Vaccine reactions: Is it a side effect or something else?

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Posted at 11:17 PM, Apr 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-20 23:17:48-04

INDIANAPOLIS — Naomi and Joe Reardon of Decatur County jumped at the chance to get vaccinated for COVID-19 as soon as they were eligible.

But, two days after Naomi received her first shot of Moderna, she started experiencing what she thought was a side effect of the vaccine.

"I could not breathe. It felt like a man's foot at the base of my breastbone," Naomi explained.

After she called her doctor to voice concern, Joe brought her to the emergency room. Doctors ran tests to rule out any heart problems or a possible blood clot. Then, her doctor asked if she had been having any health issues prior to receiving her shot.

"I told him I had been experiencing heartburn,” Naomi said.

This led her doctor to find the real culprit. Naomi had a hernia that was causing her esophagus to be inflamed. The difficult breathing was not due to the vaccine at all.

"I'm just glad that it wasn't the vaccine,” Naomi said.

Dr. Gregory Zimet, a Professor of Pediatrics at IU School of Medicine who does research on vaccinations explained how situations like this can sometimes be misreported to VAERS, also known as the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System.

"It's a passive reporting system which means there is both under reporting and over reporting,” Dr. Zimet said.

Since reporting is voluntary data can easily be misconstrued.

"It's a very useful system but it has severe limitations,” Dr. Zimet explained.

That’s not to say there have not been reactions to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

Chrystal Ross had an anaphylactic reaction after her second shot of Moderna.

"I was sitting there and about eight minutes in, I'm like, I'm kind of itchy…maybe it's just mental…then I noticed I was scratching everywhere,” Ross said.

Nurses gave her Benadryl to ease the itching, but when her throat began to close up she was taken to the hospital and treated.

Ross said she knows her reaction was out of the ordinary.

"I would say I was a rare happening I'm not the norm,” Ross said.