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Worried about COVID-19 vaccine side effects? Here is what you need to know

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WEST LIBERTY, Iowa (KWWL)- Students in West Liberty got an unexpected day off on Monday because of COVID-19, not because of people ill from the virus.

The West Liberty Community School district canceled both in-person or virtual classes due to a lack of staff in the district.

"When we look at the whole scope of what we serve our kids, it is tough to provide those services to students when we don't have enough staff," Superintendent Diego Giraldo said.

Over the weekend, the majority of staff members received their second dose. Giraldo said 64% of staff members experienced some side effects, and around 28% were not feeling good enough to make it to work Monday.

"We are a small school district," Giraldo said. "We depend a lot not only on staff but also substitutes. We have transportation needs as well as food services."

UnityPoint Allen Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Russell Adams said the side-effects are anticipated and not unusual.

You may have soreness, headaches, body aches, or a low-grade fever but Dr. Adams says it is nothing to worry about.

"What we have seen with the vaccines has been given very little in the way of side effects from it," Adams said. "The most common side effect that we hear about is a little bit of swelling at the injection site and some fatigue. We don't hear much about fever, and we don't hear much about joint aching."

Dr. Adams was among the first to get vaccinated at UnityPoint Allen Hospital. He said he experienced some soreness for about six hours after his first dose but nothing after his second dose.

The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics found results among their staff members. The vast majority described feeling mild symptoms with little to no limit on daily activity.

After the first shot, 77% reported experiencing pain around the injection site, 21% felt fatigued, 19% had a headache, and 17% felt muscle aches. 16% said they had no symptoms.

After the second shot, 84% of staff members said they experienced pain around the injection site, 50% were fatigued, 40% had muscle aches, and 45% had headaches. 7% had no symptoms.

You can read more about the side effects UIHC staff experienced from the vaccine here.

Although the side effects are uncomfortable, Dr. Adams said it is a sign the vaccine is doing its job.

"It is in fact our immune system responding appropriately to the vaccine," he said.

The side effects typically go away within 24 to 48 hours.

"What everyone worries about is anaphylaxis which is basically a serious allergic reaction to any vaccine," Dr. Adams said. "Right now, it is at about 4.5 cases per million people per person. To put that into perspective for the shingles vaccine, it is 9.6 cases per million. For the pneumonia vaccine, it is 2.5 cases per million."

The side effects are similar to other vaccines. Dr. Adams said it might be getting more attention because of the intense interest in the COVID-19 vaccine, but that does not mean you should be any less comfortable getting it when it is your turn.

Students and teachers will return to the classroom in West Liberty on Tuesday.

"I think that's very, very important not only for our community but also for kids. The learning component is essential," Giraldo said. "It is challenging when you need to have those key people running the district not there. But it is very important to have our kids back."

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Daniel Perreault

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