Vaccinations and Expectations

I live in the UK, and as a resident of this Northern Isle, I have the stupendous privilege, for reasons that are a source of great international discontent, of having access to the Coronavirus vaccine now, rather than later.

I took advantage of this privilege yesterday morning, visiting a slick yet friendly operation in Central London to receive my “jab”, as the Prime Minister insists on calling it.

My Covid Vaccination Card

I walked away on a cloud, my mood lifted by the thought that I had, today, taken a meaningful and irrevocable step towards being free of the collective waking dream that we’ve all been living for the past 15 months.

I felt strong, fit, and healthy. At the school gate, I told other parents that I’d had the vaccine. Refusing to use the word “jab” is a satisfying little act of rebellion that has far more importance in the echo chamber of my mind than outside it.

That evening, around six, I felt a little more tired than usual. Perhaps a little out of sorts. A little later, around eight perhaps, during a phone call with a relative, I started to shake uncontrollably. Shivering is what it’s called, but the movements my body insisted on making were far wilder than the word suggests. I suddenly, abruptly, felt profoundly unwell. (spot the explosion of adverbs, I’m clearly not myself).

I took a very, very hot shower to calm the shivers. Facing the onset of a terrible headache and more other symptoms than I could count (although they were all helpfully listed on the pamphlet I’d been given on my way out of the vaccination centre), I drank some Lemsip (paracetamol), then another cup of tea, and curled up in a ball in my bed, waiting for my body to calm itself and sleep to do the rest.

I shivered through the night, much too hot to be comfortable. I slept intermittently. I woke completely at midnight, the headache too intense to ignore. I waited over an hour, then rose and had more paracetamol with a glass of water, which I spilt because I couldn’t stop my hand from shaking. Thirty minutes later I started sleeping properly.

Weirdly accurate for a government publication

I woke at six (as usual), feeling more or less myself. The headache was lingering, but on its way out. My pyjamas were soaked in sweat. Aches and pains were liberally distributed throughout my joints and other components. I showered to rid myself of memory of this awful night and did my best to bootstrap my morning. “The day waits for no man,” and all that nonsense.

It’s now evening, and I’m feeling somewhat better. I’m still a little dizzy and lightheaded, and the headache lingers just out of reach, more like the threat of pain than pain itself. I second-guess my every interaction, not confident that I’m myself at the moment. I have no doubt that one or two more nights of sleep will rid me of these lingering symptoms. It is fair to say, however, that whatever immunity I will soon acquire did not come without cost.

One of the byproducts of a life well travelled is that I have a vaccination booklet full of stamps and reminders. I’ve had more vaccinations than most people. I’m very much in favour of them, even if I’m not the type to get into fights about it. Vaccines have saved more people than wars have killed. That said, I’ve never before experienced the side-effects that this vaccine delivered. I’ve had the yellow fever vaccine three times. That vaccine has a list of side effects that reads like a horror movie and the worse reaction I ever had was a slight fever. Although my recent experience of vaccine side-effects lasted only 24 hours, it was worse than my bout with Covid-19 itself, which I previously ranked as “miserable,” but have now, with the benefit of context, downgraded to “unpleasant”.

They say that the younger you are, the stronger your immune system, and therefore the more violent the potential reactions to the vaccine. If that’s the case, then I’ll take it as a compliment. My immune system, provoked by the AstraZeneca vaccine, kicked my ass these last 24 hours. Traitor.

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