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Talk To Us: COVID Questions

BPR is answering listener queries about the Coronavirus in a new segment –Talk to Us: COVID Questions.  BPR’s Helen Chickering brings us this week’s answer.   

This week's question comes from Edward Hupe of Haywood County. “Hi NPR, I have a question. Why does the second COVID vaccine have more side effects than the first?”

Good question. To find an answer,  we checked back in with  Dr. David Wohl, an infectious disease specialist and researcher at the University of North Carolina.  Dr. Wohl helps direct the monoclonal antibody treatment program at UNC Medical Center.                                                                      

Dr. David Wohl, infectious disease specialist and researcher at UNC

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THE FIRST SHOT “So, anyone who's taken the shingles vaccine,  will tell you it is no walk in the park, especially the second shot,” says Wohl.  “So you take a shingle shot and you don't feel good for a day or longer.  The same sort of thing here (COVID-19 vaccine).  The first shot is just introducing your body to this spiky protein and saying, ‘Here's a spiky protein. I want you to see this because if you ever see it again, I want you to make a reaction’ “.

THE SECOND DOSE “And the second time you get the shot, it's giving you the spiky protein again, but this time you've already been trained  - your body, your cells have already been trained to recognize this. So it's going to make a response that's much more exuberant, much more rigorous and vigorous than the first time when your body had never seen it before.”

THE BOTTOM LINE “So, it's not too surprising that the second shot provokes more of a reaction because you have more of yourselves that were primed and ready making antibodies against it. And those antibodies and other processes can make chemicals that make you feel kind of sick. Your own chemicals, signals from cells that say, ‘Hey, I think I'm a little sick circle, the wagons,’ but that goes away after two hours or a day.    I think it's a good sign that the vaccines are doing what they need to do - that some people are getting more reactions after the second shot. And again, it indicates why a second shot is probably a good idea.”

Do you have a COVID question? You'd like answered record a voice memo and send it to voices@bpr.org or use the talk to us feature on the free BPR mobile app. I'm Helen Chickering BPR news.

Do you have a COVID question? You'd like answered record a voice memo and send it to voices@bpr.org or use the talk to us feature on the free BPR mobile app. 

ListeAlong with leading research and clinical trials for coronavirus vaccines and treatments, Dr. Wohl helped set up UNC’s virus testing program and helped develop procedures to prevent the spread of the virus in healthcare settings. He spoke with BPR’s Helen Chickering about vaccines, variants and the recent easing of pandemic restrictions in North Carolina.


Helen Chickering is a host and reporter on Blue Ridge Public Radio. She joined the station in November 2014.
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