A Nurse’s Personal Experience With the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 Vaccine

I’ll start by stating honestly that at first, I had no intention of getting the vaccine. I was just like the rest of the ill-informed world, with statements such as “you can’t create a safe vaccine that quickly” or “we don’t know what the side effects will be in 10 years.”

But as a nurse, I did the research and listened to the facts from authority figures I trust. My viewpoint changed, and I made the decision that was right for me.

Now, I still tell anyone who asks me that it is a personal choice and they must make the decision that is right for them, and that needs to be discussed with their physician, always. And for anyone who refuses to receive the vaccine for whatever personal reason they have, no need to explain, I understand. There IS a lot we still don’t know about the coronavirus, and that rings true for any treatment and prevention related to it. 

I received the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine on 1/15/21. It was a Friday and I was given the option randomly at work with only a few hours to decide if I wanted it or not. 

I remember it burned instantly upon administration. I had to sit and be monitored for 15 minutes afterward. I didn’t pass out, have an allergic reaction, or go blind. So far, so good. 

The soreness in my shoulder began later in the evening and my arm was so sore the next day I couldn’t lift it. I expected this, no different than when I get a flu vaccine.

I wouldn’t say I felt *100%* the next day or 2, but I will also admit any “symptoms” I felt could very likely be things I manifested myself waiting for something to happen. Overall, it was uneventful.

Life happened and I sporadically took a travel nursing assignment and my second dose was delayed. 

As other people started getting their second doses, I started hearing the horror stories. “I thought I was going to die.” “It was the worst 36 hours of my life.” My co-workers received their second dose of the Moderna vaccine and the following day they showed up to work miserable with fatigue, no appetite, and general ickiness. One of them was up half the night shivering and sweating. Regardless of the fact that they received a different brand of the vaccine, this was enough information for me to decide getting the second dose wasn’t worth it.

I began battling with my decision. I was administering the vaccine to my patients, but I was scared to get it myself. In the end, there were a few factors that made me go through with it.

  1. My parents. It was important to them that I get my second dose. 
  2. My work. In my current role, I am testing people for covid-19 daily. I am in the line of fire with the highest risk possible of contracting this virus.
  3. More than the fear of side effects from the vaccine is the fear of the virus itself. While statistics are on my side that if I ever do get covid-19, my symptoms are likely to be minimal to nonexistent. But I am not invincible. I’ve read enough articles about young, seemingly healthy people succumbing to this virus. Not to mention, possible long-term effects that like the vaccine, aren’t known yet. If given to opportunity to prevent becoming infected and spreading it, why wouldn’t I?

So, I received my second dose on 3/5/21. (Four weeks past when I should have gotten it)! This isn’t ideal but does not decrease the efficacy of the vaccine. I think it’s funny to mention that the nurse who administered this dose must be an *injection angel* because I did not even feel the needle AT ALL. I have never had such a gentle vaccination before! My arm began to get sore as expected later in the evening, but otherwise no concerns yet. At least I had the weekend to recover if needed.

Sometime in the middle of the night, I woke up shivering. I wasn’t hot nor sweating, I was just freezing cold. I shivered for maybe an hour or so and fell back asleep. I woke up sometime later and felt as if I had been hit by a truck. I tried sleeping more but I was terribly uncomfortable. My whole body ached. Everything hurt, from a dull headache to pain in my hips. I had a sluggish morning but made myself get up, and by mid-afternoon, I felt mostly fine. It wasn’t something I’d like to experience again, but it also wasn’t intolerable. I’ve certainly felt worse in my life.

Am I happy I am now fully vaccinated against covid-19? I am. While I understand this isn’t a force field protecting me from ever getting it, I know the risk is much lower and any severe symptoms or hospitalization is statistically zero. 

The controversy surrounding the covid-19 vaccines is expected and understandable, but they are likely our best chance at controlling this pandemic. Some people will not be advised to receive these vaccines, such as for allergic reasons. But it is necessary that the public educate themselves on facts and not what is read on social media or heard through family and friends in order to make the best decision for themselves, their loved ones, and their communities.

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