QM Leaders Share Their Vaccine Stories

To read a PDF version of these stories, click here


Vaccine awareness is critical in combating the COVID-19 pandemic. As an organization that works to address the health of queer people in and around Lansing, we felt it was necessary for us to share some of the experiences our Queering Medicine (QM) leaders have had in receiving the vaccine. We also recognize histories of medical trauma and mistrust in our healthcare system make folks wary of the current COVID-19 vaccine rollout. We recognize there is a privilege in receiving the vaccine, and there are communities of folk who should have access to the vaccine and have not yet been prioritized. We hope that in sharing our experiences, folks feel more confident in asking questions and signing up for the vaccine when available. Scroll down to read their stories!

Kryssia (she/her/hers): MSU College of Human Medicine, 2nd-year Medical Student


It is a privilege to have had the opportunity to receive this vaccine. There are many for whom this vaccine did not come soon enough. Many in our community (farmworkers, grocery store workers, etc.) have put themselves in the line to keep this country going during this pandemic. I hope this vaccine reaches everyone ASAP!


I got the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on 1/12. The process included filling out a form where I put my name, contact information, and any allergies I may have. They also provided me with more information about the vaccine and any side effects I could experience. My clinic was a drive-thru site, so I didn’t even have to get out of my car! After receiving the vaccine, they asked us to wait in the car for 15 minutes to make sure everyone felt okay, the staff was very nice and caring. The only symptom I experienced was mild soreness in my left arm (where I got the vaccine) that lasted for about 24 hours. I have experienced soreness before with the flu vaccine, so it was not personally uncomfortable, and it did not interfere with any of my daily responsibilities. I am scheduled to get the second dose of the vaccine on February 4th.


If you are feeling apprehensive and concerned about getting this vaccine, I want you to know that your feelings are valid. Finding easy to read information can be challenging, and there are so many opinions on this. I encourage you to ask questions and share your concerns, many of us are so happy to help in any way.


UPDATE:

It's been over two weeks since I received the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine (February 4th). Like many others, I was a little anxious about the second dose; I had heard that side effects could last a couple of days. The process of getting the second dose was easy, and just like the first dose, I got the vaccine on my left arm. In terms of side effects: I experienced soreness in my left arm for about 24 hours. In addition, I felt more tired than usual and also experienced body aches. I took two doses of ibuprofen (400mg 6 hours apart), and all symptoms went away. I was feeling 100% within 36 hours.

I feel extremely privileged in having received both doses of the Pzifer vaccine. Covid-19 has exposed the many health disparities that affect our communities, and I've seen a few reports already discussing the vaccination racial/ethnic disparities being observed.

Regardless of vaccination status, let's continue wearing a mask and taking all precautions so that we can continue to protect those in our community who can't or have not been able to get the vaccine yet.



Francis (he/him/his): MSU College of Human Medicine, 2nd-year Medical Student


I’m thankful that I, along with some of my peers, could get access to the vaccine prior to beginning our new semester. The fact that many of us were able to get the vaccine via drive-thru instead of in-person was a privilege considering access and logistics needed for administering the vaccine in such a manner. I was fortunate that I was able to schedule an appointment and receive the vaccine within a few days while some of my peers had to wait a bit longer, but through a partnership between the institution, public health department, and local hospital system, I believe most students were/will be covered in a timely manner, again a privilege I am thankful for.


A few hours after my first dose, there was some shoulder pain as well as some fatigue. While the fatigue resolved by the next day, some shoulder soreness remained. I tried to exercise/keep the shoulder moving/massage the injection site as recommended for this injection (as well as the flu shot), and the fatigue and shoulder pain did not interfere with my usual home workout. Overall, the fatigue lasted about 8 hours, while shoulder pain resolved in about 24 hours.


I hope sharing our individual experiences will ease any concerns so that we can best protect each other and ourselves. As medical students and as future physicians, I believe this is part of our duty to our patients and communities, to research and disseminate knowledge however we can while rebuilding trust with communities that healthcare has harmed so that we can protect others and promote health.


UPDATE:


I’m happy to report back that after my second dose, my side effects were similar to my first, with some fatigue later in the evening of my shot as well as some shoulder pain. I tried to keep my shoulder mobile which I think helped as the soreness was present for about 24 hours but bearable as I was still able to exercise. I was very aware of many of my colleagues, however, who had quite intense second dose reactions, some reporting that they felt fine the first 24 hours but after that reported lots of fatigue, fevers, shoulder pain, and swollen lymph nodes. Most told me they took some Tylenol and rested for the second day with symptoms almost completely resolving around 48-72 hours after.


While I am grateful that my side effects were rather minimal compared to some others, some peers and colleagues are worried about the potential side effects for a booster shot in the near future depending on what research will show with regards to the new strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus as well as how long vaccine immunity will last. While they acknowledge that the benefits still greatly outweigh the risks of not getting the vaccine, this is definitely a concern some of my peers have shared.


I feel it is also important to always acknowledge the privilege of having access to the vaccine at this point in time and to also highlight the inequity of vaccine access. While trust is definitely a barrier we hope to help overcome, vaccine demand is still high and vaccine shortages remain a challenge. What limited vaccine we have had access to has not gone to BIPOC communities, those who have been hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic. We must continue to communicate, to build trust, and to advocate for equitable access to all resources necessary to overcome the pandemic. While getting the vaccine when we can is one way to protect ourselves and our communities, we have to continue to do all we can to protect our communities, including practicing proper hand hygiene, properly wearing a mask or two, socially distancing, and following any other additional public health guidelines.



