The governor of Indiana said this week that he drank half a gallon of orange juice after getting the COVID-19 vaccine, and he had only mild side effects.

“The only things that I felt was sluggish for sure around dinnertime that night, and I wondered, you know, how this will develop? But when I woke up the next day, I just had a little soreness under my arm,” Gov. Eric Holcomb said at his weekly press conference earlier this week, responding to a question from a reporter about whether he had experienced any side effects from the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Holcomb went on to say he went down to Southern Indiana that evening and that by 6 p.m. the next night, he had “zero after-effects.”

“So, I slept fine, ate fine, I did drink almost a half-gallon of orange juice, just out of…someone told me that Vitamin C…was good for you after a vaccination, as well, and so I did.”

The reporter who asked the question, Abdul Hakim-Shabazz of Indy Politics, had shared that he’d had “a little bit of a headache” after getting the vaccine, and still felt sluggish and tired 24 hours later.

Holcomb got the vaccine March 5 at the state’s first mass vaccination clinic set up at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In opening his press conference, he described the open-air clinic, which was staffed by 275 people, in glowing terms.

“It was an enormous feat to pull off,” he said, “And I may be biased, but in my opinion, it was flawless.”

He said hundreds of people came from surrounding counties, and were able to check off a “bucket list” item of seeing the iconic racetrack while also getting the vaccine.

The clinic began March 5 and lasted through March 8. It was a drive-thru clinic, and the governor got the injection in his right arm, while riding in the passenger seat of a car. He was given the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Other than answering the reporter’s question, there was no talk of any side effects that may have been experienced by the thousands who were vaccinated at the racetrack, and a spokesman for the Indiana Department of Health said any side effects experienced by people vaccinated at the racetrack would have been entered into the V-Safe app, an app that people getting the vaccine had the option of downloading.

The New York Times reported in an article Feb. 12 that the system the federal government has been developing to track dangerous reactions to the Covid-19 vaccines won’t be up and running for several more weeks, or perhaps even several months.

“For now, federal regulators are counting on a patchwork of existing programs that they acknowledge are inadequate because of small sample size, missing critical data or other problems,” the Times reported in the article, entitled, “As Millions Get Shots, FDA Struggles to Get Safety Monitoring System Running.”

Megan Wade-Taxter, the media relations coordinator for the Indiana State Department of Health, said in an email the state uses the VAERS system to track all side effects from the vaccine – known as “adverse events.”

VAERS stands for “Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System.” It’s a database managed jointly by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

People can report the side effects they experience from vaccines to VAERS, and medical professionals are also encouraged to report all side effects (adverse events) that patients report to them or that they witness. Those adverse events might include minor issues such as fatigue, numbness and fever, and can also include stroke, heart attack and even death.

The CDC/FDA caution that because the information is self-reported, it is not verified and in fact is “unverifiable.”

A March 11 check of the VAERS database shows that residents of Indiana have reported 510 adverse events to VAERS, including 20 deaths.

VAERS data is typically available 4-6 weeks after the report is received, so the information for Indiana currently available is what was reported through early February, at the latest.

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