COVID-19 vaccine will soon be available to more MA residents. What can you expect after getting the shot?

BOSTON — The second phase of Massachusetts’ COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan is set to begin next month.

Under the state’s timeline, frontline workers and residents of nursing homes and congregate settings were among the first to get inoculated. In the second phase, a larger segment of the population will be eligible for the injection. The next batch of vaccine recipients include individuals with two or more comorbidities, seniors 75 years and older, educators and essential services workers.

So far, 825,650 doses of vaccine have been shipped to providers in Massachusetts as of Jan. 21, and 377,459 of those doses have been administered, Gov. Charlie Baker said Wednesday.

As more Massachusetts residents get the vaccine, what can people expect after getting the shot?

Three healthcare workers with direct contact with COVID patients who received the two doses of the vaccine share their experience with Investigative reporter Ted Daniel, who has been tracking their progress since they got their first injection in December.

When Daniel first connected with Amy Stanley, an emergency room nurse at Best Israel Deaconess Plymouth, she was feeling excited and optimistic about beating the pandemic. Hours earlier she had gotten her first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. She told us the very next day after getting the shot she began to feel tired and overall “didn’t feel great.” But luckily those side effects only lasted a day. Only 36 hours after her first vaccine in December, Stanley said, she felt normal again.

25 Investigates recently checked in with Stanley to see how she was feeling after getting her second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“The second one was actually a lot worse,” she confesses. “About 18 hours after, I woke up with chills, a fever, headache, and just kind of generalized aches all over. My headache was pretty bad and it kind of kept me inside all day.”

The side effects she describes are not unusual, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the federal agency that ensures the safety and efficacy of drugs.

The agency says side effects from the Pfizer vaccine “can last several days” and most commonly include “pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, and fever.” Most importantly, the FDA says “more people experienced these side effects after the second dose than after the first dose.”

Dr. Maureen Canellas, an emergency room doctor at UMass Memorial in Worcester, says she also experienced more side effects the second time around.

“In the middle of the night, I definitely had at least a subjective fever,” Dr. Canellas told 25 Investigates. “I could not sleep. I was expecting the body aches I had and feeling feverish. I was assuming it’d be like any other cold where you can sleep through it. You just take a day or two, you sleep you feel better. But I couldn’t even get to sleep.”

When investigative reporter Ted Daniel first spoke to Dr. Canellas after receiving her first dose in December, she told she felt few side effects.

Both Dr. Canellas and Stanley both received their second injection on January 6, three weeks after the first shot, as recommended by the CDC.

But not everyone who got the second dose experience more side effects. Melissa Houston, a nurse at Dana Farber, told 25 Investigates she felt perfectly fine.

“I was a little worried that maybe something was wrong. I spoke to a couple of the infectious disease doctors here at the Dana who have assured me that everybody’s going to have different responses and they said there’s no reason to believe that this vaccine isn’t fully working,” said Houston, adding that she is now counseling her co-workers about her experience. “It’s not my job to make anybody get the vaccine. But, as a nurse, part of my job is to educate people. So if I can do that and if people can understand and feel more comfortable then I’m happy.”

All three say they feel a sense of relief and accomplishment. Nonetheless, they say they will continue to be cautious and even though they’re vaccinated they won’t change the way they interact with people.

“I don’t think there’s enough people around me that have been vaccinated to make any changes at all,” said Stanley. “But I feel a little bit more comfortable.”

Dr. Canellas says she’s not letting her guard down either and will continue to practice safety precautions.

“I’m wearing masks when I go outside. I’m still not seeing people. I’m still not going to restaurants,” said Canellas. “I’m treating it just as if I hadn’t been vaccinated until I know for sure.”

Phase two of the vaccine distribution plan is expected to begin next month. The final of the state’s three-tiered plan is set to begin in April.

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