It’s been a long time coming. Melbourne has just hit 200 days in lockdown and it’s becoming harder to remember what life was like before hand sanitiser and QR codes. What has pervaded this period for me is an air of restlessness — there hasn’t been too much to do other than sit by and watch our incompetent government dilly-dally. So at the start of August when it was announced that 18 to 39-year-olds around the country were eligible for the AstraZeneca vaccine, I was elated. Finally. But even though I knew that the AstraZeneca vaccine was safe and that the risk of blood clots is miniscule, I was still a bit anxious.
With varying eligibility and a difference in public perception, the Pfizer and AstraZeneca rivalry was almost instantaneous. While it felt a bit like we were all rooting for footy teams, the reality was much more sinister, with conspiracy theories and misinformation being spread widely— even after health experts debunked these. To help remove some of the misconceptions, here’s my personal experience getting the AstraZeneca vaccine as a 22-year-old woman.
Monday, 9th of August, 10:58pm: I’m embarrassed to admit that one of the biggest barriers to booking the vaccine appointment was the actual booking process. I had researched the health side of things, sure, but I was admittedly putting off the admin. I’m happy to report that Victoria’s COVID portal is simple and quick to use, and I had my appointment booked with my boyfriend Tom, in less than five minutes.
Monday, 16th of August, 7:06pm: The night before my vaccine! I made sure I had taken time off work on the day of, and the day after, my vaccine. I planned my outfit (a singlet for ease of injecting) and then decided to paint my nails like it was a first date or something.
Tuesday, 17th of August, 2:30pm: Not going to lie, getting out of the house in lockdown is a real treat, especially if it’s for the long-awaited jab. My vaccine was at a racecourse and it might as well have been a festival. Workers in high-vis vests were holding AstraZeneca and Pfizer signs as they were chaperoning soon-to-be vaccinated folk through red-roped queues. Very VIP. Tom and I didn’t have to wait long and were super impressed with how organised the whole set-up was.
2:50pm: A nurse cherry-picked people who came in pairs from the queue to wait in a separate area because (cute!) — they had special booths that catered to duos getting vaxxed together. We entered our makeshift room and were greeted by the friendliest nurse, Bree.
2:55pm: What was so surprising to me was that this wasn’t an in-and-out conveyor belt of injections. Bree was so patient and caring and talked us through the vaccine, acknowledged our concerns, walked us through the potential side effects (and also chatted about the current TV show she’s watching — The White Lotus, if you're interested). Another nurse, Michelle, came in and chatted to us to triple check our medical history and make sure we weren’t at risk for the rare side effects.
3:01-3:02pm: I’m outing myself here… I get nervous around needles so I SING while nurses are doing their thing. I barely had time to get half a tune out because it was seriously the quickest and most painless process. I will not be elaborating further about the singing.
3:25pm: After 15 minutes of sitting post the vaccine, we were free to leave. I had to ask the staff whether they had any congratulatory vaccine stickers after I’d seen Instagram vax selfies featuring some. But alas, I was politely laughed at and shooed away.
4:06pm: I arrived back at Tom’s house and had to fulfil my obligatory duty: take a post-vaccine selfie. No shame here. The rest of the afternoon and evening was uneventful — I was super energetic and felt no pain (just a slight soreness in the arm where I was jabbed). It was a good excuse to start bingeing on Modern Love season two.
Wednesday, 18th of August, 12:00am: Nine hours after my vaccine was when my side effects started to kick in. I was prepared for this — as with any vaccine, temporary side effects are common. The Department of Health outlines that injection site pain or tenderness, tiredness, headaches, muscle pain, fever and chills are all normal — and that they are mostly mild and go away within 1-2 days.
I woke up periodically throughout the night with a pounding headache, hot flashes, and a sore and sensitive arm. Of course, I only thought to take Nurofen at 6am which happily kicked the pain to the curb and let me sleep peacefully for a few hours.
8:43am: Waking up after an interrupted sleep, I was unsurprisingly sluggish. I no longer had a headache or a temperature, but I did feel quite foggy and a bit nauseous, and my arm was still painful. Picture a slow-moving zombie shuffling around in yesterday’s clothes.
12:32pm: After a hot plate of scrambled eggs (thanks mum) and a change of clothes, I was starting to feel better. But after an hour of work and staring at my laptop, I felt another headache and bout of nausea coming along. Like the sicko that I am, I was almost gleeful when experiencing the side effects — I’d waited so long for the vaccine, I was more than ok to put up with some annoying side effects for a few hours. I excused myself from work and took a blissful nap.
2:42pm: With my energy restored from the midday nap (highly recommended), I powered through the rest of the workday.
6:13pm: As a last hurrah, my stomach and lower back started to ache which caused my breathing to feel a tad laboured. Rest, a wheat bag, and an early night sure did help. By the time I hopped in bed at 9:30pm (lol), I was right as rain.
Thursday, 19th of August, 7:43am: It was good to wake up today. I felt like myself again, and didn’t have any trace of sluggishness or grogginess. My arm was still sore, but much less so. There’s a slight residue of muscle ache and I’m still a tad tired, but I couldn’t be happier with my decision to get vaccinated.
Within 24 hours since I first felt the side effects, they had more or less disappeared. In comparison to the possibility of contracting the highly-contagious Delta variant, or even potentially being a recipient of long COVID, these side effects were truly nothing. Vaxxed girl summer, I’m coming for you.
Refinery29 Australia reminds readers to seek advice from their local GP about their concerns and personal circumstances, and to stay up to date with official health advice from the government.