I Got the J&J Vaccine 7 Days Ago
I walked into a pharmacy 30 miles from my house seven days ago, excited to finally get a COVID vaccine. Last in my state to qualify, I’d spent a lot of time waiting for this day. Before the shot, the pharmacist asked if I had any questions. “What shot am I getting,” I asked?
We both laughed. “Oh yeah. It’s the J&J vaccine,” he said. In my haste to schedule an appointment, I hadn’t looked at which one I was getting. I didn’t care. I was pleasantly surprised, though. I didn’t want to come back in three to four weeks.
I woke up in the middle of the night with fever and chills so fierce that three blankets, a sweatshirt, and thick sheets barely made a difference. However, my side effects subsided later the next day, and I began the countdown to full immunity.
This morning’s news that the U.S. is pausing the use of the J&J vaccine to examine a life-threatening issue with blood clotting made my heart skip a beat. I’d followed news about the Astra Zeneca vaccine for weeks, causing fear and concern in Europe after several reported blood clotting issues and thought, what’s the big deal?
The odds of having blood clots from either vaccine are incredibly rare—six out of nearly seven million in the case of the J&J vaccine. Experts are quick to point out the risk of blood clotting is higher from the virus itself, so it’s better to have the vaccine and not risk getting COVID in the first place.
Statistics are a funny thing. Rationally, we know the odds of winning the lottery are incredibly low. We have a better chance of getting hit by falling airplane parts. Yet, on the rare occasion, I’ve bought a ticket, I’ve found myself dreaming of how my family’s life would change if we won. Isn’t that what keeps the lottery in business — the glimmer of a chance?
The same phenomenon is happening now. Will I drop dead of some rare clot a week from now? What are the signs I should watch for?
Dr. Schuchat, the C.D.C. official, told the New York Times,
For people who recently got the vaccine within the last couple of weeks, they should be aware to look for any symptoms. If you receive the vaccine and develop severe headaches, abdominal pain, leg pain or shortness of breath, you should contact your health care provider and seek medical treatment.
Aaah…leg pain (my legs are sore from a workout). Headache — hmmm…my head hurts a little bit. As much as I don’t want to think this way, I know I will until more time passes.
While I understand the fear is overblown and pausing delivery of J&J shots will slow down our return to “normalcy,” I also get why people may not want to take the risk — however small. Do you want to be the one in a million to die from a rare side effect?
The truth is, every day, there’s a risk we could die of something, but that risk is so small we don’t think about it. We’ll eventually get to the point where we feel the same way about COVID vaccines. Daily risk and benefit analysis won’t take up headlines and media attention.
Until then, be kind to people who might be wary of the J&J vaccine. It’s human to fear what you don’t understand.
Odds are I’m going to be just fine, just like millions of others who’ve already had the shot. I’m good with that.