Are you worried about receiving the COVID-19 vaccine?

With all states on board to approve anyone 16+ by May 1st, people are talking about it: whether they’ll get it, which vaccine they’ll get, and how bad the side effects are going to be. From the grocery store to the sidelines of the T-ball game, it’s on everybody’s mind. 

I had an early glimpse into the vaccine side effects.

My husband is a dentist on base and was offered the Moderna vaccine in February. I woke up in the middle of the night to him shaking so hard our bed was vibrating. He took the next day off work and stayed in bed, returning the next day at less than 100% but still able to function.

As soon as I found myself in a bracket of vaccine-eligible people, I signed up and was given an appointment for two days later.

I’d anxiously followed the progression of vaccine development, knowing it was our best bet for returning to whichever version of normal will be available to us after this pandemic. Along with the rest of the world, I felt hope at the rapid development and gratitude that it would be available to me.

For my first dose, I drove to the park where my son plays baseball and waited in a line of cars. There was a tent with a clipboard for information, a tent where the vaccine was administered, and a parking lot to wait for 15 minutes afterwards (I was instructed to honk if I had a reaction). I never had to leave my car, which was convenient and unexpected.

paper emesis bowl with a syringe indicating a vaccine

I didn’t expect side effects after the first dose, and for the most part, I was right.

I had a sore arm for three days or so and a large, quarter-sized welt at the injection site for closer to a week and a half. That welt alarmed me somewhat. Most of the people I knew hadn’t had a site reaction like that, so I was worried it meant my second dose would knock me out. 

I’m just over 48 hours from my second dose, and while it hasn’t been a walk in the park, it also wasn’t the horrible ordeal I feared. 

When I’d received my first dose, I’d been given a card with a pre-scheduled appointment and location. This dose would be given at a library nearby, and I was instructed to not come earlier than my 1:55 appointment time.

When I arrived, I was told to put my car in park, because someone was having an allergic reaction. An ambulance and fire truck whirled around the corner, which had me on high alert. Was my big red welt indicative of an allergic reaction to come? As an RN, I don’t usually fear allergic reactions. I’ve only experienced an anaphylactic reaction to a medication once in my career, but fear of the unknown had me anxious. 

I heard the public health workers discussing the person who’d had the reaction, and it sounded like everyone was okay. They had recovered but weren’t allowed to drive themselves home, so they’d been taken to the hospital to make sure they were okay. 

I was waved inside, given a quick shot, and waited in a plastic chair placed at six-foot intervals from everyone else. One of my friends received her shot at the same time, and we chatted across the room. 

My husband’s side effects had started in the middle of the night after his second dose. So when I woke feeling well the next day, I thought maybe I was one of the lucky ones who wouldn’t deal with side effects. I went out and started running errands. Unfortunately, right about when my kids finished with preschool, I started feeling cotton-headed and foggy. As the afternoon progressed, my muscles grew achy, and by the end of the day I was curled up in my bed, chilled with fever. 

The next morning, I woke up with a headache and sore neck. I wound up canceling my obligations for the day and lying low. As evening fell, the symptoms faded, and I started feeling like my old self again. 

While it wasn’t easy to deal with discomfort and a disrupted schedule for a few days, I would gladly repeat the experience if I had a do-over. I’m grateful for the protection against the full-blown version of the disease and the security I feel. 

large letter board with "COVID SHOTS" on screenIf you haven’t yet received your vaccine, I hope my experience isn’t a deterrent but rather an encouragement to not be afraid of the side effects.

Like any medication, vaccination, or medical procedure, it carries its risks and inconveniences, but it also brings with it security and protection against the disease that has had the globe in upheaval for over a year now. 

Have you had the vaccine yet? How was your experience?