A news story announced online registration for the COVID vaccine in our area. Everyone was encouraged to register, if and only if, they were 75 years and older or have specific underlying conditions. For only the second time in recent memory my husband proudly owned up to his correct age of 75.
I quickly scanned the list of ‘approved’ underlying conditions and found the unwelcome auto-immune diagnosis the good doctor dropped on me like a bombshell almost exactly one year ago: polymyalgia rheumatica, meaning ‘pain in many muscles’. The unfortunate reality uncovered over the past year is that this malady – or perhaps more accurately, the once daily dose of prednisone treatment, causes poor outcomes to those contracting the virus.
And so it was that I too was eligible for online registration despite my somewhat more youthful age. After the website crashed from the load of its instant notoriety, both our names were on the list and a few days later we were notified of our place in line.
The line wrapped around several buildings and continued the entire length of the sprawling office complex that had been designated COVID Vaccination Headquarters writ large. People stood quietly, bound together by age, underlying conditions, and our desire for this life-saving shot.
Medics sat two at a table, situated six feet apart, with citizens positioned at each end of the tables. There was a low buzz throughout the gymnasium style room where people talked quietly, almost serenely through masks. I could see my husband sitting at the end of the table several rows in front of me. The medic was obviously asking him about the tattoo on his arm, the one he got when he was in the Marine Corp all those years ago. The medic preparing my shot was a paramedic from the local Fire Department and I couldn’t help but think what a change of pace this assignment must be for him, and how many days or months it might continue. The needle went in and back out again with no fanfare whatsoever. The large clock at either end of the room ticked off our 15-minute wait, and we headed home with a promise to return 28 days later. We wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
We both had a slight headache and a pretty sore arm after the first shot. I asked the medic just one question after my second shot, “What symptoms should I expect?” His answer was sympathetic but brief. “Flu-like. It’ll probably hit you around midnight. Last about 12 hours.”
Flu-like symptoms, minus the nausea, hit me a little after midnight and lasted somewhat more than twelve hours. I floundered on the sofa through most of it. Meanwhile, my husband felt absolutely nothing after the second shot – but of course. My sister had my second-shot side effects after her first shot. One of our neighbors had no side effects, the other felt miserable all weekend. Like everything, it seems to be individual.
Redness, swelling and soreness of the arm is common with the first shot. Tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever and nausea are common after the second shot. The side effects are because of the inflammatory proteins working to get rid of what the body believes to be an outsider – which is not the actual virus, but a replica of the virus’ spike protein within the vaccine. There is no live virus in the vaccine.
My personal observation is that women have a greater reaction than men, but people 55 and younger appear to suffer more from side effects than seniors since the younger body has a stronger immune system and more capacity to mount an immune response. However, “no pain, no gain” does not apply. The vaccine works even when there’s no side effects.
THE PSYCHOLOGY OF HOPE AND FEAR
Life didn’t change instantly for us after the vaccine, but eventually we became slightly more adventurous. We’ve recently gotten together with friends for the first time. My husband’s son and new wife made a surprise visit. When our friends got their vaccines, we all hugged. The biggest change is not so much a feeling of victory, but that we now have body armor. And that’s a game changer.
The virus significantly changed our lives in 2020 because we were afraid we would experience the worst of all outcomes. That we may die from COVID. Fear makes you feel powerless. Eventually it can make you suspicious of things, and in its most extreme form, it can make you feel out of control.
Joyce McFadden wrote about hope and fear in 2008: “The best part of fear is that it teaches us what we’re afraid to lose, and the best part of hope is that once we know what we’re afraid of losing we can set about nurturing it and keeping it strong and safe. And hope should be by far the greater force in this equation. Fear is the prompt. Hope is the way. Fear is about trying to survive something. Hope is about knowing why you want to. Hope creates space in the mind and heart. Fear, more often than not, restricts it.”
Having lived in fear, I would much rather view the world through the lens of hope than through the grip of fear.
You’ve probably heard that the COVID vaccine represents a breakthrough technology. This technology is so easily edited that scientist have good reason to believe it will be used against other devastating diseases, such as malaria, the seasonal flu, or to fight off cancer, neurodegenerative and psychiatric disorders. In mouse trials, the mRNA therapies slow and reverse the effects of multiple sclerosis. This technology could change the world.
In the near term, the vaccine offers a path back to normal. In the long term, it offers the world hope. And the thing about hope is that it’s contagious, it creates momentum. People that have hope are motivated forward.
A record +4.08 Million doses of the vaccine were administered on Saturday, April 3rd.
In the U.S., roughly 162 million people (31.4% of us), have had at least one dose, and 18% are fully vaccinated.
If you or someone you know are reluctant about taking the shot, reach out to trusted sources and learn more about what concerns you. The links below offer information from varying viewpoints that may be helpful. The more people know, the more confident they will feel. We can do this, but only together.
Click on an image to learn more.