At the time of writing, it’s been almost a week since I had my Covid-19 vaccine. It was an oddly emotional experience and I genuinely don’t remember the last time I felt as excited as I did when I was queuing at my local centre. Which is weird, because if you go right back to the very beginning of the pandemic, or rather, when they first started to develop the vaccine, there was a time when I was adamant that I would not be having it. I can’t remember if I ever spoke about it on my blog (I don’t think I did, because I didn’t want to get lynched – you all know about my severely desperate need for approval), but it’s the truth. However, it’s probably obvious by now that I changed my mind and went ahead with the vaccine. So, what changed my mind? I debated whether or not to write a post on it, but in the end, I thought of the people who were in the same mindset as me initially. I wanted to go into what changed my mind and how straightforward and un-scary the vaccine is.
I feel I should start off with a quick disclaimer by saying that I am not a medical professional and the following post is based on my own experience of having the Covid-19 vaccine. If you have any concerns regarding Covid-19, speak to a health professional or visit the WHO website. If you’re based in the UK, you can find out more on the Covid-19 vaccine by visiting the NHS website.
“I Don’t Want the Vaccine”
Around the early days of the Covid-19 vaccine being developed, I had already made up my mind. It wasn’t the first time I’d made a decision like that either – I refused the HPV vaccine over 10 years’ ago when I was offered it, because at the time, it was such a new thing. I was terrified of it, and of course, the whole idea behind it was that by vaccinating people against HPV, it was preventing cervical cancer. Of course, my irrational little 17-year old brain didn’t register that. Looking back, I think there was some small part of my brain that thought I was being injected with the cancer itself. Which, obviously, was not and is not the case. However, that small part of my brain that believed that was a powerful one. Powerful enough to stop me from having it. What followed was years of convincing myself I’d become a statistic. One of those young women under 25 who was diagnosed with cervical cancer too late because she was too young to be invited for smear tests, and it would be my own fault because I refused the HPV vaccine. That was a cruel thought that my OCD would often revert back to whenever there was an item on the news about screening, or a social media post, or even a storyline on Grey’s Anatomy. I then of course reached 25 and was offered my first screening. While I still have that intrusive thought every so often, I’m able to calm myself knowing I’m doing everything I can in the form of having my screening whenever I’m called. However, my point is, I could have saved myself a good 7 years of psychological torture, simply by having that bloody vaccine.
It’s a strange one. I’d always been scared of the flu vaccines, because I was terrified they’d give me the flu. Even though they say that’s not possible. I was still terrified. However, as a child I had all of the vaccinations they recommend – MMR, polio, diphtheria, meningitis C, the whole bunch. One could argue that, at the age I was when I had them, I didn’t have the choice. But even so, if I had a child of my own, I would 100% be taking them for the relevant jabs they needed. So why was I so terrified of the Covid-19 vaccine?
I think we all know the answer – OCD and health anxiety. Obvs.
My reason for initially snubbing the vaccine was a simple one – I didn’t trust it. Why should I trust something that scientists had essentially pulled out of their arses all of a sudden? The fact it came out as quickly as it did meant that they’d rushed it, right?
Of course, that was before I knew the whole story. I didn’t necessarily want to do any research, because I was scared that I’d find something that terrified me even more. Instead, I just stuck my head in the clouds. The only media sources that I paid attention to were shows like Mock the Week, The Last Leg, and The Russell Howard Hour, because the news was depressing AF, and if I was going to subject myself to it, I could at least take it with a touch of humour. It was through these sorts of shows that I learned more about the vaccine and how it had been rushed through as quickly as it did. There were several analogies put out there, but the one that got it to click was how Russell Howard puts it:
Some may argue that comedians aren’t the best people to get my health advice from, and I totally get that. I don’t know about you though, but I trust people like Russell Howard and Adam Hills all hell of a lot more than the absolute fuckwits that are running our country and the delusional asshats who suggested we inject ourselves with bleach to tackle the virus.
“Should I Get the Vaccine?”
As the vaccine started to get rolled out, I started thinking more about whether or not I should take it. Despite my fears around how quick it had been developed being mostly overcome, I was still worried about side effects. As the weeks progressed, I soon heard the news that my grandparents had their first vaccine. Upon calling my Nan, I was so happy and comforted to hear that both her and my Grandad were feeling fine, and that the whole process was easy and straightforward. Shortly after that, I heard that my Dad had his first dose too, and aside from the initial “I’m on the lookout for some six finger gloves,” he was in good spirits and was feeling fine.
It then got to the point where my Mum had her first vaccine. After her first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, she mentioned how she had severe fatigue and a general “under the weather” feeling for the few days after, which didn’t fill me with much confidence. From then on, I seemed to hear mixed reviews – I spoke to a number of people who had absolutely no side effects, but I was also reading about people being bed-ridden for days.
Then came the news about the AZ vaccine and blood clots – it was almost like no matter how much I tried to convince myself to get it, the universe would throw up another reason for me not to. That was of course before it was found that these blood clots were more common on the contraceptive pill than as a result of the Covid-19 vaccine. Yay for me being on the pill.
