My Experience with the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 Vaccine

by Lisa Heath
19 comments
My Experience with the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 Vaccine

This is something a little different today, and it’s more for my personal experience and general documentation of my experience with the Pfizer BioNTech Covid-19 Vaccine. While this blog has been a 9 year journey with beauty and nail related posts, I decided to include this. It will be a rambling post, so fair warning.

When we moved to Massachusetts back in July, I didn’t know what kind of job I would be looking for. I’ve been in admin work for 21 years, 19 of those within the accounting field. I browsed listings for job openings and applied to a few. A lot of the openings out here were within the medical or dental field. A lot of the medical were more specialized practices. I did the interview process with one very specialized medical practice and was hired.

Much like my previous job – I will say the field I work in and my job title, but I never reveal my actual place of work for privacy reasons.

On November 4th I started work as a Patient Coordinator for a busy medical practice in Massachusetts. Obviously like most businesses that aren’t remote, we practice social distancing, proper sanitizing (I even get a dispenser on my wall at work) and mask wearing. But every day that I go to work, we know that it’s a risk of bringing Covid into our home where Nick and Jacob have been self quarantining since March of 2020.

Shortly before we went on holiday break, it was mentioned that our office was approved for the Covid-19 Vaccine. Shortly after we returned, we started getting more details and it came up that my date for the first dose would be January 16th at noon. I would need to travel to Boston (first time for me) to get the first dose. Our office was split into 2 days, several of us went today (16th) and the rest will be going tomorrow.

I do want to mention that at no time did my work tell me I had to get the vaccine. They strongly encouraged it, but I was not forced to get it. I do feel this is important to mention. My job was not in jeopardy if I opted to not get the vaccine. It is also my understanding that a few people at my work did opt out of it for their own reasons.

I had reservations about this vaccine. I do feel it’s necessary and we all knew that it would come about eventually. In general, aside from my weight (I’m about 30 lbs overweight for my height according to BMI charts), I am a fairly healthy 38 year old. I have a couple minor medical issues, but none that will cause harm or that lead to serious medical issues, or that are life threatening.

The day before (the 15th) I get a call from the hospital that they wanted to move me to 10 am, so I took it since we wanted to see a house at 12:30 on Saturday and Nick was going to go alone.

I was nervous about driving to Boston, then woke up to heavy rainfall. So on top of driving into a big city like Boston, I also had to do so in the pouring rain. Nick would have driven me had I asked, but no point in bringing extra people with me for this, and that way if it hurts I can privately pout.

I get to the hospital where the first Pfizer dose is to be injected and I’m immediately lost. I ask the help desk where I go for the Covid vaccine and she rattled off instructions that went along the lines of “Go around the corner to the elevators, go up to the 3rd floor, turn left and go over the bridge…” and I somehow blanked on the rest. By the time I got to the elevators I was completely unsure of anything other than “bridge”

Awesome start Lisa.

Elevators open and an equally lost looking man on the elevator said “are you getting the vaccine?” I said I was and he said he was lost trying to get there as well. So I got on the elevator and we went up to the third floor.

I’m not big on hospitals. I haven’t had any seriously traumatic experiences with hospitals, but it’s just a feeling I get when I enter them. Make it a fairly empty wing of the hospital and it downright creeps me out.

We exit the elevators on the third floor, turn left and see a long, empty corridor. The kind you see in movies when a deranged psychopath is lurking behind a corner. All it was missing was some wispy curtains and a flickering light. We get to the end (the corridor was apparently the ‘bridge’ BTW) and someone saw us and said “Vaccine?” we nodded our heads and he pointed at stairs and said “down 3 floors and you’ll see all the people.”

Thank you kind sir.

Sure enough, at the bottom of the 3 flights was a line of people. We get in line and wait as it slowly shuffles along. After 10 minutes, I’m about 4 people away from entering the injection room when someone mentions a check in.

What?

There is a woman sitting behind a laptop and we had to check in. Wonderful. The entire line empties because none of us did this. Check in finished and back in line. Again. I get to the front of the line, they ask for my ID, and take it from me… then say I’ll get it back at the end. Odd, but okay. I don’t do things like this often, so wasn’t expecting that.

I finally make it inside and a friendly doctor is assigned to me. He asks how I am with needles, and I tell him that they don’t make me pass out, but I don’t care for being jabbed with them. He goes over the needle size, says I should barely feel it. Then he rattles off the side effects that are most common.

Soreness in arm, warmth in muscle, joint pain, headache, nausea.

He asks if I’m ready, I say that I am and off he goes to use an alcohol pad on the upper muscle in my left arm, then he jabs me with the needle.

I honestly felt nothing. Had I not been looking at the needle (I have to look for some reason) I wouldn’t have realized he injected me. Then he disposed of the needle, dabbed the little bead of blood at the injection site and applied a bandaid. I was then asked to sit in a row of seats for 15 minutes to make sure I had no issues.

Around 7 minutes in, I did start to feel warmth in the injection area. Similar to how I feel after getting a normal flu shot. I haven’t gotten a flu shot since around 2005, but I do recall that feeling. Around 10 minutes after the shot it feels like I was sucker punched in the arm. After 15 minutes, I still feel like my arm has been sucker punched but that’s it. I’m free to collect my license, get my parking validated and go.

