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As the date that all adults above age 16 become eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine quickly approaches, I wanted to write something for those of you who might be experiencing vaccine fear and vaccine hesitancy. I was incredibly fortunate to get early access to the COVID-19 vaccine as a result of my campus job and I have now received both rounds of the Pfizer vaccine, and as of this week I have full protection from getting COVID-19. As a person who is afraid of getting sick and has thus far managed to avoid catching COVID-19, I always knew I was going to get the vaccine, but that didn’t stop me from feeling a lot of anxiety about the side effects I might experience. This article is for those of you becoming eligible in the coming weeks and feel as I did. So, what was getting the Pfizer vaccine like for me?

Before I get into what side effects I had and my experience checking in to get the vaccine, I must caution you to take everything I share with a grain of salt. Every people’s body is different and therefore will respond differently to the vaccine, and there are many factors that may influence your response. It is always best to consult official sources like the CDC or to speak to a qualified medical professional if you’re having concerns about the vaccine.

For me, getting the vaccine itself was a completely painless process, all the way down to the jab itself. I was fortunate to get vaccinated in a large cruise ship terminal that was well organized and could accommodate many people very quickly. The whole process of check in, getting the vaccine, and doing the 15 minutes post vaccine observation only took me a combined total of 30 minutes. When getting the vaccine, you should arrive a little early to on time, and be prepared to queue for a couple hours if necessary. Not all facilities are as big as mine and many not be able to accommodate people as quickly as a cruise ship terminal can. The COVID-19 vaccine should be free, even if you are under insured or uninsured, but make sure to bring ID, insurance card, and anything else to help them identify you quickly, including a copy of your appointment confirmation email or your vaccine record card if you are going in for your second dose.

For me, getting the vaccine itself was virtually painless for both shots. I barely noticed the needle before I had a band-aid on and was being sent off for observation. If you’re going to have an allergic reaction to the vaccine, it will most likely be in the first 15 minutes after it enters your body. I thankfully didn’t react to either vaccine so for me this part was also quite easy. Following both vaccines, I made sure to keep my shot arm moving and to take a long walk. I don’t know if either of these things makes a scientific difference, but for me it seemed like a good idea to move around a bit afterwards. My arm started hurting around five minutes after getting the first shot and it stayed pretty sore for the about 48 hours, making it uncomfortable to lift my arm over my head, but other than that I fortunately had no other side effects. While most people don’t react much to the first vaccine, a lot of my friends reported fatigue or a small rash at the injection site. Both of these things are normal but if you are concerned you should always consult a medical professional. Side effects should not last longer than approx. 48 hours.

The second vaccine was the one I was worried about. My friends who had gotten it got flu like symptoms with uncomfortable body aches, fever and nausea. Because of this I massively overly prepared. I bought Tylenol PM, Ibuprofen, Gatorade and crackers. I even premade ginger and garlic soup and left a plastic bag by the side of my bed in case of emergencies. I would highly recommend doing all these things because while I cannot conclusively prove that that’s why my reaction to the second vaccine was incredibly mild, but I can’t conclusively prove that it isn’t either. For me, the second vaccine gave me hot and cold flashes and left me a little tired, but other than that I was completely fine. I took the excuse to watch TV in bed all day and woke up completely normal the next morning. I felt incredibly lucky.

Here’s some things to keep in mind: If you were exposed to or had COVID-19 you might react more strongly to the coronavirus vaccine than if you were never exposed. If you had a mild or no reaction the first vaccine, chances are you will have very little reaction to the second. Again, everyone is different, but these are the things we have noticed so far. Vaccine response has to do with immune system strength, which is why generally younger people are more likely to have stronger reactions. If you get side effects, remember that that means the vaccine is working. If you don’t, don’t worry. The vaccine is still working.

I hope this article clears up some of your anxieties surrounding the vaccine. Although I can’t guarantee your experience will be as painless as mine was, everyone should get the vaccine. Millions of Americans are hesitant, and experts think we will need as much as 80% of the population vaccinated to safely get back to normal. Already been vaccinated? Share your experience with others. Education is the key to beating the coronavirus, and every person vaccinated puts us one step further.

For further information, be sure to check out the CDC website which keeps up to date with the latest, most accurate, and most reliable information about COVID-19 and the three available vaccines. Stay safe, stay healthy, and get vaccinated!

My name is Lauren, I'm currently a senior at the University of Hawaii at Manoa double majoring in Chinese and communications, I'm also a very passionate Planned Parenthood volunteer/intern. In my free time I like to dance salsa and read books on the beach.
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