‘It’s always good to feel like you’re doing your bit’: Kathryn on getting Covid-19 vaccinated
Getting vaccinated, or the simple thought of it, can be anxiety inducing; more so for some than others. I have been a recipient of the flu vaccine for as long as I can remember, so for me, and many others with health conditions, vaccines are an every year occurence to help keep ourselves safe. For those who perhaps haven't had a vaccine since early childhood, or school, I can imagine the prospect could be a little more daunting; Will it hurt? What might the side effects be? Is it really important?
In February of this year, I was one of the 1.7 million people added to the existing list of clinically extremely vulnerable individuals, and whilst I'd been taking extra precautions throughout the pandemic, it felt isolating, and only reinforced how vulnerable I could be if I were to contract Covid-19.
However, this change enabled me to access the vaccine a little earlier than my original placing in group 6 for vaccine priority. I had been eagerly awaiting the vaccine and following news of its progress, but it came around very suddenly. I was anxious about it, not about the science or the safety, but about the side effects. I had seen horror stories online of crippling flu-like symptoms, vomiting and fainting, alongside equally nerve wracking reports from fellow Type 1 Diabetics who had suffered extreme high and low blood sugar levels as a result. ButI had to keep reminding myself - any side effects of the vaccine would not be as bad as suffering from Covid-19 whilst unvaccinated, particularly as someone more at risk. And, as in many situations, those with the worst vaccine experiences would likely be shouting the loudest about it.
After receiving my official shielding letter it was time to book my vaccine appointment. Living at home rather than at university at the time, I was worried I may not receive the relevant letters, or be able to book an appointment locally as my GP was back in my university city. Fortunately it was simple, all I needed to do was choose my closest vaccine centre, regardless of my current living situation.
The day of my vaccine rolled around quickly. I was a little nervous, and unsure as to whether to pre-empt side effects and take paracetamol prior to my jab. I decided against it knowing I could always take some later, plus, I hadn't experienced any notable side effects from previous flu, meningitis or HPV vaccines.
Checking in was simple, and I didn't have to wait long. The nurse on duty asked me a series of questions; did I take blood thinning medication? Had I checked my blood sugar levels? Was there any chance I could be pregnant?
Once answered, I was vaccinated, and within 5 minutes I was good to go. They would only make you wait 15 minutes if you felt like you needed it, or if you were driving. I waited with anticipation for any side effects to kick in, but with the exception of shivers during the night and an incredibly sore arm, I was fine. Certainly nothing to write home about. The biggest side effect for me was the impact it had on my blood sugar levels, high straight after, with a quick and dramatic drop several hours later. Luckily, it was easy to fix.
I received my second vaccine in May. In the space between, the guidance had changed regarding vaccines for the under 30s - no more AstraZeneca. Having received AZ for my first dose, I was a little nervous, but was quickly reassured by the additional questions at my second vaccine appointment; Had I ever experienced a blood clot? Did I have a condition, or take a medication that would make blood clots more likely? Once again, the appointment went smoothly and I suffered minimal side effects.
Overall my Covid-19 vaccine experience was a positive one; it was quick, mostly painless, and it's always good to feel like you're doing your bit. Getting vaccinated can be a little scary, but it's one of the easiest ways to protect yourself, your health and those around you.