May 13, 2021

Dr. Ison: My experience with the COVID-19 vaccine

One step closer to normal

It was finally my turn. After waiting three months — not so patiently — I was finally able to receive my first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

As I walked across the parking lot of the hospital and climbed into my truck, I was immediately overcome with emotion. With that first vaccine dose I was one step closer to not only being at lower risk of developing COVID-19, but also one step closer to protecting my family.

Scientists are still learning how well the COVID-19 vaccines prevent the spread of the virus, but evidence suggests that fully vaccinated people are less likely to be infected without showing symptoms and are potentially less likely to spread the virus to others, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

After receiving my first dose, the injection site was tender with slight muscle soreness. Symptoms disappeared after three days. The second dose of the vaccine will be administered 21 days after the first dose.

Based on others’ responses to the vaccine, I am anticipating it may be accompanied with minor side effects that include fatigue, tiredness, injection site pain, a sore arm and fever — all indications of an active immune response.

It is unclear why there are varying levels of reactions to the vaccines, but it is likely due to combinations of factors including age, health, environment, nutrition and gender. Others have experienced no side effects at all.

It is recommended that you receive both doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to achieve the highest level of protection to keep you from getting sick. The immune response to the first dose is moderate and the second dose helps reinforce the immune response.

Additional resources and recommendations for general preventative health can be found at

As a full-time university instructor, rancher, entrepreneur, wife and mom, I keep a pretty full calendar. Available appointments to receive the vaccine required me to drive almost an hour to a nearby city.

I recognize it can be difficult to get away from daily farm and ranch responsibilities. However, the risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19 is very real and vaccination can greatly lower your risk.

Editor’s Note: As of April 13, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration are recommending a pause in the use of Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 vaccine in the United States. People who have received the J&J/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine within the past three weeks who develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain or shortness of breath should contact their healthcare provider.

Dr. Sarah Ison, a participant in the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Partners in Advocacy Leadership Program, is a beef producer with her family in Ohio. She holds a doctorate in food safety and epidemiology.