COVID Vaccines and Science Communication

Taylor Nichols, MD
2 min readOct 17, 2022

I received my first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine, now called “Comirnaty” on December 22nd, 2020. I cannot tell you how amazing that felt, finally being able to have some level of protection from a respriatory virus which we saw first hand causing suffering and death both of patients and our colleagues. At the time, I tweeted:

“Incredibly fortunate and grateful to be in the first wave to receive the vaccine at our hospital. Time to put those ribosomes to work! The finish line is in sight. Let’s do this.”

Thanks Nurse Jill!

I received the 2nd Dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine on Jan 11th, 2021, and tweeted:

“Second dose of the vaccine today! 95% immunity here we come. Let’s do this, antibodies!”

At the time, the vaccine was still leading to 95% immunity. The virus has since mutated multiple times into new variants, which has caused significant immune escape.

My follow up, on January 12th, 2021:

Part of good science communication is clarity and honesty, so I’ll be honest about the effects of the 2nd dose of the vaccine: About 15 hours post vaccine, I woke up with chills, a headache, and some muscle soreness. Ibuprofen and acetaminophen have worked fine so far.

Also, notice I didn’t say these are “side effects.” I don’t like that term because the use of the term implies that aren’t the intended effects. The intended effects of a vaccine are immunity. The effects that I’m experiencing are exactly due to my immune system revving up.

These aren’t unfortunate unintended consequences, but instead are the price of admission for having antibodies ready to go to prevent the SARS-CoV-2 virus from invading my cells and causing COVID. On balance, I consider that not only worth it, but a huge relief.

That said, not everyone will have the same reaction. A number of people have notably had no reaction or only mild muscle soreness particularly at the injection site. Either way, this temporary set of symptoms is definitely worth it compared to actually having COVID.

Also, I would compare to the influenza vaccine (“the flu shot”) and people who suggest that the flu shot causes them to have the flu every year. This is incorrect, based on the same effect — your body is revving up antibodies against new influenza variants to be ready to fight!

Keep fighting. Keep looking out for each other. We are still in this together.

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Taylor Nichols, MD

Humanist. Emergency Medicine and AddictiEmergency + Addiction Medicine | Health policy and advocacy | Health tech and innovation