Tuesday, February 16, 2021

My Experience with the COVID-19 Vaccine

First off, a Trigger warning. If you don’t want to read about vaccinations or see a picture of me getting one, then please skip this post.

I hemmed and hawed about getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Not so much because of the vaccine itself, but because I work in healthcare and was able to get it fairly early on. But I couldn’t help feel like there might be people needing it more than me. I didn’t read this New York Times article, If You’re Offered a Vaccine, Take It, until after I got my first vaccine.

I received my first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on January 16, 2021 and my second dose on February 6, 2021. For those wondering, I got the Pfizer vaccine and I didn’t know I was getting it ahead of time. I do know people who got their first vaccine a week later at the same site I went to and they got the Moderna vaccine, so I think it’s pretty much based on availability and literally luck of the draw.

For the first shot, the site was drive up. It was pretty surreal getting a shot in the car, but it was super quick. For the second shot, the site was moved inside due to the winter weather. Even so, the queue moved quickly and seemed like a well-oiled machine. The first vaccine was given by a public health nurse and the second was given by a member of the army/national guard. I have to say, it was rather exciting to see public health in action.

I was a little nervous both times because I have had reactions (non-anaphylactic) to a few other vaccines in the past (HPV-II and pneumovax). However, I waited the prescribed 15 minutes after both times and was totally fine.  

After the first vaccine, I had a sore arm for three or four days. It wasn’t horrible, but was definitely noticeable. After the second, I started feeling “off” about six hours after receiving the vaccine. I had a stomachache for three days and a slight headache off and on for three days. My arm hurt too, for about the same amount as after the first one. I don’t think I ever ran a fever and it was nothing that knocked me out. I don’t know whether to celebrate the lack of side effects or worry about whether I got full immunity. But it’s not exactly something I can control.

I did contact my rheumatologist ahead of time and he did confirm that I should get the vaccine if I was able to get access to it. I’m not on biologics and I didn’t stop any of my medications ahead of time or afterwards.

Obviously, talk to your rheumatologist and/or other members of your healthcare team to make sure that there is nothing specific to your situation that disqualifies you from getting this or any other vaccine or whether there are any changes that need to be made to your medication regimen either before or after getting the vaccine.

I don’t think anyone really gets “excited” about getting a vaccine, but this felt different. Sure, I was worried about the side effects, but I was more worried about not getting the vaccine and being 100% vulnerable to COVID-19. It has been almost a year since I’ve been in the COVID holding pattern and I think it’s really important for everyone to understand that putting limitations on life hasn’t been easy. It’s exhausting to fear for my life every time I go to the grocery store.

So even though I’m vaccinated, will I be running around mask-less any time soon? Nope. And I won’t be going out to eat in a restaurant either. But that’s my preference. It’s not worth the risk to me. And while I can sleep a little easier knowing that if I were to get COVID, it will hopefully be manageable, I am going to do everything I can to, well, continue to avoid the plaque…like…the…plague.

Photo credit goes to my husband from the front seat. I could not take the picture myself, did not want to see that needle coming at me.