One year ago, the world rapidly changed in a big way. Here in New Jersey, where I’m from, it’s our Pandemiversary.
I suspect there is little need to recap the coronavirus pandemic when, sadly, it is still so fresh in all of our minds; it is a shame it’s not over yet.
Would you ever have imagined that all of these lingering effects from the pandemic would be with us 365 days later?
Rather than recap the last year which has had so many different ups and downs, I want to use this post to highlight a few of the really incredible things that have taken place over the last year and some recent updates about my experience getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
When the pandemic kicked off and people were told to quarantine, I remember I legitimately stayed inside my house for almost 90 days straight.
That was such a weird experience. To be home… all day… every day… avoiding EVERYONE. The fear-mongering news. The political controversy. Ugh.
I coped with the endless solitude a lot better than I thought I would, but I definitely don’t think I would ever want to experience such an extreme lockdown again.
Introverts in Lockdown
Quarantine was perhaps one of the few times in my life where I truly saw the benefit of being a natural introvert.
As an introverted INFJ personality type, it was a lot easier to cope with the solitude and I actually made great use of that time while sheltering in place. Still, I fully recognize that there was really nothing easy about it for a lot of people.
My heart truly goes out to everyone who felt like they were suffering and lonely. I was fortunate to still be living among loved ones during that time. Much like anyone else, I found it difficult at times too.
Making Animal Friends
Thankfully, I also had Pancake: the chipmunk I befriended during the lockdown.
View this post on Instagram
Our little friendchip was forged during the days, and then weeks, and then months of waiting for the pandemic to end.
I was grateful for her company.
She’s been hibernating all winter, but I hope she’ll wake up and come out to make an appearance again soon.
(Shameless plug: please follow Queen Pancake on Instagram.)
Our Interconnected World
Let’s all hope the world has learned its lesson and will take greater efforts earlier to curb any chances of something like this from spreading to the extent that this virus has.
If ever you feel sick, please stay home.
With the number of people who travel nowadays (pre-COVID), it is so obvious that we will need more precautions in place to stop the next virus with pandemic-potential from having free rein to spread around like wildfire.
What are we going to do to stop this from happening again?
Since I’m still staying home and haven’t been traveling recently, I thought I’d share a bit about my experience getting vaccinated instead.
With the far-reaching effects of the virus, I thought it could be helpful to discuss my experience getting vaccinated since I suspect everyone is going to be required to get the vaccine at some point. Even if it doesn’t become mandatory, I know a lot of people want to get it for the protection it will provide.
On that note, I am going to share a bit about what getting the vaccine was like for me.
Booking an Appointment
Disclaimer: I should preface this with the fact that I’m currently in the United States of America. Each country has its own vaccination rollout procedure. You may or may not be eligible at this time.
This is not medical advice. Your body’s experience with receiving the vaccine may vary depending on which brand of the vaccine you receive. Each person may react differently to the same vaccine. I’m just sharing my experience in case it helps to hear about it.
Always consult your doctor if you have concerns about receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
In New Jersey, it seems like our state has had a pretty chaotic rollout with the vaccine. People have been struggling to find locations with open appointment slots. I know that’s happening everywhere, but I’ve heard stories and it sounds especially disorganized here.
A lot of elderly people continue to have difficulty getting appointments because it requires some internet savvy to get one booked.
I’ve been happy to see online communities pop up dedicated solely to helping those communities schedule appointments online.
We have a handful of large mega-sites throughout our state where distribution is handled. A little later on down the timeline, smaller pharmacies like CVS, Rite Aid, and others began offering the vaccine too.
When I scheduled my appointment, it was the last week of January so I was booked at a vaccine mega-site. Back then, you could really only choose mega sites or hospitals.
The first appointment I got would have required me to drive 8 hours in total between the first and second appointments. Thankfully, I was contacted a day or two later to book an alternative appointment at a different mega-site much closer to home; I canceled the first appointment and saved the one closer to home instead.
My parents thought I was crazy committing to the first one, but I was fully prepared to drive that far if need be.
If you’re eligible and looking for an appointment, try to join local Facebook groups and follow Twitter bot accounts dedicated to posting available openings.
You have to act fast when you see an opening because appointments sometimes fill quicker than you can click on the link. When I successfully scheduled my first appointment, I wanted to jump up and cheer because I knew availability was limited.
My first thought was to book appointments for my family members (my grandparents, in specific) but without their personal information on hand, it is difficult.
HAVE INFORMATION PREPARED FOR ANYONE YOU ARE TRYING TO BOOK APPOINTMENTS FOR.
The First Dose
In February, I went to a mega-site near me to receive the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine. I read online that they weren’t strict about timing (this is no longer accurate…) so I went 4 hours early.
I was really anxious and I wanted to get it over with ASAP.
The mega-site was so quiet when I went. There was no line or anything. I walked right in, checked in, sat down at their registration tables, queued in a 3 person-long line, and then sat down at my vaccination station.
