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COVID-19: What happened when I got the vaccine

Our Research Editor heard from two women in her family about their experience of getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Here is what they told her.

As vaccines are slowly rolling out across the globe, more and more people will get the opportunity to have their COVID-19 vaccine shots.

Many of us may be wondering what to expect.

To find out more about what happens before, during, and after the vaccination, I asked two women in my family to share their experiences of getting their COVID-19 vaccinations.

My name is Shelly. I am originally from the United States but currently live in Jerusalem, Israel.

As for the flu vaccine, I received an email message from my health service telling me it was time for me to get the vaccine, and they gave me a number to call for an appointment. It took me several tries to get through by phone, and once I did, I was on hold for an hour.

Then, it was a matter of minutes to set up the appointments, one for 3 weeks after the first.

The appointments were for December 27, 2020, and January 17, 2021, at a facility a 5-minute walk from home. But the week before the appointment, I received a call from the health service saying that they were not able to administer the vaccines at that location, so could I please come to the Pais Arena on December 22 and January 13?

I quickly looked up the location on a map and agreed. The sooner the better!

On December 22, I walked the 3 miles to the arena, stopping on the way at the Gazelle Valley to see if I could spot any gazelles. I saw several. Then, it was another half-hour walk to the arena and 10 minutes to find the right entrance.

After that, it was smooth sailing. At the door, I took a number, checked in at the desk, and filled out a small form, giving my name and ID number and answering a couple of questions.

The form indicated that I’d be receiving the Pfizer vaccine. Then, I sat down in one of the socially distanced chairs in the waiting area to watch the big screen and wait till my number came up. I had come early and waited about 20–30 minutes, then headed to the cubicle indicated on the screen.

I was in the cubicle with the nurse for under 2 minutes, in which time the nurse accepted my form, swabbed my arm, told me that afterward I needed to wait 15 minutes before leaving the arena, asked if I had any other questions, and gave me the injection.

In typical Israeli fashion, within that time, we also determined that we both had lived in Cleveland. If I had stayed a few more minutes, we might have discovered that we were related…

Getting the shot was no big deal at all. Afterward, I sat out in the waiting area, moving my arm as much as possible, waited 15 minutes, and headed home. Worried that I might feel tired or whatever, I even took the bus.

My arm was sore for a couple of days, and I might have been a little fatigued, but that was that. One down, one to go.

I had heard that the second shot was more likely to cause a reaction, so I prepared in advance, cooking up a big pot of chicken soup (aka Jewish penicillin) and canceling any appointments for the following 2 days.

Once again, I walked the 3 miles to the arena, took a number, and waited for my turn. The nurse this time confirmed my identity on his tablet, swabbed my arm, and gave me the injection. As I left the cubicle, he said, “Bye-bye, corona!”

I waited 15 minutes and walked home. Again, my arm was a little sore for a couple of days. I ended up putting most of the chicken soup in the freezer.

I have heard from one friend who had a somewhat allergic reaction to the first shot — this is apparently common for her — but no side effects from the second. Other friends just reported a little pain at the injection site.

My name is Janet. I live on the South Coast of England, near Brighton.

On Monday, January 18, 2021, the British government announced that people over the age of 70 and those who are clinically extremely vulnerable would start to get their invitations for the COVID-19 vaccine.

I received a call from my doctor’s surgery 2 days later, and they asked me if I would like an appointment to have my jab.

I was quite surprised. I thought at 78 I probably would not get a call until the middle of February.

They offered me an appointment in the afternoon the following day. I explained that I could only keep that appointment if I could take my two granddaughters because they are in my bubble, and I was going to be looking after them for the day.

They told me that I couldn’t take them but offered me an alternative appointment at 6:40 in the evening, which I took up.

When I turned up at the vaccination center at the local village hall, the car park was full. It was so busy, even at that time of night. But it was all very, very organized. The floor was marked out all the way from the car park, right down a long corridor, and into a huge room.

There were wardens, for want of a better expression, making sure we stayed in the squares that were marked on the floor every 6 feet.

It was all very friendly. When I got in, I didn’t have to wait very long. I gave my details and was ticked off on a list. I didn’t have to produce ID.

Then, somebody came and guided me to a seat. I didn’t sit very long before I was then called to have my vaccination.

The vast majority of people I saw were roughly in the same age group as me, but there was a younger guy ahead of me when I arrived. He was asked to show his ID.

I noticed that there were five booths doing vaccinations, with two people in each booth.

When I got to my seat, the lady introduced herself and asked me if I felt well and all the usual questions, like had I ever been allergic to anything like penicillin, or did I have an EpiPen. Negative to both was my answer.

She explained that I was having the Pfizer vaccine and that I would have to sit for 15 minutes afterward.

While I was talking to the lady who was about to give me the injection, another lady with a computer was documenting all this information.

I think she also documented the number of the vial of vaccine that I had. At least that’s what it looked like.

I had the vaccine in the top of my left arm. It was totally painless.

She said to wait a couple of minutes while they were typing it all up and asked me if I was feeling all right.

She then asked me to go into the next room and explained that they would phone me any time between the next 3 and 12 weeks for the second vaccination.

She asked if was I happy with that, which I was. I then sat in the other room, where the chairs were very spaced out, and there were two or three staff monitoring everyone who sat there.

We were timed in and timed out. They told me when it was my time to leave, and out I went. It was all very friendly, very, very organized, and very professional.

I went home with four pages of detailed information sheets about COVID-19 and the vaccine.

I haven’t had any pain or any other side effects since having the vaccine 3 days ago. I don’t normally have side effects when I get a seasonal flu shot.

I feel very lucky to have had the vaccine.

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