Where were you when…? That’s the question often asked about defining moments of a generation, country, demographic, or some other group could commonly relate to. These questions, and the moments they reference, tend to each be about an event that happened not to the group, but to something that impacted the group. On the contrary, with receipt of the COVID-19 vaccine, what we have is a defining moment more definitive, and more globally relatable, and more personally impacting to us all, than any of those other defining moments. For that, the question will be a little different. It won’t be where were you when…? But rather, where and when did you… get your vaccine? And quite possibly as a follow up, how was it?
Unlike defining moments the likes of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, or Neil Armstrong’s landing on the moon, or when the Berlin Wall came down, that is relatable to maybe one or two billion, or “only” some hundreds of million, getting the COVID-19 vaccine will be a defining moment for enough billions of people that more than half of the planet will be able to relate to! Besides general life experiences like falling in love, having children, or sex, and so on, no life experience will have been so universal to us as a species globally. Yet, unlike those other “universal” experiences, this one won’t have nearly as much variety, nor any taboo, to share, reflect on, commiserate, whatever the bonding experience you choose. And there may not be anything like it again until a more deadly disease which vaccination can generally resolve comes along.
So as people share their COVID- jabbing stories, I will do my part and share mine.
I was lucky enough to have choices of AstraZeneca, Pfizer, and Moderna, by the time my age group was allowed to book appointments to get a shot in May. I chose the Moderna vaccine because of scientific and other information I had heard on this People I Mostly Admire podcast episode. it was going to be an m-RNA vaccine one way or another for me, and I liked how Moderna approached and solved the problem better than Pfizer, to keep it short and not too boring. Actually, I liked it enough that I was willing to wait a little extra to get it, if I didn’t have the choice when my time came, given my excellent constitution and the relatively low numbers where I lived, even if we were going through a mini-outbreak at the time.
Of the choices I had for appointments, the best one was the first one, closest to me and soonest. Yet, it was on May 19th, a day of infamy for me as the Communist leader that had led to the demise of my home country of Viet Nam, was born on that date. The propagandist had drilled it into me and tens of millions of other kids in the post Viet Nam War school system that I hated them for it, and the day for it. However, I then realized that whatever bad that war, its fall out, and everything associated with it, the country, the damned Communists in power, and Uncle Ho had caused, without it, my Parents would not have taken the risk to leave the country and I wouldn’t have the beautiful life I have today. May 19th, while it might be indirectly associated with all kinds of bad things for me, turned out to be, arguably, indirectly associated with the best thing to have happened to my life. So with that, May 19th it was.
In terms of getting the jab, it was at a Lawton’s Drug Store in a mall basically two blocks from where I lived. I could merely cross one street from the parking lot of my building and get inside the mall to get to it. Or, cross one intersection from work, or stay indoors through the much longer maze of walkways and tunnels, if the weather were bad. Turns out, it was just a cool, cloudy morning, so I walked outside for a few minutes, literally, to get it.
As for the jab itself, it was rather interesting. I chose my right arm instead of the left that had more than its fair share of needles in my life time, and I wore my red shirt in case blood got spilled so that it wouldn’t be very noticeable. I always wear that shirt to the dentist or any medical appointments where blood could theoretically leak out. I shared with the young woman giving me the jab but she didn’t think it was very funny at all.
That young woman looked to be a very new pharmacist, or new graduate even. She looked Middle Eastern, with a plausible accent to match, but her diction to ask me questions and tell me all the information I needed to know was flawless. Not a stutter, hesitation, or anything. She had to add an extra request for me to relax as I readied myself after she was done talking and ready to give me the shot.
She shot it all right! She took aim and put it into me like throwing a dart. Yet, it didn’t hurt. I could just tell it was different from other needles I had in the past. Then she rotated her fingers on that syringe and powerfully squeezed it dry, using force and speed to ensure she had flushed out all the content before pulling it out.
Then she thumbed on a modern bandage of a little square inside a translucent circle, reminding me of Leonardo Da Vinci’s failed life long obsession with squaring the circle by word association, since that mathematical problem had nothing to do with the image of the bandage. And I was done! No real pain. Not even a heart rate increase that my new Garmin running watch detected.
In the waiting area where we were supposed to sit for 15 minutes for observation in case we had a reaction to the vaccine, I could only feel my arm being sore in the area. Interestingly, the soreness got worse and lasted a couple days, feeling like I had a bad bruise there, and half way down my humerus, though there was nothing funny about that! It felt bruised enough that had I not known it was from the vaccine, so no real damage to the area, I would not have attempted push ups for fear of breaking, or at least aggravating, something!
That evening, I went for an easy 10.5k jog, feeling some fatigue, though I can’t say how much the vaccine might have contributed to it. I had slept a little less than usual in the days leading up to shot day, and I was only two days removed from a period where I ran 111 km in 7 straight days, and 180 km in 11 straight days, both more than I was generally ready for at this time of year and in my life. The run was definitely slow, the slowest I had done in months leading back to winter when I had to wear much more clothing and be more careful with each step on slippery surfaces rather than being able to drive with each step on clear ground. Yet, I didn’t push it, convincing myself I shouldn’t do anything that might squeeze the vaccine back out for a joke.
The evening of the following day, I had a tough speed workout with my group. I could definitely still feel the fatigue when trying to push myself, though not when just sitting or walking around doing things. In other words, I was fine, but didn’t have nearly as much of a ceiling for maximum effort unlike other days. My arm was still quite sore, but it felt the more I moved it to move blood through it, the better it felt. Maybe it was just pain-numbing endorphins, like my body often feels on runs when it’s a little sore from exercise, as it’s almost always a little sore or more, from exercise, given how much I exercise.
Friday night now, 2.5 days removed from vaccine time, the middle of my humerus is still a bit sensitive. The bandage put on feels like it will never come off, which is quite the technological advancement from the last time I had a Band-Aid on me! Should it not come off on its own, I haven’t decided when I would take it off. However, I do know we completely shed our skin every two weeks or so. Yes, the me that you see two weeks after you saw me last has none of the me you saw two weeks prior in terms of skin! I don’t know how deep this shedding of the skin goes, but I figure if not in one cycle, then max two, that bandage won’t have anything to hold on to in terms of new skin formed so that I might just wait it out for a few weeks and let the bandage come off naturally. That’s the only “concern” I have now, having done yet another 11 km run tonight, focusing on extended stride length to improve that part of my new running style, and a threshold intensity run tomorrow morning.
Now it’s just a matter of waiting almost four months until September 1st when I am scheduled to get my second dose. We’ll see what the mixed vaccine trial shows before I decide what vaccine I will take then, whether Pfizer or another Moderna. I just know it won’t be AstraZeneca. That’s like old skool tech to fight a novel new virus. Besides, it has less chance of turning me into a mutant, and no chance of carrying a “run faster” message in any RNA delivered as it contains no RNA. 🙂