A Weekly Ritual
I grew up Catholic so confession was part of our weekly regimen. As I got older my confessions were no longer to a priest but to my diary. I have not written in a diary for years, but I have been chronicling this COVID-19 pandemic since we were locked down in March. Now here we are in December on the birth of a new year. I am compelled to tell the tale of my COVID-19 vaccine experience.
Destined to be a Champion
I know that God is always in the mix and mapping out the plans for us. A couple of people reached out about some programs related to championing the cause and educating around the COVID-19 vaccine. COOL! I was getting in on ground level and I love to learn. I knew the vaccine development started way back in January, which at the time I found odd because we were being told the virus was nothing serious. This minor detail was buried in my brain until the people contacted me.
I was going to be a champion to help the community hear about potential solutions to preventing this deadly virus. Research had shown doctors to be a trusted source in this pandemic. Organizers of the effort provided all the background and information needed.
What was my Motive?
I was motivated to learn as much as I could about the COVID-19 vaccine. Friends sent me great stuff focused on the Black community. The community sessions started soon after I expanded my knowledge on the subject. At one of the sessions I remember someone yelled out, why are you here? Are you here just to try to tell us what to do and force this vaccine down our throat. At that time the vaccines were under development and we had no idea when they would be ready. I told them I was there because I wanted to make sure that Black folks and other people of color would get a fair chance to get this vaccine.
I have no stock in the companies that make these vaccines, but I have an investment in making sure that our community knows what’s going on and doesn’t get placed at the back of the line for this potentially lifesaving vaccine. My response was met with a polite umph.
My inner self said, you don’t even know me and you are questioning my commitment to sharing the truth with my people and looking out for their best interest.
Vaccine will not Interrupt Christmas Rituals
Fast forward. Now the vaccine is ready – safe, effective, as much as can be ascertained. It is ready for roll out. I was not ready. One of my former students is a hospitalist and got the vaccine as soon as it came out. She sent me pictures and said she only had mild symptoms. This was good to see and hear. The vaccine came out the week before Christmas, but my health system was not going to get it until Christmas week. Lucky us.
I am not going to get that goddamn vaccine during Christmas, was my thought. I wanted to enjoy my family, even though it was going to be on Zoom. I had the ‘Christmas Crack’ to make. These cookie bars were a family tradition and my own death was going to be the only reason these bars weren’t made. So, I drank my tea on Christmas eve day making my stuff. We had a wonderful Zoom event and cookie bars were distributed with COVID-19 precautions.
Ready, set, go
I blamed it on the holidays, but now the email messages urged me to schedule my vaccine injection before January 5th. This seemed too soon! I usually like to wait, but this is a different time. This was also the first time that I was taking a vaccine for more than just myself. This was for the community. They needed to see someone trusted step up and get this vaccine. Of course I had some fear. I consider myself a realist and sometimes that leads to looking at the most severe consequences. I am heading for retirement and I want to be well.
I read voraciously about the potential side effects- fever, arm soreness, headache, etcetera, pretty common stuff. I read about less common side effects. But then I thought about my experience with other vaccines. I have never had problems with vaccines. I only had brief arm soreness with my flu shot earlier in the year. I have never had any allergies to medications or foods. Thank goodness I can eat what I want. I can eat all the peanuts and seafood I want. I made the appointment, after Christmas and before New Year. To inspire my confidence and impose some accountability, I told people I was going for my shot. Uh-huh.
Preparation Meets Reality
D-day! Time to go get the shot. I need them to take my picture so I can share with the community. I prepped for the day as soon as I woke up. I need to wear my ethnic mask and stay calm. I put on a short sleeved tee under my sweater making sure that my left arm would be accessible to the jabbers. I made sure to eat and be well hydrated. I did not want to have a vasovagal reaction (faint) and have that mistaken for an allergic reaction. I had to go to a different clinic. I know how the nurses at my clinic work. But, I was going to be injected by some other nurses. Will these nurses be good? Will they do it correctly?
I get there early, flash my badge to a guy that happens to have the same last name, and then ascended the stairs. I walk in and low and behold the nurse that will be giving my shot is a great nurse I worked with one time several months ago on a weekend assignment. My sistah made me comfortable right away. God is good. “Can someone take a picture of me getting the shot?”
I need to share this photo with folks. They want to see this. I felt the little twinge as the needle went in. I flinched just so slightly when the COVID-19 vaccine went in. I had to wait an obligatory 15 minutes. Bam, my 15 minutes were over and no breathing problems, lip swelling, and actually no symptoms at all. In my heart I skipped out the room to return home. During the waiting period and on my way home I had visions of the mRNA going to work to instruct my body to create the spike protein that would lead to the immune response against the virus. Is this amazing process already in motion?
I know after a couple of weeks I will have about 50% immunity to the virus that causes COVID-19. My second dose will be in 28 days. They made the appointment before I left.
I waited until that evening to post my pictures on Facebook. Check it out- getting the COVID-19 vaccine and representing for my community. It was REAL by then.
Opportunity Amidst the Storms
I will continue wearing my mask and practicing physical distancing until it is safe for us to abandon these practices. We all must be patient, better times are ahead despite all that transpired in 2020.
Oh what a culmination to this stormy year that saw Kobe Bryant die in a helicopter crash, that saw a knee to the neck for 8:46- killing George Floyd, social unrest, questioning whether Black Lives Matter , U.S. Presidential ignorance, and many people ill or dying from the vicious COVID-19. As I drink my Plantation Mint tea I feel proud to share my vaccine experience with the community. Black Lives and Black Health Matter! I have seized this opportunity to give to the community in this way. I stood up and had my vaccine and I will have my black-eyed peas. 2021 will be a great year.
Happy New Year!
What have you heard about the COVID-19 vaccine?