On Getting the Second Covid Vaccine (Side Effects, Getting AstraZeneca, Long Term Impact)

Ah, the end of a series. And the beginning of long term immunity! Hopefully! (For anyone new, here is my post about getting offered the vaccine and having a small existential crisis over it, and here is my post about getting my first dose and the side effects.)

I had the second dose on Friday morning and it was all right, all things considered. I got a bit headachy and tired later in the day, but I didn’t just go to sleep like I did last time. My arm didn’t feel as heavy as before, either, which was nice. Now I’m feeling physically normal and mentally… more relaxed? I know I’m unusually lucky with the timing, but I do feel a bit more confident about socialising in groups now. I think I’d be very anxious about the lockdown easing if I hadn’t had at least one dose. Last week, pre-second dose, I hugged about five people. Five! And I sat indoors in a café! Twice! (Aside: how weird is it being indoors with people you’ve never seen before?) I was a bit nervous, but between the first vaccine and a negative Covid test, I felt prepared? And now I’m fully vaccinated I’m definitely happier to mingle.

Well, not happier. I didn’t like mingling before all this. But now I’m not worried that I’ll accidentally kill a vulnerable person if I breathe too closely to them.

So what have we learnt, reader? Other than reaffirming that I am constantly anxious about all things? Well, if you’re hesitant about getting the vaccine because you’re worried about side effects, I’d say take a deep breath and just do it. A couple of days of feeling shitty is nothing compared to a stint in intensive care, or long Covid. If you’re worried about blood clots due to the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, then I hear you. I don’t think the risks of AZ were known when I had my first dose; I did panic when I saw the news. But I’m fine – I think I’d know if I had a blood clot? – and the risks really are low, especially when compared to the chances of dying from Covid. Plus, young people are getting a different vaccine now anyway.

If you’re bad with needles, I’d say tell the nurse you’re bad with needles. I’m fine with them as long as I look away and talk incessantly while they’re administering the thing. But it was genuinely more of a scratch than anything else. I’d say it’s less uncomfortable than having blood drawn, but your mileage may vary depending on how you feel about needles and your experience with blood tests and surgical stuff. I’ve had multiple hospital stays and my hands are covered in needle scars, so I’m probably more relaxed than most people.

filled-in vaccine card for Oxford AsteaZeneca vaccine

All in all, I’d say the whole experience has been all right. The two vaccine centres I visited were forensically organised (shout out to my mum, who used to work at one of them). The staff were lovely. I’ve been thinking back to side effects to past vaccines and feeling grateful that this jab was pretty much the same as previous ones: I felt rough for a few days, but that’s it. It’s more than worth the hassle for the peace of mind.

It’s a bit of a catch-22 that I qualified for an early vaccine; I was simultaneously so relieved and guilt ridden. When the blood clot thing happened, I wished I’d been in a group that didn’t qualify yet. I’m still not completely sure why I did qualify, but on balance I’m grateful. I was never particularly worried for myself in all this – well. I was worried, but not paralysed with fear twenty four seven. Just in those moments when I let myself think about it. I was worried twenty four seven for all the vulnerable people I could potentially infect. Knowing that I’m contributing to the nation’s general immunity is nice. I can’t remember how much the vaccine reduces your risk of spreading the disease, but knowing I’m potentially less infectious also gives me peace of mind. I’m still hand washing and mask wearing (although I will be honest with you that I am still finding it hard to keep track of what is and isn’t allowed. If hugs are still illegal, ignore everything I wrote earlier).

I’m off to bask in my vaccine status. By which I mean, do some work and, most likely, make a cup of tea. OH THE EXCITEMENT. If any of my posts have inspired you to look into getting vaccinated, or have helped you feel more informed or less anxious about the vaccine, let me know! I wrote the series to add to the voices encouraging vaccination. It’s infuriating that vaccine hesitant people can so easily become anti-vaccination when prayed upon by those with political goals and persuasive branding. It’s devastating that vaccine hesitancy can lead to deaths, not just with Covid but with things like measles. But a conversation about those things is for another day. I reckon we’ll come back to it time and time again, though.

Look after yourselves,

Francesca


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On Getting the Covid Vaccine (Side Effects & Fatigue)

Morning lovelies. Here is my part two to last week’s mild existential crisis over being offered the Covid jab.

I had the AstraZeneca vaccine on Thursday evening and the process was as smooth as a Hozier song. My ‘hub’ was a church hall with a one way system, a human being offering directions every 20 feet and a wait time of about five minutes. I’m pretty good with vaccinations and blood tests as long as I don’t look at the needle as it goes in (I learnt that the hard way with the cervical cancer vaccine circa 2008), but it still felt like an easy process? One moment I was chatting about hay fever with the nurse, the next she was telling me to take paracetamol if I felt flu-y and pointing to the exit. I’ve spent longer making a cup of tea.

