, headache, and fatigue. The symptoms were gone by the second day, apart from the pain in her deltoid muscle and a “pinch pain” on the injection site.

She experienced the same symptoms after her second Pfizer-BioNTech dose—pain on the injection site, numbness on her arm, fatigue—which were gone after 48 hours.

“My overall experience is not too bad. All side effects that I have experienced are expected. I’d rather experience the side effects of the vaccine rather than the complications of COVID-19,” Kimble said.

Expected side effects

The World Health Organization said that symptoms such as pain or soreness or swelling in the arm at the site of the injection, low-grade fever, body ache, and headache are “expected.”

“It’s the body’s immune system reacting to this antigen that’s been put into the body and the immune system gearing up to fight,” said Soumya Swaminathan, chief scientist at the World Health Organization. “So that’s quite common, it usually lasts two to three days, not more than that, and then you’re, you know, feeling absolutely fine.”

The  Philippine Society of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology, a group of doctors who specialize in adult and pediatric allergy and immunology, also released a statement saying the benefits of these vaccines to the general public far outweigh the potential risks of adverse reaction to COVID-19 vaccines.

It added that the risk of severe allergic reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine is rare.

Possible severe reactions, although rare, include anaphylaxis—an allergic reaction to medication—which should be treated promptly with epinephrine.

The Philippine Star reported that the Philippines will buy one million more doses of Sinovac to boost the country’s initial stock of 600,000 doses of the same brand donated by Beijing.

The same report said the country’s supply agreements with other COVID-19 vaccine brands Moderna, Johnson and Johnson, and Novavax were still pending, according to Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said

Galvez said there is no definite date yet for the delivery of the initial batch of AstraZeneca’s 17 million doses, which has been delayed due to “acute global shortages and logistical challenges.” - with interviews and reporting by Janelle Pusta Lorzano