Receiving the COVID vaccine in both arms (per dose), or only one arm?
April 5, 2021 7:16 PM   Subscribe

I've seen mixed messages about if I should get the vaccine dose in one arm for both doses, or switch arms for each dose, so what do you recommend?

I'm getting vaccinated tomorrow (yay!); my first dose, that is. Would you recommend I take both doses (the 1st tomorrow, then the 2nd a few weeks later) in the same arm, or switch arms? Most places online seem to say it doesn't matter/no mention, but a few friends recommended I take it in both arms (ie, tomorrow, my right arm, then my left arm for the second dose) to reduce any pain points/balance distributions.

Also, if I were to stick to one arm, you'd definitely recommend I take it in the non-domanint arm, right? I'm left-handed, so would prefer to take it in my right arm, but am open to any suggestions. And, no, YANMD. Thank you!
posted by dubious_dude to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Yes, you can take both in your non dominant arm. You notice it less in the arm you don't use as much.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 7:27 PM on April 5, 2021 [3 favorites]

This is from an AARP article dated February 17th:
If you experienced a rash at the injection site three to 10 days after getting your first shot, that doesn't preclude you from getting your second shot, the CDC says, although it recommends getting it in the other arm.

I am right-handed but sleep on my left side, so I chose to get my shot in my right arm. In fact, I got my first and second shots in my right arm. But, really, based on my experience, I, personally, don't think it really makes that much difference in which arm the shot is given.
posted by SageTrail at 7:40 PM on April 5, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I got my first shot two weeks ago and for me, the soreness was 100% gone within three days. If I didn’t already know, I would have no way of telling which arm I’d gotten it in at this point. So I wouldn’t be concerned about the “balancing pain points” aspect. As for balancing distribution - the whole reason vaccines work is that they train your whole system, regardless of the point of injection. I really don’t think there’s any reason to switch it up. But then again, the only reason not to switch it up is avoiding some temporary and pretty mild soreness in your dominant arm. You’re good either way.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:41 PM on April 5, 2021 [6 favorites]

I have heard more anecdotes about how it’s helpful to move your arm around a lot afterwards to prevent soreness (a friend joked about doing the chicken dance.) I think some people may have found that getting it in their dominant arm was less painful because they ended up moving that arm around more just in normal use.

I got it in my non-dominant arm, moved my arm around a lot immediately and then a few hours later, and the soreness was not bad at all. It was present enough to remind me that the injection had really finally happened, but didn’t stop me from doing anything.
posted by needs more cowbell at 7:44 PM on April 5, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: If you're still feeling pain in the arm where the original injection was by the time of the second dose, you should consult a doctor. Having the pain last longer than a week is approaching unusual.

I'd definitely recommend the non-dominant arm. I had moderately restricted movement for about three days and it would have been inconvenient if it had been my dominant one.
posted by Candleman at 7:53 PM on April 5, 2021 [1 favorite]

I had shot #1 in my right arm because that was the side the nurse was on and I was wearing a tank-top; for shot #2 I wore an asymmetrical shirt that exposed my LEFT bicep before having sleeve lower down the arm, and the nurse LOVED it, and gave me the shot right in the shirt hole on the left there. But both nurses said it didn't matter unless I got a rash.

Shot #1 was no worse than a tetanus shot. Shot #2 left me with a lot more muscle pain, so I'm glad I had it in my left, non-dominant arm. But Shot #2 also left me taking a gigantic nap the day of and the next day (the fatigue was no joke!), so it's not like I was doing much with my arms anyway. I had a lot of muscle aches after the second shot, and kinda felt like I'd fallen down a flight of stairs, and hit my left arm particularly hard. I had Moderna -- shot #2 on Saturday, actually, and now I feel fine.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:01 PM on April 5, 2021

I got my first shot in my left arm and when I get my second shot this week, it will also be in my left arm. For me, this isn't because I'm right handed, but because I sleep on my right side. My arm was a little sore for a couple days but it didn't interfere with my normal activities such as typing, writing, cooking, washing dishes, driving, petting the cat, etc. The day following my shot I reached up to get something off a high shelf and I winced a little, but then I did a little wiggle dance because it reminded me that I'd gotten my first shot - woo hoo!!!
posted by kbar1 at 8:46 PM on April 5, 2021 [2 favorites]

