A Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccination dose is being prepared for insertion. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

My Experience Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine

On April 7, all COVID-19 vaccines became available for people 18 years and older and the Pfizer vaccine became available to people 16 years and older.

Two days before April 7, my mom registered and I preregistered on massvax.maryland.gov to schedule our appointments to get vaccines. On the website, I answered a handful of questions and chose a few locations that I would be OK with getting my vaccine. The next day, I received an email and text message with where I was getting my vaccine, what time I was supposed to come, a QR code and which vaccine I was getting.

Luckily, both my mom and I got our vaccine appointments scheduled on April 7 at Hagerstown Premium Outlets and were going to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. My appointment was about an hour after my mom’s, but we went together a little earlier than the time of her appointment. The email we received told us to arrive only 15 minutes earlier than our appointments in order to keep the wait lines short.

When we got to the outlets, we saw a long line of people and worried that we would have to wait in the line. After we parked and started to walk up to the building where the vaccines were distributed, we saw that the long line is for walk-ins and the line for appointments was much shorter.

Members of the Maryland National Guard helped direct us to the correct line. After waiting in the line outside the building for about 5 minutes, another member of the National Guard checked our ID and our QR codes to verify that we were old enough and did have a scheduled appointment.

Once we were inside the building, we received a paper from a table in the front of the room which had questions on one side and possible side effects and helpful tips for after getting the vaccine on the other side. On each side of the room, there were stations with a person who checked our temperatures, scanned our QR codes, checked our IDs, and asked if we answered yes to any of the questions on the paper we received. The questions on the paper asked if we had COVID-19 in the last 10 days, had symptoms of COVID-19 in the last 10 days, and if we have been tested for the virus recently.

After the station, we waited in a line again to get our vaccine in another room. One half of the room had two lines of stations to receive the vaccine; there were about 20 stations. Each station had a person who gave the vaccine and another to write your information on a vaccination card. The other half of the room had chairs that were spaced out for people to sit for 15 minutes after getting their vaccine.

Once I was told which station to go to, the process of getting the vaccine was very quick.

I sat down, had my QR code scanned again, pulled my sleeve up, was given my vaccine, and given a vaccination card. I was also given a sticky note with the time I received my vaccine so I knew when my 15 minutes were up. After my mom and I got our vaccines, we sat for 15 minutes and then we were able to leave.

The side effects I experienced on the day I got the vaccine were: my arm was sore, I felt exhausted, had a dull headache, chills, and aches. The next day, I was sweating a lot. I woke up with a headache and my arm was sore, but about halfway through the day, I was feeling much better. Two days after getting the vaccine, I felt completely fine and normal besides my arm being sore.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website the possible side effects after getting a COVID-19 vaccine include tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever, nausea, pain, redness, and swelling in the arm where you got the shot. The website also gives helpful tips to reduce pain and discomfort you might feel after getting the vaccine. Some of these tips are to apply a clean, cool, wet washcloth to the area you received your shot, use or exercise your arm, drink plenty of fluids, and dress lightly.

Now that the vaccines are available for 18 or 16 years old and older, depending on the vaccine, you can visit massvax.maryland.gov to pick location, time and date to schedule your appointment. To schedule an appointment to receive a vaccine visit massvax.maryland.gov. If you want more information about the vaccines or side effects, visit cdc.gov.

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