Reporter receives first dose of Pfizer vaccine and is (so far) feeling fine from Crain’s Detroit
January 12, 2021
I’m vaccinated — or at least I feel like I am, even though it is just the first of two doses.
When I heard the news last week that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was speeding up the vaccination schedule to those over age 65 starting Monday, I immediately reached out to cardiologist Bill O’Neill, my Henry Ford Medical Group doctor, for an appointment.
Why not? I’m eligible now at age 66. And since the COVID-19 pandemic began, journalists have been considered essential workers along with those employed in a number of job sectors, including food, education, manufacturing, transportation, energy and, of course, health care.
To my happy surprise, I was able to secure an appointment at 2:30 p.m. Monday. I was one of 70 people who were scheduled for the first day of expanded vaccinations at the Henry Ford Medical Group clinic, located at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.
During this first week of vaccinations for categories 1B and 1C, which includes essential workers like teachers, individuals 65 or older and others who meet the state’s expanded guidelines, Henry Ford nurses eventually expect to vaccinate up to 2,500 people per week at their five hospital sites. They are also continuing to vaccinate their 33,000 health care worker employees and are up to more than 20,300 vaccinated since Dec. 20, according to Henry Ford’s COVID-19 website.
On Monday, I went in the hospital’s east clinic entrance, where I was screened for temperature and asked several questions, then up to the ninth floor where the public vaccinations were being administered.
I checked in with registered nurse Madelyn Torakis, director of nursing excellence, who confirmed my appointment. I was led into the patient waiting area, when I met nurses Kara Lynn and Sandra Maxwell, who is in charge of the vaccine clinic.
Was I ready for my first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine?
I had prepared myself for this moment.
As a health care reporter for nearly 40 years, I read carefully last year all articles on the federal government’s Operation Warp Speed to develop one or more COVID-19 vaccines.
Believe me, I was skeptical, even during the fall, that a vaccine would be approved by the FDA as safe and effective. I told people, even up until October, that I would answer “no” if asked if I would agree to be vaccinated. I wasn’t yet convinced.
But after interviews with several dozen experts and people who received the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine, and reading additional reports on the vaccine’s efficacy, I changed my mind in late December.
So, I decided instead of reporting on people who have been vaccinated, asking why they did it and how they felt, I would get a vaccine and tell people my firsthand experiences.
Now I must reveal that I have heard from doctors, including Dr. Phil Levy of Wayne State University and Detroit Medical Center, who told me their second dose was much worse, in terms of reactions, than their first dose.
“I just received the second dose and the night after was horrible. Consistent story from colleagues too. It’s an expected effect not a side effect but rough nonetheless,” Levy said in an email.
Levy said he wants people to know a negative reaction is possible. There is “power in truth,” he said. In other words, be prepared to feel bad and go slow the next day.
But I was minutes away from receiving my first Pfizer dose and I was growing excited. Put me in, coach. Let’s play ball. I was ready.
Kara led me to a clinic room where I was given an eight-page fact sheet about the Pfizer vaccine and disclosures about the 11 side effects such as tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever, nausea and a sore arm. Allergic reactions could include difficulty breathing, swelling of the face and throat, a fast heartbeat, a bad rash and dizziness or weakness.
It also contained a list of the ingredients in the vaccine, which is messenger RNA, the new technology that triggers the body to make a protein that develops antibodies against COVID-19. The ingredients include MRNA lipids, potassium chloride, monobasic potassium phosphate, sodium chloride, dibasic sodium phosphate dihydrate and sucrose.
Almost the same as they put in potato chips, I thought.
After I read the documents, Kara asked a series of questions and entered the answers into my Henry Ford MyChart medical record.
“No,” I am not allergic to any of those ingredients, “No,” I have not received another vaccine in the last 14 days, “No,” I have not been infected by COVID-19, and “No’s” to a number of other questions.
