My COVID19 vaccine experience: Dose One

Regular readers will know that I have been (mostly) isolating since 13 March 2020. This is because I am on the shielding list due to my two major, life-long medical conditions and my lack of a spleen. This, in turn, means that I am on the priority lists for the COVID19 vaccination programme as a “clinically extremely vulnerable” adult.

And that means that I got my first dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID19 vaccine last week. Not only that, but because I am a shielder, I had my vaccine at my local doctor’s office, saving me from the hassle of travelling into the city to a large vaccination centre.

So, being a “sickie” has its perks. Kind of.

Note: This post is intended to share my experience for my own records and future memory prompts. However, I hope that it might serve as useful information for anyone who might stumble upon it in the search for answers to their own vaccine questions. Please remember that your experiences may vary and that this is not meant to be medical advice in any form. That said, I do welcome conversations so please feel free to ask questions, comment, or share your own experience at the end of this post.

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, nor do I have any professional health or fitness qualifications. This post is about my personal experiences with receiving the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID19 vaccine. It is meant as an informational starting point—not as medical advice. Please consult your medical team if you have any questions or concerns about your own health.

Prior to receiving my vaccine, I read through the potential side effects and I heard stories from others about their experiences. These stories ranged from “I had no problems, it was the same as getting a flu shot” to “I felt like I had a 48-hour flu with a massive headache and lots of full body chills; then went back to normal”. For those with the 48-hour symptoms, I was generally advised that in the first 24 hours I would be miserable and likely unable to work (or think or concentrate).

Because I had an important research workshop that I was running the following day, these stories worried me! But I had hoped that having that information would allow me to prepare for the side effects and survive the day. (I also prepared a back-up plan for if I wasn’t well enough to run the workshop.) I don’t know if my preparations made a difference or not but it did make me feel more in control.

Indeed, part of the reason I took the time to write down my side effects like this is so that I can (hopefully) help others to prepare. I also want to have a clearer idea of my baselines from Dose One to better prepare me for Dose Two, which is meant to be a little harder. (I will seek out the experiences of others for that stage, too.)

But, let’s get to the point now!

I have broken this into days with some high-level hour-counts to give you an idea of the time scale by which I experienced side effects. I have tried to keep the narration to a minimum, but regular readers will know I find it hard to shut up!

Day one: I’m fine, although a little more tired than normal by bedtime.

Before my appointment: I took my temperature about 30 minutes after I got out of bed as a baseline. That baseline was 96.8°F (36°C), which is in my normal range. I generally run lower than “normal”, which means my “fever” level is lower than normal*, too.

I opted to skip my morning run because I didn’t want to be rushed as I already had a busy day. I also had a 1.5-mile walk to get to my rural GP’s surgery (and then back again), so I knew I would have an opportunity for fresh air.

2:00pm: Jag time! When I arrived at the surgery, I was handed an information sheet and directed to a seat in the waiting room. It wasn’t long before the nurse called me back for my jag.

After a brief confirmation about the side effects and if I was happy to proceed, I received the jag in my right arm as I am a Proud Leftie. It was no more painful than the annual flu jag and was over in seconds. The nurse then handed me further informational materials to take home and let me take a photograph of the vial that my dose came out of.

2:20pm: After my jag, I sat in the waiting room for a few minutes, just in case there were any immediate issues. (There weren’t.) I felt quite emotional at this point because it made me realise that there might be an end in sight – after more than 11 months of isolation.

After leaving the surgery, I walked into the village to drop a couple of cards at the post office. I then made my way home through the woods. During the 2.7-mile walk, I felt a slight “flutter” in my chest. This wasn’t strictly a vaccine side effect, but I think it was a slight anxiety feeling as I was very emotional (happy emotions) and also very aware of every little sensation as I was “waiting” for the side effects to hit.

3:10pm: I turned the heat up as soon as I arrived home because I had heard several stories about people experiencing extreme chills starting a couple of hours after their vaccine. I hoped that if I could get the cottage toasty, I might be able to stave off the chills.

Bundled up after my COVID19 vaccine

6:00pm: Four hours post-jag, I was feeling slightly off. But I feel that was more of a psychosomatic response than anything else. My temperature was 97.4°F (36.33°C).

8:00pm: By now, my eyes were feeling very heavy and tired, more so that a “normal” evening, but not as much as when I am sick with a cold or flu. My right arm was also starting to feel a little sore both at the injection site and in my forearm. It almost felt as if I had done a bit of a weight session. I decided to take two (2) paracetamols at this point so that I could keep ahead of any further pain. I also turned the heat back to normal as I would be going to bed soon.

9:00-9:30pm: I was feeling increasingly tired, so began making my way to bed at 9pm. Even though I felt tired, my brain was still feeling alert, so it took a while to fall asleep.

Midnight and early hours: I woke up at midnight and again a couple of times overnight feeling hot (but not feverish) and with a layer of sweat on my body. I also felt quite thirsty each time I woke, so guzzled from the water bottle I keep filled next to my bed.

Day two: A few minor complaints, but nothing to worry about.

6:00am: I woke up at my normal time and was out of bed by 6.00. It was now 16 hours post-jag and my temperature was 97.7°F (36.5°C).

I felt sore when I first got up, as if I had done a moderate workout the day before. However, it wasn’t enough to warrant pain medication. I also noticed a slight twinge in my left kidney at this point. It wasn’t anything that caused worry, but I did decide I would have to pay close attention to it to ensure it didn’t get worse.

Perhaps the most unexpected thing I noticed was that I was very hungry! I don’t generally feel that hungry in the mornings, so I didn’t know if this was due to the vaccine or because I didn’t eat as much as normal the day before. Either way, I fed myself very well!

