By Dr. Zulfikar Bux
Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine, Vanderbilt Medical Center
Kaieteur News – This past week gave me renewed hope of us getting ahead of this pandemic. I never thought I would be getting vaccinated against COVID-19 so early. It’s been less than a year since the World Health Organization declared this pandemic, and we already have access to vaccines against it in Guyana. I am grateful to the authorities and I am also optimistic for my fellow Guyanese as the government has declared that there should be sufficient vaccines for all Guyanese in 2021. This has obviously provided us with an opportunity to exit the pandemic and we need to grasp the opportunity to get vaccinated with both hands. Today, I will share my vaccination experience with you and present facts that will hopefully encourage you to get vaccinated as soon as your turn comes.
How I felt after getting vaccinated?
I was given my first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine late last week and it was a surreal experience. As a health worker that routinely deals with COVID-19 patients, it felt like I was being given a dose of freedom as I wouldn’t have to put my life in jeopardy every time I have to see a patient. The nurse that administered my vaccine was as nice as they come and I didn’t feel much when it was given to me. I then went back to work as per normal and had a productive work day. As it progressed into the evening, my arm got a bit sore and I had a mild headache. As the night progressed and early the next day, I had some body aches and felt a little fatigued00. I am currently firing on all cylinders and I’m feeling much more optimistic than before I was vaccinated.
Is it bad to get symptoms after being vaccinated?
While many see some post-vaccination symptoms as side effects and being bad, I was very happy to have the body aches and fatigue. Knowing what I knew, I realised that my symptoms were a sign that my body was mounting an immune response to the vaccine and therefore, I am developing immunity against COVID-19. If I didn’t get any symptoms after the vaccine, I would have been worried that I may not have mounted an immune response. So while most look at the following symptoms as side effects of the vaccine, I look at them as our immune response to the vaccine:
Of course, there may be a few persons with allergic reactions to the vaccine but that is extremely rare. Most of the time, these persons would have had a history of being allergic to other vaccines. Please note that vaccines are different from injections that are given for pain and routine infections. If you were allergic to a pain or antibiotic injection, it doesn’t mean that you are allergic to vaccines. If you never had allergic reactions to vaccines, then it’s likely that you will not be allergic to the COVID-19 vaccine.
What lies ahead for me?
Now that I would have gotten my first dose, I will have to get a follow up booster shot in three months. This booster shot basically seals the deal and strengthens my immune response even further, so that my body is more prepared to combat COVID-19. Currently, my immune system is working to develop antibodies against the SarsCov2 virus (coronavirus) and it will take about a couple of weeks for sufficient antibodies to form. While there should be a decent amount of antibodies in about a month from now, the booster shot in three months will ramp those antibodies level further up so that I have an extremely strong defence system that is prepared and ready to overwhelm the coronavirus if I get in contact with it.
Can I finally move around without masks?
No I cannot! As you just read, my body will take time to prepare a proper immune response against the coronavirus. During this time, I can still get infected and be affected from COVID-19. In addition, there is a small percentage of people who the vaccine does not work as well as it does in most others. While I am optimistic that the vaccine is efficacious in me because of my symptoms after being vaccinated, I will not leave anything to chance. I will therefore still practice social distancing, wear my mask and practice proper hygiene until enough of us are vaccinated and we can exit the pandemic.
What lies ahead for Guyana?
I am optimistic for us as a country especially after the government announced that it should have sufficient vaccines for all Guyanese in 2021. We need to vaccinate around 75-80 percent of our population before we can begin to safely move around freely and without masks. If we take too long to do this and the virus continues to spread, then the virus is likely to mutate even more and the current vaccines may become ineffective. We are racing against the virus and these vaccines are the boosters that we have to win this race before the virus mutates too much and we can never catch up with it. I am therefore urging you to get vaccinated as soon as your turn arrives and encourage everyone you know to do the same. We are in this together and can only get out if we all play our part and get vaccinated. If more than 25 percent of us choose to not get vaccinated, then we are stuck in this pandemic and we will all continue to suffer for years to come.
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