What’s it like to get a COVID-19 vaccine? We interviewed essential frontline workers to get their vaccine experience.

Mohamed Eltayeb

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 35 million vaccines have been distributed in the United States. 14 million Americans have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, while 2 million people have been fully vaccinated. What’s it like to get a COVID-19 vaccine? We interviewed essential frontline workers to get their vaccine experience.

Health-care professionals, essential works, senior citizens, and individuals with underlying conditions are given priority access to the vaccine as part of the country’s phased rollout. We spoke with two essential frontline workers from the State of Colorado who received an initial dose of the vaccine on their experience. 

Sena Fuad:

Did you ever test positive for COVID-19?

I did not test positive for COVID-19 prior to getting the vaccine. I did have an anti-body test with a non-reactive result indicating that I had not been exposed to it in the past.

Why did you take the vaccine?

I decided to receive the COVID-19 vaccine because I am a frontline essential worker.

The decision to receive it was completely a personal choice and in no way was I forced to get the vaccine. I made the decision to get it after doing my research and weighing the risks associated with getting the virus itself. I knew going into it that getting vaccinated was not only going to protect me, but it would also protect people around me, especially those at increased risk for severe illness from COVID.

When did you take the vaccine?

I received the first dose of the vaccine on December 26th and I am scheduled to receive the second dose on January 23, 2021. Clinical trials have shown that the COVID-19 vaccines may provide limited protection after the first dose- However, it requires two vaccines for full protection. Depending on which vaccine you receive, your booster dose will be scheduled 21 (Pfizer) or 28 (Moderna) days after the first injection.

Which particular vaccine did you take?

I received the Moderna vaccine simply because it was what was available at the time. I know a lot of people have questions about the difference between the manufacturers. There’s so much information online but other than a few inconsequential dissimilarities, they’re essentially the same. Both vaccines trigger immunity, with varying delivery systems.

Describe the process in taking the vaccine?

The process of taking the vaccine was very simple. I checked in online using my patient portal and was directed towards the vaccination area where a nurse had prepared my dose. She then proceeded to asked me a few questions such as any underlying medical conditions, allergies, and for women, pregnancy status. Since there is no data currently available on the safety of the vaccines in patients with specific underlying conditions, it’s important to check with your primary care provider before getting the vaccine. I was also counseled on expected local and systemic post vaccination symptoms.

How did you feel before taking the vaccine?

I did not feel any different after the vaccine. I did notice getting tired overall about an hour after receiving it.

How did you feel after taking the vaccine?

Immediately after the vaccine, I was shown to a waiting area where I sat for about 15-20 minutes before I could leave. I imagine this was to see if I had any immediate severe reactions to the injection.

What symptoms did you feel after taking the vaccine?

The only side effects I experienced were mild injection site pain and tiredness. Both slowly went away in about 3 days. While it is not recommended to take a pain reliever before the vaccine, you can take acetaminophen for any symptoms that are bothersome which I did. Additionally, I reported my symptoms to the CDC using the v-safe tool on the CDC website.

What do you want others to consider when they are deciding whether or not to take the vaccine?

It’s imperative to have the right information about the vaccine when considering whether or not to take it. You can call your local hospital as most hospitals offer COVID-19 hotlines. As a general rule of thumb, if you’re not sure if you should get the vaccine, you can always check with your doctor.

Any myths you want to address?

Absolutely. First being that it is super important to listen to reputable sources such as the Center for Disease Control (CDC) or the Colorado Department of Public Health (CDPHE). Both vaccines contain mRNA, but neither have the ability to make the virus. This indicates that the vaccine cannot give you the COVID-19 infection.

It is recommended that you get the vaccine even if you have had COVID-19 because you can catch it more than once. However, you should wait to be vaccinated if you actively have the infection in order to complete your isolation period.

Lastly, Vaccine ≠ No mask. This simply means that we should continue to wear our masks even after receiving the vaccine since it will most likely take up to one year to vaccinate everyone in the state.

Firan Wolde:

Did you ever test positive for COVID?

I have not tested positive for COVID till this day.

Why did you take the vaccine? Was it for personal reasons or something else?

When the vaccine was first announced, I was very suspicious of the vaccine. I spoke with people around me consistently about their thoughts and read an article about the details of the vaccine as well. After much thought and research, I decided to continue with the vaccination. I wouldn’t say it was for personal reasons but considering that certain companies will soon require a COVID Vaccination Card to do things or enter certain places, I decided to get it over with now especially because they offer the vaccinations to healthcare professionals/workers first i wouldn’t worry as much as when the public gets it.

When did you take the vaccine?

I took my first dose of the COVID Vaccine on January 13, 2021. My second dose will be held on February 3, 2021.

Which particular vaccine did you take?

I took the ​​​​Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

Describe the process in taking the vaccine.

I work at an assisted living and memory care facility so the process was very unique and specific. It started with filling out forms where you either opt in to get the vaccine or you opt out. I was told that the administrators for the vaccines only bring shots for the ones who opted in for the vaccine.

So, if an individual opts out but decides last minute to take the vaccine, there wouldn’t be enough or extras for that individual. With this being said, I opted in and had until the actual vaccination day to opt out if I changed my mind. Our facility had to have a designated area for the vaccinations to occur and they were strict with how the area was set up with chairs and tables and how many come down at a time. After you get your vaccination, they give you a sticker with the time that you took the shot and you go to another area to sit and be observed for 15 minutes. These 15 minutes observations are if anyone has a reaction or feels sick/ill after getting the vaccination. After the 15 minutes, if you feel fine, you are able to continue your regular activities for the day.

How did you feel before taking the vaccine?

I was very nervous before taking the vaccine. I was questioning myself if I should or shouldn’t do it and also thinking hard about what would happen if I did get a reaction to the vaccine.

How did you feel after taking the vaccine?

Usually after vaccinations, I get very weak and lightheaded but with the COVID vaccine I did not feel anything or experience any symptoms that I usually would have felt with a regular flu shot or other vaccines.

What symptoms did you feel after taking the vaccine? (Describe in detail)

I received my vaccination at 12:06PM. After my vaccination, I was observed for 15 minutes and I felt fine throughout the whole process. I finished my work shift at 2PM and went home and had a regular/typical day. Towards the end of the night approximately 6-9PM, I started to have slight headaches and it got worse through the night and my arm that I took the vaccine on was very sore. The soreness on my arm prevents me from lifting my arm above a certain angle. As the headaches progressed, I took 2 pills of Tylenol and went to sleep earlier than usual. The next morning, I was feeling much better and although the soreness wasn’t completely gone, it felt better and tolerable.

What do you want others to consider when they are deciding whether or not to take the vaccine?

I want others to consider the world we live in and how dramatically it has changed and

the consequences we deal with now because of COVID-19. Not only is our social life taken from us but the ability to move freely has too. Considering the changes that can happen with high participation of the COVID-19 Vaccine can have a change in the world that can lead us to a better and somewhat normal lifestyle. It’s understandable that people might not want to take the vaccine but I encourage people to do extensive inside research on what the vaccine consists of and the advantages and disadvantages of getting the vaccination. I’m sure everyone misses how life was before the pandemic, so let’s all make a change for the better.

Any myths you want to address?

One myth I heard is about the changes the vaccine can make to your genetics, I have not experienced any changes thus far and feel completely normal. Second, I didn’t twitch! 🙂 Social media has gotten to a lot of people’s minds about what can happen after receiving a vaccine and it’s all lies.

To contact Mohamed Eltayeb, you can reach him through Twitter or send him an email at therealeltayeb@gmail.com

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