I wasn’t sure what to expect symptoms-wise. I had the flu jab last year and immediately got a dead arm, then spent the next day brain foggy and napping. I’d never had the flu vaccine before but I have had rabies, Japanese encephalitis, Hep A and Hep B for travelling, and something similar happened with those. I think the rabies one knocked me for six, but one day of feeling shitty while my body builds antibodies against a brain disease seems fair. Anyway, the same thing’s happened with Covid: my arm went sore and dead straight away and I spent yesterday in a brain fog, snoozing at regular intervals. I made a cake to feel productive (turns out you’re meant to filter the coffee in coffee cake). This morning I’m still a bit tired and my arm is still sore, but I feel all right. Enough to have another stab at coffee cake with-filter, although I substituted virtually everything and broke the mixer. I promise that would have happened without the vaccine, I am either very successful in the kitchen or a full on celebrity Bake Off nightmare.

To be honest, I’ve been fatigued recently anyway (I fell asleep in an online lecture on Thursday afternoon. Nodded right off. Thank god it was an extra work situation and not a live MS Teams call for college). I’ve also been a bit hay fever-esque for a week or so too (thanks, global warming), and I am a strong proponent of the siesta anyway. So it’s hard to know what’s due to what; I seem to get fatigued and brain foggy with a tiny cold, or if I’ve had more than one day of eating junk food, or if the moon is in Capricorn.

(I do not know if the moon being in Capricorn is a thing.)

So yeah, we’re all good here. Thoroughly recommend the process if you’d prefer a day or two of minor inconvenience to a stint in intensive care or several months of long Covid! If you’re worried about needles, I know my brother has to lie down when he gets vaccinated, because needles make him pass out, so mention that to the staff and they’ll sort you out. If you’re worried about taking the place of someone ‘more vulnerable’ when you’re offered the jab, please try not to. Having had a week to think on it, I’m grateful I can do my part to keep everyone safe and get us out of this hellscape as soon as possible, and I feel a certain responsibility to talk about the process and promote the science as far as I understand it (this WHO page explains how vaccines work with nice graphics and easy language). Coincidentally I read an article about vaccine justification yesterday and anecdotally, people with historic respiratory issues like mine are being offered the vaccine now. The ethics of deciding who should go where on the list is still complex, and I’m not going to flounce around talking about being hashtag blessed when we collectively have so far to go before everyone is safe, but if you get offered this vaccine, please consider taking it.

photograph of Covid AstraZeneca vaccine card on top of package leaflet information
I don’t know if I needed to cover the batch number?!

I promise the next post will be about something more relaxed/less Covid-y. I’ve been working on a blog about my misadventures in zero waste dental products – I promise misadventures is the right word – and I might do some more Read, If You Like posts. I’ve been reading some absolute gems recently! Let me know if there’s anything in particular you’d like to see, or if you’d like more chat about vaccines or suchlike. Or maybe a deep dive into how I managed to ruin a cake mixer?

Look after yourselves!
Francesca


Want to support this blog and/or enjoy exclusive access to stories and chatter from me? Join the No. 1 Reader’s Club on Patreon! Alternatively, use the button below for one-off support of as much or as little as you’d like. If you’re into fairy tales and/or want a brief respite from reality, you can also buy my bookThe Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, from most ebook retailers.

On Easing Lockdown and, Plot Twist, Getting Offered the Vaccine When I’m Quite Young & Healthy

I started writing this early on Thursday and finished it on Friday evening and there was a bona fide plot twist while I was editing, so I wrote more and added to the first part and now it’s twice as long. I’ll add headers and random photos to break it up. ENJOY.

On lockdown easing, or, the original post

My hands are stiff from working on a report for college, so I thought I’d use the computer’s speech recognition software to write this. The system isn’t used to my voice, though, so words kept coming up as the @ symbol, or asterisks or an ampersand. Then I turned the screen to greyscale.

2021 in a nutshell, then. (I am typing this.) (I don’t know how to get the colour back on my screen ahaha.)

I can’t even remember what I wanted to talk about! I’ve started, now, though. Okay, let’s try this again. Let’s talk about lockdown easing.

How is everyone feeling about the possibility of a Return to Normal in June? I am… more anxious than I thought I would be. I wrote in the first lockdown about how I thought I’d be okay in isolation because I was already an introverted little hermit, but that even I was finding it hard. And I definitely still am – I had a dream the other night that I got a takeaway with some mates. My cousin moved house a few weeks ago and I can’t wait to see her new place. I miss mooching around charity shops and being rude about other people’s discarded clothes. I miss popping out. I want to get cocktails with my friends and gossip about colleagues and try to figure out if we know the person at the next table.

But.