I get to the car and now have to navigate out of this parking garage. The rain let up, so the drive home was mostly water being kicked up by other vehicles on the road. About 30 minutes into a 45 minute drive, mild nausea kicked in. I didn’t feel like I was going to throw up, my stomach just felt uneasy – like I was a passenger in a car driving too fast on a winding road.

By the time I got home, my arm was even more sore and my nausea had intensified a bit more.



We did have a house viewing, so I said goodbye to Jacob (who was way too happy to have the place to himself) and we got into Nick’s car to check out the house we were drooling over online. By the time we got to the property about 20 minutes away, the nausea had subsided. It was still there, my tummy was still doing somersaults, but it was not as bad.

We liked the house by the way, didn’t love it – but we liked it enough to consider putting a bid in.

We got home and I started playing some World of Warcraft and letting my mom know that my arm hadn’t fallen off yet. My mom and I are pretty close and she worries like any mom would. She thinks the vaccine is too new, but understands that since I work in the medical field – this was going to happen.

Around 3:30 I had a mild headache and the soreness in my arm was radiating up to my shoulder and down to my elbow. Not painful, just… light throbbing. The nausea was also still lingering. So I decided to take a nap. Nick looked concerned but said okay.

I took a 3 hour nap and woke up with just the mild headache and sore arm. I still feel the radiating throbbing in my shoulder. The nausea is gone though.

It’s now 10:55pm and the slight nausea has returned, mild headache is gone, the entire upper portion of my left arm is sore and it hurts to raise it above shoulder level, plus my entire shoulder area over to the shoulder blade is sore.

I return to the hospital on February 6th for the second dose. I have heard that the second one can be the more brutal of the two as far as side effects go, so we will see. I’ll do another post for that.

Am I happy I did it? I’m fairly indifferent at this point. It’s not guaranteed to work, I know that. Would I volunteer Jacob to get the vaccine? Honestly no. Not at this stage. He is fully vaccinated and I’m definitely not against it eventually. But right now, I would say no.

Also, I am fully aware that this vaccine isn’t going to make it so I can go maskless. I will still wear a mask, I will still follow protocol for Covid. It is not guaranteed, I can still catch it and pass it along. I also understand a lot of people are still against the vaccine and that’s their choice, just as this was mine.

Update #1 – 01/17/2021: Nausea comes and goes, but the headache has gone completely. I’m exhausted and my arm is sore. The nausea reminds me of morning sickness, but without the vomiting. I woke up with red rimmed eyes, but those went away within an hour, so I’m not sure if it was just caused from being tired or if it was related to the vaccine. Either way – it did go away. I rarely get red rimmed eyes. Usually they are just puffy. Overall, I’m not doing too bad, just sore and mild nausea.

Update #2 – 01/18/21: I returned to work and honestly, I feel hungover. I noticed the lymph node in my left armpit is swollen. I don’t know how long it’s been swollen, it wasn’t something i was looking for. Online does say this is typical after the first dose. It doesn’t hurt and it’s not super swollen, so I’m not overly concerned. Nausea is still hanging around just enough to annoy me. My arm isn’t as sore as it was. It feels more bruised than sucker punched at this point. Overall – hungover is the best explanation I can give for the feeling I have. I thought it was just me – but once I got to work, most of us are feeling this way. Some worse than others.

Update # 3 – 01/19/21: I woke up today feeling good. Arm has very mild soreness but my lymph node in my armpit is back to normal size, nausea is completely gone. I still have a slight “foggy” feeling, but that could just be lack of sleep since my schedule is all over the place. The worst seems to have passed. Now we wait for shot #2.

I know this was a long, chatty post with a lot of my bs involved as far as the days events. Like I said early on, this is more for my experience of the day. I will do another post after dose #2.

19 comments

Ananka January 17, 2021 - 3:47 am

Interesting to know. I am a bit iffy about it too. Definitely in the skeptical camp at the minute. My friend’s wife got it, as she is a key worker and she has been ill a lot, feeling tired all the time and felling cold too.

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Stacy Pennock January 17, 2021 - 8:56 am

Do you know which vaccine she got (Pfizer or Moderna)?

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Marilynn M Schroeder January 21, 2021 - 6:02 am

Thanks for telling your story Lisa!

I got my first dose yesterday of the Pfizer vaccine. So happy I did, can’t wait for #2! My arm is sore but other than that, no side effects I’m noticing.

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Lisa Heath January 17, 2021 - 9:58 am

I’m hearing that has been fairly common after the second dose, but like Stacy, I’m curious which vaccine she got

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Stacy Pennock January 17, 2021 - 8:55 am

I’m so glad you posted this and I’m looking forward to the follow up after your 2nd dose. I work in veterinary so we’re considered essential. We found out last week that our practice is signed up for phase 1B of the vaccine (incidentally, I live in Kalamazoo, MI where the Pfizer vaccine is manufactured, it was all over the news here the day the semis rolled out with the first shipment of the vaccine). I’m not sure what 1B means as far as how soon we get it, it could be months. When it was first released I had no intention of getting it because it’s so new, there’s no way to know what it’s going to mean long term. But, the more I think about it the more I’ve decided to get it. We have decades of research behind vaccines and if it helps this pandemic come to a close sooner rather than later, I’m all in for that.

