You can find a lot of helpful information about the COVID-19 vaccine online, but people often want to hear anecdotes directly from others to see what their own experience might be like. As of not too long ago, I received the second dose of my COVID-19 vaccination, and in a couple weeks, I’ll officially be able to call myself “fully vaccinated” after my immune system becomes fully able to recognize and fight off the virus.
To begin, I want to point out that there is a possibility that I had antibodies, but I’m not entirely sure. I recall getting pretty ill right after I traveled to PAX East in Boston, which was right around the beginning of when COVID-19 was getting widespread in the United States and people were slowly starting to get cautious. I ultimately never got my blood tested for antibodies, and now that I’m vaccinated, I guess I’ll never know.
For the first few months, I was fairly cautious and didn’t really leave my home… though I generally don’t leave my home too often anyway, so that’s not saying much. I did not wear a mask for the first few months of the pandemic, and only started after Nevada imposed a state-wide mask mandate. A lot of my travel was canceled at the beginning of the lockdown period, but shortly after, I resumed normal travel.
After going to Boston for PAX East, I also went to Los Angeles, California on multiple occasions; New York City, New York; Dallas, Texas; Orlando, Florida; Minneapolis, Minnesota (but only for a layover); Seattle, Washington; Portland, Oregon; the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area; the state lines of West Virginia and Maryland; Detroit, Michigan (only for a layover); and as I mentioned before, multiple trips to the Southern California area spread out throughout all these trips.
So yes, I did indeed travel a lot during the pandemic. As far as I’m aware, I did not catch COVID-19 throughout any of my travels unless I had it and was entirely asymptomatic. In fact, I felt healthier traveling during the pandemic; I occasionally have a very mild illness after coming back from extended travel, but I did not feel sick at all whatsoever throughout the entire past year.
In mid-March, I was eligible to get the first dose of my vaccination. I went on the State of Nevada government’s COVID-19 vaccine hub and scheduled my first dose on the earliest date available, which was two days from the date on which I scheduled the appointment. I opted to get my vaccination from the Southern Nevada Health District at the Cashman Center at 850 Las Vegas Blvd N.
On the day of the vaccination, I arrived at the Cashman Center to a packed parking lot and a massive line. The line started outdoors and snaked its way multiple times before reaching the entrance of the building, then snaked again many more multiple times indoors. In total, it took about an hour and a half after arriving on-site before I was done waiting in line, received my vaccination, and sat for 15 minutes to check for any unexpected allergic reactions.
The actual process of receiving the vaccination went smoothly. At the check-in desk, I presented my appointment confirmation QR code, government-issued identification, insurance card, and credential that qualified me to get an earlier vaccination. The check-in representative looked through everything and waved me onto the next part of the line. When it was my turn to get vaccinated, I was sent to a line with a nurse in medical attire. She seemed skilled and experienced administering vaccinations, as the needle insertion was fairly painless.
I was scheduled to make a trip to California at this time, but just in case I would experience side effects, I postponed my travel for a few days. Later in the evening on the date of the vaccination, as well as the following day, my arm felt mild soreness at the site of the injection. As the nurse recommended, I kept my arm active through light exercise (like arm circles, hand grippers, etc.) but avoided harder exercise (like weightlifting). The soreness went away after the second day after the vaccination.
Three days after my vaccination, I traveled to Southern California and felt no side effects or other changes in my health.
The second vaccination dosage was far more eventful. When I arrived back at the Cashman Center, the parking lot had far more open spots, but the actual line was noticeably longer (I imagine people were just parking at a different lot on the other side of the building). In total, it took about two hours this time (an increase of 30 minutes) after arriving on-site before I was done waiting in line, had received my vaccination, and finished sitting for 15 minutes.
The actual vaccination process itself was comparable to the first dosage in terms of process and logistics.
The difference came later that day. My vaccination appointment was in the early afternoon. By the time night came around on vaccination day, I felt just tired enough that I wanted to take a nap. I took a one-hour nap and woke up feeling groggy and more tired. I watched a few YouTube videos, did some work, and tried to go to sleep. At this time, I felt like my body was having a little bit of difficulty regulating its temperature. At approximately 2 AM, I finally fell asleep.
The following morning, I woke up at about 9 AM. I stayed in bed and browsed through social media and replied to some emails and messages, and by 10 AM, I felt noticeably weak and unwell. I’m usually the type of person to power through illness, so I forced myself to get out of bed and take a shower. After a warm shower, I felt much, much worse. I dried off and got straight back into bed.
Throughout the entire day, I had very low energy and felt like I had a very severe common cold. My body had very severe issues controlling its temperature; I would feel burning hot when I put on a blanket, but freezing cold if I take it off. The air conditioning breeze would feel refreshingly amazing for the first few minutes, then it would feel like my face was getting frostbitten afterwards.
From 11 AM until 3:30 PM, I laid in bed watching videos and browsing social media on my phone. From 3:30 PM to 4:30 PM, I got up to get some food and catch up on some work that was piling up throughout the day, then went back to bed at 4:30 PM to watch more videos.
At 8 PM, I tried ordering some ice cream from Postmates. I had low appetite, but I didn’t want to be on a calorie deficit while I was feeling unwell, so I figured ice cream would address that problem. Well, with Postmates having the most unreliable delivery drivers I’ve ever seen in my life, the driver assigned to my order marked my order as delivered, but it was nowhere to be seen. (Postmates officially had more lost orders than correct ones at this point, so I contacted customer service and asked them to delete my account.)
At about 10:30 PM, I got up again to make some instant ramen. I cooked and ate for half an hour, then went back to bed. At 12:30 AM, I fell asleep. I woke up at 4:30 AM because my roommate was still up and I could hear her talking on a call in her room. At this point, I had gotten enough rest that I didn’t feel as bad. About 45 minutes later, I fell back asleep and woke up at 9:15 AM.
When I woke up, I felt like I was at about 95% health compared to pre-vaccine. I still had very, very mild body aches, but my body temperature regulation was back to normal, and I was able to get up and move around without feeling like I was going to collapse. At this point, I was well enough that I forgot I had even been sick the previous day, and I carried on as usual.
Something to note here is that I seem to have an overpowered immune system. Even when I caught the common cold when I was younger, I was notorious for never being sicker for longer than a day and a half. This might have something to do with my recovery time, and if you end up feeling unwell with side effects, you might not necessarily recover in just one day.
Speaking of side effects, I’m hearing that my pattern of side effects is commonplace among other people I know as well. For most people’s first dosage, they had little to no side effects, but they would get nearly knocked out after the second dosage.
I wish you the best of luck with your own vaccination experience, and hopefully, your side effects don’t completely cripple you. My word of advice is to leave a day or two free after each vaccination dose, just in case. If you’re concerned about the side effects, just keep in mind, a few days of “fake illness” while your immune system accepts the vaccination is far, far better than getting the real COVID-19 and putting yourself in a life-threatening position.