I received the first injection of the Moderna vaccine yesterday. The Wife, in one of her near-daily outings to the doctor’s offices for the many (and growing) pains that plague her existence, noticed that there was a pop-up vaccination clinic at the hospital where her doctors offices are located, so she did what she always does when presented with an opportunity. She seized it. She got us both an appointment for the next day, and we went to get our first injections of the COVID vaccine.
We both have been on the list here in Austin for over a month now. I didn’t think I would qualify as 1-B. She did qualify when she checked and she begged me to check to see if I qualified or not. Sure enough, when I (honestly) answered all the questions asked, lo and behold I am also at risk and qualified to get the vaccine. Apparently, having a suppressed immune system is worth something after all.
The arm that I got the jab in is more than a bit sore today, and I feel like I’ve got a mild cold, the kind of cold that you almost feel ashamed to call into work to ask for time off for. Coughing, low fever, aches and pains. The stress is setting off my meniere’s symptoms too, but all in all this is a cakewalk. I’ve seen worse.
When I was a child I had to get a penicillin injection for some malady or other, I don’t remember what it was. The doctor and nurse failed to understand the fight or flight response that I would respond with after being jabbed in the ass with a needle, and the needle nearly broke off in my ass before the nurse and my mother managed to get me restrained. That is my first conscious memory of being vaccinated or injected with anything. It has colored my relationship with the medical profession and their favorite tool, the hypodermic needle, ever since.
Every time, through grade school, junior high, high school and into adulthood, every vaccination, from the TB tine test to the tetanus shot I had to get after stepping on a nail on a construction site somewhere, all of them have been greeted with the knowledge that this was the time when the needle would get me. It was finally going to kill me, like it tried to do that first time. None of those experiences come close to the one I had while trying to determine if I had a problem with my immune system.
Back when I was looking into causes for my Meniere’s symptoms, I consulted many specialists about possible conditions that could have lead to these symptoms. I have long thought that allergies were at the root of the cause for me, and I still don’t know one way or the other if this is true. But during the investigation I discovered that my immune system seemed a little sluggish, and the immunologist suggested we do a test to see if it really was a problem or not. I figured why not, and so I agreed to get a vaccination known as PPSV23 (Pneumococcal vaccine) and then get myself tested again to see how well my immune system responded to the vaccine.
After they jabbed me with that one, I really did think I was going to die, and the symptoms that I had following the vaccination only persuaded me further that this was true. Cold sweats. Hot flashes. Confusion. Body aches that had me hardly moving at all. The lymph node under my left arm, the arm that got the injection, swelled up to the size of a golf ball. I could barely move the arm, and I was essentially bedridden for a week with these symptoms.
After everything had cleared up, I got the immune test done and sure enough, the immune response was less than it should have been. A little more investigation showed, however, that I hadn’t gotten PPSV23 but instead gotten PCV13 (fewer variants) which meant that if I wanted to know how well my immune system responded to the correct vaccine, I’d have to repeat the experience again. So I did it. Again. As repeat performances go, that one was just as painful as the first one was, and as I was laying there bedridden for a second week, I realized on some level just how much my anxiety about the needle really made the entire experience so much worse than it had to be. The dread of the shot really wasn’t warranted, in a general sense. Because no experience before that one had been nearly as bad, and yet I still survived it, too.
Since that time I’ve gotten my flu shots twice a year, every year. I’ve donated blood a half-dozen times. Every time the needle is there and I just can’t look at it. Not if I want to stay sane. Every time the aftermath has been a cakewalk compared to those pneumonia vaccines. This vaccine, the COVID vaccine? It too is a cakewalk. I won’t be doing much other than watching TV for a few days. Even so, my lymph nodes are not visible under the skin yet; and for me, that is what cakewalk means when it comes to encounters with the needle.
Featured image from NIH: Peer-reviewed report on Moderna COVID-19 vaccine publishes
The second dose is frequently rumored to be much worse than the initial dose. I can only say that my second dose was less painful the first day, more painful the second day, and almost unnoticeable every day since. Other than the conviction that I was about to die for half of this last Saturday, from chest congestion that felt remarkably like pneumonia as well as body and joint aches that kept me from moving other than getting up to go to the bathroom, the experience has been a cakewalk, just like I said before. Much easier than getting a cold or the flu, which is not as bad as the disease this is a prevention for.
Don’t be stupid, go get vaccinated!