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My Experience with the Johnson & Johnson Vaccine

On April 30th, 2021 I got the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine and today I write this article to tell you that the vaccine is safe and totally worth getting. Originally, I was going to get the Pfizer vaccine but the location that I went to switched over to J&J about a week before my appointment. They called to ask me if that’s ok. Luckily, I had kept up with the news and had heard the news stories about the J&J vaccine so I told them that it was a-ok. In fact, I was pretty stoked about it since this vaccine is completed in one dose which meant I could make plans with friends and family who wanted to visit but couldn’t due to me not being vaccinated. When I did get vaccinated, hoo boy did I go through the wringer with flu-like symptoms. I will be detailing my symptoms, but first I want to mention the discussion me and my friends had about the safety of the J&J vaccine. 

So how safe exactly is the J&J shot? Normally, I would dismiss any questions about vaccines as anti-vaxxer fear-mongering, but the J&J vaccine was put on pause by the FDA and there has been explicit proof tying the J&J to potentially lethal blood clots. In a rare case, I do believe that this question is valid… to a point. The FDA’s decision to pause the J&J vaccine should actually boost confidence in the J&J vaccine as well as vaccines in general. According to Yale Medicine, a confirmed total of six people have gotten blood clots or related health complications from the J&J shot resulting in one death. Out of the literal millions who have received the vaccine, less than ten failures is what it took for a vaccine to be halted. This shows that organizations like the FDA and the CDC are keeping a close eye on the safety of the vaccines. Also, putting a vaccine on hold due to health concerns is actually nothing new. The AstraZeneca vaccine went through a very similar process. When it comes to J&J, the truth is that there is actually little to worry about. To put it into perspective, more people have died at gender reveal parties than have gotten blood clots from the J&J vaccine. 

Let’s back up a little bit, there are some things about my getting the vaccine that I want to highlight. I live in Minneapolis, Minnesota and the COVID-19 vaccination was made available to everyone in Minnesota over the age of 18 in mid-April. I would have jumped at the opportunity to get one ASAP but I was not in Minnesota at the time since the vaccine’s availability was increased right in the middle of my University’s spring break (don’t worry, my partner and I were on a camping trip that allowed us miles of social distancing). When we got back, it was at the time where, at least in Minneapolis, everyone had an appointment scheduled and places were booked for weeks. Which was a positive thing, besides the fact that it looked like my partner and I would have to wait. Besides adding more time to how long it would take to get the vaccine, we had to put a lot of plans on hold. 

Luckily, we had a few friends to wait for a vaccine appointment with us. After a few nights of getting on a group call to find a place with availability, we landed on a spot that could get all four of us in one right after another. We then realized that there was a snag in our plans. The vaccine being offered was Pfizer, which normally would be just as good as any other vaccine, but a friend from LA, who was fully vaccinated at this point, was planning on moving to Minneapolis and wanted to stay at our place while he did apartment tours. Getting the Pfizer vaccine meant that none of us could host him, potentially postponing his tours as they all occurred during the third week in May, which would mean that there was no way for any of us to be fully vaccinated. 

We figured there was little we could do and just hoped that our LA friend could find a way to make it work. Then we got a call from the place we were going to and in a very apologetic voice asked us if it was ok if they gave us the Johnson and Johnson vaccine instead. We thanked our lucky stars. Not only did this mean we could host our friend, but also it meant that we could begin building confidence to go out and do things again sooner rather than later (An important note: the vaccine does not eliminate the chance of contracting COVID-19. Instead, it greatly reduces the chance of infection as well as reduces the chance of passing it on to someone else). The four of us masked up, hopped into my mom-van, and two hours later got vaccinated. That night, a few of us began noticing the flu-like symptoms that normally would be reserved for the second dose of the vaccine. Out of my friends who got the vaccine with me, I had the absolute worst symptoms. They began right before I went to bed, starting as aches in my hands and feet. That alone kept me from falling asleep for very long. The next day was when the fever set in, as well as cold sweats, and even more aching. To add insult to injury, I had a final exam the next day and I needed to study hard, which was quite the process. In a haze, I think I watched nearly six hours of pre-recorded lectures. Luckily, my partner experienced significantly fewer symptoms and was a huge help in keeping me well hydrated and my spirits high. At around three pm, my fever broke and I suddenly got very hungry. After a sizable meal and a nap, my symptoms were done in just under eighteen hours. 

For the amount of hassle getting the vaccine was, and how hilariously bad my symptoms were, I look back on the experience fondly, as the rest of my friends do. It marks (what I hope to be) the beginning of the end of this awful time, and the fact that I got to share that with my friends will most likely become a really important memory for me. It is seeming that the biggest confidence booster for people in terms of getting the vaccine is everyone getting the vaccine. Hopefully, this has shown that when it comes to the J&J vaccine, the worst you should expect is around eighteen hours of fairly hefty flu-like symptoms and potentially forgetting some answers on your history final because, in the midst of a fever, you dreamed up different answers. 

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