The big day arrived and I was both nervous and excited. It was time for me to get my vaccination against COVID-19. I felt my heart beating a little faster as I drove down the freeway to the Williamson County Fairgrounds.
I have friends and family in the medical profession who had already received the vaccination; all coming through with flying colors. I even read all I could on the two vaccines currently being given. Still, it’s a bit daunting. Yet, as I work part time with seniors who are mostly in their 70s through 90s, I have been chomping at the bit to get the vaccination. I feel a deep responsibility to keep them safe. And to keep me safe, as I can’t do my writing job and stay completely removed from the public.
My brother-in-law is a nurse and is around a hospital with plenty of COVID patients every day. He received his vaccination at the end of December. I called him and asked him a lot of questions. Being very smart and well-read on the topic of vaccinations, he explained to me how the vaccine is made.
COVID-19 vaccine is what is called mRNA vaccine. This kind of vaccine is a new approach to the fight against infectious diseases. Infectious diseases are caused my micro-organisms, like coronavirus, as well as other viruses, bacteria, fungi or parasites. Many vaccines put a weakened or inactive bit of the disease organism into our bodies to trigger an immune reaction. “NOT mRNA vaccines,” according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website. “Instead, they teach our cells how to make a protein—or even just a piece of a protein—that triggers an immune response inside our bodies. That immune response, which produces antibodies, is what protects us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies.”
The CDC website goes on to explain, “Our immune systems recognize that the protein doesn’t belong there and begin building an immune response and making antibodies, like what happens in natural infection against COVID-19. At the end of the process, our bodies have learned how to protect against future infection. The benefit of mRNA vaccines, like all vaccines, is those vaccinated gain this protection without ever having to risk the serious consequences of getting sick with COVID-19.” For more information from the CDC on the vaccine, click here.
Once I realized that I was not going to have any COVID-19 virus in me, I was fine with getting the vaccine. I also read about the two vaccines, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. I was given the Pfizer product, which would have been my choice as I am familiar with the company through my father. And it is effective against two of the known variants. But you don’t get a choice. You take what you can get.
I have to say that Williamson County has the vaccination process fine-tuned. First, you have to check and see what eligibility phase you fall under, then sign up when your phase is open to getting the vaccine. The Tennessee Health Department website has a special place to go and learn about all things COVID-19.
Because the company I work for is tied to the senior health industry, we have all been watching for our eligibility. Once it is your turn, you can go to county vaccinations and appointments to sign up.
Different counties are at different stages of vaccination. Most counties are currently vaccinating up to Phase 1b and those 65+. It was recently announced the state will move into the 1c population on Monday, March 8.
On your vaccination day, you go to the appointed location at the time indicated on your confirmation. It is a good idea to get there a little early, as you will have to fill out some paperwork. Also, take a pen and something hard to write on, like a book or a clipboard. Make sure to have proof that you fall within your particular eligibility grouping, like a business identification card or a letter from your employer stating your eligibility, which they have to verify with the state in advance.
Different counties have set it up differently. In Williamson County, you never get out of your car. Everyone I dealt with in the line was gracious and well-informed about the process. A nice EMT gave me my shot and got me all signed up for my second one in three weeks.
After you receive your shot, you will be asked to stay in a parking lot in your vehicle for 15 minutes in case you have a reaction. Since I had read all of the CDC literature, and they suggested 30 minutes would be better, I set my alarm and did some much-needed talking to friends and relatives as I waited.
Everyone has a slightly different reaction, just as the disease affects everyone differently. I felt the vaccine move through my bloodstream, literally. I felt, and still feel, pain at the injection site several days later. The second day, it was worse than the first, but it didn’t stop me from living my life in any way. A friend felt a bit woozy for about 20 minutes, and minor pain and joint ache for a day. Pretty much everyone in the company experienced injection site pain, be they in their 20s or 60s. There have only been 21 cases of an anaphylaxis reaction in almost 1.9 million people in the entire United States according to the CDC website, where reactions are being reported.
I hear that the second one hits a bit harder, but my brother-in-law and one of my closest friends have had their second shot with little reaction, just pain at the injection site and mild tiredness. A number of elderly clients have had their second shot, with similar reactions.
While I will still wear my mask in public, and take all of the necessary precautions, like social distancing and washing my hands, I do look forward to doing two things I have been staying away from, the gym and a nice massage. I pity the masseuse who will be working out a year’s worth of kinks.
Until we achieve herd immunity, which is inoculation of at least 75% of the population, it will be important to keep following the CDC guidelines.