My vaccination account: part two

In part one, I talked about why I chose to have the vaccination, and my thought processes around the news stories about AstraZeneca and the possible blood clot issue. There’s more on that, too, at the end of this post.

This, part two, is probably of more use if you are local, but it may satisfy curiosity in anyone who is planning to have the vaccine.

This morning, my vaccination appointment was at 8.40 and it only takes, we estimated, ten minutes to drive to the Saints rugby stadium. However, as I can’t drive, my husband would be the one in charge of the car, which meant we had to take the youngest with us. So we actually aimed to leave the house by just after eight to be on the safe side, in case anyone needed a last visit to the toilet beforehand.

I had ordered an N99/FFP3 mask off ebay as soon as I knew I would be getting vaccinated. I don’t think in busy places it’s possible to rely on others wearing masks to protect you — I’ve seen far too many people wearing them under their noses for starters — and so I wanted to wear a mask that I believed would protect me in addition to those around me. I also wore a very tight-fitted snood-style mask over the top, a little bit of extra protection, but mainly, to keep my FFP3 mask as tight to my face as possible. I wore glasses and goggles over the top. It may well have been overkill, but equally, it didn’t cause me any distress so nothing was lost.

In the queue for the vaccine, double-masked and wearing goggles.

We arrived incredibly early. In fact, it was more like 8.20 when we arrived at Saints. I wound down the window on the road towards the stadium as two gentlemen in hi-vis jackets and wearing masks were stopping cars on their way in. The men asked if I had been sent by my GP or by the NHS generally. When I answered that it was my GP, they said that we were to park, and then I was to enter a white tent tunnel to queue.

The tent/tunnel/marquee was just outside of the stadium. A gentleman checked my temperature using one of those weird ‘gun’ things, and ushered me to queue in a socially distanced fashion. Ahead of me was a lady in a red jacket; behind me were a couple who were talking amongst themselves; I think one had an appointment later than the other but they were seeing if they could be ‘done’ at the same time.

A woman ahead of me in the tunnel/tent queuing for the vaccine.

The queue was so, so fast! I was stood in the queue in the ‘tunnel’ for all of five minutes. Then, I was ushered into an indoor corridor. At a table were two ladies and they asked me for my name and date of birth. There were a few people in this corridor wearing masks in a suboptimal way. I’m not here to be the ‘mask police’; I’m only saying that so that you know, if you go, to wear the best mask you can for your own protection.

The lady in front of me giving her name and date of birth to the ladies on the reception desk. To the right is a corridor in which I was stood for fewer than ten minutes.

I was kept waiting in the indoor corridor for hardly any time at all. Certainly fewer than ten minutes, probably nearer five. Then, I was taken into the vaccination room.

The vaccination room. I have obviously anonymised the faces of those giving the injections. They did not actually in fact have green faces. That isn’t a side effect. ;)

I was directed to a chair in the vaccination room, where a lovely friendly woman with pink/peach hair asked me how I was. I saw that between patients, every chair was being wiped down with a Clinell wipe too. All the vaccinators wore surgical masks. Again, this was a short wait, probably about five minutes.

I was then invited to have my vaccination at one of the tables. The nurse asked me for my name, address and date of birth, whether I had any allergies, and whether I was on any medication such as aspirin or blood thinners. I told her that in fact I had just started taking a low dose of aspirin due to the worries over blood clots. She said not to worry, it was just because it might take a tiny bit longer for the injection site to stop bleeding. She also asked if I’d driven here (which I hadn’t; my husband drove us).

The injection itself was actually pretty painless; it hurt a hell of a lot less than the last injection I remember having, which was my BCG when I was a teenager! It hurt less than having my blood taken, too. More like a quick scratch.

The nurse told me that because I hadn’t driven, I was free to go; I believe if you’ve driven it’s suggested you wait a short while after your vaccination just to check you’re okay to drive.

I was back in the car by 8.45. I sanitised my hands and put my PPE in the car boot.

Not long after the vaccination, my arm did start to feel a little sore. About an hour afterwards, I felt a little tired and just a tiny bit off-colour, like you do at the start of a cold. It’s now eight hours since my vaccination and mainly still the only side-effect is feeling more tired than usual. Equally, some of that could be down to the stress leading up to it mostly having gone. It’s hard to say.

I’ve been reading more this afternoon about the blood clot controversy (this is from Germany but ran though google translate). So I’m not going to lie, I do feel a little nervous, as having read more now, it seems slightly less unlikely that the clots are just pure coincidence. It’s still hard to say, but I’ll link the translation of the German article I’ve been reading, here.

It contains the helpful advice that if you have a headache (or bleeding from the skin!) between four and sixteen days after having had the vaccine, you should seek medical help immediately. However, statistically speaking, even if it is completely proved that the vaccine caused those blood clots, the chances are still seven in 1.2 million, which is a hell of a lot lower than the chance of getting a clot from the virus itself. Still, I’m obviously going to be looking out for any issues in my health for the next few weeks. Especially as the clots have mainly occurred in women, and in my age group.

With what I’ve read this afternoon, would I still have had the vaccine? Yes, I think so, to be honest. Personally, having now read the reason for the pausing of the vaccine programme, I can understand the reasons why, but they will report back this Thursday I believe, and we’ll have more information then. In the meantime, I can’t and wouldn’t tell anyone what I would and wouldn’t do, and I’ll stress again, I’m not a scientist or medically trained in any way, but even if a link is proved the risk is still incredibly low, much lower than that of taking the contraceptive pill, or even having a long aeroplane flight. Of course, knowing that doesn’t necessarily help people’s fears, but yes, I would still have the vaccine, knowing then what I know now.

I hope that helps some people who are thinking about it all now in the light of the pausing of the AZ programme in some other countries, and I hope my description of the vaccination itself helps too.

40-something mum of two, Merseyside.