A Shot in the Arm: One Woman’s COVID-19 Vaccine Journey

Back in the 14th century cures for the plague ran from drinking a potion made of ground unicorn horn mixed in water (difficult to find and very expensive) to a shot of arsenic or mercury mixed in water for the less affluent – which killed them off quicker than the plague. Here in the enlightened 21st century, thanks to science, a vaccine for COVID-19 is available for our particular plague, to one and all, regardless of social class … a simple shot in the arm. That is if you can find the vaccine, as any 65 and over senior will tell you.“Did you get it?” “How?” “Where?” “When?” is now asked with the fervor once reserved for snagging a ticket to “Hamilton.” Remember Broadway shows? That thing with a stage and the orchestra where you sat next to someone without a mask?Vaccine wise, I was one of the lucky ones. On Jan. 11, as soon as I found out a nearby high school was giving vaccinations to those over 75, I logged in to their site and was connected to vaccinepod.nyc.gov, where I filled out a form and after the fifth try, bingo! I got an appointment for the next Saturday. Yay me! An email followed with the notice that I would receive a confirmation email, which I did – 25 copies of the same email.A neighbor with an appointment the same day did not receive one. Don’t have an appointment? Just show up with someone who does and maybe the planets will be aligned in your favor. A woman I know did that. She arrived with her husband for his scheduled vaccination and asked the nurse if she had an “extra vaccine” for her. She did, and the woman got her shot. It seems folks set up multiple dates at different sites, take the most convenient one, and thoughtlessly don’t bother to cancel the others. We’re all in this together? Not always, it seems.I breezed through the line, was ushered into the gym, where stations and technicians had been set up, and received my shot within minutes. After, I sat in another gym for 15 minutes in case I had a negative reaction such as my arm swelling or a headache. Personnel were on hand to tend to me in case I did. Except for a little soreness in my vaccinated arm that night the experience was a piece of cake.The cake however went a bit stale as I tried to navigate the web for my booster shot of Moderna coming up on Feb. 14, four weeks for maximum protection. (Pfizer requires three weeks between shots.) The https://covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov/covid-19 site I had used to set up my first vaccination was not showing anything available. I later learned that folks from Long Island were making five- to six-hour trips to other states for their vaccines; and I didn’t want to drive from Queens to the Bronx!At one point trying to snag my booster shot, all sites shut down because they had run out of vaccines. When they reopened, more groups had qualified to receive them. That’s been the problem all along: the ratio of shots to the folks wanting them doesn’t match up. For weeks I tried in vain. Would I ever get my booster shot? Or would I have to dream it up? Remember the Maidenform bra ads of the 50s and 60s? No adventure was too outlandish or bizarre if you donned your trusty white cotton bra. I could see the ad: I dreamed I got my booster shot in my Maidenform bra, my sleeve rolled up, a nurse in white, needle poised. But I didn’t have to dream.With doggedness, patience and optimism, I trolled the internet and was able to track down my second shot in the arm, and on Saturday, Feb. 13, at 11 a.m., I was waiting and ready at Hillcrest High School, Jamaica, Queens.That too went quickly and without a snag, though I did have more of a reaction the second time around. I felt fluey at night. I had chills and sweats and went to bed early. Sunday morning my temperature was 100.1. Also, my arm ached and was tender to the touch. By 4 p.m. I had made a comeback and was ready for my weekly Scrabble game, wearing a mask of course. I’ll still be masking for a while longer. Although I’ll have immunity after two weeks, I could be a carrier and spread the disease to those who haven’t been inoculated. *The latest from our leaders is encouraging, with word from on high that the vaccine stock is increasing day by day. This is good news; the more people vaccinated, the safer we will all be. Let’s hope the vaccines can be provided to all who want them in a timely way. * CDC Guidelines state that it is important “for everyone to continue using all the tools available to help stop this pandemic as we learn more about how COVID-19 vaccines work in real-world conditions.”  

  • Wear a mask over your nose and mouth
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from others
  • Avoid crowds
  • Avoid poorly ventilated spaces
  • Wash your hands often