Looking ahead: what to know — and do — after being vaccinated for COVID-19

By Olivia Montes

Lifestyle Editor

On April 15, the Washington College Contingency Planning Group had announced that the College, in partnership with the ACME Markets Mid-Atlantic Division and the Kent County Health Department, is offering the Moderna-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the Toll Science Center from April 20, with a second dose clinic scheduled for May 18. 

As the Johnson & Johnson Janssen single-dose COVID-19 vaccines under review due to the emergence of six reports of rare blood clotting cases on April 13, others are due to receive their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna-BioNTech vaccine. 

With these and other updates, many WC students are wondering what comes next after the shot, ranging from possibility of short- or long-term side effects to the continuance of abiding by COVID-19 safety regulations, including wearing masks and social distancing from three to six feet apart. 

For a few reminders and other tidbits, here is what the WC campus community should know prior to and after getting vaccinated. 

What are the side effects of getting the COVID-19 vaccine?

After showing up for your scheduled appointment and being injected, recipients should be on the lookout for any potential side effects. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while the thought of facing even more uncertainty might sound frightening, these side effects are in fact “normal signs that your body is building protection.” 

According to the CDC, the most common side effects range from slight “pain, redness, [or] swelling” in your arm after being injected to “tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever, or nausea.” 

To reduce the pain, swelling, or redness, the CDC recommends “apply[ing] a clean, cool, wet washcloth over the area”; for signs of fever, “drink plenty of fluids [and] dress lightly” to feel comfortable. 

 Be sure to contact your doctor or an experienced medical health professional for more information if the pain, redness, or swelling intensifies 24 hours after receiving the shot, if the side effects do not subside after a few days, or if you are worried about the possibility of infection. 

According to the Vaccine Recipient Fact Sheet attached to the CPG-sent email, there is also the possibility for recipients of the Moderna-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to experience “a severe allergic reaction…within a few minutes to one hour after getting a dose,” with such noted symptoms as “difficulty breathing, swelling of your face and throat, a fast heartbeat, a bad rash all over your body, dizziness, and weakness.” 

Should you experience any of these or other symptoms, be sure to call 911 or check yourself in the nearest medical facility for assistance. 

What about COVID-19 mandated protocols? 

In accordance with the CDC, WC students, staff, and faculty members must continue to abide by mandated COVID-19 safety regulations, including wearing masks or similar coverings, washing and sanitizing hands, and practicing social distancing, upon getting vaccinated. 

According to the CPG update released on April 9, the College is scheduled to resume in-person academic instruction next fall. 

While the choice of whether to require vaccinations prior to returning is still under evaluation, the campus will continue to enforce these and other safety protocols, as “it is likely that some of the basic best practices for preventing the spread of COVID-19 will also remain.” 

Will COVID-19 testing still be necessary, even after getting the vaccine?

With more individuals getting vaccinated, COVID-19 cases and related deaths on the decline, and restrictions being lifted from state to state, while it might appear that COVID-19 testing is no longer needed, according to Vox Recode reporter Sara Morrison, it is in fact “more important now than ever,” as it can assist public health professionals in recognizing possible signs of another outbreak, potential hotspots, and new variants. 

“New testing technology and government funding and initiatives are making getting tested faster, easier, and cheaper than it’s ever been,” Morrison said. “Many people still don’t know how testing works, what’s out there, or why — and how — they should use testing. Or that it’s important to keep using tests, even after getting vaccinated.” 

Even after being vaccinated, WC students, staff, and faculty members are encouraged, alongside continuing to wear masks and practice social distancing not to disregard getting tested. 

According to the Vaccine Recipient Fact Sheet, the Moderna-BioNTech vaccine “may prevent you from getting COVID-19…there is no U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved vaccine to prevent COVID-19…[and] may not protect everyone.” 

As a new normal comes into fruition, there is an increased importance to continue getting tested, whether that be through molecular/genetic-based, which actively searches for virus RNA or antigen tests that detect the virus’ surface proteins, whether on site or at home. 

By doing so, you’re not only continuing to further protect yourself, but also those around you — even long after you’ve been vaccinated.

“We already know that no vaccine has 100 percent guaranteed immunity, especially with new variants that vaccines might not have as much protection against…and we’re still finding out if vaccinated people can transmit the virus to others, even if they don’t get sick themselves,” Morrison said. “So, if you feel sick — even if you’ve been vaccinated — get tested.”

While getting vaccinated does not automatically mean that life will suddenly go back to pre-pandemic normalcy, it can provide the WC campus community with the next step towards gaining the comfort and confidence to come back to campus next fall. 

Featured Photo caption: With Moderna-BioNTech vaccinations now available on the College campus, here is what the WC community need to know after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Photo by Ben Wang.

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