The side effect of the COVID vaccine that no one is talking about

7:42 a.m.: I got my first COVID vaccine today. I don’t feel a thing and almost wonder if I really got the injection. Then, within the first few minutes after receiving it, I feel a little lightheaded. But I realize I haven’t eaten yet for the morning. Luckily, the employee health staff had given me a water bottle, which I quickly down (after sanitizing my hands) and waiting my 15 minutes of mandatory monitoring time.

7:45 a.m.: As I sit and wait, I take the obligatory selfie and post on social media to let the world know it’s okay and to hopefully help convince others to get their COVID vaccine as well.

7:57 a.m.: I head off to my usual workday.

8:13 a.m.: I arrive at work still feeling a little lightheaded, ready to inhale my thoughtfully prepared breakfast of oatmeal, blueberries, and a few pecans.

8:15 a.m.: As soon as I walk in, I’m immediately bombarded with the usual questions and tasks I am accustomed to navigating non-stop during my clinic day. And I make sure to let a couple of colleagues and the office manager know that I got my COVID vaccine today. Yay!

8:25 a.m.: My first patient is here and ready, so I decide to put off breakfast just a bit longer to avoid keeping them waiting or getting behind.

8:34 a.m.: As I’m talking to my patient, I feel a wave of warmth flow over my upper body and head. Do I have a fever? Oh no … has is started?

8:48 a.m.: I leave the patient’s room and let my medical assistant know the patient is ready for their blood draw. But first, I ask her to check my temperature. The forehead “gun to your head” thermometers that have become so commonplace reads 97.2. She decides to check me with an ear thermometer as well just to be sure: 98.6. I’m in the clear.

8:50 a.m.: I finally eat the oatmeal I’ve been longing for my whole morning, and I’m feeling good. No lightheadedness, no fever, no soreness, right as rain.

8:55 a.m.: As I finish my oatmeal, I sit to think for a moment. Am I really nervous about this vaccine? Do I really expect any intolerable side effects? Will others follow suit, especially the general public, when it is available to them? Will this COVID thing ever really be over?

9:00 a.m.: Then I realize that the number one feeling I have, the number one “side effect” I am feeling, is overwhelming relief. Relief that I was privileged enough to be in the first group of people to receive the vaccine. Relief that I can worry a little less about contracting the virus and bringing it home to my husband and kids. Relief that I may get to travel, go on vacation, and see my extended family again. Relief that maybe, slowly, this can help to stop the spread and the unmatched death that this virus has caused. Relief that other health care workers, especially those at highest risk, will be protected as well. Relief that maybe a few more families will be kept whole. Relief that children may one day be able to go back to school. Relief that small businesses may one day thrive again. Relief that one day we’ll be able to interact with each other again on a human level by touching, holding hands, hugging, and comforting one another.

9:05 a.m.: This is the first time I have wanted to run as fast as I could for someone to poke me with a sharp needle. And I can’t wait to get my second dose, and each year (or six months, or whatever) after that, for as long as we need to.

Tuere Hughes-Kapenzi is a pediatrician who blogs at The Pediatric Mama.

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