My Second COVID-19 Vaccine: Here’s What Happened When I Got the Second Pfizer Coronavirus Vaccination by Elisa A. Schmitz 30Seconds
When my husband and I went to Rush University Medical Center for our second COVID-19 vaccine, we certainly weren’t expecting a party – but that’s exactly what we got. On April 9, 2021, Rush celebrated its 100,000th COVID vaccination, and we were grateful to be part of the celebration.
When we got our first vaccine at Rush three weeks prior, President Biden had just announced the 100,000,000th COVID vaccination in the United States – that very day. The hubs and I joked that maybe one of us had gotten that lucky 100,000,000th dose. So when we arrived at Rush for our second-dose COVID-19 vaccine appointment – which had been automatically scheduled at the previous appointment – to all the fanfare of balloons, candy and television cameras everywhere, we joked that maybe one of us would be getting that lucky 100,000th dose at Rush – that very day. Turns out, we were darn close.
Getting our second dose of the Pfizer vaccine was exciting enough, but being part of Rush’s milestone moment made it even more meaningful. Maybe that’s why I started getting emotional when I presented my official CDC Vaccination Record Card at check-in. Seeing that second verification get placed on my card, showing that I would soon be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, kickstarted my emotions.
Yet as we approached Jordan, the pharmacist who would be administering our shots, questions swirled in my mind: With my underlying health conditions (including severe allergic responses), would I have a reaction to this dose? Would the side effects be worse with the second dose, as I had been hearing? Would the second shot intensify the residual effects I was still experiencing from the first dose (including high blood pressure, when mine is normally very low)?
I barely had time to ponder. The hubs whipped off his jacket, sat in the chair and rolled up his left sleeve. Within seconds, he was fully vaccinated. As Jordan smiled at me expectantly, I removed my jacket, sat down and rolled up my left sleeve. (Jordan said it didn’t matter which arm we chose, so we both opted to have the shot in the same arm as we had previously.) The jab was in and out before I even had a chance to think about it. Unlike the first shot, I felt no apprehension and needed no deep breaths. I just felt focused and, once it was over, so relieved.
Our next stop was the post-vaccine observation area. As with our first appointment, we were greeted by a nurse, who welcomed us and asked how we were doing. Once the nurse, Claire, learned that I was prone to allergic reactions, she had us sit at her desk so she could keep an eye on me. As I explained my health issues, a look of recognition gleamed in her eyes. “Are you the one who wrote about your experience here last time?” she asked me. Surprised, I told her I was. “I’m the nurse you took a picture of in the red shirt last time you were here!”
At my previous appointment, I had taken a few pictures so that I could share my experience on 30Seconds. Claire had been walking by and stopped to pose for me, without even being asked. I’d loved her infectious energy then, without even meeting her, so connecting with her this time seemed like one of those “meant-to-be” moments. I was happy to have the opportunity to thank her for her very important work (and the awesome photo).
We talked about Beth-Anne, the nurse who helped me last time. We talked about the media team that had shared my article with Claire, and everyone I had mentioned in the article, so they could see it. We talked about the pandemic and how hard it has been to be away from our loved ones. Most importantly, we talked about the gift that she and her fellow health-care heroes are giving to the world through their work. Claire is retired, yet she jumped at the opportunity to step back into service at Rush, helping people to be vaccinated. (I was told it takes an additional 80 volunteers every single day to staff the Rush vaccination program!) As I heard her story, my gratitude only increased and we both ended up with tears in our eyes.
That’s when the media team came by and told us there was a camera crew from ABC-7 Eyewitness News in Chicago that would like an interview. Would we be willing to share our experience? Grateful to have an opportunity to express our gratitude to Claire and the rest of the amazing team at Rush, we agreed. I was pretty emotional throughout the interview, but felt happy to be able to give our thanks to science, vaccines, Rush and the amazing health-care heroes who are helping to end this pandemic. They are shining a light at the end of this very dark tunnel we are in; they are giving us hope.
With all the post-vaccine activity, I paid little attention to the immediate side effects I felt – but Claire kept checking in throughout it all. We noted my increased heart rate (in the 120-140 range), headache and crushing fatigue that hit pretty quickly. But no allergic reactions, so after an hour, it was time to head home. Hugging Claire goodbye, we walked past more camera crews that were interviewing the lucky 100,000th vaccine “winner.” We were given 100 Grand candy bars to celebrate the 100K milestone – like the goody bag at the end of a birthday party. Despite the symptoms I was experiencing, as we walked past the wall of celebratory balloons, there was a smile behind my mask.
In the car on the way home, the headache behind my eyes intensified and all I wanted to do was curl into a little ball. At the house, I pounded a Gatorade, took a hot shower, grabbed an ice pack for my sore arm and headed to bed.
I continued to have similar side effects to the ones I experienced with the first dose: the typical ones such as fatigue, arm pain, joint pain, headache and nausea; and the ones that are more unique to me such as tachycardia, dizziness and high blood pressure. But as I write this, three full days after my second dose, I am feeling a bit better every day. And I firmly believe that these side effects are nothing compared to what getting COVID would be like.
With the virus variants posing an increasing threat to our ability to end the pandemic, it’s more important than ever to protect others and ourselves by getting vaccinated. If you haven’t been vaccinated yet, please do your best to get it done. I know it’s not easy to get an appointment, and I know the vaccines are something new and not completely known – and that may feel scary or intimidating. But we have to push past our fears and fight our way through all of what may hold us back. And, we have to do it together.
Because the vaccines are our best hope to not only survive the pandemic that plagues us, but to actually end it – and give us a shot at getting to some “new normal,” a semblance of the reality we used to know. And that is something worth fighting for.
Many of you have kindly commented about my “Grateful” hoodie. It was designed by my artist daughter Jules, and is available on Society6, along with other custom 30Seconds merchandise designed by my identical twin daughters.
To watch the interview, visit the ABC-7 News website.
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