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If you’re anything like me, you probably can’t wait to get outside and see people this summer. There are graduations to celebrate, birthday parties, housewarming celebrations and so much more. And let’s not even talk about how excited we all are for Hoopfest and Pig Out in the Park this year!
When Governor Jay Inslee announced that by April 15, all Washingtonians age 16 and up would be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, I was ready. I hadn’t been eligible earlier, and when vaccine appointments began to open up, I kept an eye on appointments nearby and their availability.
Below is my experience with COVID and getting the COVID-19 vaccine. This article is sponsored by the Washington Department of Health, but all experiences and opinions are my own.
Why Get a Vaccine?
Everyone’s individual reasons to get the vaccine are different, but I had a pretty wild year with COVID (as you may have, too!) The biggest reason I chose to get the vaccine? The people in my life, including:
- My grandmother, who passed away from COVID before the vaccine was developed and available
- My mother, who got COVID before a vaccine was available and still suffers from long term COVID symptoms
- My father, who is elderly and in poor health
- My nephews and nieces who are too young to receive the vaccine
- My immunocompromised friends who can’t receive the vaccine
- Myself – call it selfish or call it normal, but I’d like to return to BBQs, book clubs, and happy hour nights
For me, getting the vaccine was straightforward. My grandmother had died the previous year of COVID, my mother had caught it from her, and I had to fly (during the pandemic) to help be a caregiver for my father. To say that the entire event was stressful and sad was an understatement.
Making it worse was my fear that, by flying and not being vaccinated, I could potentially bring COVID to my father (the vaccine wasn’t out or available at that time.) We were extremely cautious, my mother recovered, and neither my father nor I got COVID – but it was a risk that made us all anxious.
In addition to my family, my husband and I also are planning to visit his family this year – we haven’t seen them since 2019, which is the case for many Americans. There have been celebrations, birthdays, and more since we’ve been apart, and we’re ready to meet up again.
However, we have nieces, nephews and immunocompromised friends who can’t receive the vaccine. We chose to get the vaccine for them, too. Community immunity is how we beat COVID, which requires more than 70% of us getting the vaccine.
My husband and I can do our part for those who cannot by getting the vaccine, because one of the best ways out of this pandemic (and back to BBQs and book clubs) is getting to that herd immunity!
I’m a planner – my husband might call me an ‘over-planner.’ My whole life, I’ve always been an over-planner. Whether it’s vacation travel or a big purchase, I read all the reviews, check out all the social media coverage, even read all the magazines!
Knowing that the sooner we all get the COVID-19 vaccine, the sooner we can get back to normal, I put my research into overdrive. The WA Dept. of Health’s COVID Information page is a great resource for that – I was easily able to search for vaccine appointments closest to me and see which types of vaccine (Pfizer, Moderna, J&J) were available at each location.
In trying to assess how I might possibly react to the vaccine, I read tweets from journalists here in Spokane, read public chats on Facebook, saw what people were sharing about their experiences on Instagram, and read blog posts (like this!) about people’s first hand experiences.
I also talked to my friends, many of whom are around my age (late 20s to mid 30s.) For the most part, it seemed like the second shot would be the ‘most miserable’ and I would want plenty of fluids, rest, over the counter medicine for head- or body-aches, and a very relaxed schedule.
With that in mind, I booked my first appointment on a Friday and had my second appointment three weeks later (also on a Friday).
First Shot of the Pfizer Vaccine
My first shot of the Pfizer vaccine was overall fine – I took the 15 minutes after the shot to wander around CVS and left with some nail polish in anticipation of a relaxed, non-working weekend.
The worst part of the first shot? The soreness in my arm! It was sore all weekend and even into Monday. It wasn’t anything insurmountable, but it did impede me sleeping on my side for two nights. I also was cautious not to bump my arm the first two days, as it definitely did hurt!
The second shot was the one that worried me – I’d even read stories of healthy women in their 20s being pretty sick for several days, so I cautiously took off all of Friday and planned a “do nothing” weekend after my second shot.
The second shot went much like the first – I took the 15 minutes after my second shot to buy candy this time at CVS. You never know – candy could help me feel better! Then I went home and waited.
Not having planned anything, I found myself getting bored by 6 PM – roughly 6 hours after the second dose. My husband noticed I was red – I was running a fever – but other than that, I was just bored and a little warm. After drinking a lot of water, I decided to go to bed and see how I felt the next morning.
Saturday morning I woke up and my fever was gone, replaced by… nothing. I felt fine, like myself. I had planned ahead with some books and magazines (I recommend The Cold Millions!) because I anticipated I would be in bed all weekend, but really didn’t spend much time there at all.
In fact, I got a burst of energy in the afternoon and did some cleaning up around the house – I didn’t want to push it with exercise, but thought cleaning might be fine.
Unfortunately, that was pushing it, and I became very fatigued around 6 PM. I drank some Gatorade that night and went to bed early.
Throughout all of this, I wasn’t that hungry. I still made sure to eat, just to get something in my system, but eating wasn’t on my mind at all.
The next day (Sunday) I woke up feeling a little tired and remained tired the rest of the day. My husband and I ended up ordering out for delivery, as my appetite returned a little and I was too tired to even contemplate getting anything out of the fridge.
I had taken Monday off from work, too, just in case, and that ended up being a good move. I could work from home, and did a little, but I was very tired. It was another ‘in bed by 8 PM’, and while I couldn’t exercise, I wasn’t achy or feverish or extremely fatigued. It was just general “I feel like I need a nap” tired.
Overall Vaccine Experience
Overall, I felt like I had a very mild response to the COVID vaccine compared to what others had. I was able to get up every day, accomplish some household tasks, and keep food down. I didn’t have any digestive issues, and my fever was slight and lasted less than a few hours. I also did not have any headaches.
I only took Tylenol on Saturday and Sunday nights for slight body aches, although if I didn’t stock up with Tylenol before, it wouldn’t have kept me from sleeping.
My husband, who also received the Pfizer vaccine, had a very similar experience to mine. He did not experience any fever, but he experienced more fatigue than I did. Saturday and Sunday was tiring for him, and Monday he spent most of the day napping as well. He also was not very hungry the whole weekend.
The experience for us was a feeling of ‘blah’ and ‘boredom.’ We weren’t miserable (I didn’t even end up drinking the two Gatorade bottles I bought!), but to me, it felt like the worst of a cold + allergies: that feeling where you’re tired and you just don’t feel like doing much.
Now is the Time to Get the COVID Vaccine
Everyone’s response to the COVID vaccine is different, just like everyone’s reasons for getting the vaccine are different. However, if you’ve been waiting to see how it goes before getting the vaccine, I hope you realize now is the time.
I’m not special, I’m not a superhuman who eats healthy all the time, I’m just an average person who got the vaccine because I’ve seen the alternative (getting COVID). My mother and grandmother’s experiences of having COVID are something I never wish to see again, or experience myself.
The small inconvenience of rearranging my schedule and mild side effects we both had from getting the COVID-19 vaccine pale in comparison to actually getting COVID, plus being vaccinated means we’re protecting those we love who can’t get the vaccine (like our nephew!)
If you’re on the fence about getting the vaccine, consider heading over to the Washington Department of Health’s COVID-19 Information page to find a vaccine closest to you. The vaccine is now available for people 12 years and older, and the site’s vaccine locator makes finding an available vaccine incredibly easy.
The sooner we all get the COVID-19 vaccine, the sooner we can get back to normal!