Why I’m Writing About This
- I believe that during this pandemic we can achieve more as a society by sharing valid information from reliable sources and by having open discussions about all aspects of this crisis, than through fear-triggering messages, blaming of others, or pressure from either peers or authority figures.
- The information available online about COVID-19 vaccines and the benefits of a worldwide vaccination campaign is filled with contradictory or false data, making it difficult for many people to make a decision regarding their own protection or the protection of their children.
- We seem more socially divided than ever and fighting each other will only stall global progress.
- Seeing the other one as the enemy will not only create and maintain a tense social environment but it will also trigger a psychological phenomenon known as the backlash effect — the conflict will only strengthen the beliefs we hold and no place for change is left, even when confronted with new, reliable data.
- I am really frustrated by online mobs who bully and harass others based on their decisions regarding vaccination.
- I believe that vaccination is a personal choice and each person is entitled to decide for themselves and for those in their care just how much information is enough to reach a decision.
- The present epidemic context does not support a single, straightforward solution. It is not just about the medical aspect of it. Elements such as human rights, human flaws, and science limitations, should also be considered.
I am not going to bore you with the information you’ve already seen a million times everywhere since the beginning of 2020.
Most of us know by now the basics: what vaccines are, how they can protect an individual, how vaccination campaigns with its Holy Grail-type of result, herd immunity, can help protect the extended community, how masks and social distancing assist prevention and slow down the spread of the virus, etc.
I want to share my personal process of making the decision to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Not because it’s special, but because I believe we need more perspectives centered on the individual and less PR and political approaches to a subject that is most of all about humans, not about ideologies and group interests.
Maybe someone reading about my reasoning will discover a new perspective to add to their own process or since I already told you there is nothing special about my method, maybe it will act as either confirmation or invalidation for one’s already existing concerns.
Who knows? Maybe you will be inspired to share your process as well.
And then, from one person to another, the perspectives can potentially reach those who need this information the most.
It can be a chain reaction.
I am OK even if the chain ends up having only two links.
Quick info about me, that will also act as a disclaimer.
- My academic and professional background is in cognitive psychology and psychotherapy. I hold two licenses — clinical psychology and psychotherapy.
- I am not a medical doctor.
- My formal training includes statistics and research methodology. These are my tools when assessing medical information.
- I teach and promote Critical Thinking skills and Assertive Communication. These are the lenses I use when thinking about individual freedom, responsibilities, and social dynamics.
- I do not claim to be right. I do not want to convince anyone of anything.
- Skepticism is my main stance when it comes to knowledge. I encourage people to question everything, to analyze information themselves, and to arrive at their own conclusions, instead of blindly adopting the results of someone else.
- My hope is that this will help people in search of more information, especially that presented from a personal perspective.
Note: At first, I did not want to talk publicly at all about getting a vaccine or not. I ended up having to say it repeatedly on Twitter because every time I would post something that was vaccine-critical or vaccination campaign-critical, some random account would start sounding the anti-vaxx message alarm. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Below, I will address the following:
- Why I Took the COVID-19 Vaccine
- My Concerns Before Getting the Shot
- My Vaccination Journey
- My Steps From Now On
Why I Took The COVID-19 Vaccine
There are three main reasons that contributed fundamentally to my decision of getting the shot:
- I trust vaccines in general.
There is enough available data that proves the critical role vaccines have had throughout our recent history in the management of severe types of illness — polio, chickenpox, diphtheria, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis, just to name a few.
I understand that vaccine development is what influenced the survival of our species, more than anything else in the last decades.
- I did not want to regret it later.
This is probably the reason that pushed me to get the vaccine very soon after it was available to the general public.
I did a very short mental exercise: Were I to get infected and develop COVID-19 two weeks from this exercise, would I be OK with my decision?
And that was a quick, strong “no”.
I knew that the second I would find out that I am infected — symptoms or no symptoms — I would start regretting my decision.
As a patient, you have no idea which way an illness may go. Especially COVID, since it’s been proven to produce rapid changes in one’s body. You may seem OK at the beginning of the illness but things may take a turn for the worst a week later.
I knew that I would be scared.
And that I would continuously wonder if my odds would’ve been better had I taken the shot.
But at that point, it would have been too late.
So, my decision was already made at this point.
Still, I had one more reason.
- I would help the community’s efforts toward reaching herd immunity.
Yes, it’s the last on my list.
Don’t give me any BS like “This was my main reason, not my last!”.
The vaccine primarily protects the person getting it.
We’re all doing this mainly for ourselves.
Then comes the social perk.
We’re all heroes. Amazing.
However, for those who would decide against getting the vaccine, there are still plenty of ways to help reduce the spread of the virus in their community — mask use, significantly reduce time spent in groups, social distancing.
Still heroes in my book.
My Concerns Before Getting the Shot
The vaccine assessment was not complete. For any of them.
I like completed pieces of research. Data that I can look at from different angles.
Emergency Use Authorizations did not sound great to me.
