‘That information is power’: Health officials recommend using V-safe app to track vaccine side effects

WISCONSIN DELLS, Wis. – At the same time health advisors are deciding the next steps for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, health officials recommend those vaccinated do their part to monitor for side effects.

Early in the vaccine rollout, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rolled out an app called V-safe that allows users to report side effects and gives reminders for the second vaccine dose.

Once the shot is in your arm, health officials say the V-safe app puts the rest of the process into your own hands.

“(We’re) at the start of the end,” said Jenna Teasdale, who works at the Wilderness Resort. She got her shot at an SSM Health mobile vaccine clinic in Wisconsin Dells Wednesday and said signing up for V-safe was equally simple.

Vaccinators such as SSM Health give people papers with QR codes to sign up for the app after being vaccinated.

“We pass these papers out. We really promote it,” said Jenny Bothun, regional manager for employee health at SSM, adding that health care workers really latched on to the app. “It provides another safety net of capturing that information.”

The app asks for daily check-ins within the first week asking for reports of potential side effects such as fever, head ache and chills. It also asks whether those symptoms disrupted your daily life.

That information stays confidential but can tell the CDC a lot.

“An app such as V-safe is able to do a deep dive and see, is there a pattern of something odd or weird going on, and alert the CDC and FDA to stop things as they have with these blood clots,” said Dr. William Hartman, who is the principal investigator of UW Health’s AstraZeneca vaccine trial. “In terms of the long-term data, this will be very helpful.”

Hartman said the app can also collect data from pregnant women, which will be “extremely valuable information we wouldn’t otherwise have.”

Tess Ellens, vaccine deputy for Public Health Madison & Dane County, said she highly recommends V-safe.

“It’s so important to make sure that we’re still collecting that safety and data information so we continue to learn more and continue to make sure the vaccine is still as safe as possible and we understand more about the side effects,” Ellens said. “That information is power. The more we’re learning, the more that someone can learn about some things to look out for, the better we’ll all be collectively and get out of this response as fast as possible.”

Usually, common symptoms such as fever and headache clear up within 48 hours. The app doesn’t give medical advice, but someone from the CDC may check in with someone if their symptoms seem abnormal.

“I think it’s going to help really guide the future of some of these vaccines,” Bothun said.

Teasdale said she’s happy to answer a few questions about potential side effects, while getting a vaccine was not a question at all.

“(We’re) reaching the finish line where we can all go back to the way things were and protect each other and help each other out,” Teasdale said.