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Lisa Heath January 17, 2021 - 10:02 am

That’s sort of how I felt too. Initially I was like “Oh if there’s a vaccine, I will get it” but then it came out, and my first reaction was “that’s too soon”… but technology has come a long way.

If I had underlying health issues or severe reactions to things in general, I would have opted out. But since I am in overall good health I took the risk.

Today my arm is very sore in the upper area, but the mild headache and nausea are completely gone. The soreness is closer to feeling like I had an intense weight lifting session after months of being lazy. Not painful, but every so often I move a certain way and it gets me.

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Kristine January 17, 2021 - 10:36 am

I definitely agree with you about getting the vaccine, and about our kids getting it. My son (18) received his first dose of the Moderna one and has done well so far. I’m not thrilled about him being one of the youngest to get it, but he works as a first responder so in his field the benefits outweigh the risks. I look forward to your follow up on how the second dose goes!

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Lisa Heath January 17, 2021 - 11:10 am

My son is about to turn 15, so he’s too young to get it anyway – but even at 18… I’d be fairly “mama bear” about it. Heck, I’m almost 39 and my mom is checking in a lot and making sure I’m doing okay.

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gg January 17, 2021 - 11:20 am

Geez Louise, that was an interesting read. Thank you for the nitty-gritty, really appreciate it. You’re a better (braver) man than me

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Lisa Heath January 17, 2021 - 3:06 pm

You’re welcome. Just figured I would keep record of the experience for myself, and whoever may stumble upon it!

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Bama Pinson January 19, 2021 - 5:33 pm

Thank you for sharing!

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Lisa Heath January 20, 2021 - 9:17 am

My pleasure Bama, thank you for reading!

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Polished Hippy January 19, 2021 - 7:06 pm

Thanks for taking the time to share your experience! I had a pretty rough ride getting the flu and pneumonia vaccines at the same time (in the same arm) this late summer, so I will probably book myself out on the days I get this one. I ended up with a fever and the worst aches of my life this summer, and have only reacted to the flu vaccine one other time like that. I will however, get the covid vaccine as soon as humanly possible though, as will my parents. We are all high risk, including heart disease, asthma, type A blood, and for my parents, old age and active cancer. Getting covid would probably be a death sentence for my parents. I was able to get us a few more N95 masks for when we have to go shopping and whatnot. I am really lucky to have an understanding boss who lets me work from home most days. But I am really wary of the long-term effects of having a bad viral infection – I’ve had chicken pox three times and appear to catch it again every time I am exposed. The last time, I was incredibly ill for a year and had to drop out of college. I have permanent nerve damage from it. I’m glad you were able to get the vaccine early and will have some protection from this horrible disease, Lisa <3

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Lisa Heath January 20, 2021 - 9:24 am

I don’t generally have a super hard time with flu shots or vaccines in general, so I was fairly surprised when this one had the affects that it did. We have a few places here that advertise they have N95 masks in stock, so if you ever have trouble obtaining them, let me know and I can see if they still have them.

I hope you all remain safe and that you are able to get in for your vaccine soon as well!

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finished10dnails January 22, 2021 - 4:58 pm

Thank you so very much for this, it was enlightening, a bit scary, and also so reassuring. I appreciate all the details.

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Lisa Heath January 30, 2021 - 2:40 pm

Thank you for commenting!

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Terri January 26, 2021 - 11:16 am

That was a great read — I loved your description and detail. I have received the Pfizer vaccine, part 1 and 2. My experience mirrors yours except I couldn’t explain how I felt as well as you have . . . when I read ‘hungover” I had an “aha’ moment. The queasy nauseous feeling was kind of like being car sick and I just wanted it to be over, plus the fatigue was hard to push through and ignore. I remember thinking if this was mild symptoms I would hate to have full blown Covid, and also if the side effects meant my immune system was doing it’s job, hallelujah because I don’t want this stuff.

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Lisa Heath January 30, 2021 - 2:41 pm

That was my thought on it. I felt like I was in a fog and the fatigue was hard – but I’m sure its nothing compared to Covid itself

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Katie B. February 7, 2021 - 12:07 pm

I just came across this post, thank you for documenting your experience. I normally try to check for your nail polish posts once a month so I am a little late in seeing this. I didn’t realize these were the side effects. I was hoping that the newspapers would start reporting peoples symptoms good or bad after the first people got the shot. But I haven’t really seen anything.

At first I didn’t want to be one of the first people to get the shot either, but now that it is out I wish I could get it as soon as possible. I am in phase 2 so not sure when Maryland will start that, we are in 1C right now. My parents and there friends and my sister (in PA) have all gotten the first dose of Moderna with no side effects except a sore arm after. I do have a lot of different chronic illnesses but always get the flu shot each year with no problems so I didn’t really expect any problems with this vaccine either but I did hope that the newspapers would report if people were having reactions to it.

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