Hi friends! It's been a hot second since I wrote a post that wasn't a book review, but today I wanted to write up a bit about my experience getting the COVID vaccine, because I know there's still people who haven't gotten it and if you're considering it and are anything like me you probably want to know exactly what to expect.
More of a video person? Check out my YouTube video!
Two things to preface this post. First, if you aren't planning to get the vaccine this post isn't to call you out, if you want to know what my experience was like go ahead and keep reading but if not feel free to skip this one. I know there are both medical and personal reasons for people not to get the vaccine, and so even though I think the vaccine is great and may disagree with your reason for not getting it, my goal today is not to convince you to get vaccinated, it's just to share my experience with anyone who might be interested. Second, I'm not a doctor, so please don't interpret anything in this post as medical advice, and direct any medical or scientific questions to the appropriate professionals.
Getting the Shot
The process of getting the vaccine will no doubt look different depending on where you live and where you choose to go for it.
If you live in the US the vaccine is entirely free, regardless of whether you have health insurance and regardless of your immigration status. If you do have health insurance, the provider may ask for you insurance information, which transfers some of the costs from the government to the insurance companies as they cover it, but you should never be asked to pay any amount.
I was able to view locations to get the vaccine on Ohio's website, but if you're elsewhere in the country you can checkout vaccines.gov to find a location. From there I selected a health center near me that I was comfortable with and watched for available appointments on their website. I started looking for appointments as soon as the vaccines were available for my age group, so I had to wait a while for things to open up, but once there was availability I was able to book an appointment online. Calling them for an appointment is also an option, if you're in to that sort of thing.
The clinic I went to had a large vaccination area set up, which was very clean and organized, and they had security there as well so it felt very safe. Everything was set up in stages, and my girlfriend and I were able to go through each stage together. Several people seemed to have been brought by family or friends, and they were allowed to go through the process together as well. We started in a socially distance waiting area, progressed to a check in station where they collected our ID and insurance info, scheduled the appointments for our second shots, and then directed us to vaccination stations.
The shot itself was quick and painless. They ask a few questions before you get it, just to be sure you're not likely to experience any major side effects, and then do the injection. That whole process took maybe two minutes.
After that we went to another socially distanced seating area to wait for 15 minutes to be sure we didn't have an allergic reaction to the vaccine, and there were several nurses and a doctor monitoring everyone there. Once the 15 minutes were up we just checked out and were good to go!
In total, I would say this process took maybe 30 to 45 minutes.
I got the Pfizer vaccine, but side effects do vary from person to person, as well is across vaccines, of course, so your experience may be different from mine.
My arm was fairly sore after the first dose, similar to how a muscle feels sore after a workout, which is fairly normal after a vaccine. It took about four or five days for it to entirely recover, but it was just a minor discomfort. The second dose actually didn't make me quite as sore, probably due to the skill of the nurse more than anything.
I was slightly tired for a few days after the first dose, but it's hard to say whether that was actually caused by the vaccine, or by something else, like allergies or me just being busy and not getting quite enough sleep. My guess would be the latter.
I got the second dose mid afternoon, and was extremely tired the following day. A lot of people have felt sick that day after, but I felt entirely fine other than the exhaustion. Since I'm working from home I did work part of the day, but I took most of the afternoon off to sleep, and went to bed early that evening. The next morning, though, I felt completely normal, and haven't experienced any other side effects after that.
The latest guidance from the CDC states that you are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after your final dose, whether that's the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or the single dose of Johnson & Johnson, and you are free to resume your normal life at that time. There may still be requirements to mask and social distance in your location or by businesses, as well as public transportation and air travel, and there are still requirements for international travel, but this guidance gives us a green light scientifically to feel safe going about normal life and doing anything we might have done before the pandemic started.
To me this is huge relief. For the past year I’ve cautious and a bit nervous about unavoidable activities such as getting groceries, even after the initial period where everyone was afraid to go out at all. There was a time of lockdown when I couldn’t even go see my girlfriend because we didn’t yet know what was safe with this completely unknown virus. But even a month ago I needed to be cautions in the grocery store, wash well after, and tried not to make too many trips. I would feel uncomfortable if my family mentioned being around someone who was sick, and I avoided going out for anything unnecessary, including watching church online even though it was open. Part of this concern was for myself, yes, because I don’t want to be seriously sick for weeks, but historically I’ve had a very strong immune system, so I was perhaps even more concerned about the possibility that I could get the virus and pass it to someone else who might get even more sick. Now, though, there’s much less concern about me either getting infected or infecting anyone else, which has given me a great sense of freedom and relief, even just at home, where I don’t need to be concerned about any germs that my family could bring into the house, and the things that I’ve continued during the pandemic, like grocery trips, feel safer and more comfortable now.
There are a number of things I love doing but have been avoiding for the past year, at least at times, like attending church in person, rather than streaming it online. Our church has been closed off and on, depending on the waves of the pandemic in our area, but prior to being vaccinated I hadn't actually attended in person since October because of my personal comfort levels. It has been very nice the past few weeks to return in person and catch up with friends I haven’t seen for months, help teach children’s Sunday school, and worship with everyone.
Another big thing I’ve missed in my personal life this year has been ice skating. In the before times I had made a habit of leaving work early every Friday to go skating on my way home, which is a great way for me to get some exercise, relax, and clear my head. When I’m on the ice I'm free of everything else. Ice skating isn’t necessary, though, so since the start of the pandemic my skates have stayed in their bag under my bed, with the exception of a couple occasions when I felt a need to take them out just to see them because I missed skating so much. From the moment vaccines were announced as a possibility I saw it as a way to get back to skating again, and a couple weeks ago I was able to return to the ice. This was endgame for me.
I expected getting the vaccine to be an emotional experience, but honestly it was more quick and surreal when it came to it. It felt pretty chill. But skating again made me choke up a little bit. It’s perhaps my favorite activity and returning to the rink was the real sign that normal life might be possible again.
The vaccine also has a lot of meaning to me as a photographer and new YouTuber, and as someone who loves traveling. Between work and pleasure I traveled five times in 2019 and once in early 2020; and I had a vacation with friends planned in May of 2020, which of course was cancelled. I love to see different places around the country and the whole experience of traveling, and it’s a great way to find new photography content as well. I am slightly more cautious about traveling than resuming activities locally, and I can’t drop everything and travel right away anyway, since personal travel requires a bit more planning and financing than business travel which hasn’t yet resumed, but the vaccine is the first step in that direction, and I really hope that I’ll be able to travel somewhere by the end of the year. Even for local photography as a landscape photographer I think I’ll feel more comfortable now that I’ve been vaccinated, since I won’t need to worry about any potential to pick up germs from someone else out on the trails.
And, finally, I’m looking forward to being able to have larger gatherings of friends, go out to restaurants or other fun excursions, and hopefully get back to all the things I used to do.
Again, I’m not writing this to shame anyone who hasn’t gotten vaccinated to to brag about the fact that I have. I feel very blessed to have had the opportunity to get vaccinated at all, and to have had this opportunity so much sooner than large parts of the world. This was the right decision for me. But, if it’s not right for you, we’re allowed to be different. I just wanted to share my experience getting the vaccine for anyone who might still be considering getting it, to help them know what to expect, and to share what it means to me to be fully vaccinated as a life update for you all.