OPINION: Please, Just Go Get Vaccinated

A woman gives another woman a vaccine, courtesy of the CDC.

I have tried to write this post at least a dozen times. I have started, stopped, started again. Each time I begin, another news article pops up about COVID vaccines and masks and mandates.

I am tired. I imagine anyone reading this is, too.  

But please get vaccinated.

I would like to be objective about the COVID vaccine and tell you “it’s your choice” (because it is) or that I understand why some people aren’t good candidates for the vaccine (I do). But I also want to just say – GO GET VACCINATED. Please.

A woman gives another woman a vaccine, courtesy of the CDC.

Whether it’s for measles, polio, or especially COVID, it is vitally important that anyone who is physically able goes to get their vaccines. I hope that what I have to say here will help clear up some misgivings about this latest world health vaccine.  So you will go get vaccinated.

Look, I get it. You’re on the fence. This whole thing does seem really fast, for a virus no one had heard of 18 months ago and a vaccine we only have emergency authorization for. The world is a scary place right now, there is some really bad information out there, and there is a pervasive feeling that no one is telling the truth. 

Read up, study, make your decision, and then please go get vaccinated.

Person sitting on a fence, Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash

Let’s see if we can’t help calm those nerves a bit.

First, I am fully vaccinated. My passion surrounding this vaccine might surprise some people. I did not jump on the HPV vaccine for my girls, I slowed down the rate of vaccines for my younger daughter, etc. While we made sure both girls were fully vaccinated, I was concerned about the sheer number of vaccines that were recommended at each appointment for children. 

However, I was not concerned about what was in those vaccines, how they worked, or if they worked. I believe in the safety and efficacy of vaccinations, and I think that needs to be clear up front. I believe in the safety and efficacy of the COVID vaccine.

I got my first and second doses of the Pfizer vaccine relatively early, because Fort Hood relaxed some eligibility requirements when they were focusing on getting doses used. Their system for vaccinations was efficient, which I would have expected from an Army post effort. Everyone was also friendly and kind, which was a pleasant surprise. 

The first dose made my arm way more sore than I expected. Honestly, it was difficult to sleep that night when the post-vaccine ibuprofen wore off.  I was a little tired the next day, but there was no way to know if it was due to disturbed sleep or to the vaccine itself.  

Dose 2 of both 2-injection vaccine brands, Pfizer and Moderna, has been noted to be more difficult for many people.

I will fully admit that I felt like I had the very worst case of flu ever – I had a fever, aches, chills, and painful joint pain.  These are all expected side effects, and many of them are also symptoms of the body’s immune response to COVID-19 itself. 

As horrible as I felt, I also felt a little bit like I was bearing some of the pain so that people in the future might not have to.

I felt some solidarity with those who’d had COVID already, and had dealt with far worse illness. I felt connected to those who had the vaccine before me, as well. The symptoms for dose 2 only lasted about 24 hours and then, weirdly, I felt really good.  Not just emotionally but physically.  My immune system was rocking it!

Vaccine bottle – Photo by Spencer Davis on Unsplash

I write the rest of this, having had both doses and reached full vaccination per the CDC definition.

I write the rest of this in hopes that you, too, will go and get your vaccination as soon as you are able. 

I write the rest of this, knowing you are nervous and unsure.

In our close family, the easiest reaction award goes to my G’s 102-year-old grandmother, who eagerly got both jabs and had only a slightly sore arm but no other reaction at all. And now, she can safely visit her (also vaccinated) friends and family; they are having games again at her complex; life is moving forward.

One concern I see a lot is how quickly the vaccine was developed.

Vaccines of this type, for this type of virus, have been in the works for years. They have been working on messenger rNA vaccines against cancers, rabies, coronaviruses, etc. since the 1990s. That is why they were able to jump so quickly into working on the 2-dose mRNA type of vaccines. The groundwork was laid.  

Then there is the worry that the FDA jumped too quickly to allow emergency usage.

But they followed the usual processes and have been following these vaccines extraordinarily carefully. They just did multiple steps concurrently versus consecutively.  The FDA has been remarkably clear about these processes for emergency use.

Vials of test liquid in a lab setting. Photo by Mat Napo on Unsplash

The Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine is a different type of vaccine, relying on what’s called a “viral vector” technology/methodology to help our bodies learn how to react to and avoid this virus. It was shown to have less effectiveness than the two mRNA vaccines in the US, but it is easier to store and only takes one dose so it is a lot easier to use in many smaller areas. 

But…why did they pause its use for a while?

Wait: Red pedestrian hand signal. Photo by Kai Pilger on Unsplash

The pause of the J&J vaccine is a good thing. It shows the abundance of caution and the careful scrutiny that they are putting into this whole process.  SIX reports of issues in millions of vaccines, and they paused it to see what was going on. Now they have their information on treatment and risk factors for those extremely rare side effects and have lifted the pause

So please, go get vaccinated. 

I asked family and friends who had been vaccinated what their reactions were; sore arms,  fatigue, some longer-than-average immune responses due to comorbidities (such as one friend’s lupus or a cousin’s neurological condition).  I know two very dear friends who have been told they cannot get vaccinated, because their bodies’ immune reactions are so extreme it puts them at great risk. 

So if that isn’t you? Please go get vaccinated.

My father-in-law, a veteran of the Vietnam War and a man who questions everything and researches it all, had a few things to say about vaccines when I asked him. He told of seeing buddies  in “tin cans” with polio who weren’t expected to live, and many who did not. He described getting industrial-setting vaccines in the military but knowing that the ones with vaccines were the ones who got to go home. In areas where life expectancy was much lower than in the US, he saw how vaccines literally made life better even in wartime

This veteran “gets sick every dang time,” but got vaccinated as soon as he possibly could. He saw it as preventative health: kind of unpleasant, but making life easier in the long run.  

Most moving to me are his words here: ‘I am bitterly saddened with the lack of civic responsibilities in our day and age. You may refuse, but you may endanger others who are innocent! That is not forgivable!’

I hope I have convinced you. Now my job is to help you find a vaccine location

Vaccine center parking – Photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash

In the United States, the CDC and the FDA have great links. News organizations have put together some resources, as well. Some states like South Dakota and Texas have individual websites all about COVID and vaccines. 

If you have Tricare, you can use their sources to help you find a location and make your appointment. 

If you are an expat, it may be more problematic finding a vaccine overseas, so the US Embassy in your country may be the best bet. Some countries are having a hard time getting people vaccinated, for a variety of reasons. The US is working on it, however, and there may be more vaccines available in your area than previously reported.

Just please…  go get vaccinated as soon as you are able.