** DING! DING! DING!! **
“Ladies and Gentlemen! Pfizer, BioNTech, and your local pharmacies and health care providers present… TWO ROUNDS of BOXING in the who-gives-a-hoot-about-your-weight division! This bout is sanctioned by the Food and Drug Administration and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services!
“And now, fighting out of the blue corner… sporting gorgeous hair, wearing a pink bathing suit, and weighing in at none of your bees wax… ALLISON!
“And coming in from the red corner… measuring at less than six inches, and ready to deliver a powerful but so very necessary punch… THE VACCINE!”
** DING! DING! DING!! **
I start off with that boxing ring announcer intro as a bit of gallows humor. There are two reasons I do so, the first being how unsettling the past 13 months have been. This pandemic has felt like one extremely long prize fight within a confining “squared circle” called “home.” It’s keeping us secluded from a world we long to personally interact with, yet it’s also perhaps the safest place we can be at right now lest we get sick… or worse.
The other reason for that bit of humor is that… well, okay I admit it, I’m terrified of getting poked by needles. It’s not like I have never received an immunization as a kid or a flu shot as an adult (I received one of the latter last fall). It’s just that… Yee-owch! Them things are sharp and hurt like heck!
Immediate and subsequent effects notwithstanding, I won’t deny the importance of getting a flu or virus vaccine, especially during this dark time. So it was with great anticipation that I heard that, as of as of this past Monday, every resident of the state of Wisconsin age 16 and over became eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine. Initially, our state’s Department of Health Services, like those of most other states, had a “priority list” (viewable at this link) of eligible groups; it started with frontline healthcare personnel, then went to the likes of nursing home staff, senior citizens, and people with preexisting conditions before finally getting to the rest of us.
But it’s not as if everyone in Wisconsin could make the mad rush to their doctor’s office or the corner pharmacy, roll up their sleeves, and get the one or two jabs necessary to help bring possible immunity from this darn virus. There’s probably a lot of logistics involved, i.e. projecting which providers in whatever cities and towns would need how many does to cover those they’ll be serving. Not being an expert on healthcare logistics (I’m just a pencil pusher), I guessed that late May would be the earliest I would see a needle go into my arm.
But, lo and behold, the day Wisconsin expanded eligibility to everyone over 16, my place of employment made an announcement: They arranged to have a local pharmacy come in and deliver initial doses of the Pfizer—BioNTech vaccine to employees who made an appointment on Wednesday or Friday of this past week. Not wanting to wait but also… [*shivering with weak-kneed fright*] needles, I chose a late-afternoon slot on Friday.
So, how did it go, you ask? Well, I went to one of our company’s offices, checked in… and waited. What, you thought I got the shot the instant I walked into the door? No, they first had us fill out “how are you feeling/any allergies?” paperwork, as well as watch a quick (between two and three minutes) informational video about the vaccine. I think the video was meant to help alleviate any concerns we may have had about the vaccine, process, side effects, etc., especially since it was being administered under emergency use authorization by the FDA; that’s the fancy term for “this is a pandemic, and we need to vaccinate people as quickly as possible.”
Then we had to wait a little longer — in a line, standing six feet apart — until 2-3 people at a time were called into a spacious conference room. It was there that I took off my jacket, rolled up my sleeve, and…
I don’t know if it was the amount of the vaccine dose, the length of the needle, or how slowly the person from the pharmacy gave the shot. But let me tell you, that thing hurt! Compared to this, my last flu shot felt like a soft pinch on the skin.
With my sleeve rolled down and a vaccine card in my hand, I had to do a little more waiting. One concern about these COVID vaccines being released by the FDA so urgently is that recipients may suffer unforeseen immediate side effects. Sure, there’s the usual tiredness or headache or chills… but there also could be nausea, dizziness, rapid heartbeat, and breathing difficulty that may occur within half an hour after the shot. So, we waited about 20-30 minutes in a designated area (again, six feet apart) until we felt either something serious (and let the pharmacy staff know of it) or well enough to go home.
Luckily for me, I felt okay enough to leave 30 minutes or so after the shot. The expected headache did hit me back home, however, although it wasn’t anything serious to require Tylenol. Today, one day after receiving the shot, I still feel some tenderness where the needle went in (it felt as if it struck deep into the muscle), as well as a little bit of body warmth that’s probably due to the drop in temperature outside (that’s common for me this time of year). But if it starts feeling too serious, at least I can let the CDC know through an optional post-vaccination check-in system they’re providing via text message. All the better to give them some sort of basic idea of how I’m holding up at certain intervals of time.
As I’ve already noted, this is only my first round with the COVID vaccine needle. In about three weeks or so, I should be getting back into the “squared circle,” ready to receive Round Two. From what I’ve learned this week, including from a Facebook friend of mine who has received both doses, the side effects from the second dose can be a little more nasty (more chills, more aches, some congestion). Hopefully, anything I encounter after that second shot will not be serious.
Once both doses are in my body and I’m in the clear in regards to lingering effects, I can proceed with life with a “championship belt” around my waist. Well, as long as I know that I’ll finally be safe from this godforsaken virus, it’ll feel like a victory. Here’s hoping that after you receive the vaccine, you’ll feel like a champion as well.