Two days before the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was temporarily suspended due to six reported cases of ties to blood clotting, I was at the Anaheim Convention Center getting my “one and done” vaccine to prevent against COVID-19.
On the day of my appointment, I was nervous and scared, but mostly really hopeful for the future. Now, a little over three weeks since I was injected, I still feel the same way.
I chose to get vaccinated because I personally know the destruction COVID-19 can have on a person and a family. I read reports on the damage that COVID-19 could do to the body, even after recovery. As someone with pre-existing health conditions, I didn’t want to take that chance. I visited the Othena website to make my appointment.
I chose Johnson & Johnson specifically because after reading hundreds of people’s personal experiences online, it seemed to be the one with the fewest side effects. I did not care that it was less effective than the other vaccines. I just did not want to get as sick as others. I have health conditions that make me especially afraid of getting sick to begin with so I went with the vaccine with the least amount of complications.The fact that Johnson & Johnson only requires one dose was just a nice perk..
Admittedly, the weekend I got my vaccine, I had awful side effects. It started with a terrible headache, I felt nauseous and couldn't eat. I also had a fever and chills and my entire body ached. I couldn’t get out of bed. I couldn’t sleep. These side effects were all expected and as miserable as I felt, I still felt like I made the right decision.
I had never even gotten a flu shot, but I got this new vaccine as soon as I became eligible for it.
I felt that the risk of getting complications from the vaccine would outweigh the risks of complications from getting COVID-19. I have a significantly higher risk of dying from COVID-19 than from the vaccine. I think that is something that gets lost in the fear from hearing negative and rare stories of vaccine reactions.
When I heard that Johnson & Johnson would be suspending their rollout of the vaccine due to six rare cases, I suddenly felt a sense of dread, but then immediately after, a sense of relief. I was relieved that I had gotten my vaccine before that news came out because otherwise I might have been too scared to get any vaccine at all.
The vaccine has changed my life in some ways and in many ways it remains the same.
The vaccine significantly reduces the chances of getting COVID-19 and getting severely ill if it is contracted. However, the CDC has precautionary recommendations for people who are fully vaccinated.
After my initial post-vaccine waiting period, I made plans.
For the first time since the pandemic shut down my life in March 2020, I did certain activities again. I ate inside a restaurant, but chose one that enforced heavy social distancing and went during slow hours. I spent time with a vaccinated friend I hadn’t seen in over a year, but kept my distance. I visited my grandparents who are both vaccinated, but we had an outdoor lunch because I was still too cautious to bring potential germs into their home.
I still wear a mask when I go out, maintain a distance between others, and sanitize and wash my hands after touching anything. I still take advantage of store pickup and delivery.
I may seem overly cautious to many. A lot of my friends who have gotten fully vaccinated are making plans together and are acting as if everything is fine now.
“It’s okay, I’m fully vaccinated” is the response I get when I turn down friends who want to hang out in large crowds and enclosed spaces.
The reality is we are still in a pandemic. Even if I might get less sick than those without a vaccine if I get COVID-19, I’d rather not be sick at all. I have nothing to lose by reducing my chances of getting it.
I still encourage friends and family to get vaccinated. But most importantly I encourage them to remain cautious for themselves and those around them.
Different strains of COVID-19 are evolving that our vaccines may not be effective against. Being careless also increases the risk of spreading the virus to others. It’s still all too new for me to feel like we are entirely out of danger yet. I just worry that we risk it all by celebrating an early victory and no longer taking precautions that prevent the spread.
But ultimately, the vaccines are helping. The COVID-19 case numbers are improving. According to the CDC over 30% of the population in the U.S. has been fully vaccinated.
For the first time in over a year, I can imagine an end to this pandemic with some sort of timeline. I feel good knowing that by obtaining my vaccine, I am now on a metrics list that signifies something good.