Fever and chills to completely fine: Tale of two COVID jabs
Did you hear the one about the two blokes in their 50s who worked in the same office, got the same COVID-19 vaccine at the same clinic - and even parked in the same spot?
For all their similarities, they experienced two very different post-jab experiences - one (me) a dull headache, and the other a night of fever and aches and pains that left him and I wondering what a full-blown COVID infection would feel like.
Both of us are back in the office and both more aware that the vaccines that we need to get our world back to normal can feel as routine from a side-effects perspective as an annual flu jab ... or not.
In my case, I got the AstraZeneca vaccine from a respiratory clinic after it was recommended by a retired doctor friend. There was free parking on site, no waiting, friendly staff and very low fuss. I'd already had my flu jab so needed to wait a minimum two weeks before the COVID shot.
My Mum had already had her AstraZeneca jab and she'd reported being a bit tired afterwards but otherwise the impact was fairly minimal. Same story for a couple of her friends.
I'd read about clots etc but decided the very low risk was worth taking because being vaccinated would hopefully be the first step on the long-awaited journey to resuming travel. My wife made the same decision.
For both of us, the side effects were very similar - a dull headache for the next day or so, but we were otherwise fine. I didn't even feel the needle and had no pain in my arm from the injection. I'd mentioned the experience to my work mate, who booked into the same clinic.
My (slightly) younger work colleague had also had his flu shot a bit over two weeks earlier, but for him, the COVID vaccine side effects were more noticeable - he felt fine until he woke up shivering about 12 hours later and developed chills, body aches, headaches and sweating. He couldn't get warm no matter what he wore, and then four hours later felt burning hot and couldn't cool down. Things improved the next morning but there were still body aches and a bad headache.
He likened the impact to having a really bad flu - but was back in the office today - but was still not 100 percent.
Both of us had the same jab, in the same place - but different outcomes. Anecdote-swapping at news conference earlier today revealed similar disparities - someone's relative experienced no side effects, another had a much less pleasant experience; another work colleague and his wife were completely fine.
Everyone responds differently and there's enough data in place to know that some reactions are more common than others: the federal government's health direct site has a COVID-19 Vaccine Side Effects Symptom Checker which has a questionnaire and outlines potential side effects including things like fever, fatigue or weakness, headache, chills, new or worsening muscle or joint pain, rash, abdominal pain or nausea, feeling unwell, a change in behaviour.
The checker - which isn't vaccine-specific (because vaccines other than Astra Zeneca can also cause symptoms like those above) - also lists other more serious side effects. Based on your responses, it recommends a course of action. Depending on the severity of symptoms, that could be as simple as looking after yourself at home, seeing a GP, or, for severe reactions, heading to an emergency department. (And if you're not well enough to get there safely, it recommends calling 000).
My workmate and I are both booked in for our booster shots three months from now - and looking forward to getting on international flights when our world opens up again.
Originally published as Fever and chills to completely fine: The tale of two COVID jabs