Patient Safety

I got the COVID Vaccine, have you?

By Michael Wong, JD (Executive Director, Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety)

Here is my story of efforts to get the COVID vaccine, waiting, waiting, and more waiting … and then finally receiving the first dose of Pfizer COVID vaccine.

Like many people around the country – and indeed the world – I met the news of approval of vaccines against COVID-19 with joy and some trepidation. Joy because a COVID vaccine could mean an end to physical distancing and mask wearing, and a return to some normalcy. 

There is No Cure for COVID-19

The anti-COVID vaxxers will tell you that there is a cure for COVID-19 – this is FALSE! Don’t let this misinformation prevent you from protecting yourself and your loved ones.

There are treatments that are being used to try to stop the progression of COVID-19, but there is NOT a cure for COVID-19. 

Getting the COVID Vaccine is Not Worse Than Getting COVID

The anti-COVID vaxxers will also tell you that getting the vaccine is worse than getting COVID – this is FALSE! Don’t let this misinformation prevent you from protecting yourself and your loved ones.

Researchers have found that there are long-term effects of getting COVID-19. Anthony L. Komaroff, MD (Editor in Chief, Harvard Health Letter) writes 

“When people first started getting sick with COVID, doctors thought that it affected primarily the lungs. Unfortunately, we quickly learned that it also could affect the heart, kidneys, brain, and other organs.

“There also are people who survived COVID and have no evidence of injury to the heart, kidneys, or brain — but who nevertheless have not returned to full health. They still have fatigue, body aches, shortness of breath, difficulty concentrating, inability to exercise, headache, and trouble sleeping. Some studies find that more than 50% of people who “recovered” from COVID remain hobbled by these symptoms three months later. They can’t return to work. They can’t fulfill their responsibilities at home. They are being called “long haulers.”

The Mayo Clinic, in looking at those who get mildly sick from COVID, concluded:

“some people — even those who had mild versions of the disease — continue to experience symptoms after their initial recovery.

“These people sometimes describe themselves as ‘long haulers’ and the condition has been called post-COVID-19 syndrome or ‘long COVID-19.’

“Older people and people with many serious medical conditions are the most likely to experience lingering COVID-19 symptoms, but even young, otherwise healthy people can feel unwell for weeks to months after infection.

I also met the news of COVID vaccine approval with some trepidation. I like many people who had questions about how the vaccine works, been tested, and approved:

  • Is the vaccine safe?
  • What are the side effects of taking the vaccine?
  • Was the approval of the vaccine politically motivated?

My Experience Getting the COVID Vaccine

However, what I probably should have feared most was the uncertainty and the efforts I would need to exert to get an appointment to receive the vaccine. I signed up on my state’s site to get the vaccine when it was approved and dutifully filled out the state requirements – giving my age, address, whether I was a frontline worker, whether I had an existing condition … and waited, and waited, and waited …

After some time and not getting an appointment for a vaccine shot, despite being in a priority group, my local news told me that individual clinics and hospitals were providing the vaccine outside of the state registration site. In short, a double vaccine system had been created – one run by the state in which I resided and one run by healthcare facilities that were able to get supplies of the COVID vaccine – in short, chaos!

When there was news that pharmacies were getting the COVID vaccine, I searched those sites online – no result.

I even entered into daily “lotteries” to get the vaccine – no result.

Then, out of the blue, I won the vaccine lottery – I got an email from a local hospital asking me to schedule a time to take the vaccine. I didn’t hesitate and scheduled the first available appointment for a few days later – and received back a confirmation of the time, as well as instructions to bring the email, ID, and proof of insurance. The email also said to “Please wear a mask when you arrive and ensure you wear clothing that allows access to your upper arm” and warned “If you have a fever or cold/respiratory symptoms on the date of your vaccine appointment, you will not be able to proceed with your vaccination.”

At the appointed time, I went to the vaccine site, a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) “mega” site at a nearby convention center. Even though it was still quite early in the morning, the parking lot at the convention center was full and a small queue of people had already formed at the entrance.

At the entrance, I showed the greeter my cell phone confirming my appointment, and then I found the end of the line. Looking at the long line, I thought that this is just like standing in line at Disneyland – only a fun ride was not at the end, only a much needed vaccine. Thankfully the line moved very quickly and I soon came to the first of four stations – at this first station, I showed my driver’s license and received back a numbered card, with the instructions that the card would be collected at the end.

I then joined another fast-moving line that brought me to the second station – the registration desk. Here I was greeted by a very pleasant young man from FEMA. As he entered the required information on a laptop, we chatted. I found that he was with the local national guard, that he is going to get married soon, and that he hopes to travel the world with his new wife.

He then sent me on my way to the third station filled with many partitions behind which clinicians were providing the vaccine shots to individuals. The nurse asked me whether this was my first dose of the vaccine, whether I had had COVID-19, and whether I had any of the medical conditions listed in large type on the 8.5” by 11” sheet. She told me that about 4,000 shots would be administered that day at the site (I don’t think she told everyone this – we were just chatting, I was curious and she was happy to engage in friendly discussion). She then proceeded to very efficiently put one end of a band aid on my left arm, swab the area to be injected, give the injection, and put the other end of the band-aid on my arm. 

Getting the COVID vaccine shot was no different than getting any other vaccine.

The nurse then told me to go to the fourth and final station where I was to wait for 15 minutes before departing (negative reactions like anaphylaxis appear within the first few minutes of vaccination). She explained that I was also going to get a text scheduling my second vaccine dose, and that if I had any questions that there were people at the fourth station to answer my questions.

I did indeed get a text to schedule my next dose – which I scheduled for three weeks hence. As I waited for 15 minutes, I also signed up at the CDC site vsafe.cdc.gov, where in exchange for some basic contact information, I was told that vsafe would periodically check-in to see that I was ok. vsafe.cdc.gov has indeed checked in with me as promised. At this fourth station, there was also staff roaming around to ensure that all vaccine recipients were ok. 

When my allotted 15 minutes were up, I exited the mega-site, where I turned in the numbered card I received at the first station and received a small bottle of hand sanitizer – good for use in the car, I thought.

The whole process from start to finish – about an hour.

Side effects – none. I have had NO side effects from getting the COVID vaccine. I have not had an anaphylactic event or Bill Gates’ microbes inserted into my bloodstream.

My advice – get the COVID vaccine when you can! 

 

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