10/01/2021 was the date. 18:30 was the time. I had signed up to get my COVID vaccine only a few days earlier, after I received the sign up sheet to my NHS email. The process of signing up was easy. All I had to do was fill out a consent form, and choose the time that suited me best. Easy and quick!
When the day came, the reality of what I was about to have done didn’t hit me. I kept telling myself, “It’s just another vaccine.” But as I walked to get in my car to drive to my appointment, the anti-vax tweets replayed in my head, and the fear from family and friends circulated through my brain. One friend of mine who works in health care had previously said to me, “You get it first. Tell me the side effects, and maybe then I will get it in a few years time.” At the time I really couldn’t understand why they were so scared. This vaccine had been approved by all the bodies it needed to be approved by, so why was someone who was supposed to be encouraging the public to get vaccinated so worried? I kind of understood their fear now, and it boils down to the fear of the unknown. Nobody knows the long time effects of the vaccination. But someone has to have the vaccine in order to know, right? So I guess I’m just one of those people…
When I arrived, I was ushered by a group of friendly men in high visibility jackets to a parking space. Even the cars were socially distanced, with nobody parked directly either side of you! When queuing to go inside the building, I was given another consent form to fill in, and an information booklet that explained the process of having the vaccine, the common side effects, and how it works. One of the ladies working in the building joked around with me about looking too young to be a staff nurse and asked if I was on work experience. The casualness amidst the seriousness of what was about to happen calmed me a bit. She asked me if I had any concerns, and offered me some water. I felt very looked after.
I was then invited to join a queue of about 5 others (socially distanced of course) to go through the consent form again with another nurse. The nurse was lovely. She spoke to me about how history is being made, and reminded me that I am part of that. She told me to take a picture of my vaccine card once I had received it and to keep it to show my future grandkids. I laughed. She then sent me through to have the vaccine. The vaccine itself wasn’t painful, I didn’t really feel anything physically. I did feel relief and excitement though after having it. Have I really just done that?! I kept smiling, and the nurse smiled back and said to me, “This is the beginning of the end of this nightmare.” I couldn’t help but agree with her.
I then spent 15 minutes in a little room, being watched over by another nurse to check I didn’t experience any adverse reactions. It reminded me of the time period you have to wait after giving blood, apart from the fact that I wasn’t offered tea and biscuits!
All in all, getting the first dose of the vaccine, despite being a nerve-racking experience, was a good one. The only side effects I had were being a little bit dozy (not ideal when I had a nightshift straight after I had the vaccine) and a bit of an achy arm. Both side effects I would happily have again if it means a) I don’t get COVID-19 and b) it keeps others safe.
Image courtesy of Hakan Nural.