I was told I’d be receiving the Pfizer & BioNTech vaccine.
The shot was fast and painless.
They make everyone stay and sit for a 15 minute observation period. Personally, I don’t think most people who might have serious side effects would experience anything within 15 minutes of the shot being administered, but that’s how they’ve decided to handle it.
I went home feeling pretty fine. People said it helps to move your arm around to prevent soreness. I wasn’t sure if that could be scientifically accurate or not but I did it anyway.
7 Hours Later…
I got my vaccine administered around noon. At around 7 PM that night, I began to feel slightly lethargic. The tiredness wasn’t severe, but I definitely could feel it.
I laid down in bed. I think I fell asleep at that point and didn’t awaken until the following morning at 11 AM. (I got it on a Friday so being able to sleep in the next day was great.)
Lingering Arm Soreness
The next morning, I woke up with a sore arm.
That seems to be the main side effect that most people experience from any of these intramuscular mRNA vaccines.
The only weird thing is that most people report having a sore arm for 2-3 days.
I had a sore arm for THREE WEEKS…………
(Note: This is NOT a reason to NOT get the vaccine. I just had an abnormal reaction to it in a way most people don’t… go figure.)
On the day of my second vaccine, my arm still hurt.
Coping With a Weird Reaction
While I didn’t think it was a huge deal, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I was a little freaked out to see my arm still hurting three weeks after getting my first shot.
The muscle where I got the shot would start twitching and throbbing if I lifted my arm.
I sent my doctor a message asking if he thought I should get the second one, never got a reply, and then shrugged and said… if a wacky arm is the only complication I get, it’d still be better than risking my life with COVID.
That mentality carried me throughout the rest of the vaccination process. Despite all of the fear-mongering conspiracy theories, I kept reminding myself that no matter what happens, scientists trust these vaccines and people can say what they want, but the only known danger we KNOW exists right now… is COVID-19.
I’d prefer to avoid the *known* danger and take a calculated risk that’s probably safe.
The Second Dose
… Which was why I went back to get the second vaccine despite my muscle still hurting.
This time, I went there only 15 minutes prior to my scheduled appointment and I’m so happy I didn’t arrive 4 hours early like last time because they were VERY STRICT about appointment times this time around.
The line was also VERY LONG and it was so cold to be waiting outside.
Incidentally, whatever the cause of my lingering arm pain was, the second dose wiped it away. My arm became very sore after the second shot. However, the next day… it went back to being completely normal again.
They say the day after your second shot is usually pretty rough.
I fully expected to have chills, night sweats, trouble sleeping, and all sorts of side effects like the stories claim from the posts I read online.
Instead, I woke up feeling fine. For a minute.
Until I stood up and wasn’t fine.
As I got up to get breakfast, I became really dizzy. I felt lightheaded and nauseous. Tiredness hit me like a train and almost out of nowhere, I got a fever, chills, and my legs began to ache so badly.
I couldn’t understand why my legs hurt and not my arm.
I took a steaming hot bath and still felt cold.
Laying in bed, I closed my eyes and slept away 75% of the day. I ate a few meals with the little appetite I had… and then slept some more.
Orange juice was my saving grace.
I went to bed that night feeling exhausted… praying I’d feel better the following morning.
The Waiting Period
Thankfully, the vaccine side effects really were like having a 24-hour bug.
I woke up the next morning feeling good as new. I did still have a bit of fatigue so I slept in, but mostly all of the side effects were gone.
I was actually pretty shocked at how much of a 360 the transformation was overnight. I still felt awful when I went to bed the night before. What a relief it was to wake up feeling like a new person.
Each vaccine has a different waiting period before 100% of the antibody protection kicks in. For the Pfizer vaccine, it is a 7-day waiting period. That means I should have its full protection and for that, I’m so grateful.
Science and the speed at which we can perform it is such a victory of our time.
The majority of my family has also received their first doses of the vaccine now, but I’m currently the only one who has had both. I guess I’m the guinea pig.
Still, I’m happy to be it if it means giving others the confidence to get the vaccine.
The New Normal
It’s just a wild time to be alive, isn’t it? Between Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca, and others, we have so many different new vaccines going around. Hopefully, they’re all safe and all have what it takes to STOP THE VIRUS.
I hope they can be distributed far and wide so as a globalized world we can reach a point where people can live their lives normally once again and not have to worry about endangering one another. So people can travel and go on vacations and be outside doing things together once again.
So many countries are having vaccine shortages and I know it’s going to take some time to reach everyone. I also know people are going to use the vaccine already as a justification to travel as soon as they get it (and there are people already doing that without the vaccine too), but I just hope people can all have the mindfulness to first consider where we are going and whether or not the people there will also have the same protection those of us lucky enough to be vaccinated have for ourselves.
Quarantine fatigue is a real thing but we should still look out for one another.
The fight isn’t over yet.