8:00am: I had a workshop that I was running online from 9am-1pm, so I cranked the heat up and prepared my workspace with plenty of water and peppermint tea in case I got thirsty during the meetings. And I prayed for limited side effects so that I could make it through the day.

10:00am: By now, I had started to develop a headache. I couldn’t tell if it was because of the vaccine or because of feeling dehydrated. So, I just kept drinking water and peppermint tea. I was also feeling very hungry again, despite having a decent breakfast earlier.

10:45am: This was the first break for the workshop, by which time my headache went from minor to moderate and my temperature rose to 99°F (37.22°C). I took two (2) paracetamols and drank two large glasses of water with the hopes that the fever would drop by the time the workshop was over.

I was feeling tired at this point, but not to a point that would keep me from working. I couldn’t tell if the tiredness was jag-related or because of the fitful night’s sleep.

12:30pm: Nearly two hours after taking the paracetamol, my temperature was down to 98.4°F (36.89°C). I still had a headache, but it seemed slightly better. And again, I was very hungry!

2:30pm: At this point, I was 24 hours post-jag and nearly 4 hours post-paracetamol. My temperature had dropped to 97.5°F (36.38°C) and I felt comfortable (not too hot/cold).

4:00pm: I finished working for the day and retired to the couch to cosy up under some blankets. My headache was still there, but it was fading. However, my eyes were feeling very tired and needed to rest. I felt that the tiredness was a combination of so much screen time, a lack of sleep, and the jag.

At this point, my body felt sore, still just as if post-workout but the twinge in my kidney seems to have gone away.

6:00pm: My temperature was 99°F (37.22°C), but I decided not to take another dose of paracetamol at this point, as I felt the temperature could be in part because I was bundled up so well and the heat was still cranked up. Instead, I just re-filled my water bottles and returned the heat to its normal settings for the rest of the evening.

9:00pm: My temperature was still 99°F (37.22°C), so I took two (2) paracetamol. I was also still feeling extremely thirsty!

9:30pm: I went to bed a little after 9.30pm because my eyes were very tired and heavy feeling. Much like the first night, I woke up a couple times feeling quite hot and sweaty – but not nearly as much as the night before.

Day three: My body is still aware of something being off, but it’s I feel normal.

5:30am: I woke up when my 5.30 alarm sounded and felt relatively fine, but I was aware that I didn’t have the best night’s sleep. My right arm was noticeably sore at the injection site and my armpit. My left arm felt a tad sore, like I’d lifted weights, but nothing of real note. The rest of my muscle soreness from Day Two was all but gone.

6:00am: I took my temperature after my morning stretches and before my coffee; it was back to my normal range at 97.2°F (36.22°C). I also noted that the headache from Day Two was gone, although I did have a slight dehydrated feeling in my head.

10:00am: By now, the minimal amount of soreness in my left arm was gone and the only soreness I felt was in my right arm – especially at the injection site. My arm felt bruised, as if punched, but I could move it without any real discomfort.

My temperature remained normal throughout the day and my thirst and hunger levels had returned to normal, too. I went for a 6-mile run and was very aware of the pain in my right arm, but not in a “that hurts” way. Instead, I just felt slightly bruised.

Days four through seven: Someone punched me in the arm, but it’s better day by day.

By the time I woke up on Day Four (my 47th birthday!), I felt back to normal. I also managed a full night’s sleep the night before. The only reminder of the jag was that my right arm felt as if someone punched me. The pain wasn’t constant, however, and was only noticeable if I pressed on the injection site. (I know: Don’t do that then!) I managed to run 47 furlongs and hike 7+ miles with little awareness of the pain.

One thing I did notice on Day Four was the development of a few small petechiae after my morning run. There were not that many of them, and I didn’t have any other bruising or bleeding symptoms, so I didn’t concern myself too much. I did, however, keep checking throughout the day to ensure they weren’t getting worse. As it was, they didn’t get worse and were beginning to fade by the following day. This isn’t a normal side effect, but it was not unexpected given my ITP diagnosis – a condition leading to a low platelet count which can be made temporality worse after vaccines, illness, or taking paracetamol.

There isn’t much to say about Days Five, Six, and Seven other than the bruised feeling faded more and more each day. Indeed, by Day Seven the bruised feeling was so minimal that I wouldn’t have even noticed if I hadn’t been “looking” for the pain.

And there you have it: My (overly detailed) experiences with the first dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine!

Vaccination programmes in the western world seem to be picking up speed now and that gives me hope that all adults who want a vaccine will be able to get one before the end of the year. I know that there is also research and testing happening to determine the safety of vaccines for children, whilst also developing new/better vaccines and new/better treatments. It’s all looking quite positive, especially when I think about how stressed I was about it all last year!

I am just two weeks away from marking a full year of isolation, and whilst I am quite privileged to be isolating where I am, I am ready to share my life with other humans again. My hope is that we will be in a place this summer or autumn where we can begin to return to some form of normal. I am anxiously awaiting the day when I can safely travel home to America to see my family and hug my Mummy and Daddy – and to a lesser extent, I’m really looking forward to just going to a pub with friends!

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, nor do I have any professional health or fitness qualifications. This post is about my personal experiences with receiving the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID19 vaccine. It is meant as an informational starting point—not as medical advice. Please consult your medical team if you have any questions or concerns about your own health.

If you would like to share your experiences with the COVID19 vaccine or to ask more questions about my experiences, please feel free to comment below (or contact me privately). As per my comments policy, you may comment with a fake name and a fake email if you don’t want to be identified either publicly (name) or by me (email).

* Recent studies suggest that the average temperatures are decreasing, especially in western nations. So, my “low” average probably isn’t that far of the real average. 

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