Now it was the moment of truth. I took off my long-sleeve dress shirt and sat patiently while she prepared to insert the needle with the magical medicine into my left arm.
I started to close my eyes, as I would normally do when I get a shot. However, Sandra was standing feet away from me with my smartphone ready to take a picture, so I tried to act invincible.
Kara swabbed my arm with an alcohol wipe. In went the needle and snap went the camera.
It was done. I was vaccinated with the first dose.
My imagination started to run wild and I heard wild applause and congratulations. The next thought I had was whether I felt any different. No, nothing yet.
Kara told me I needed to stay in the patient waiting area for 15 minutes just to be sure there were no immediate side effects. I followed her out, thanked her and sat down near nurse Madelyn.
How did I feel? Five minutes after the shot, still no change. My oxygen count was a good 98 percent, according to my Apple Watch. My beats per minute were 91 and three minutes later went to 95. Ninety minutes later, while I am writing this blog, my BPM is at 80. After 30 minutes of swimming, my BPM is about 105, so all numbers were well within my normal range.
As I write this, my temperature feels warmer than usual. I am now at 99.6 degrees. I usually run a little cooler than the average 98.6. I do feel a little tired. My eyeballs feel swollen, if that is possible.
Still, I am happy I received the vaccine as early as I did. I know hundreds, if not thousands, of people like me who are age 65 or older are considering a vaccine, and many have scheduled or tried unsuccessfully to schedule an appointment.
My message is be patient. Not everyone can get dosed right away. In fact, I am guessing that the Henry Ford appointment calendar is probably already booked for the next week.
I was asked by Henry Ford nurses to remind people that to receive a vaccination at a health system you must either be a patient and have an electronic medical chart, or you need to register for one. I was also told that Henry Ford and other vaccination sites do not inoculate walk-ins.
“We will soon be reaching out proactively to our eligible patients to provide resources to help them make an informed decision, as well as encourage them to sign up for a MyChart account if they don’t already have one, for convenient online scheduling when appointments become available,” Henry Ford said.
Demand for vaccinations was illustrated by last Friday, when eight-hospital Beaumont Health’s MyChart website crashed due to traffic from people wanting appointments. Beaumont says it has tripled the size of its server, but like all hospitals, Beaumont is limited by the number of vaccines it receives from the state.
Beaumont said it can vaccinate more than 3,200 people per day. Officials say they hope to expand vaccinating sites from their corporate office to additional sites soon.
Many health systems and local health departments are also working with additional community partners to expand vaccination sites to dose as many people as they can.
But people should remember, the U.S. government is still limiting the allocations of the limited supplies of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to states to ensure providers have second doses to give to patients.
President-elect Joe Biden has other ideas— such as sending out as many doses as have been manufactured — but he won’t be sworn in until Jan. 20.
Right now I am scheduled for my second dose on Feb. 1. That is 21 days out. I was told I could move it up four days to Jan. 28, but that is the soonest I can get my second dose.
Beaumont said other frontline essential workers such as teachers, who are also part of the early essential worker group, should contact their employer or local health department to discuss their vaccination options.
But like Michigan Medicine advises: Appointments are limited and based on the number of vaccines allocated by the state. It could take up to three months to vaccinate all essential workers and others in the age 65 and above group, the Ann Arbor health system said.
I will be reporting on the rollout of the expanded vaccination schedule Tuesday and over the next week or so.
That is, if my side effects are mild. So far so good, although people I talk with say the second day after the first dose could be worse than the hours after the shot.
For now, I am very satisfied and thankful for the great health care workers I met Monday.
Side effects update: Monday night I had a slight headache, nasal and upper respiratory congestion and a small stomach ache. I was tired but I still watched Alabama beat Ohio State for the national football championship, 52-24. Wednesday morning I feel better, although I still have some nasal congestion. Success, so far.
Continue reading “Reporter receives first dose of Pfizer vaccine and is (so far) feeling fine” from Crain’s Detroit.