I’m not sure if I’m ready for noisy pubs with tipsy people jostling you at the bar, or big family barbecues with forty people and lots of cheek kissing, or buses with squished-up queues. I know that even with hospitality reopening and easing of household mixing restrictions, we’re meant to still distance. But we won’t. Drunk people can’t. Anti-vaxxers and Covid-deniers won’t wear masks the moment they think they can get away with it. When lockdown eased in the summer, some of my family threw a boozy house party. Was it distanced and considered? Was it fuck. I know people who aren’t taking up their vaccine offers, or are sceptical that the pandemic is even a real thing. Will they do normal-things-plus-distancing or will they go back to 2019 behaviours, like elastic that’s been stretched and let go?

I went to Greece in the summer with family (not the house party family. I have, like, eight strands of family). I was anxious, but it was for a long-planned family event and on balance, when I’d done the reading, I reckoned it was safe enough to take the chance. No one I was with caught or transmitted Covid as far as I know, and although social distancing was less strict than here, Zakynthos felt safer than the UK (I’ve also never seen such clean aeroplanes). There’s been a lot of non-Covid family stuff over the last year and I’m grateful we got to do something normal for a week when the rules allowed it. So I’m not advocating for national lockdown and no fun until we hit zero new cases. But Southend’s pubs felt more disgusting and less safe on a personal level than Zakynthos’ bars before the pandemic. I don’t know if that speaks more to Southend’s grottiness or Zante’s friendliness. I’m digressing. Have a nice photo.

closeup photograph of bougainvillea
Did I just make my travel blues worse? Um yes

I don’t know if I can deal with coming out of lockdown again just to go back in when cases rise. I guess the theory is that with mass vaccination, cases can’t spike. But still. I think I’d rather stick out a longer lockdown and know what the rules are than yo-yo between tiers like we did in autumn. The constant changes made me anxious, but I know what lockdown involves. I know how to do it now. Southend’s been in lockdown since just before Christmas when we went into Tier 4, but I’ve been really busy so I’ve coped quite well. Better than first lockdown probably, because college and book promotion are keeping me occupied. I’ve got less time to spiral into doom thoughts. On the other hand, I can’t really remember what it’s like to not be in lockdown? And this roadmap whatsit seems like a lot of changes very quickly. I know the ‘back to normal’ date is in June and I’m writing this in February, but it feels soon. I was expecting to ease into ‘normal,’ the same way you dip a toe into a hot bath and acclimatise before getting in. Maybe start with a coffee on a park bench and work my way up. I guess going to Zakynthos was dipping a leg in? I’ve been there a dozen times, so visits are less like going to a foreign country and more like taking a really long journey to see old friends.

Then there’s the whole question of what ‘normal’ involves. I don’t hate what my life has been since Covid started. I hate lots of parts of it, but I feel like I’ve made progress with my mental health in the past year or so, probably because I can’t ignore issues when I’m stuck indoors. I’ve reconnected with friends over Zoom, done a tonne of reading, written a series of short stories, gone back to school. Published a book. I’m not mad about those things. So do I want things to go back to precisely how they were at the start of the pandemic? No. Plus, surviving 2020 feels like a badge of honour. I’m ready for parts of my life to start back up, while keeping hold of the good bits from Covid. I’m just not as ready as I’d like to be?

Perhaps I’ll feel differently when I’ve had a vaccine. And I think some people’s behaviours have changed permanently, for the better. I feel like it’s going to be really normal to see people with hay fever wearing masks, and it’s going to be more acceptable to call in sick to work when you have a cold. Hand sanitiser is going stay in people’s bags when they use public transport. More people will wash their hands before they eat.

Probably?

The second aspect of The Return to Normality that’s giving me nerves is money. As in, I don’t have a lot since I went back to college. It hasn’t been that big of a deal, because what is there to spend money on? Except I’ve promised at least three groups of people that when this thing is over, we’re going for dinner or drinks or suchlike (and I want to do it properly, with a nice outfit and cocktails with an umbrella). I looked at a restaurant menu the other day and thought ‘shit that looks pricy. Was it always this pricy?’ Everywhere’ s going to up their prices to make up their losses. I don’t blame them, and I do want to buy from my favourite places. God, I miss browsing bookshops. It just feels like a lot to commit fifty quid to a night out or a dinner I don’t feel completely safe going to.

from Giphy. I don’t know the film/show this is from I want to see it.

Oh, and the sudden ‘maybe’ of concerts going ahead is nerve wracking. I don’t think MCR’s tour will happen, at least for the UK, because their UK shows are in a stadium that seats 30,000 people and their run finishes the day before the legal limits are removed. If I were any of the dozens of people involved in the tour, I’d want to postpone. Just to be on the safe side and reduce the risk of getting stranded if a country’s rules change suddenly. But if it does go ahead, I (and presumably 30k other people) have to weigh up safety versus, you know, the return of Jesus. Also, I thought I had a while to save up for inane merchandise (that baby is me at a merch stand) and finish making my Killjoy jacket. JUNE IS TOO SOON.

