Brutal truth about jab half of us will get
I was excited to get my first COVID vaccination on Tuesday. At 52, I'm young to qualify for the vaccine (and delighted to use the words 'young' and '52' in a sentence), but I'm immunocompromised, so fall into group 1b of the rollout.
My parents had both had the jab, as had a couple of their friends, and none experienced worse than a sore arm.
The needle itself was fine. Just a scratch, no pain, and my arm didn't hurt afterwards. I took a selfie, tweeted about my shot, and felt nothing but relief.
Thirty hours later, I again feel relief. But in between relief and relief was a very unpleasant day.
I ran a few errands after my appointment, then popped into the supermarket. When I returned home, I suddenly and urgently needed to lie down. I wasn't sure if my fatigue was vaccine or grocery related, but I lay on my bed for an hour, blinking fuzzily up at the ceiling.
I stumbled through the afternoon, feeling more and more hazy. Work was useless so I pottered around the house and made a casserole. Then, at about 5pm - eight hours after my shot - I abruptly felt freezing and my back started to ache. I took my temperature, and found I was running a fever.
I couldn't blame the casserole. This was definitely the vaccine.
Within an hour, the backs of my thighs and my stomach were sore. Even my skin was sensitive, my clothes scratchy against my body.
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I cancelled the meeting I'd scheduled for that evening, sent my daughter off to her dad's, and crawled whimpering into bed. Everything hurt. I also broke a nail, which probably can't be attributed to the vaccine, but didn't help my mood.
Despite taking Panadol every four hours, I woke regularly throughout the night, aching all over. By 2am I had a headache and nausea, and I was shaking with fever. In the fog of early morning, I felt absolutely dire.
Happily, I had my information handout, and knew there was no cause for alarm. The AstraZeneca vaccine contains no live virus, but rather a spike protein that teaches our bodies to recognise and fight the COVID virus. It cannot spread to other cells and it cannot cause an infection. My symptoms would pass.
But that evening and the following morning were brutal, and I was seriously unprepared.
The latest research about the AstraZeneca vaccine indicates that 50 per cent of recipients will experience mild symptoms for a day or two, and around a quarter will need to take time off their regular duties. I certainly fell into the latter category. And while I'm keen to be open and transparent about my experience, I also feel conflicted.
"You can't write about this!" a friend told me. "We need people to get vaccinated!"
And yes, we do. I want you all to get the vaccine. But I also want you to be informed, and to prepare yourselves for potential side effects. (With the rare blood clotting disorder, out of the 25 million people vaccinated with the AstraZeneca jab in Europe there have been 86 blood clotting cases.)
If I'd known what side effects lay ahead, I would have scheduled the vaccine on a day when I could lie in bed and watch Netflix. I would have prepared food ahead of time and sent my daughter out for the day. When you're booked in for your vaccine, I suggest you clear your calendar, just in case.
In the throes of my fever, I felt resentful for having to feel so unwell. But I felt resentful towards coronavirus, not towards the vaccine. A few hours of feeling sick is far, far preferable to the potential horrors of COVID-19. Thirty hours after my shot, my symptoms have pretty much cleared. I'm truly grateful to the scientists who brought us AstraZeneca, and for the hopeful future it offers.
I'm still really bummed about my nail, though. It will take a while to get over that.
Originally published as Brutal truth about jab half of us will get