My biggest concern was related to mid- and long-term effects.
You know, those that we knew nothing of in December but have slowly come to discover toward Spring when the vaccination campaigns were in full swing.
I refer here to blood clots and the potential of anaphylaxis.
Before I got the vaccine, the discussion about heart issues such as myocarditis and pericarditis was not yet active. Nor were the findings about the potential of developing Guillain-Barré syndrome, or any other major issue.
I knew anaphylaxis was a risk that comes with many other medical procedures and even everyday experiences and that the vaccination centers in my country, Romania, were prepared to respond.
So, my main concern was the development of blood clots, especially since just a few weeks prior to making the appointment, I discovered that one of my family members just developed them — not related to a vaccine — and required emergency intervention.
Just knowing that that was now a “Yes” in my family’s medical history made me feel uncomfortable about getting the jab.
But not so uncomfortable that it would remove my “would I regret not getting the shot” reason from before.
I was also mildly concerned about the immediate side effects.
Preparation was the easy response to that. I made sure that I had everything I needed before getting the shot: food already cooked — read bought, pain and fever medication, plenty of liquids, and Netflix. I wouldn’t have to go outside, deal with delivery, or get bored, were I to experience the already famous by then 24 to 48 hours side effects.
My last concern was related to the protection the vaccine itself would give me. Would I be one of those people whose immune system responds as expected or would I go through all of this and still have no protection at the end?
I wouldn’t know unless I tried. So, I tried.
My Vaccination Journey
- I decided to get the vaccine from Moderna, after reading the official information on all of the available vaccines — Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca at that time. Moderna registered the lowest rates of side effects, so I went with it.
- In Romania, the vaccination campaign was opened for the general public in April 2021, and people could request an appointment by selecting the vaccination center and the type of vaccine, starting March 15th.
- I put my name on a waiting list on March 15th, within the first hour of the platform going live. I really wanted to get the vaccine at that point. And fast. There were plenty of doses, and those responsible for the vaccination campaign were prioritizing those at risk during this phase of the campaign as well, so you wouldn’t have to worry that you would “steal” the vaccine from someone who might need it more than you.
- I received the first dose on April 21st. No other problems than a sore arm, sleepiness, and a headache. One down, one more to go, I thought. Easy!
- In-between shots, I started having a weird, moderate pain in one of my arms but didn’t think much of it at the time. I linked it to the vaccine only later.
- I received the second dose on May 19th. This was a whole different animal. In the first three hours, I thought that I was one of the lucky ones who only get the sore arm effect, even though I was aware that the reactions to the second dose of vaccine are expected to be more significant than the previous ones.
- After that, all hell broke loose until the next morning, but everything was still within the expected side-effects: chills, fever, random sharp pain all over my body, severe ongoing joint pain. Medication did not help much. It looked like it was just going to run its course, but I was telling myself that that is a good sign, that my body was reacting as expected. I had a really rough night tough.
- The next five days were pretty bad too. The severe joint pain stayed and random shots in my calves were making me think about blood clots again. Though not for long. I was getting a little frustrated but I knew that this was still expected for a part of those vaccinated.
- Though less severe and not as often occurring, the joint pain only left me about a week ago. Yes, I experienced random joint pain after the second dose of vaccine, for more than two months. The good thing is that it was coming and going, so I did not see a doctor about it. But there were days when I couldn’t plug in the phone charger with only one hand, or when even holding a cup of coffee would trigger pain, and walking was also painful at times.
- Now I seem to be fine and over that phase. But I have to say that I am not looking forward to a booster shot. I’ll probably get it if needed, but only after checking my antibodies level first.
My Steps from now on.
- I feel more protected against COVID-19. I trust that I have better chances if I were to get a symptomatic infection.
- I still wear my mask in all public places. It doesn’t bother me and I protect those who are not vaccinated.
- I still disinfect all the objects that I consider need disinfection before and/or after use.
- I keep my distance from most people when in public places. I used to do that before the pandemic as well.
- I limit my time outdoors/in public places. I am an introvert, so this one doesn’t really affect me at all.
- I limit my travel.
- I do not blame people who get infected.
- I do not blame people who decide not to get the vaccine. I am protected, I try to protect others. Beyond that, it’s a matter of personal choice and freedom.
- I understand that people may make decisions that are different from mine.
- I will fight discrimination based on vaccination status. Medical data is personal data. It shouldn’t be revealed in any other context than those of the medical kind.
- I will fight radical views such as those that propose people should be forced to get the vaccine. This is a medical act and even if it may benefit the individual and the community, it is ultimately the individual’s choice whether to participate or not in creating well-being for themselves or the society they live in.
- I will continue to share information from valid sources. Curated to the best of my ability. I understand I may make mistakes. This is why I strongly believe that none of us should adopt a radical stance and should respect the individual’s right to search health and survival in whichever way they consider fit.
Ultimately, I hope that through all of this, we will stay healthy, sane, and together.