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Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine: Now see me excited to get it

posted in All on December 3, 2020 by

Donald Thomas

What was it like getting the COVID-19 vaccine? … and some advice for lupus patients

Lupus patient with COVID coronavirus
A rheumatology researcher becomes a research study participant for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine

Dr. Kathryn Dao, a rheumatologist in Dallas, Texas, wrote about what it was like getting vaccinated for COVID-19 as a research study participant. I will include the link to her fascinating story below but will provide a short outline on some important points.

It was Pfizer’s placebo-controlled trial. How could she possible know she got the vaccine and not the placebo?
~ It is because she developed classic vaccine reaction symptoms after getting it
~ Out of interest, the name of the trial was:

the phase 3 trial of the Pfizer/BioNTech mRNA vaccine against SARS-CoV2 (protocol C4591001) 

– How big was the research study and how long is it?
~ The goal was to get 44,193 subjects
~ Subjects are expected to be followed for around 2 years each


About Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine

How was the vaccine given?

  • 1st dose followed by a 2nd dose 21 days later

What is in the vaccine?

  • It contains RNA (ribonucleic acid) from the coronavirus that causes COVID-19
  • After the injection, our immune system should see this foreign RNA and learn how to make antibodies against it for future protection
  • Then, if this person is exposed to the coronavirus, their immune system will recognize the COVID-19 RNA and can launch an attack against it and hopefully prevent infection
Lupus patient getting the COVID-19 vaccine

Dr. Dao’s COVID-19 vaccine experience

What was it like to get the shot?

  • The vaccination was given in her left upper arm muscle (like a flu shot). She says it was the easiest shot she ever had: no pain, no blood, not even a red dot.

So how does she know she got the actual vaccine and not a fake shot (placebo)?

  • Just 2 hours later, her muscles ached, and her temperature rose.
  • She had trouble sleeping that night due to a painful arm and headache. In the AM her temperature was 100.3
  • She felt badly, so she took 400 mg ibuprofen (Motrin) with marked improvement. She took it every 8 hours and felt great. She was able to stop the ibuprofen after 24 hours.
  • For the 2nd shot, she started taking ibuprofen before the shot and every 6-8 hours afterward. She still got a slightly sore arm, mild fever, and headaches. She experimented with acetaminophen (Tylenol). It helped the fever but not the sore arm. She had to keep taking these for several days. Day 4 – she felt amazing!
  • A placebo would not have caused these symptoms, so she knows she got the vaccine. 
Results of the COVID-19 vaccine research clinical trials
What were the Pfizer study results?
  • As of 11/13/20, 41,135 participants received their 2nd shot. Half got placebo, half got the vaccine.
  • There were 162 COVID infections in the placebo group
  • There were only 8 in the vaccine group!
  • The vaccine was 95% effective. This is just amazing!
  • The effectiveness was similar among different ages, genders, ethnicities/races.

What were the side effects of the vaccine?

  • Fatigue in 4%
  • Headache in 2%
  • Side effects were more common in younger adults (note that this is similar to what happens with the Shingrix shingles shot: older people are less likely to get side effects)

Will I get the vaccine?

You better believe it! I will be 1st in line!

I will take both Tylenol and Aleve or Advil (Tylenol works through a different mechanism than Aleve and Advil do. Using them together theoretically may work better)
I’ll advise my patients to do the same (for those who can safely take them)
CAUTION: Do NOT do this without asking your doctor first.

Ibuprofen to prevent side effects from the COVID vaccine for lupus patients

Dr. Thomas will be 1st in line to get the COVID-19 vaccine!

– I’ve had too many patients tell me about their relatives and loved ones who died from it … spouses, siblings, parents, God-children, nieces, nephews, best friends

  • This is real, everyone!
  • We need to have over 75% of us get vaccinated in order to achieve what is called “herd immunity”
  • Please do your part and get vaccinated.
  • If you don’t believe in protecting yourself with vaccines, change your mindset…

​Do it out of love for your loved ones. If you get vaccinated, you lower the chances of spreading it to your loved ones.

