Monday morning, I woke to my alarm at 6:15am. Lazily I pushed snooze knowing that there was no need to rush out of bed. After relaxing for a few more minutes, I got out of bed and took Moxie, our rescue dog, for her morning walk. The air was crisp but not too cool and the sky was already filled with sun and bird song. Once home I was able to slip out of my shoes and into my meditation chair. I enjoyed a full 30 minutes of meditation accompanied by my dog on my lap and a cup of warm ceremonial cacao. Feeling supported, I went downstairs to hug Aida & Eben goodbye before they headed off to school & work. Still with extra time on my hands, I got dressed for the day. Slipped on some earrings. And even dug out some spring shoes from my closet. Today was a day to get dressed up for. It is not every day that I get to get a vaccine for COVID-19.
This day was one that I could barely conceptualize when I sent out my June 2020 COVID Update email with the belief that my office would not reopen until there was an accessible vaccine for all. That was 10 months ago and here I am writing to you with the vaccine in my system busily making antibodies and creating my immunity to this virus that has changed our world so completely.
After a beautiful drive through the open fields and wandering roads of rural Vermont, I arrived at the Enosburg Walgreens. The parking lot was mostly empty. There were no people standing in line. This was quite unexpected based on the descriptions I had heard from friends & family about their vaccine experiences. I walked back to the pharmacy and there was still no line. I quickly checked in and went back almost immediately to get my shot. Shots & blood draws for me are generally no issue. This one felt a little like a firm handshake in my upper arm. I got my vaccine card. Had the pharmacist take a picture of me with it and my bandaged shoulder. And went to sit in front of the pharmacy for 15 minutes. During that time I felt nothing unusual. I perused my social media feed after posting my obligatory “vaccine photo”. I walked outside, and I swear the sun was shining brighter than when I went in. On my drive home, I noticed that my face felt a little unusual. Then I noticed that I was smiling bigger than I had in a long time.
My plan for the next two days was to take it easy, drink lots of water, and maybe catch up on some shows on Hulu. Most of Monday was a divine day off with nowhere I had to be. Around dinner time, I started to feel a little stiff & achy. It was like I had done a hard workout and had not followed it with a recovery drink. I took 1 extra strength Tylenol knowing that this may only be the beginning of how I would feel as my immune system kicked into action.
In the next hour, I was cold, shivering, and felt weak. I headed to bed at 7pm but I was shivering so violently that I could not relax. I took a long warm bath . Finally back in bed, I had a fitful night. I was able to get some sleep between each Tylenol dose. There was a sweet spot about 45 minutes after I swallowed the pill and about 30 minutes before I could take the next dose in which my body and mind would surrender. I was in bed until noon on Tuesday. I did not make it far once I was out of bed. Moxie joined me on the couch for some TV and light napping. It was there that Eben & Aida found us when they arrived home around 4pm. Within the next couple of hours I was feeling strong enough to take a shower (thank goodness because I had been a sweaty mess on and off during the night) and eat dinner with everyone at the table.
About 24 hours after the symptoms started, they stopped. I was left with a little fatigue and a tender injection site on Wednesday morning. Of course, I would rather not have any response to a shot, but this felt like a small exchange for such a high percentage of immunity to COVID-19. One of the thoughts I had repeatedly during my long, restless night was that this could have been what it was like if I had been infected with the virus. These symptoms could have lasted weeks and even months, not knowing when it would end. For this I am truly thankful and honored to be the recipient of the COVID-19 vaccine.
By now, you have probably heard that the J&J (Janssen) vaccine has been “paused” for distribution in Vermont (and most of the United States) through this Friday. This temporary halt was recommended jointly by the CDC & the FDA on Tuesday morning. While this has created yet another hiccup for this particular vaccine and vaccine rollouts in general, I am comforted by the extremely rare occurrence of the clotting side effect that has been seen in 6 women (out of the approximate 7 million doses of the J&J vaccine that have gone into arms). I am 48 and thus fall in the age range of women who reported post-vaccine clotting. According to the CDC & FDA “people who have received the J&J vaccine who develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks after vaccination should contact their health care provider”. At this point, only a correlation or relationship has been seen between the J&J vaccine and the post-vaccination clots (cerebral venous sinus thromboses). It is important to remember that this is not the same as “causation”. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, causation is defined as “the relationship between an event or situation and a possible reason or cause”. The data is being scoured to determine if there is a causal relationship between the two.
Want to know more about what this temporary pause may mean for the J&J vaccine and vaccine roll-out in general? Here is a great article by The Atlantic. Rather listen to a podcast about ot? NPR’s “Consider This” podcast did a great job covering all the facets. Have any other good articles that will help us all understand & stay current on the J&J vaccine and the post-vaccine clotting? If so, please share them below.
In the meantime, know that I am watching for any unusual symptoms. And, I am also keeping this news in perspective and continuing to enjoy the “brighter sun” even on cloudy days.