Yep, it's official. It's been two weeks since I received the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) COVID-19 Vaccine and I'm now at "maximum immunity" status.
As a chiropractor I was eligible to be vaccinated in Phase 1B, but I had to wait until the J&J shot was available due to my rare allergy to polyethelene glycol (PEG), which is an ingredient in both the Pfizer and Moderna versions. Then I battled seniors who were taking all available appointments, once it became available as I realized I didn't qualify for the mass vaccination sites with J&J in Cook County because I work and live in DuPage County. Sigh.
It's a relief to have it done, partially because it was so stressful to get an appointment to receive the vaccine and also partially because I don't have to worry about making the decision or discussing whether I'm going to get it anymore.
Getting the shot itself was uneventful other than driving to Evanston on a Friday afternoon. That night I started getting really tired and slept 22 hrs in a 34 hr period. Because of my allergy to PEG, I also can't take Tylenol or ibuprofen...so I sweated out the eye pain, muscle aches and flu-like symptoms with sleep, epsom salt baths and hot showers. I barely mustered up 4000 steps that Saturday (my typical weekend day would be 15,000-20,000 steps). Sunday morning I woke up feeling like a new woman and was so well rested. It felt amazing to feel good again!
Typical of American society, everyone seems to have an opinion about vaccines and wants to make sure others agree with their thoughts on the subject. From what I remember from my college pyschology class, the more people we find that agree with our opinion on a subject, the more validation we feel about our decision. So this response is natural with a a decision with so much conflicting information out there.
Some of my friends, family and patients have asked me why I decided to get vaccinated. Others congratulated me and questioned why it took me a few months to complete the process. Here's a little background of why/how I made my decision...
Even though I have an autoimmune condition (Celiac Disease), I am not at increased risk of severe illness if I contracted COVID-19. I work out regularly, and I'm not over 65, overweight, have asthma or blood pressure issues. I'm 99% sure I would survive COVID-19, but I'm sure it wouldn't be fun to get sick, right?!?
But as a health care worker, I am in close proximity with those who are immunocompromised, elderly, asthmatic or hypertensive. We continue to wear masks and HEPA filtration in the office and I follow CDC guidelines at home as well, but there still is a risk when working with the public on a daily basis. I am continually greatful (and surprised) that I have worked within a foot of people's faces for over a year without contracting any viruses (not even a cold -- which I'm happy about too!).
I decided to get vaccinated for COVID-19 because it helps protect others. The shot is not perfect, but it's something. If it keeps one of my family members or patients from dying from the virus, it's worth losing 36 hrs of time to bed rest. Yes, I understand that there might be side effects down the road that we don't know about, but I weighed the possibility of that with the real risk to those immunocompromised in my community.
About 6 years ago, I had a wonderful part-time nanny who helped take care of my two small kids. She was in her thirties, but was a cancer survivor and had a stem cell transplant. Because of her recovery, she couldn't work full time yet, but had bills to pay so she decided to nanny. One day she texted me and said she had a cold and asked if it was okay to come over with the sniffles. I said it was fine, because back then a cold was no big deal. Everything went fine that evening and she went home after watching the kids.
The next morning her husband called me and let me know she had been coughing during the night, aspirated and was brain-dead in the hospital. She had the flu and it was going to kill her. A day or so later, her family said goodbye and they took her off life support.
This was the first time I had ever seen a seemlingly vibrant, young person die from the flu. Being immunocompromised just became real.
So this is why I got the COVID-19 vaccination. It's not about me, it's about them. It's possible I might have a side effect (and hopefully it's mild!), but I feel better knowing I did everything within my power to help those who are not strong enough to fight the virus.
I encourage everyone to talk with their health care provider and weigh the cost/benefits to receiving the COVID-19 vaccination for their particular situation. I'll be supportive of whatever choice is the best for you!