At this time one year ago, a lot was different. While COVID restrictions on outdoor activities were beginning to be eased back by health officials, the novel coronavirus was still very much a threat and had killed five people in Stanislaus County.
I remember the first death locally and what a shock it was to many. Wary of the virus myself — and wishing to visit my grandparents, mask- and guilt-free once more — I dreamt of the day a vaccine would be available to make life somewhat normal again.
Since then, the virus has taken the lives of over 1,000 people in our county and has affected nearly every community member, from the prolonged shutdown of California’s economy to school closures. I’ve spoken with business owners who have lost their shops because of the pandemic and high school seniors who missed out on recruitment to play sports at the college level — years of hard work down the drain for some of Turlock’s oldest and youngest residents.
The impact of the past year is not lost on me, which is why I chose to get vaccinated.
I received my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on April 3 and got my second dose this past Saturday, both at the clinic hosted in the Stanislaus State gymnasium. I made an appointment for both doses online at myturn.ca.gov and was in and out within 45 minutes each time.
While I know some are apprehensive about getting vaccinated, I ultimately decided that helping stop the spread of COVID, hugging my grandparents and being able to attend concerts or sporting events again was more important to me than the slim chance of anaphylaxis (.0011% in early Pfizer safety trials). Other serious side effects or reactions to the vaccine are extremely rare according to the Centers for Disease Control, with both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines granted emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration after large clinical trials showed them to be safe and effective.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was put on hold for a short time after six out of 7.5 million people who received it developed a rare blood clot, but the pause was lifted by the CDC on Friday. The CDC is now investigating two additional blood clot cases for a total of eight instances in now 8 million doses administered. If you’re following along at home, that’s a .0001% chance. As seven of the eight blood clot instances affected women, it’s interesting to compare the outcry against the J&J vaccine to hormonal birth control, where women have a 0.3% to 1% chance of developing a blood clot.
I decided to take my chances, and headed to my appointments with only the fear of vaccine side effects I’d seen friends and acquaintances suffer: fatigue, body aches, chills, fever and nausea, to name a few.
I had different experiences after both of the Pfizer doses. After dose one, fatigue hit that same night and continued well on to the next day. I’ve been tired before, of course, but this was an entirely new beast; I found it difficult to even lift my arms, and spent that afternoon, night and much of the next day in bed. It was annoying, but that’s it. Oh, and the arm where I received the shot was incredibly sore.
While I escaped my first dose relatively unscathed, I had heard horror stories about dose two (that’s where several of my friends experienced chills, fever, nausea, etc.). There was no need for worry, however, as my second shot also resulted in a sore arm and fatigue, albeit with some more aches throughout my body in addition. The fatigue wasn’t as bad as my first shot, though, and the flu-like symptoms others had experienced never came for me.
Published data does show that those who have had COVID already will often experience more intense symptoms after their vaccine, so maybe that’s why I got off so easy. Though I have just under two weeks to go until I’m considered fully vaccinated, I’m already planning my next San Francisco Giants game and look forward to safely participating in society again.
It’s hard to realize the weight of a moment while you’re living it, but the reality that I received a vaccine which will help put a stop to a global pandemic hit me as I left the clinic on Saturday. A year ago, I would have given anything for a vaccine to help do just that, and this weekend it finally happened.
I marvel at the fact that scientists were able to create an effective vaccine for COVID in under a year. I appreciate the federal government’s support of Operation Warp Speed, which accelerated that development.
Every vaccine experience is different, I’ve learned, and it’s ultimately each person’s choice whether or not they’d like to receive the shot. For more information about COVID vaccines, visit www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/