Last week, I was one of the lucky ones; I got my Covid shot. Wanting share the story of how I managed to get my shot, with the sole purpose of trying to help others get theirs, I posted about it on Instagram. Within an hour of posting, I felt that it was upsetting people and quickly becoming politically so I deleted it. But a few friends, one of whom commented and emailed me about my vaccine, said that I should have left it up. My son told me that I should write about it here. So, once again, with a bit more detail, I am going to share my vaccination story.
On Wednesday night, my husband (61) and I (57) decided to try to get our Covid vaccinations. Dave had an appointment at the end of the month, and I had registered to book mine but hadn’t received an appointment time yet. With the numbers climbing so quickly and the variants being such a greater risk, we didn’t want to wait any more.
I had heard from a few people who had received their shots on a walk-in basis. Several people had posted about this in on Twitter and I knew of a few experiences first hand. One friend (and her husband) walked into our local hospital before it closed and asked if they had any extra vaccines; they got theirs on the spot. Another lady walked into our neighbourhood drug store and got hers the same way. To me, this made sense: vaccinate anyone you can at the end of the day rather than throw out what hasn’t been used. So Dave and I decided to try our luck.
We went to the hospital first as it was using the Pfitzer vaccine. It has a better success rate and, for this older asthmatic teacher who has close contact with youth every day, it was my first choice. However, the vaccines there had been spoken for, so we headed to the drug store.
“Are you sure you want the AstraZeneca?” Dave asked.
“If they are going to offer me a vaccine, I’m going to take it. It may not be as effective but it is better than nothing.” I went on to explain how our top doctors are advising us to get whatever vaccine we can. If we show any side effects, including blood clots (which are extremely rare), we’re still better off; any vaccine outweighs the risk of death.
After we checked in at the drug store and were told that we could both get our shot, my heart rate jumped. I was so excited about this extra layer of protection. I was prepared for the headaches or whatever side effects that could come my way (and I heard and read that the AstraZenica can be hard to handle). As the needle was jabbed into my upper arm, I felt the muscle swell immediately (notice the photo); I knew the next day was going to be rough.
Before we left, I asked the pharmacy if they still had extra doses for some of my friends. “Yes, but tell them to come now.” I messaged a few friends and one did – only to be turned away. Another called to confirm that they could get their shots; as 50 year olds, they could not.
This is where the system is flawed. There are so many people who are willing to get their vaccines but can’t because Public Health still won’t allow individuals under 55 years to get the AstraZeneca shot. Yet, Ontario is in a third lockdown, our hospitals are at capacity, and physicians are at the point where they are going to have to decide who lives. People working in warehouses, living in hotspots or under the age of 55: I’m sure hundreds would jump at the chance to have their arms jabbed, yet they can’t because of public health guidelines. So many doses don’t get used, and there are reports of them being thrown out, which is truly a waste. We need to do better. We need to loosen the restrictions. As our experts have said, any of the side effects can be dealt with more easily than Covid-19 and death.
Everyone reacts differently to the vaccine and, within a day of getting my shot (Wednesday night), I felt like I had been hit by a truck. I had a headache before I went to bed, and I woke up on Thursday morning feeling chilled – no fever, just cold. I tried to go continue with my day but when I was picking up groceries that afternoon, the nausea set in and it took all the focus I had to get home. By 5:30, I was in bed, thinking that I could sleep it off with a nap. Instead, I woke up at 11:00 pm with a queasy stomach, which I settled quickly with some salty crackers, and went back to bed. I slept on and off through the night with a pounding headache, queasiness and seriously aching joints. By 1:00 the following day (Thursday), I dragged myself out of bed. It wasn’t until Friday afternoon when I started to feel more like myself. Only today (Sunday) has the swelling in my arm returned to normal, but it still feels like it has been bruised. For someone who never gets sick, this felt extreme. But I am grateful for having had my vaccine, and am really glad that I did this during the break from school. There is no way that I could have taught after getting it.
Our government needs to do more to get vaccines to others. Loosen the restrictions, especially on AstraZeneca. Get mobile units into the warehouses and to high risk communities; ask organizations like the Canadian Red Cross and St. John Ambulance to help with this. And for Pete’s sake, if there are extras sitting in the fridges at the end of the day, give them to anyone – absolutely anyone – who still needs it. Lives depend on it.