– Will I recommend it for my patients who have autoimmune disorders such as lupus, or those who are on immunosuppressant drugs?

  • Probably. However, I will go by what the expert recommended guidelines are.
  • One problem is that they probably did not include people with lupus and who are on drugs that suppress the immune system into the studies.
  • However, I suspect the experts will recommend it since all other non-live vaccines are safe for our patients, and this is not a live vaccine.

Dr. Dao stated, “The relief was something I did not anticipate; it was a glimpse of the end of the pandemic. ” She urged others to follow her footsteps and get the vaccine so we can end this pandemic and get back to a normal life.

Here is a link to Dr. Dao’s very interesting personal account. It is a must read on RheumNow:

Lupus patients should get the COVID-19 vaccine to stop it from spreading

Let’s get back to a normal life! We can all do our part!

Please don’t believe all the fake news, and misinformation that you read and see about COVID-19. It just makes me angry to see and hear it. Calling this a hoax when we health care workers see the devastation constantly.

​I wish that everyone who minimizes this, or calls it a hoax were forced to help care for the devastated families so they can see these are real people behind the numbers.

Stay safe everyone … and please get vaccinated when it is available.

Shopping with mask and gloves during COVID-19
Wouldn’t it be nice to shop normally again?

Wouldn’t it be nice to get together with loved ones, hug, kiss, and not have to do Zoom meetings?

​Please comment above, what do you think?

Zoom meeting during COVID-19


Don Thomas, MD
Author of “The Lupus Encyclopedia” and “The Lupus Secrets


  1. Thanks so much for posting this very informative article, Dr. Thomas. I’m sure other lupus patients like myself have many questions about how the vaccination will affect us. I’m especially interested in the effect on older people, but I guess a lot of answers will come when they do the first round of vaccinations.

  2. Thanks, Ann. This is certainly uncharted territory. However, I do feel confident at the quality of the vaccine studies. They did not take any shortcuts on quality or quantity. The time line was just must faster due to amazing fast collaboration of numerous groups eg the CDC, pharma, supplies, etc. I wish this could occur with other medications so things don’t always take 5-10 years as usually occurs…. I’ll let everyone know how my vaccine goes!

  3. Dear Dr. Thomas,
    Thanks for this article, this is something that is definitely troubling me as a lupus patient.
    Is Ibuprofen advisable for lupus patients? The photo makes me think it’s recommended but I remember reading that it is not…
    For the benefit of those of us outside of the US, what are the chemical names of Tylenol, Aleve and Advil please?
    Many thanks for all your informative blogs.

  4. Hello Dr. Thomas,
    I currently have Systemic Lupus and RA
    – I’m taking Enbrel. I know there haven’t been studies yet on immune suppressed patients, however do you see any concerns with getting the vaccine while still on Enbrel? Also, I have a tendency to react poorly to new medications (allergic reaction), not usually vaccines though. Is there one of the brands of the vaccines that you think would be tolerated better?

    • Jamie: We know that SLE patients can safely get other inactivated vaccines. Also, TNF inhibitors (such as Enbrel and adalimumab) slightly blunt the effects of inactivated vaccines. However, a recent analysis from 2020 showed that patients on TNF inhibitors have a good enough response that they are worth giving. When they factored in the increased risk of getting influenza in a group of RA patients getting the influenza vaccine, the cost savings was actually lower in the RA patients compared to healthy controls (ie. the cost of vaccination compared to how much it ends up costing to care for sick patients from influenza).
      Therefore, the CDC recommends patients with SLE and RA on drugs like etanercept (Enbrel) get vaccinated, though they may have a less robust response. The American College of Rheumatology agrees. They also recommend not stopping Enbrel for the vaccine. Here are two sources to look at:

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