Editorial: A personal COVID-19 vaccination experience

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Column By Robert VanBuhler

Robert VanBuhler

Life has been very different since last February. Observing the mask and distance protocols has meant not going to see my children and grandchildren who are all in the Phoenix area. The children are all back at work and have more public interactions, so my wife and I opted to lessen our risks by minimizing social contacts. Some folks are apprehensive about the vaccine. I thought it might be useful to share my experiences.

My daughter and son-in-law, who are medical professionals, urged us to take full precautions, so we have done son. They both received the Pfizer vaccine as members of category I-A and both experienced some moderate discomforting reactions to the shots, but nothing serious.

Last week, my medical provider, the Gila Valley Clinic, offered me an opportunity to exercise my eligibility for vaccination as a 75+ person. Most Valley providers now have the vaccine in quantities appropriate to the I-A and I-B categories. The vaccine I received was the Moderna type, which is different than the Pfizer brand.

It started for me with a phone call from Gila Valley Clinic offering to schedule me for the COVID vaccination. My voluntary appointment was set for Saturday morning at 8:45 a.m.

Similar to Maricopa County, the clinic asked people to arrive by car and stay in the vehicle. The medical staff approached the car and signed me in for my appointment. Screening involved a brief set of questions and a spot check of my body temperature.

After a wait of only a couple of minutes, a nurse arrived at my car to administer the vaccine. Since small needles are all that is required for intermuscular vaccinations, it was quickly and expertly administered, and she was done before I realized she had begun.

A staff medical doctor was on site at all times to supervise the activity and there was numerous well-trained nursing and support staff on hand to make the process quick and easy. I was asked to remain on-site, in my vehicle, for 10minutes or so. A member of the medical staff came to make sure I was not experiencing any negative reaction to the vaccine. I was then scheduled for the second dose, to be administered 28 days later, and I was told I was good to go.

When receiving the vaccine, the recipient is given the VIS, or Vaccine Information Sheet, and an invitation to sign up for CDC monitoring of your post inoculation condition via cellphone. Once you sign up, they contact you and ask you to fill out a small anonymous checklist. For a while after the shot, they will check on you by smartphone every day at about 2 p.m. The CDC V-Safe process will enable them to monitor everyone’s experience with the two vaccines and enable CDC to grant final approvals. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are still currently only under emergency approval, which was granted late last year after passing field trials for safety and effectiveness.

For most folks, some reaction may occur when you get home. My personal reaction to the vaccine was noticeable but what the clinic predicted. I felt a bit tired until around 3:30 p.m. and had a bit of a headache. I experienced no loss of appetite or fever of any kind. Following the advice of the clinic, I took it easy the rest of the day. I slept well all night long. On Sunday morning, the only “after effect” was an awareness that I received a shot the day before. Your arm will tell you so.

Currently, the vaccination is optional. However, I hope sharing my experience is useful to those choosing to receive the vaccine and those on the fence. It gives you a glimpse of the procedure and what to expect. Hopefully, like me, your reaction will be modest in nature. But in my opinion, getting the vaccine when it is offered to your profession or age group will help us all get past the pandemic.

I look forward to my wife being immunized, but she is in the II-A group. She will be eligible for her vaccine in March. Until then we will maintain the mask and social distance protocol until our whole family is vaccinated and the CDC gives the USA the all-clear. Until told otherwise by a responsible authority, we will respect our friends and neighbors by supporting the protocols.

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