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My Experience With The COVID-19 Vaccine

Daniel Schuldi on Unsplash 

I am located in Iowa, I am twenty-one years old, and I am a nanny to a child with disabilities. I received the Moderna vaccine. My state has been less than decent at keeping us safe, people are often without masks and no one really cares about the harm in the pandemic. We have never had a real mask mandate and it shows in the actions of the folks who live here. Even being in a more progressive part of the state, it has been a hassle to remind people to put on a mask or take precautions to protect themselves and others.

Day one, pre-vaccination: I’m panicking a little as I was supposed to receive an email with a form to fill out before I go. My scheduled time is anywhere between 12:00 pm and 5:00 pm. I call public health around 12:00 pm about the email, no answer. Around 3:00 pm, after work, I stop at the pharmacy. It seems that most people who are also receiving the vaccine do not have that email, most are filling out the form by hand. I bring my own pen, sign the documents, panic again because I did not bring my insurance card, and am relieved again when the pharmacist can look up my insurance. I step to the side and begin waiting in line.

Day one, getting the vaccine: I sit down in a very cold chair. I notice that I am the only person to get it in my dominant, right arm; I do this because it is supposed to be tender and I move that arm more frequently. Back when I got my three rounds of the HPV vaccine, I did the same because my doctors warned me that it was probably one of the most painful vaccines. The pharmacist gives me a talk: some side effects, what to do if I have any adverse reactions, clarification that no, I do not need a band-aid because I am allergic to adhesive and it will cut into my skin. The vaccine is over in less than one minute and feels like nothing. The shot didn’t hurt at all and right now, I don’t feel any symptoms.

Day one, post-vaccine: I am instructed to wait for fifteen minutes to make sure everything is fine. Everything is fine but I, of course, freak myself out a little. Is this slight twinge in my head a headache or is it because it’s been like five hours since I’ve had water? Do my teeth feel like they’re going to fall out? Again, everything is fine, but I wait in my car for a few more minutes before heading the less than a mile home. I post my little vaccine card on my story, call my mom, answer questions about how I got it since I am both young and healthy. Over the rest of the afternoon and evening, I feel perfectly fine. My arm begins to get a little sore but I make sure to move it frequently. I finish up the night by bleaching my roommate’s hair and it’s definitely splotchy, not my best work - my arm hurts.

Day two, morning: I work at 6:00 am so I am up by 5:00 am. Well, I am up a little before that because my arm is SORE. I stretch as much as I can and I find relief when my arm is up, bent in half like a chicken wing. I drink a glass of water before I am out of bed, stand up, and walk to my closet to get dressed. This hurts too. My hand is slightly numb and I have to remind myself that my hand can work fine. I’ve been still while I’ve been sleeping so I need to start moving it again. Putting my hand on the top of the steering wheel hurts so I reserve that space for my left hand. When I arrive, I am reminded again that my arm hurts when I try to reach for the button to open the garage and I, again, choose to use my non-dominant arm. By 7:00 am, I can lift my arm parallel to the ground without any discomfort, anything more than that hurts. I feel fine, but am still quite tired which is generally unlike me.

Day two, afternoon: Ouch ouch ouch. I am starting to feel every single symptom that they warned me about. Over the day I have developed a headache, body aches, my arm can barely lift parallel to the floor, I cannot thermoregulate, and I am experiencing waves of nausea. I don’t know why this is happening but I make it through my ten-hour workday and go home.

Day two, evening: I take a long nap, eat some spaghetti, and feel completely fine. Everything is great.

Day three: Normal! Like nothing ever happened yesterday.

Day four: I wake up with a weird rash all over my face. This is not totally uncommon - it’s happened before when I switched from brand name birth control to generic birth control. These red, itchy blotches on my face appear on my face for a few minutes to a few hours then fade back to normal and appear on another part of my face. I go from looking like Zuko with a swollen eye to someone who just got hit in the cheek with something hard and hot. I feel fine otherwise so I make my way into my second job and go about my business. I have meetings all day between work so I try to sit in the shadow of my zoom screen in hopes that people won’t ask as many questions. 

Day five: The face rash is gone and I still feel fine. If I pressed on the site that I got my shot, it aches a little so I avoid doing that.

Day six: I feel great! The only thing that bugs me is that I keep getting a red rash on my face when exposed to heat. This could be something changing in my water, but it’s definitely not something I’ve experienced before.

Days seven through twenty-six: Nothing. I feel completely normal.

Day twenty-seven: Getting the second dose of the vaccine tomorrow. I’m a little nervous again as I am led to believe that I will feel the same or worse as I did with the first dose and I work a 14-hour shift on Friday. I am hoping to feel the same.

Day twenty-eight: Vaccine day! Two weeks until I am fully vaccinated. It went well, I spent most of the afternoon stretching my arm and saying how grateful I was that I can move my arm right now. 

Day twenty-nine: Today, I go to work at 6:00 am and leave around 8:30-9:30 pm. I feel fine but I am exhausted, probably not made better by the amount of school work and work in general that I have to do. By around 10:00 am, I am feeling uncomfortable. Not in pain, it just feels like I can’t do anything to sit right and my morning is all sitting. My muscles are slightly achy but nothing too bothersome. I don’t really have an appetite but I’m not nauseated. After work, I get home and immediately pass out for about twelve hours straight. 

Day thirty: I feel amazing. My arm isn’t sore anymore and I am so thankful.

Days thirty-one through day forty-one: I feel perfectly fine. No weird Moderna face, everything has been perfect. People that I am close to are starting to get vaccinated so I can start seeing them more frequently without worrying about potentially killing them.

Day forty-two: Fully vaccinated! One step closer to a wonderful summer, real-life (whatever that even is anymore), and the fears of this pandemic fading. 

While my experience was a little more rough than I expected, I would do it all again. For me, getting vaccinated is the difference between living and dying and protecting others from illness. I feel great and I am finally able to see my family, friends, and others without feeling guilty. I hope that more folks across the world are able to access the vaccine and I hope that as many people that can get them, will get them.

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