Vera (they/them): MSU College of Human Medicine, 3rd-year Medical Student


I’m fortunate that the emotional labor of arranging to get a vaccine was taken care of for me. The school and Sparrow Hospital dealt with arranging dates & times and organizing staff and resources to make it as painless (pun not intended) as possible! Sparrow also covered the vaccine’s cost for me as a medical student, which I am very grateful for.


The first dose gave me some left arm pain for a day and a half, but that’s all. A small price to pay for the peace of mind I will have knowing I’m more protected going forward.


I think it’s important for me to get this vaccine as a future physician and someone who will be interacting with and examining sick folks for the next 30+ years. Not only do I owe it to my family to protect them from anything I may potentially bring home, but I owe it to my patients not to act as a vector for disease between them.

Andrew (he/him/his): MSU College of Human Medicine, 4th-year Medical Student


To be frank, I had some reservations about the new COVID-19 vaccine. This unprecedented pandemic has caused much angst among many, so it is appropriate and valid to feel uncertain about a new vaccine. I also recognize that behind medicine’s celebrated facade is an unforgivable history of inequitable experimentation on people of color and the indigent, which continues to seed distrust. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted a systemic problem that has existed before and is still prevalent today; vulnerable populations are disproportionately affected. When the opportunity to receive the Pfizer vaccine opened up, it was imperative to me, as someone who represents a vulnerable group, to show up, get vaccinated, and instill confidence in the science and process behind it. After reading the safety data published on the vaccine, I had no concerns over its safety and effectiveness.


I received my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on January 5th at Sparrow Hospital. The staff were amicable and did an outstanding job of explaining the entire process. They cleaned my upper arm with an alcohol swab, allowed me time to anticipate the shot, and administered the vaccine into my arm. I was offered a granola bar and juice box, which I happily accepted. I was told to voluntarily wait around for at least fifteen minutes to monitor for any adverse reactions. They had healthcare providers nearby in the unlikely event that I had an adverse reaction. After fifteen minutes, I left the hospital. Over three days, I felt sore at the injection site, and that was my only symptom. I am scheduled to receive my second dose of the Pfizer vaccine on January 26th! I promise to check back in on the process!


UPDATE:

I was pretty worried about what I would experience from my second Pfizer vaccination. From what I’ve gathered, folks tend to experience a stronger immune response in the form of flu-like symptoms. The vaccination process went smoothly as before. For the next day, I’ve experienced only mild arm pain at the injection site. I didn’t experience any muscle aches, headaches, or fatigue that others have reported. I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to get this vaccine and I hope my story gives you the courage to get vaccinated yourself.



Mauricio “Jimmy” (he/him/his): MSU College of Human Medicine, 4th-year Medical Student


I feel privileged to be part of this wave of folks being vaccinated. I don’t take that lightly. Years of medical mistrust leads to folks being skeptical of the vaccine and asking many valid questions. Medicine did that, and it’s our job to build trust. Ask me questions. Let’s talk it through. Vaccines save lives! ...black and brown bodies have been experimented on for so long. Our communities have been “research subjects” and often never see the benefits of that extraction of data and knowledge. So when folks in our communities are hesitant, it’s important we don’t shut them down. Instead, ask why, ask where they are receiving information, ask what you can do to quell their fear, and do the work in redistributing institutional knowledge into our communities.


I received the Pfizer vaccine on January 5th on my left arm and will receive my second dose on January 26th (per CDC recommendations). I was sore at the injection site for 48hours. This side effect did not prevent me from completing my daily tasks and did not prevent me from using my arm. I went back to clinical duties the day after my vaccine. The side effects that many folks have experienced are common and similar to other vaccines. I plan to share about my second dose to help give folks a sense of what to expect. It is important for the public to recognize every person will have variability with side effects.


Vaccinated or unvaccinated, it is still necessary for folks to continue wearing a mask when around others who are not part of their immediate household (indoors and outdoors). Keep washing your hands and maintaining 6 feet from folks when possible. We share so that folks feel encouraged to ask questions!


UPDATE:

I was apprehensive about the second dose given the variability folks had been experiencing side effects. I am happy to report that I had little to no side effects. Like the first does I had a sore arm for 24 hours. My shot was in the left arm like the first time. I did have some very mild muscle aches around 18 hours post vaccine. I took tylenol and rested and woke up feeling fabulous! A few of my classmates that received their vaccine on the same day had some mild but more prominent side effects like muscle aches, headache, and fatigue. This all resolved after about 24 hours to 48 hours.


Reminder- while scientists and physicians are confident that the vaccine protection will also prevent transmission this has not yet been proven with substantial evidence to back it up. Researchers have evaluated and shown that if a person comes in contact with the virus after receiving both doses and 2 weeks have gone by we have a 95% protection against developing severe illness. That confidence is not yet clear when it comes to transmissibility of the virus from those who are vaccinated. We are a ways away from herd immunity so we must keep wearing a face mask (doubling up when possible). washing our hands frequently, and continuing to maintain distance from folks that are not part of our household. We have to remember that not everyone has had access to the vaccine, and specifically there continues to be a disparity in BIPOC communities around access to vaccines, vaccine information, and the burden of COVID-19 illness. By getting our vaccine when it is available to us, by staying informed we are actively supporting our communities.