I’m not entirely sure what it was that changed my mind. It was definitely more of an over time thing than a sudden realisation though. It was a bit of a combination of things – little things like seeing those obligatory posts on Instagram and listening to Greg James calling people on the radio and singing them the Vaccination song (to the tune of Fascination by Alphabeat for those who don’t listen). But it was also a combination of the big stuff – seeing and hearing how excited people were to get their vaccines, and the idea that getting jabbed up would be one of the main ways that we could get some normality back. Yes, I was still shitting myself about side effects, but I tried to remind myself that at worst, a few days of feeling like crap was nothing compared to actually having Covid.
By the time I received a text on the 8th June telling me to book my Covid-19 vaccine appointment, I had made up my mind completely. I instantly went onto the NHS website and made my booking at one of the nearby vaccine sites, and not gonna lie, I was buzzing.
The date rolled around, and on the 15th June I headed down to my local centre. I had no idea what to expect, but it was all so well organised. There were marshalls everywhere, helping with parking to simply direct you to what queue you had to stand in. I lost count of the amount of times I had to confirm my details, but you certainly can’t say that they weren’t thorough. All of the volunteers running things were so lovely – everyone was smiling and friendly, so you couldn’t help but be in a good mood while you were there. They were hot on the hand sanitiser too, and there were St John Ambulance volunteers wiping down the chairs after each person too – it was one of the rare occasions I’d been in a public place and felt completely safe.
Following the initial check-in, I had to check-in at another point, where I was given a bunch of leaflets on the vaccine to read. I then joined another queue to sit down and speak to one of the nurses. I sat with a lovely nurse who asked me a few health questions and told me a bit more about any side effects I could expect. There was one tip she gave me that I followed religiously, and that was to drink plenty of water. She said drinking water would help to flush things through quicker and it would help to reduce the severity of any side effects – plus, it was a hot AF day anyway, so it would be worth drinking lots anyway.
I was then called to another section where I was greeted by two nurses – one who asked me to confirm my details again, and another who gave me the vaccine. It was so quick and I barely felt a thing. Because I had the Pfizer vaccine, I had to stay behind for 15 minutes afterwards, so I was directed to a recovery area to wait with everyone else, and when they were up, that was it. I’d been jabbed and was free to go.
Of course I was more nervous about the side effects of the Covid-19 vaccine than having the needle itself, but it was difficult to know what to expect. I had a bit of a tender arm pretty much within the first half hour of having the vaccine, but that was to be expected from what I’d heard from everyone else. I tried to just carry on as normal because I knew from experience that sitting and getting myself in a state would just be a huge mistake.
After a couple of hours, I started to feel a bit strange. My heart was racing, I was sweating, and I felt sick AF. However, in hindsight, I’m 95% sure this was all of the anxiety coming out. Yes, my anxiety about having side effects was coming out in the form of a panic attack, that subsequently convinced me I was having side effects. It’s so much fun being me.
Thankfully, this all passed after about half an hour, which, looking back, cements my theory that it was indeed more of an anxiety attack rather than side effects. However, as the rest of the day went on, I noticed that I started to get more and more tired, and by dinner time, I was hanging. Despite that though, I managed to stay up until 10pm, where I then had to admit defeat and go to bed.
When I woke up the next morning, surprisingly, I didn’t feel too bad. I felt a little bit under the weather (the best way I can describe it is that feeling you get when you’re coming down with a cold), but by lunchtime, it had passed and I felt pretty much back to normal, aside from a bit of a painful arm. However, by the Thursday evening, the pain had disappeared enough for me to be able to sleep on that side again!
If I were to sum it up in a nutshell, I’d say this – I’ve had worse hangovers.
I’d much rather take how I felt after having the vaccine than a hangover any day.
Now, I know that everyone’s different in how they react to these sorts of things, and the side effects that one person has may be completely different to someone else. However, I wanted to share my experience as someone who was, at first, incredibly skeptical about having it. I’ll admit, for the 24 hours after having it, I didn’t feel great, but I’ll take that any day over having Covid.
I don’t want to tell you how to live your life, and I don’t want to preach to you, but instead, I’ll say this: think of having the vaccine as doing your bit. If you’re fed up with staying home and wearing masks, have the bloody vaccine. The quicker we all get vaxxed, hopefully, the quicker we can come out of this bastard pandemic and get back to normal. You might get side effects, you might not, but at the end of the day, a few days of feeling a bit shitty is surely better than having the ‘Rona itself, right? Plus, if you don’t end up with any side effects, it’s a bonus. Of course, there’s bound to be people out there who aren’t good with needles, and I completely get that. My best advice on that front would be to be honest when you go for your appointment. The volunteers and nurses at the vaccine sites will be able to put you at ease, and remember, they’ll be fully trained to look after you if you’re prone to fainting. Drink plenty of water before you go, have a little something to eat, and tell the person who’s administering your vaccine that you’re feeling anxious. The first thing the nurse who did mine asked me was “are you okay with needles?” and even though I said I was “medium” with needles, she still told me to look away and chat to her colleague who was filling in my vaccination card. Trust me, they’ll be able to distract you, and if you do end up feeling a bit squiffy, they’ll know what to do to look after you.
Plus, with a bit of luck, you might even get a sticker.