COVID-19 has taken the world by storm and changed everyone’s life. We now all have to adjust to a new normal but with the new vaccine being rolled out, there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel.
We spoke to Anova Health Institute’s HIV Specialist, Dr Natasha Davies, who recently got vaccinated. Dr Davies shares her experience.
As a doctor, your chances of contracting COVID-19 are higher than the average person, how did this make you feel?
Initially I was pretty worried and scared, even though I am (relatively) young and healthy. But once I got used to making sure I was in a well ventilated space and had my mask on properly I relaxed a bit and trusted that I was doing what I could to prevent myself from getting infected.
Were you looking forward to the vaccine?
Yes. Several of my friends and family members had enrolled in various trials and I had seen that they hadn’t had too bad side effects and I also heard from them that the vaccine outcomes had been promising so I was feeling hopeful.
When you found out about the vaccine, what was the first thing that came to mind?
To be honest I started looking forward to being able to go and visit my Mum in the UK again and feeling relieved for my older friends and relatives.
Please walk us through the day you got vaccinated.
I knew I was one of the first few hundred people in the country to be called in for the vaccine so I was excited and happy, felt a little bit guilty it was me and not others who might be at higher risk, and really felt privileged to have the opportunity. I got a WhatsApp with my session time at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital and got there a little early. I was amazed at how well organised and slick the whole process was, like they had been doing it for months not just one day. The process was very straightforward. I presented my voucher number from EVDS and my ID and was checked for symptoms and my temperature. Then I was given a consent form and vaccination card to complete. The preparation part took about 20 minutes. I had to wait a little as there was one group ahead of me. They were vaccinating us in groups of 20. The vaccination itself was fine. Just like any other needle prick. It took less than 5 minutes. Then we had to sit outside in a holding area for 15 minutes to check we had no immediate allergic reaction. Then we were free to go. From start to finish it was a little over an hour. And the atmosphere was so great, people were singing and ululating and clapping as each group left. Such a celebration of being protected.
How did you feel immediately after getting vaccinated?
Physically, totally fine, no issues at all. Emotionally, on a bit of a high really, I couldn’t quite believe I now had a vaccine on board that could save me from getting severe COVID. It was a little bit surreal after the recent disappointment of the Astra Zeneca (Oxford) vaccine outcomes with the new strain.
Have you experienced any side-effects?
So I had my vaccine on Friday morning. By Friday evening my arm was feeling a bit sore, like I had been punched hard enough to bruise. On Saturday I felt a bit tired when I woke up and by Saturday lunch time I was feeling a bit fluish with a slight temperature, headache and achy muscles but it wasn’t bad enough to stop me from getting on with my weekend and I didn’t need to self-medicate. By Sunday I was totally fine again. So really not bad. I just reminded myself that feeling a bit under the weather was a good sign that my immune system was kicking in and the vaccine was taking effect.
What are the benefits of getting vaccinated?
The benefits are that you have a far lower chance of getting severe COVID which may require hospitalisation or cause death. Unfortunately they don’t yet know if this vaccine is going to help prevent infection altogether and protect us from mild disease. They also don’t know if it will stop people who are vaccinated transmitting to others. It would be really nice to know these things soon as it is quite hard to be vaccinated and then to accept that I still have to take the same precautions (mask, sanitising, distancing, ventilation) as before – I am finding that aspect a bit frustrating. It would be great if getting the vaccine meant getting back to pre-COVID life too. But I am really relieved not to be at risk of severe disease anymore.
What message do you have for the anti-vaxxers?
I know that it’s complicated and some people have genuine concerns. I think, however, that people do need to trust the global scientific expertise that has gone into this effort. I have no concerns that the vaccines were developed too quickly because I understand that the technology was already there and available and the researchers just had to adapt it for COVID. Almost 2.5 million people have died in little over a year. The vaccine offers a chance not to die. To me that seems pretty simple. COVID has taken the lives of people almost at random, no-one can predict who will get mild disease and who will die, so I don’t think it is worth taking the chance. And I certainly don’t hold with any of the farfetched conspiracy theories that some groups are touting. If people are worried about microchips and individuals being tracked via the vaccine then they shouldn’t own a smartphone either.
What would you tell someone who wants to get vaccinated but isn’t sure because of all the conspiracy theories?
I would say stick to the information posted on reliable scientific sites and trust the global medical response and try and switch off the voices from the naysayers. COVID is real. Think of the millions of people who no longer tread this earth, whose lives were cut short, who probably wish they had had the opportunity to access the vaccine if it had been around in time to save them. The vaccine is here in time for you. The vaccine could save your life. Get the vaccine.