Part two, or, plot twist

I took a break from working on this (and somehow turned the greyscale off, ha) to get lunch. I was faffing about when I got a text from my GP asking me to call to arrange a vaccine appointment. I have never made a phone call so fast. I’m the youngest person I know who’s been offered it (I’m 25), and I’m not completely sure why? It might be because I had asthma for a bit as a child, or more likely due to the respiratory issues I had when I was born. I was in A&E the Christmas before last with heart palpitations (did I ever tell you guys about that? Christmas Eve on a hospital ward, what a treat). Or maybe I’ve been up the doctor enough times in the past couple of years with my IBS and shitty wrists that I flag up on their system. Maybe I’ve got points on my loyalty card.

Seriously, though, I’m not sure how to feel. I mean, there was unrelenting joy and relief once I booked my appointment, followed by crushing guilt that I’ve been offered it when people with learning difficulties have had to fight to be moved up the list. I guess I’m in the ‘everyone over 16 with a health condition that increases their risk’ bracket, even if this is the first I’ve heard of it. Do I deserve the vaccine more than people who have been shielding for a year? No. As we’ve established, I don’t go out much. I’m not a key worker, I don’t see many people day to day. I’m not a huge risk to others, nor am I necessarily at risk of a bad Covid experience. But I didn’t turn the appointment down, because I have a responsibility to protect everyone who is at risk. If popping up the vaccination hub next week contributes to The Return of Normality, it’s the literally the least I can do. I’m just not sure if I’m quite ready for The Return of Normality. I gave myself a day to think about it before coming back to this post, and although I think getting the first vaccine will make me less nervous about socialising, I’m still not sure about pubs or crowded indoor gatherings. I’m definitely not sure about an open air stadium with 30,000 people. And by ‘not sure’ I mean ‘will probably refuse to unless I’m reassured by the data we’re given closer to the time regarding vaccinations and new cases.’ Obviously I’m hoping that things will continue to go well and by the time places open up, I’ll feel more confident. But we’ve been in lockdown-easing territory before, you know? Nothing’s certain until it’s happening.

I wasn’t sure whether to talk about being offered the vaccine. Bragging about getting it at 25 when I’m not even certain it’s for a current health issue is not a good look when so many more people are more deserving. Then I watched a Royal Institution livestream (which is now on YouTube, check it out!) about vaccination myths and the panel talked about how young people might be more inclined to get vaccinated if influencers were getting it. I hope to never, ever be considered an influencer, unless I’ve influenced you to read a book I’ve raved about or some shit, but it won’t hurt to add my voice to the number of people talking about their experience. So I’m due to get vaccinated on Thursday, and I’ll pop in over the weekend to talk about what it was like, and discuss any side effects. If it’s anything like the flu jab, I’ll have a sore arm and take a nap… which is really not that different from a normal day. Might take a selfie with my little cotton arm swab for Instagram and caption it Be The Change.

So, yeah. This was a weird post to write: I’ve never had the topic I’m writing about have such a dramatic plot twist half way though! Editing was harder than it should have been. I’m not sure what tone I’m going for. Reticent? Nervy? Not looking forward to the possibility of getting yelled at on Twitter for getting the vaccine when I’m healthy and young versus not looking forward to listening to people talk about how if the pandemic was real, there would be bodies in the streets (real quote from a very intelligent human being). I’m still conflicted. About all eight billion words I just wrote. I usually end with a question, so I guess today I’m asking: if you’re under 30 or so, have you been offered the vaccine? How was it? Regardless of age, how are you feeling about going back to ‘normal’? If you are also an anxious neurotic who isn’t sure about hugging people, please let me know. Day to day I’m mostly surrounded by people who can’t wait to go partying and take off masks and pretend this shit never happened. Speak to me, my people…

Oh, I feel like you guys would appreciate that I celebrated booking my appointment by ordering a new bra. I mean, I was thinking about it anyway because the one I was wearing the day I began this post was literally falling apart at the seams and wouldn’t survive until the shops reopen. It had sort of begun garrotting my back. I figured it’s a very 2021 experience to celebrate one’s vaccination from Covid with the purchase of a (non-wired, obviously) bra. We’re supposed to celebrate the little things in life, right?!

Look after yourselves.
Francesca

Update: here is the post where I talk about getting the vaccine, symptoms and, er, cake baking.


Want to support this blog and/or enjoy exclusive access to stories and chatter from me? Join the No. 1 Reader’s Club on Patreon! Alternatively, use the button below for one-off support of as much or as little as you’d like. If you’re into fairy tales and/or want a brief respite from reality, you can also buy my bookThe Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, from most ebook retailers.