The First COVID-19 Shot Is Finally in My Arm

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by Ed Tobias |

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It’s a good thing my wife, Laura, is persistent. Thanks to her tenacity, we’ve both been able to get our first shots of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

According to the pharmacist who gave us our shots, in two weeks we should be about 60% protected from the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. After our second shot, given 28 days after the first, clinical trials report the efficacy jumps to about 94%.

We were lucky to get the vaccines

It wasn’t easy to get appointments for those shots. In Maryland, the vaccines are distributed by state health officials to county health offices, hospitals, and pharmacies. Each of these groups has its own method of distributing appointments.

Because we’re both older than 65, my wife and I are fairly high in the priority pecking order (Group 1C), but it was still difficult to get a date. Laura and I put ourselves on our county’s waiting list when our group became eligible on Jan. 25, but we still hadn’t been called. We also signed up with three or four hospital systems, each containing several hospitals, but no luck there, either.

But last Monday, two pharmacies in the state began to accept appointments, and their system is different. To make an appointment, you go to the website, navigate through a maze of pages, and try to select an appointment date from a calendar that never seems to have any availabilities.

It’s not easy, but when Laura has a goal in sight she’s unstoppable. She charged her iPhone and started clicking and refreshing the websites. Five hours later, she scored an appointment for herself. Ninety minutes later, she had one for me. No matter that they were for different days and in different locations, mine an hour south and hers 45 minutes east. We’d drive a lot farther for the vaccine. (A couple of friends in their 80s, who “snowbird” from Maryland to Florida each year, flew back to Maryland for their shot, returned to Florida, and are about to fly back to Maryland for shot No. 2.)

Now, smooth sailing

With my appointment in hand, we headed to the Giant Food Pharmacy in Bowie, Maryland, grateful to start the vaccination process but worried that my name wouldn’t be on the list or that I’d have a reaction to the shot.

We needn’t have worried about either. The food store (which was, indeed, giant) was easy to navigate and the people involved with the vaccine really had their act together. There were no snags, I barely felt the shot, and we were in and out in an hour. The pharmacist even arranged to switch Laura’s next-day appointment and gave her the shot during my 15-minute post-shot waiting period, required to be sure there’s no reaction to the vaccine. My only reaction was a very slightly sore arm the next day.

MS and the COVID-19 vaccine

There has been concern that the COVID-19 vaccine might not be appropriate for people with MS (PwMS), who already have an overactive immune system and who may be using disease-modifying treatments that are designed to reduce the immune system’s response to an attack. But in January, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society recommended that PwMS receive the vaccine, and its recommendation is blunt: “Get your vaccine as soon as it is available to you.” I’m very glad we did.

Next steps

We return to the Giant Pharmacy in Bowie on March 3 for shot No. 2. The pharmacist who gave us our shots warned that many people have a flu-like reaction the day after that second shot, including a low-grade fever, body aches, a headache, and severe fatigue. She was one of them. But she said the next day she was fine. I’ve heard the same from my primary care doctor, so we’ll be ready with the Tylenol.

We can’t wait to feel more comfortable getting out and seeing people, still doing it from a distance and with a mask as long as necessary. And it looks like we’ll finally be able to trade Maryland’s snow and cold for Florida’s sunshine and warmth, something we’d planned to do in November.

I’ll let everyone know how it all goes in another month or so. Stay tuned.

You’re invited to view my personal blog at www.themswire.com.

***

Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

Comments

John Cowburn avatar

John Cowburn

It's quite enlightening to see other countries systems for vaccination, I'm in the UK so it's the National Health Service (NHS). We don't have to do anything to get the jab besides turn up at the correct place and time. I'm 74, got a letter 3 weeks ago telling me to go a centre 7 miles away at a set time, I arrived 5 minutes before the time, walked straight in, had the jab and was out on my way home with 3 minutes. My wife who is in her sixties, has been told whe'll get a letter within the next 10 days. We complain a lot about the NHS, but it's pretty good and free treatment for any illness.

Reply
Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi John,

I'm glad it was smooth sailing for you and I assume it will be the same for your wife.

I've heard complaints about waiting a long time for appointments with specialists in the NHS and CARE being reluctant to approve DMTs. But the system is certainly superior to that in the U.S. when it comes to access to treatment, no matter what you can, or can't, afford.

Ed

Reply
Ruth Hoham avatar

Ruth Hoham

Got my first Pfizer vaccination last weekend. Same painful arm for a few days - nothing more, though I’ve heard the same warning about the second one. We’ll see...!

Reply
Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Glad you got #1, Ruth. Good luck with the next.

Ed

Reply
Cassie avatar

Cassie

So happy to hear that you’re vaccinated! I received both Pfizer shots due to being a nurse. Don’t expect to do much the next day. I had a low grade temp, pretty decent body aches and severe fatigue. I wasn’t right for two days but I’m glad it’s over and feel safe now!

Reply
Ruth Hoham avatar

Ruth Hoham

Cassie - Thanks for your response. Not planning to do much after the next “jab”! Love that British term!

Reply
Leanne avatar

Leanne

I am in Canada - need I say more. More concerned now than before.

Reply
Haslie Kemp avatar

Haslie Kemp

I got the first Moderne and going to opt-out of the second one. I have not been convinced that it works and if it does how long and against the new strains? Not willing to go through the pain on top of what I already have and may cause a relapse. I will keep doing what I have been doing to protect myself until vaccines have been proven.

Reply
Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hello Haslie,

I just have to ask...what would convince you that the vaccine works?

Ed

Reply

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