The Pfizer Vaccine… and 28 days later

At Unreserved, we cut through the chaff to get a real-life account of what it’s like to get the Pfizer vaccine. As the vaccine takes 28 days to kick in, we couldn’t help but draw parallels to the zombie film “28 days later,” not least because the UK was the first to get the roll out. And as we all get vaccinated here, we thought it timely to share the experience.  Thankfully still symptom-free, Nick Kochan reports on his own experience from London.

The media reporting is full of it. Friends discuss it at length and with excitement. People even talk about it on the street and in the shops with strangers. The questions on all lips:

Have you had your vaccine? When are you having your vaccine? Why has he or she got their vaccine when they don’t fall within the categories identified as urgent.

Why have some countries got it and not others!

So you can imagine my excitement when the text message arrived from my GP inviting me to have my vaccine.

A little trepidation crept in. People had reported allergic reactions to the Pfizer vaccine; some had slept for hours afterwards, felt below par, and sore arms where the needle had gone in.

Severe reactions of course were very much the exception we were told, but nobody knows until it has happened what your reaction will be.

At the health centre where I was directed there were separate queues for those seeking vaccination. It was structured for the mass vaccination of British people. This has become the nation’s strategic response to Covid-19, and for the first time it is one that is actually working.

You felt singled-out for special treatment. The receptionist behind her high glass screen handed you a sheet of paper containing numerous questions and a clipboard and pen.

The questions concerned your allergies, whether you were pregnant, any COVID-19 symptoms you might have and you answer as you wait for your number to be called. This was a well-drilled organisation for ‘vaccines’ – to which patients for more usual medical appointments were not accustomed.

Those seeking vaccines had first to wait in a single and separated chair, away from the general waiting room; these chairs were constantly wiped. The conveyor belt of vaccinations was indeed carefully structured so as to ensure safety.

People have been employed to do nothing else but manage the vaccination process. This is people-intensive and it has been resourced with large amounts of tax-payer money.

The moment of truth would come quickly. I was shown into a doctor’s surgery office which was brightly lit but bare. There was, however, a couch.

I was introduced to Rhys from Wales, my vaccinator and a young man of undoubted competence and reassurance. Rhys offered that he was a paramedic who was helping out the vaccination process, but normally worked in the doctor’s surgery. I won’t deny I was comforted by this.  The man who would administer my jab was well able to take care of any emergencies should they arise!

Rhys took out the small almost insignificant vial of Pfizer vaccine and showed it to me.

“When The Vaccinator prepared my vial for injection there was no choice, it was Pfizer and that was it. I grew up in Oxford and know it is a quality town, but as far as its vaccine goes…”

Was it important that it was the American Pfizer rather than our home-grown vaccine? Opinions varied at the start of the pandemic and they have continued to range far and wide on the benefits of the European Astra Zeneca-Oxford vaccine versus the Pfizer sanction.

When The Vaccinator prepared my vial for injection there was no choice, it was Pfizer and that was it. I grew up in Oxford and know it is a quality town, but as far as its vaccine goes…

Rhys asked me to take up my shirt sleeve. I rolled the sleeve up as far as it would go, but no, that was not far enough, the needle needed to enter higher, at the top of the arm. Off came my shirt!

The experience had something significant about it. This was my personal statement of defiance against the virus. This was me siding with the vaccine and with the process that it signified.

In this casual and very low key environment, I was experiencing a moment in history.

The syringe carefully extracted the vaccine liquid from the vial and, without further ado, Rhys slipped the needle into my arm.

My mind was buzzing with the abundance of perceptions that we had seen and heard in the media. There were the fears and scare stories about its effects on a woman’s fertility, the worries over suffering from long-term flu. It had been hammered home so often that this was “so breathtakingly new, been developed at such a pace and we were all guinea-pigs”, like experimental lambs going to the covid slaughter.

The calm reassurance of the staff and the extent of organisation did everything to allay those fears. Almost as quickly as my medic Rhys put in the needle, he took it out again. It was deafeningly painless, not a scintilla of stress or shock.

“This was my personal statement of defiance against the virus. This was me siding with the vaccine and with the process that it signified.”

The deed was done, the vaccine was delivered. The second dose would be delivered over the next twelve weeks and I would be notified well in advance, he said with the same matter-of-fact tone that he had adopted from the start.

The mention of the twelve week lag sounded so normal until you remember the controversy that this lag has generated amongst respected medical figures – some saying that it was excessive and not tested during vaccine development, still others suggesting it was in fact beneficial.

As far as Rhys The Vaccinator was concerned, this was part of his script. I was not going to argue.

Even after the jab had been administered so painlessly, The Vaccinator was not prepared to let me go. There had to be a period of convalescence. This quarantine was to last 15 minutes. I was given a buzzer which rang when the time had expired.

You reached the recovery room by following green lines etched into the floor of the health centre to find a recovery area for those just vaccinated. It was silent, meditative and restful… for you to adjust to the effects of the vaccine.

Only two qualms remained, would the vaccine leave its mark, or would the virus get me before the three week delay in building up the vaccine-induced antibodies was completed? My fears were virtually groundless.

The insertion of the needle had initially been completely painless.  I was perhaps a little shaky more from the expectation of a shocking side effect rather than from tangible side effects.

I have said that the vaccine was all but pain-free in my case, but I would like to add here one qualification. The very day after my vaccination a kidney stone passed from my kidney to a lower part of my body. I shall delicately pass over the lurid details but a 5mm stone now sits in my body while I wait for it to come out, at a time of its own choosing. There is no clear connection to the vaccine but… was the timing purely coincidental?

But I digress.  The next day, some pain started to develop around the point of injection, where the needle entered the skin. This pain that had not occurred at the point of injection, so it was not from the needle.  It was from the vaccine itself, some sort of chemical reaction in the body.

The pain was not sharp or intense, but nagging. It sat around for another two days. It did not diminish, but it did eventually disappear. There was nothing visible on the skin to indicate any worrying inflammation. Otherwise, I was well and experienced neither headaches nor fever.

My experience did not compare with others I can cite. For example, the elderly lady who took to her bed and slept for half a day. Or the couple who, despite having had the virus, could not get out of their bed for two days. They suffered flu-like symptoms and were quite distressed.

The possibility that the side effects of the Pfizer vaccination are likely to be worse for those who have had the virus is widely speculated. In fact, I myself had covid-19 in October but was virtually untroubled by the vaccine. And for each case, there seems to be a counter-case.

They say that the proof of the pudding is in the eating, I have taken my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine and await with anticipation for the second.

Some say that the second dose has greater side effects than the first, although I can’t confirm that yet, and I do hope not. The virus has remained at bay in my household, and it seems to be having the wider effect of reducing overall cases in the UK thus far.

Receiving the vaccine has been an individual journey for all of us. While the virus terrifies us by its sheer strangeness and hostility, the vaccine has given us cover. It has become our new best friend. We hope that we can all have this best friend, and that it stays that way.  The arrival of the variant forms of the covid-19 virus suggests that we shall be meeting our new best friend at least once a year, possibly even twice.

The vaccine like the virus has entered all our lives. We will have to live with the vaccine even when the virus becomes a hopefully distant memory. As we prepare to have our annual dose of vaccine, each of us will, if only momentarily, reflect on this truly bizarre period of complete turmoil, fear, and above all sadness.

That, at the very least, should persuade each one of us to take our shot with grace and humour.. If my experience is anything to go by, you have nothing to fear but fear itself! Watch this space for my adventures with the second dose.

Azlira Jamaluddin

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Azlira Jamaluddin

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