Early last week my wife and I got our COVID vaccines and I wanted to take a moment to talk about what that experience was like as I got a lot of questions about it since posting this Tweet:
Here’s a recap of our experience.
First of all, there was booking the appointment. Now some friends of ours alerted us that we were eligible because we were 50 or over in a “high priority” postal code. I am going to assume that this might have something to do with the fact that there is an assisted living facility down the street from us that had a number of deaths that were due to COVID. That led us to booking an appointment with Unity Health to get our vaccine. Or at least trying to. It took three days of constantly checking the website to find a pair of appointments for us. When we did, we hurriedly booked them. One was for last Monday at the St. Joseph’s Hospital site in the west end of Toronto for myself. The other was for the next day at the St. Michael’s Hospital site in downtown Toronto for my wife. One thing that I did notice is that the booking site uses Cloudflare to stop denial of service attacks and provide load balancing. Presumably, to ensure that everyone gets a fair chance to book appointments. Thus my first piece of advice would be keep trying to book an appointment because appointments will become available. Once you book an appointment, which requires you to have your OHIP card handy, you get an email and a text message on your phone confirming your appointment. Make sure you read the email as it has a lot of handy info about the site you’re booked into. For example, parking info, whether there are washrooms available, and how early you should show up are all in that email.
On the day I had my appointment, I drove down to St. Joseph’s Hospital and arrived at the parking garage 15 minutes early. A five minute walk later, I got to the vaccine site. It was well signed and easy to find. Once I entered the clinic, I was greeted by a security guard who quizzed me about what time my appointment was. Once I replied, I was instructed to sanitize my hands and I was handed a paper mask via a pair of tongs to go on top of the cloth mask that I was wearing. I was then directed to a station where I was asked to show my OHIP card and I was quizzed about a variety of things including if I had COVID or I was exposed to anyone with COVID. I was then directed to a second station where I was quizzed again about the same items and I was asked to show my OHIP card again. After that I was asked to stand in line. There were five people ahead of me and there were clear places to show where you should stand to ensure physical distancing. I also noted that there was a booth where a woman was preparing syringes with the vaccine. Once the syringe was prepared, another person would pick up the syringe and escort the person at the front of the line to a booth. In my case, I was in line for a grand total of 5 minutes before being escorted to a booth. In the booth the Dr. quizzed me about exactly the same things that I was quizzed about by the first two booths that I had been at earlier.
I will say that they are thorough.
After that, I finally got the vaccine. Moderna in my case. Not that it really matters as the best vaccine is the one that goes in your arm. More on that in a bit. I was then escorted to a “recovery area” where I had to take a number and wait for 15 minutes to see if I had any reactions to the vaccine. The number was entered into a iPad which started an individual timer for me which is pretty slick. When my number was called, was escorted to a check out area where my information was confirmed including my email address and my cell phone number. I was then told I would get an email and text message when my next appointment was booked. I then left the facility. I wasn’t three steps out the door before my iPhone dinged and I got a text message saying that my next appointment was booked. It was booked for 112 days from last Monday. I know that because I asked Siri how many days it was until my next appointment.
Total time invested: 30 minutes.
Side effects? Well, here’s what my wife and I experienced:
- In my case, my body temperature went up to about 99 degrees Fahrenheit after the vaccine. Also for about a couple of days, I felt lethargic. But by the weekend I was back to normal. As mentioned earlier, I got the Moderna vaccine.
- In the case of my wife, she had bouts of dizzy spells for about a day or so and was lethargic. But was normal again by the weekend as well. I should note that she got the Pfizer vaccine.
- In both of our cases, the injection site which was our respective left arms were sore and swollen for couple of days. But both of those things disappeared by the weekend.
So with that out of the way, I want to cover a few touchy points.
- I’ve been asked if I had a preference in terms of vaccine brand as some vaccines, specifically the Astra Zeneca and Johnson and Johnson have been linked to rare blood clots. The answer is no. The best vaccine is the one that goes in your arm as it’s going to give you protection from COVID. And given that these blood clots happen less than 1% of the time, and your chances of catching COVID is far higher than that, I’ll take my chances with the vaccine.
- I’ve been asked if I was hesitant in terms of getting the vaccine. The answer is no. But not everyone is like me. If you’re hesitant about getting the vaccine, that’s okay. You have the right to feel however you feel. But I would say that you need to seek out whatever information that you need from reputable sources to give you to comfort level you need to get the vaccine. I would recommend this link for reputable info if you’re in Canada. This link if you are in the US. And this link if you’re in the UK. There are likely similar links for other countries as people from over 20 countries visit this blog every single day. But like I said, seek out reputable information and make your call based on facts rather than what you see on Facebook or Twitter.
- The most important thing that I would say is that getting the vaccine isn’t about you. It’s about those around you. Yes it is true that if you get the vaccine that your chances of having a severe COVID related outcome drops dramatically. But it’s about spreading COVID around to others. While there is still a risk of that happening even if you have had the vaccine, which is why you need to still follow public health advice after you get it, that risk drops dramatically if you get the vaccine. So in effect, you are protecting others by getting a vaccine. Specifically your friends and family. It’s also the best way that the world has at present to get out of this pandemic and get back to something approaching normality. And every vaccinated person moves the metaphorical needle closer to that goal.
In closing, if I had to grade the whole experience, I would grade it an “A-“. The minus comes from the fact that I had to try really had to get appointments for myself and my wife. The rest of the experience was top shelf. And that was cemented by the fact that my wife had pretty much the same experience the next day at the St. Michael’s site for Unity Health. Thus if you are eligible for the COVID vaccine, I would recommend getting it as soon as you can. While the process requires you to invest some time up front, the long term benefit is going to be worth it. Which is we can get on with our lives sooner.