What it’s like to get the COVID-19 vaccine

It’s hard to believe that we finally have a vaccine for COVID-19. For more than a year since the virus first hit the U.S. – for many, one if the longest and most painful – it was almost impossible to imagine having a true defense against transmission.  Thankfully, Oregonians have to imagine no longer.

Recently, K-12 educators and Oregonians 70 years and older have been deemed eligible for the vaccine, with OHA currently stating that 548,398 people have received the vaccine. With vaccination numbers on the rise and m ore and more people becoming eligible, it can seem stressful to try and plan an appointment, as well as the process that occurs at vaccination sites.

As a healthcare worker, I have been fortunate enough to receive both doses of the Pfizer vaccine, and have been able to witness the process. 

For my first vaccine, I arrived at the Oregon Convention Center, my local vaccination site, to the longest line I had seen in a year. I showed up 10 minutes before I was supposed to receive it, and ended up having to wait another two hours. The line looped around the entire facility, and when I thought I was reaching the end of it, I would turn the corner to see another 20 minutes worth of line. 

Still, showing up earlier than you think you should is a must. At the end of the line, I was asked to fill out a questionnaire about allergies. It’s important to list anything, and they do mean anything. For example, my allergy to penicillin raised some mild concern, and they considered monitoring me for an extended amount of time after the administration. 

After the questionnaire, I was checked in by a nurse and then moved to the final line, at the end of which was a quick, painless vaccination. I then moved to a waiting area to be monitored for a minimum of 15 minutes, at the end of which I was  allowed to leave. My second appointment went even quicker, though this is likely due to it taking place on Feb. 15, right in the middle of the recent winter storm. I was able to get this vaccine in about an hour. All in all, the entire process was very efficient and safe, with markers indicating six foot distancing throughout the entire line.

After the vaccine, however, comes the truly painful part: the side effects, which are typically expected within three or so days after receiving a dose. After my first dose, I felt nothing at all besides some minor soreness in the arm where I received the shot. The second dose, however, was where it really started to kick in. After two days without feeling anything, I woke on the next to an agonizing migraine and waves of nausea. After an hour or two of debilitating pain, it took some acetaminophen to finally stop the pain. These were the effects I felt, but their severeness and where the pain affects your body can vary from person to person. While you may feel nothing at all, it’s important to be prepared with some painkillers and nausea medicine as you may be out of commission for a day.

Overall though, the long lines, nausea, and headache were all worth it for the relief of being vaccinated. After over a year of quarantining, it’s nice to finally have something to quell the fear this virus has brought to us. While we still have to follow the requirements to stay safe, and while this certainly isn’t the end yet, it’s nice to know that we’re moving one big step closer to it.