I recently not only got my first dose of the Pfizer COVID 19 vaccination, but I also managed to get appointments for 6 eligible people in my family across 3 different states. After so many months of fear, of staying home, and of canceling travel or staying close, I already feel a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. I realized that both luck and privilege allowed me to get these appointments, so I wanted to talk about in this article, why I took the vaccine, how I managed the land the coveted appointments, and how I feel after the first dose.
Why I am Taking the Vaccine
Both my husband and I have fallen into the high-risk category, meaning if that we are more likely to have severe side effects from COVID-19. Even if we are young. For the past year I have lived in fear of getting exposed and getting the virus. All I kept thinking was, “if we get sick, who will care for our children?” When we did get exposed, my husband and I immediately started with vitamins and walking to keep up our health as long as possible. By some miracle we avoided getting sick (honestly by some miracle, everyone who did get sick got a mild case). I talked to my friends who were doctors. I read articles from unbiased sources such as the AP to understand what experts were saying about the vaccine. And I was convinced it was safe. In fact, by the time I got my first dose, over 100 million people had received at least one shot with an extremely low level of adverse side effects. When it was my turn, I did it without fear.
The other major reason is I really want to travel again without fear. I want to be able to not only see my family but go internationally without worrying that either I will be exposed and get sick, or that I will bring something to someone that will cause them to get sick. I will still be masking up and social distancing for the foreseeable future. But I know that once we are fully vaccinated, I can travel again without the fear that I could get sick and not be there to take care of my children who need me.
How I booked appointments
As I went to look for appointments for my husband and myself, my father was surprised to see I was able to do it so easily when he had not been able to get appointments. When I questioned him further, it turns out he was still waiting for the state to call and give him and his mother an appointment. He had not realized he needed to go online and schedule it himself. My mother had had an appointment scheduled, but when she was informed she had to have surgery, they asked that she not start the vaccine process until after the surgery was completed. She needed help getting a new appointment as well.
Here are ways I made the search and scheduling easier:
- Use the state specific websites to know when you are eligible and know what category you fall into. Each site will go through a series of qualifying questions to be sure that you are eligible to get the vaccine.
- I made a folder on my browsers that kept all the websites that I would check daily. They included:
- Safeway.com (Albertson’s)
- State Specific Sites (Google “[Your State] COVID Vaccine” and you should get a site that has a link to mass vaccination sites and doctors’ offices that are providing the vaccine)
- Personal Health Care Provider Network Sites
- For the pharmacy sites, create an account before you start looking. I have lost appointment times trying to create an account.
- Have the personal information you need to schedule the appointment ready. They do not hold the appointment times until you go through the qualifications and enter your personal information. You don’t want to lose it looking for the information.
- Check every day, multiple times during the day. The mass vaccination sites tend to drop their appointments once a day, usually at midnight or the middle of the night. I found that the pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens will drop small amounts of appointments throughout the day as inventory becomes clearer or they have cancelations.
- Be willing to drive. I would usually start my search using my home zip code. If no appointments came up, I would enter in a town or zip code that was about 25 miles away. That would expand my search to 50 miles. My husband was the only one who lucked out with an appointment close to home. The rest of us drove about 20 – 35 miles.
- Flexibility is key. Most appointments that drop are usually for within the next few days. And they can be anytime during the day. Mine was at 4pm 35 miles from home. I am lucky, I have the ability to take time from my work and go get this done. Talk to your manger to understand what flexibility they will give you if a last-minute appointment arises.
How do I feel
Honestly, fine. I will admit that my arm hurt and did for about 4 days after the shot was administered. I also made the mistake of taking it in the arm that is already experiencing shoulder pain and I sleep on. Do not do that. I was very tired that week, but I do not know if it was due to the shot, the fact that I had flown in from the East Coast the day before (more on that coming soon), or the accumulation of stress from the past few weeks. I slept a lot for a few days. But I never had fever, chills, body ache, headache, etc.
I interviewed the rest of my family. My husband, who took it first, literally went right from the appointment back to work and felt nothing. My mom had a headache the first day but was fine afterwards. My father complained of a sore arm. My grandmother did not make a single complaint at all. My stepmother seemed to have the worst reaction with chills and body aches. But she never got a fever, and it was over in a day.
Now that I have my first dose, thought I know I am not fully vaccinated until the end of April, I know that I have much more protection than I have had in the year prior. For the kids spring break, we are heading on a trip to San Diego for our first weeklong vacation since the start of the pandemic. We decided to stick to some place we would not have to quarantine when we got there, that had a lot of outdoor activities, and would still feel fun and different from home. With the first dose of the vaccine, we feel so much safer knowing that, even thought we are still masking up, we are much less likely to get hospitalized if we do get sick. Once we are fully vaccinated, we are planning some East Coast travel in the summer, and hopefully a trip to India in December if the borders open to us. In between I am hoping for an overnight away with my husband, a girl’s trip with some girlfriends, and maybe, just maybe, that solo trip I have been planning and canceling for years.
The world is finally opening. I am so ready to get back into it. We are so close. Let us just be careful, mask up, and stay vigilant just a little bit longer. We can do this. We are almost there.
* Photos taken by Atma Photography