Furthermore, even though the authorized vaccines result in a stronger immune response than natural infection, we don’t yet know how long their protection will last. The Excelsior Pass I got in New York State attests to my vaccination status, but it expires mid-August, six months after my second dose, at which time a booster shot may be needed to maintain my immunity.
Speaking of which, that second shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine should not be skipped. Although a delay of a few weeks in getting it is likely not critical, the immune response after one dose is relatively weak and may leave people vulnerable, especially to the more virulent variants now circulating.
Two doses are 90 percent effective in preventing infection, and that protection is expected to last much longer. You should be given an appointment for the second dose when you sign up for the first dose or when you receive it.
Some people hesitate to get the second shot because they’ve heard the side effects can be nasty. But no matter how nasty, the vaccine side effects are short-lived and not nearly as severe or persistent as the disease the vaccine protects against. After recovery from even a mild case of Covid-19, a distressing legacy like a foggy brain or chronic fatigue can persist.
And, of course, the virus can also kill, even people who are relatively young and free of underlying health risks. The fatality rate from Covid-19 based on more than 32 million confirmed cases in the United States is 1.8 percent. Over 245 million doses of Covid vaccines were administered by May 3, and a federal review of adverse events found that no deaths resulted from the vaccine.
Nearly everyone gets a temporary sore arm from the shot, but at worst people may have flulike symptoms that last a day or two. If you have the option, consider planning a day off after the second shot in case you need to take it easy. Half my family had no reaction other than the expected arm pain. One daughter-in-law developed a fever of 102 degrees and one son was unusually tired, but I was like the Energizer Bunny the next day and accomplished twice as much as usual. Go figure!
If you have a smartphone, I urge you to sign up for the side effects monitoring system established by the C.D.C. I did and was asked repeatedly how I was faring after each vaccine dose. The system, called v-safe, can alert government health authorities to the frequency of side effects and to any previously unknown complications. It will also remind you to get your second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.
And a final word: If you know people still struggling to get a vaccine appointment, please try to help them if you can.