The beginning of May was dreadfully boring.
I was scrolling Instagram – the most eventful part of my day – and listening to my favourite podcast when my mom texted me. And, I’ll be honest, I almost didn’t check it. You know when you get a text, think, “Yeah, I’ll get to that later,” and then accidentally forget about it for three weeks?
But then I got a text from my dad. And my sister. They all said the same thing.
“You’re vaccine eligible!”
And, suddenly, OOTD Reels didn’t seem so exciting.
— Reaction Videos (@ReactionVideos_) March 15, 2019
I knew I wanted to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as I could. I felt – and I still feel – it was a step I needed to take to protect myself, my family and my community. So, on Thursday, May 20, in the middle of a grocery store pharmacy, in a moment simultaneously over- and underwhelming, I got my COVID-19 vaccine.
Of course, everyone’s vaccine experience will be slightly different. I know my experience differs from that of most people in Toronto because I’m currently living in Saskatoon. But, still, I thought I’d share my vaccine story to help ease your anxieties or help you gauge what to expect.
So, here’s what it was like to get my COVID-19 vaccine:
The week before
I became vaccine eligible on Sunday, May 16. I tried booking an appointment first thing that morning – but it was like trying to get tickets to a One Direction concert in the height of 2012. Nearly impossible.
I refreshed the website several times and, each time, it said there were no clinics that could slot me in. My mom assured me it was only because my age group was newly eligible and there was a lot of initial demand – which was a good thing! She said, if I just waited a few days, I should be able to book no problem.
But I have an Aries stellium (Venus, Jupiter and Saturn, in case you were wondering). So that obviously wasn’t an option.
Next, I drove to the drive-thru clinic in my city – only to be turned away because they were completely out of doses. Feeling slightly slighted, determined and a little grumpy because I got up before 8 a.m. on a weekend and had nothing to show for it, I called my friend to come up with a new plan.
He told me to call the pharmacies administering vaccines in my area and see if any of them could fit me in before the drive-thru re-opened. I booked an appointment to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on May 25 at a Shoppers Drug Mart and signed up for several waiting lists. A day later, I got an email from a Co-op pharmacy offering me an appointment five days earlier.
The countdown was on.
The day of
Maybe it’s because my appointment was in the middle of the afternoon on a Thursday, or maybe it’s because the pharmacy I went to was located inside a tiny suburban grocery store, but the air felt a little eerie on the day of my appointment.
I checked in with the pharmacist and they handed me a consent form to fill out. It required all the usual stuff: my full name, date of birth and health card number. At the bottom, it had a checklist of medications I needed to indicate if I was taking. I read through each item carefully, triple-checking each one. And then I remembered I don’t take any medications.
So, yeah, eerie.
After I filled out the form, I was asked to sit in the waiting room (which was really a roped-off corner next to the dairy section). I couldn’t help but feel it was kind of strange I’d spent over a year in near-total self-isolation and it was about to symbolically come to an end next to a fridge full of Becel.
Vaccines were administered in a private room next to the “waiting room,” which I’m sure the grocery-getters stocking up on margarine were grateful for. A mother and her young teenager went before me, then a man who looked about my age. And then, finally, it was my turn.
Despite how busy I’m sure she was, the nurse vaccinating me was incredibly patient.
She asked how I was feeling and actually listened to my answer. She reassured me the process would be quick and relatively painless. Then, she gave me a vaccine aftercare sheet and went through some common side effects.
My arm would probably be sore, I might feel tired or have a fever, and I shouldn’t be surprised if my lymph nodes swelled up. But if any of that happened, she said, I could take some Tylenol or Advil – any side effects would disappear in a few days. The aftercare sheet also included information about the vaccine ingredients, how to care for myself in the days following my injection and numbers to call if I experienced symptoms of an allergic reaction.
The nurse let me choose which arm she vaccinated, which I appreciated. She cleaned the site with an alcohol wipe, counted to three, and that was that.
I was vaccinated.
The day after
I hung out at the pharmacy for 15 minutes after my injection, per the advice of health authorities, and then I went home to finish my workday. Working after getting my vaccine felt weird and anticlimactic; I was like, “This is a big moment – I can’t just go home. Isn’t there a ‘just got vaccinated’ party I can go to? A parade? A flash mob? Anything?”
But, sadly, no. For me, life after the vaccine was – is – nearly identical to life before the vaccine. The only difference is, now, I’m a heck of a lot safer.
My arm started feeling sore near the injection site a few hours after receiving the vaccine. It wasn’t debilitating; it just felt like I’d done some heavy weightlifting the day before. In under 24 hours, my arm was completely back to normal. I didn’t experience any other side effects. Although, if I had, I felt secure knowing I could call the numbers on my aftercare sheet.
And, well, that was it. (I guess, like my vaccine experience, this article’s a little anticlimactic too.)
How you can get yours
You can book your vaccine appointment through the Ontario government’s website.
Second doses are generally available 16 weeks after your first – but you may be eligible for your booster earlier if you’re a high-risk healthcare worker, an Indigenous person, a non-Indigenous partner or household member or someone who lives with certain high-risk health conditions.
If you have hesitancies about getting the vaccine, see if the federal government’s vaccine FAQ answers your questions. Alternatively, check out the Ontario Medical Association‘s list of common vaccine misconceptions.
And, remember: the sooner most people are vaccinated, the sooner we can see each other on campus again.
Even if you’re vaxxed, you’ve gotta stay masked. Here’s how you can style yours.