Well, I did it. I got my first vaccine injection against COVID. I want to encourage everyone to do the same as soon as they can.
I obtained the first of the Pfizer two-dose treatment on Tuesday afternoon. It was literally painless; I didn't even feel the injection. It was not quite that good from then on, so I'll tell my experiences and what I know about those of others.
I got it through my provider, UC Davis Health System. They had a full injection clinic set up, with dozens of us socially spaced and on an efficient "assembly line". From check in to injection was about 30 minutes. I learned that the earlier in the day you can go, the better. There are fewer people in the morning. Still, it was not onerous. Prior to arrival you may do a pre-check verifying your medications, allergies, etc. All pretty easy IF you have an online system. I hope you do or you'll never see this alert!
After the injection we were sent to a 'recovery' room (ours was a tent) for observation for 15 minutes. Those with known allergies to vaccines are sent elsewhere for an hour. I like that degree of care. We also obtained our follow-up date and time while we were waiting. That was great - two things done at the same time is a relief. Very efficient. It all reminded me of the days of the Salk and Sabin vaccines of our youth and of photos I have seen of various pandemic treatments historically. We clearly have learned from the past.
As I waited, I noticed a tenderness at the injection site (covered with a kid's cartoon band aid - very cool). That gradually expanded down my arm and up my neck into a mild ache and eventually a very minor headache. By bedtime I felt the way one does coming down with a cold - achy and very tired but no real pain.
Now the only odd thing was that when I fell asleep I slept for only two hours before awakening and being very wide awake at that! So I read and worked on the computer for a time. Until, at 5:30 in the morning I realized I was ravenous! The problem now was that what I craved was a friend's potato salad, but she lives 3000 miles away and doesn't deliver. So I had what I could find, and it seemed to help. I finally went back to bed at about 6:00 am and slept again. And slept. And slept. And slept. I didn't really get up until late afternoon then went back to bed at regular time and slept some more. By this time the aches and flu-like symptoms were gone. It was about 24 hours, and they were over. By this morning I felt quite fine.
My husband had his injection yesterday morning while I was sleeping. He went very early, and I didn't even realize he'd gone and returned until late morning. He has now also passed the 24-hour mark and has no symptoms at all other than a bit of tenderness at the injection site. This difference between us made it very clear that every body is different. To date I've encountered no one who had anything severe at all.
I will note, for the record, that, while he is somewhat absentminded anyway, last night when my husband took out the recycling, he threw it in the bin, container and all. There may be something to the "COVID brain" urban legend. I, on the other hand, can't stop laughing. If that's the worst that happens, so be it.
We were told that with the second injection there is increased probability of a repeat of my experience with perhaps some intensification. That seems manageable. We understand that the Moderna has stronger side effects than does the Pfizer, but none seems to last more than 24-48 hours, and they all beat a case of COVID. I would not be "vaccine hesitant" over these differences. COVID is too awful to be fussy about such matters. Even with Moderna, many people experience no side effects at all. May you be one of them!
So those are our experiences. It was efficient, it was manageable, it helps us feel we're on our way to being safe. I pay attention to the science and to anecdotal reactions. I cannot stress strongly enough that the scare stories are grounded in absolutely no facts. The people in the Tuesday session were very diverse (although everyone was over 65 since we were the target population) and no one in my group had any complaints at all about feeling unwell. I appreciate the scientists and physicians who are helping us survive.
And even with my husband's mishap with the recycling, I feel quite certain he has not turned into a zombie. I think we can safely put that notion to rest.
Good health to everyone. I hope supplies come your way quickly with efficient distribution through your providers or your county. This is worth the doing. Please do it!
Elizabeth "Libby" Sholes
Director Emerita Public Policy