On the anxiety of getting vaccinated

The author’s mother gets her second dose of the Pfizer vaccination as she sits in her easy chair in her living room at home in early April. She received her first dose during a nursing home stay in February.

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WILLIAMSTOWN, MASS. — It’s official! My mom and I are totally vaccinated, having received the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccinations, respectively.

And yes, I did have some side effects from the second dose, which is not uncommon. My “vaccination hangover” consisted of body aches, a headache and some fatigue, which started about seven hours after receiving the second dose. It lasted till the afternoon of the next day but it was short-lived. As for my mom, she just seemed a bit more lethargic than usual, for about a week.

My mom got her first dose in February, during a brief nursing home stay following a hospitalization. However, she did not receive her second dose until nearly six weeks later. The nursing home said that following her discharge, they would welcome her back to receive her second dose when the state announced they would be returning. The nursing home gave me a call, the day before the clinic. According to a nurse there, that was as much notice as she got.

There was literally no way I could logistically get her there with only a day’s notice. My mom is much more challenging to transport now. She needs a cabulance and some advance notice to schedule the ride.

I had called about the homebound vaccination program, but was told they are only using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Since my mom already began the two-dose Pfizer vaccine, she was out of luck.

The nursing home said they had no idea when they were going to get the next doses and what they were even going to get. They would let me know and coordinate with another nursing home if necessary to get my mom her second dose.

My vaccination was so much more simpler to obtain, and for that I feel blessed. I called up the Southern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington back in January, when I learned they were vaccinating health care workers from Vermont, Northwestern Massachusetts and even Eastern New York near the Vermont border.

A friend of mine who lives in North Adams drove all the way to Utica to obtain a vaccination, only to arrive and learn that she was a month early for her appointment. She was not vaccinated.

The same friend tried to get a vaccination for her neighbor. She set up the appointment for her and there was some kind of snafu in the scheduling process. She went to the appointment, but was not vaccinated.

Two of my colleagues found themselves nearby at the end of a vaccination clinic receiving a dose after learning the no-show doses were available.

I was covering Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s visit to the Berkshire County vaccination site at Berkshire Community College on March 27 to hear her express her disappointment with the vaccination rollout in the state.

But, on Wednesday, President Joe Biden announced that 200 million COVID-19 vaccinations have been administered since he took office — double his initial goal.

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That number is in small part to people like Debbie, of the Williamstown Commons, who went above and beyond to give my mom her second dose.

When the nursing home called a second time and said that the state would be there the next day and if I could bring my mom there for 9:20 a.m., I said I would bring her there. While I wasn’t sure how the heck I was going to do it, I got up early, got her dressed and out the door.

Then my cellphone rang.

It was the nursing home saying that the state was now coming in the afternoon instead of the morning.

The nurse asked if she had caught me or was I already on my way.

While I had gotten my mom down the ramp and to the door of my car, she was not yet in the vehicle.

But, I was frustrated to think that I had to try and do this all again later in the day.

Then, the nurse said five words that made me sigh in relief.

“I will come to you,” she said.

Those words were music to my ears. And later that day the nurse came and administered the shot in my mom’s right arm. She even had the card filled out for the second shot. While I have one card which has documented both shots, my mom has two cards. Not too complicated, right?

I cannot thank Debbie enough for making that effort. Even if the system doesn’t always work as smoothly as it should, it is good to know that there are still people who are willing to go the extra mile.

Gillian Jones, a Banner digital visual journalist, is writing a monthly op-ed series on caregiving. Her email is gjones@berkshireeagle.com.


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