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Ester Marsh column: What to expect when getting vaccinated for COVID-19

It’s a big conversation right? To get the vaccine or not? I am not kidding, I was a bit afraid of it being available so quickly. It typically takes 5-8 years for any other vaccine to become available for mainstream. This one was ready to go in about 8 months or so. Doing plenty of research and talking to friends who are actual doctors, so much time, money and manpower have been put into this vaccine.

We are already seeing a downward trend in the hospitals (thank God) and the data of actual real-life vaccines is even better than the trials. Unfortunately, we have already lost more than 500,000 people to this deadly virus. I believe most of us know at least one person who has died from COVID-19. And most everyone knows someone who either has had the virus or is dealing with it right now.

I am so proud of this community for putting these vaccine sites together to get as many people vaccinated as soon as possible. It was a bit of a rough start in the beginning when the site at the West End Plaza was flooded by people. The process was quickly adjusted. A friend of mine said the process was smooth and everyone working at the site was very nice.

Novant has set up a vaccination site at the J.F. Hurley YMCA. They truly are organized and the process is so effective and painless. Dealing with people each and every day, I have had both vaccines. Truth is, I do not get the flu shot. I am so lucky that I have not had the flu in forever (knock on wood!) and I didn’t want to mess with a “good thing.” COVID-19 is a different ballgame, not only a worldwide pandemic but so very deadly. After my personal research, I already decided that when my vaccine time came up I would take it. I hope to be able to travel to my home country, the Netherlands (Holland), and see my family this year.

I am sure you have heard about many different experiences and reactions to the vaccine. There are people who have had no side effects, and there are people who felt sick, including fever, painful arms, or swollen lymph nodes. After my first vaccine (Pfizer), about 24 hours later I woke up with a bad headache and some nausea. It lasted about half a day and it did not keep me from doing things. I was prepared for being affected by the second dose. I got it three weeks later and that night I didn’t sleep well. Not sure if it was the shot or my menopause! Needless to say, I was tired the next day and just laid around and made sure I hydrated well. That night, my armpit felt weird and when I felt it my lymph nodes were very swollen. Of course, I read plenty and call myself Ester Marsh WebMD!

The following day, my nodes were still very swollen and painful but I had also a lot of edema. I actually had a side boob! I was worried about what would happen if it didn’t go away. I know, vanity kicked in. I contacted a very dear friend who is a medical doctor to confirm my own diagnosis. She confirmed that it was normal and 10-15% of the population deals with it after the vaccine from a few days up to a month. My immune system was working very hard building antibodies to protect me against COVID-19 (around 95%). Three days after my second shot, it was going down and five days after it was completely gone.

I feel good that I am protected, mainly because I am in contact with so many people. And yes, we still wear masks, wash hands often, and wait six feet away from people. I want to personally thank this medical community, the health department, Novant Health and now also the pharmacies for their outstanding effort. They have worked tirelessly to get as many people vaccinated as soon as possible in a very organized and caring manner and I am so proud to be part of a community that cares for each other. Let’s continue to be kind, but also respect each other. We are rising against COVID-19 and life will return to “normal” as long as we believe and do everything in our power to help each other, as this community does to help all of us.

Ester H. Marsh is health and fitness director of the JF Hurley Family YMCA.

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