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Increased side effects are normal after second COVID-19 vaccine shot, doctors say

Scientists say it's unclear why the second dose causes more fatigue, chills and other reactions than the first shot, but that is normal and a sign that it's working.

EVERETT, Wash. — Robin Addison is a nurse at Providence Medical Center in Everett. She treated the first ever COVID-19 patient in the U.S. and now a year later, she's fully vaccinated against the virus.

"I got my first vaccine and had a headache for a day and some arm pain and that was it,” Addison said. But she had a worse reaction to her second dose.

"About eight or ten hours after I got the shot, I started to develop a little bit of a fever, and a headache, and just body aches everywhere. That lasted about two days for me,” Addison said.

This is common. A lot of people are reporting symptoms like this after getting the second shot. It's known to cause chills, fevers, head and body aches.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study this week on reactions. They used a system called “V-Safe” where a text message was sent to people who just received doses of the vaccine with questions about their reactions. To almost everyone who responded, higher percentages of symptoms such as fatigue, chills and fever were reported after the second dose.

Dr. Larry Corey, a nationally renowned vaccine expert who is at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, said scientists are unsure why the second dose causes more side effects, but overall, the reaction is normal.

"That's immunology, that's vaccinology. It is not some toxic process that's going on,” Corey said.

He said It's your body responding to the vaccine and helping you build immunity to the virus.

"It's not a bad thing. When you put in a foreign protein, because we're putting in the spiked protein of the SARS CoV-2 virus, COVID-19 spiked protein. You want your body to recognize it as not belonging to you,” he said.

And despite the side effects, Addison would do it all over again.          

"Oh, I would not give that up for the world. Absolutely it's worth it.,” she said.

But a lot of people reached out to KING 5’s Vaccine Task Force saying they're unable to get a second dose.

"It is nearly impossible to get an appointment for the second vaccine injection," said a viewer named Beth.

"There doesn't seem to be a way to make just an appointment for a second dose," said a viewer named Rose.

So, what happens if you're unable to find an appointment?

Corey said keep looking because that second shot is vital to building immunity.

"The timing of the second dose is not as critical as just getting the second dose. So, whether you get it at 19 days, or 22 days, or 28 days, or 40, or 60 days, if there's a delay it's OK. Get the boost,” he said.

RELATED: List of mass COVID-19 vaccine sites in western Washington

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