For me number 1 felt like I fell off a bike onto my upper arm, but I've fallen off a bike plenty of times. Like SageTrail, I sleep on my left side and forgot that, so even doing the arm waggle it was uncomfortable the first night. So with others, I'd suggest having it done on the arm you don't sleep on whether or not it's dominant. I haven't had number 2 yet, but I'll get it in the other arm.
posted by holgate at 9:01 PM on April 5, 2021 [1 favorite]

I had worse side effects than most people (because my body is basically a dumpster fire) so I’m definitely glad I had it in the non-dominant arm. I’m planning on getting the second one there for the same reason.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:02 PM on April 5, 2021 [3 favorites]

Ambidextrous. I got it first in the right, then in the left because why not? I happen to think you are over thinking this. If it hurts a lot in the arm you get your first dose in, switch it. The person giving me my first dose asked me if I was a righty or lefty. I replied yes. She then told me to lift my right sleeve. I complied.
posted by AugustWest at 12:27 AM on April 6, 2021

For what it’s worth, the Moderna study protocol used the same, preferably non-dominant arm (page 13).
posted by alygator at 12:29 AM on April 6, 2021 [1 favorite]

"Balancing distribution" doesn't make any sense to me. It's not like the location of the shot is going to be the only part of your body protected against covid (if that were the case, we'd douse people's face in it).
posted by basalganglia at 2:02 AM on April 6, 2021 [6 favorites]

If you're hairy, don't forget to shave the shoulder you decide on. They're gonna stick a cheap-ass industrial strength bandaid on ya.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 4:22 AM on April 6, 2021 [7 favorites]

As everyone is saying, you're fine going with the non-dominant arm both times.
That said, note that a rather counter-intuitive cdc recommendation to help with discomfort at the injection site is to use or exercise the arm.
posted by nantucket at 6:24 AM on April 6, 2021

I had an interesting experience with Pfizer:
First dose in left arm, hurt like hell staring about 12 hours and lasting for 36 hours (so much pain in the shoulder that I basically couldn't lift my arm above waist high). It seemed like maybe the shot went in a bit lower than it should have? It got better by day 3.

Then, a few days later, the arm started hurting like hell again. Not as bad as day 2-3 (I could still use the arm) but had limited motion. This lasted until it was time for shot #2. I suspect I may have had this symptom - check out the MRIs showing shoulder swelling.

Got shot #2 in the other (right) arm. Right arm hurt a little bit, but the shot in the right arm reactivated the pain in the left arm.

Once I was 2 weeks past shot #2 everything got back to normal.

When I was getting shot #2, I asked the nurse about the weird delayed onset pain, and they said it was something they had heard of.
posted by soylent00FF00 at 8:42 AM on April 6, 2021 [2 favorites]

If you usually sleep on one side, I’d get it on the other side, even if it means getting it in your dominant arm.

I’m right handed, so I got my first shot in my left arm. Then I realized I sleep most of the night on my left side, so I had a pretty uncomfortable night’s sleep - luckily my arm was fine by the next night. Got the second shot in my right arm and I’m very glad I did, because I had significantly more injection site soreness/pain for that one (though no other side effects at all!).
posted by insectosaurus at 9:37 AM on April 6, 2021 [1 favorite]

I think everyone is different. I got the 1st dose (Pfizer) in my non-dominant arm and it was sore as heck for more than a week and there was a hard nodule left over that slowly went down with time. Three weeks later at when I got my 2nd shot, the nodule was still there and about the size size of a pea, so I opted for the 2nd dose in my dominant arm. This time it was completely different; I wasn't sore in the slightest, even the the next day. No nodule formed either.

So.. YMMV!
posted by crayon at 10:26 AM on April 6, 2021

Response by poster: Interesting, thanks for all of the help! I got vaccinated today in my non-dominant arm, and so far, it doesn't hurt. Just feels somewhat stiff, very similar to a flu shot. We shall see how it goes tomorrow, though!

If all goes well, more likely than not for the 2nd dose, I'll just get it in the same non-dominant arm.
posted by dubious_dude at 5:11 PM on April 6, 2021

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