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Experiencing the Light at the End of the Tunnel | Maxine Mah

Over the weekend (March 7, 2021), I got my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

As more and more people become eligible for their chance at their first taste of COVID immunity, I wanted to outline how my day was getting vaccinated and the possible side effects one may experience. I work with younger kids in a tutoring program which made me eligible to create an appointment. Through the San Diego County website, I scheduled to get my shot at 8 A.M. bright and early at a drive through vaccination site at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Signing up through the county website also allows you to make a second dose appointment while you make the first one. When I arrived there was already a large line of cars filing into the parking lot as volunteers and county policemen ushered vehicles through the maze of cones.

Since I’m under 18, I had to be accompanied by my mom, and as we made our way across the fairgrounds parking lot, we were brought to around five or six lines surrounded by volunteers and nurses distributing vaccinations. We waited for about ten to fifteen minutes before arriving to the volunteer checking us in. She asked for my name, ID, verification of eligibility (showing work emails was enough), and I was all ready to get the Pfizer vaccine. The nurse walked around the car and I stuck my right arm through the open window. I have a pretty high pain tolerance so shots don’t usually frighten me, but this one was the least painful shot I’ve ever experienced. I don’t know if it was the needle or the nurse, but it felt like the smallest pinch and then it was over. To all my trypanophobic friends (those who are afraid of needles), there’s nothing to worry about.

Afterwards we drove the car around the building and into the parking lot. The volunteers left a timer under our windshield and stuck a sticky note to the front window. We were instructed to move into a separated area, park our car, and wait for 15 minutes to see if I would become nauseous, dizzy, or pass out.

When I arrived home, everything proceeded as normal. The possible symptoms of the first dose are soreness, swelling, redness, chills, fever, headaches, and more. I didn’t experience many of these symptoms, but it’s important to remember that everyone reacts to shots differently. I was a little light headed in the beginning, but that faded as hours passed, and it might’ve just been a placebo. The really big symptom I was experiencing was soreness. My whole arm was sore during the day and it was difficult to even lift it up or point at things. But my other friends who got the vaccine said that their arm wasn’t sore at all, so it’s a different experience for everybody. The soreness dissipated around a day afterwards, and other than that I haven’t been feeling any other pains.

The COVID vaccine has become somewhat of a privilege now, with people having to “become” eligible, and it finally being open to educators only recently. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity among the thousands of other workers, volunteers, and adults to make an appointment and receive the first dose. I urge everyone who’s reading this to get their vaccine as soon as possible — as soon as they’re eligible to — because these vaccines and herd immunity are the largest light at the end of the tunnel for COVID-19.

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