Getting The Second Vaccine

Who would ever have thought the primary topic of conversation with friends, family members and strangers would be: Have you been vaccinated yet? I actually chuckle internally every time I ask someone this question. It seems so personal, yet—despite all the federal legislation (i.e. HIPAA laws) meant to protect our medical information from being shared freely and publicly—everyone is talking about it.

And then, of course, the next question is, “Moderna or Pfizer?” And now, Johnson & Johnson has their vaccine approved, so I am guessing the conversation will change again.

The challenge for some of us is securing an appointment to get the first (and second) shots. We had planned to go to Hawaii last October, but due to a snafu at our local (Hawaii travel-approved) drug store where we had our COVID test scheduled, we had to cancel our planned vacation. So, I have been paying close attention to the news and social media to see how successful my friends have been in getting their vaccines.

As luck would have it, two months ago, a friend posted a photo on Facebook of her 75-year-old mother getting her first vaccine at Planned Parenthood here in Orange County, California. I know that Planned Parenthood is well-known for providing affordable health care services for women and men, but I had no idea they were delivering vaccines. So, I texted my friend, and it turned out that Planned Parenthood was giving vaccines to a small group of staff, board members, etc. Since they provide health care services that made sense to me, just like other health care workers would have priority access to the vaccine. Well, due to my persistence and interest, I was able to get an access code for Jack and me to get vaccinated a few days later at our local Planned Parenthood.

I have to say, it was invigorating to have an access code, and I almost couldn’t sleep the night before in anticipation. Our first vaccine was on Sunday January 31, and—besides a slightly sore arm—there were no immediate side effects. However, I did sense a bit more fatigue during the following week, but it could be that I have been working out a lot lately and didn’t take a break when we received our shots.

(Jack and me after getting our first vaccine)

Four weeks later we received a text reminder of our appointment for our second vaccine. Like most people, I had read mixed messages about the potential for a reaction to the second shot. Most people (whether the vaccine was from Moderna or Pfizer) said they only had a slightly sore arm after the first vaccine and then it was a split reaction after the second. You either had NO reaction, or you got the chills and a fever and spent a day resting in bed.

Having no idea how we would react, both Jack and I cleared our calendar for the day after our second vaccines. As luck would have it, Jack had no reaction at all. No soreness, no fatigue, nothing. And me? Even though I set my mind that I would have no reaction, I got progressively colder and colder about 3 hours after my second shot, and I was pretty lethargic that evening. I went to bed early, and found myself with a slight fever all night (around 100 degrees). I took it easy the next day, staying in bed and sleeping, and at about 3 p.m. I got up and took a shower. By 6 p.m. (32 hours after the shot), I felt completely normal!

I spoke to many, many friends who had Moderna like we did, and also to those who had the Pfizer vaccine. There was no consistency in how people physically reacted to their second vaccine. Except that everyone had a sense of relief! Being vaccinated makes it feel like you’re one step closer to getting back to a “normal” life.

So here is my advice to you, if you have not yet arranged to get vaccinated:

  1. The science is clear. Getting vaccinated will protect you from severe COVID-19. There is no guarantee that you won’t get the virus, but if you do, it should be extremely mild.
  2. Be persistent in signing up to get vaccinated. If you are waiting for someone to call you and let you know you can get it, you will likely be waiting a very long time. Longer than is necessary. Do a search on the Internet for your county. Here in So Cal, there are many ways to sign up. But if you don’t spend at least 30-45 minutes online doing a search, you will be last in line.
  3. Check with your employer or your health care provider to see if they can assist you in getting an access code or priority access. Being persistent and diligent helps! (Several of my co-workers successfully helped each other find ways to sign up, even though they are younger than 65.)
  4. Tell everyone you know once you are vaccinated! Spreading the good news, whether by posting photos on social media or just having conversations, lets other people know they can feel confident to do the same. Confidence creates more confidence!

One of the best sources of rational and accurate information I have received has been from a blog/newsletter written by Dr. Lucy Miller McBride, an internal medicine doctor based in Washington, D.C. She is upbeat, realistic and always has the most current information, based on facts and science. You can visit her website here . . . Lucy McBride, MD. I encourage you to sign up for her newsletter.

I’m looking forward to traveling and entertaining and going back to more normal times! Feel free to share your vaccination story with me!

Karen