Today, I went to Gold Coast University Hospital to have my first COVID-19 vaccination. I was prepared to wait, in a line, for 4-hours to be assured I received my vaccine.
I was successfully vaccinated with my first shot of Pfizer – and the resulting feeling is something I wasn’t expecting. No, I’m not talking about traditional side effects. I’m talking about the fact that, even with a single shot of Pfizer running through my body, I will not die from COVID-19 and the chances I will develop symptoms and be able to pass the infection on, have halved. After a single dose I feel like for the first time in over 12 months, I have this shield around me. I feel like even if there is an outbreak in Queensland and even if someone does invade my personal space – I’m still ok. It’s an unbelievable feeling. I feel free. I feel free from the anxiety of the situation, and like I have taken some control back. I feel amazing.
Er, well actually – I feel like every bone I have broken in the past, is broken again – a medical side effect. But that seems so small and inconsequential, compared to the unexpected physiological impact of receiving my vaccine that I almost didn’t mention it. But this page for me is about being real, real with myself and real for people who are looking to get inside information on chronic illness. So I had a vaccine, and I had a documented side effect – and to be honest, it’s not that bad.
At the moment the vaccination program Australia is chaotic, unorganised and stressful for both staff and patients. But, it’s happening. The rollout is happening, and important conversations about returning to normal have also started to take place.
In the last two weeks, I have gone from a depressed mess to a person who actually see’s the light at the end of the COVID tunnel. We are still a long way off 12-months, more, but after a very long year – we’re finally back on the road to getting our lives back.
I am in my late 30’s and (obviously), chronically ill – I actually have a few health concerns that I have spoken about at length on this blog. This puts me in priority group 1b concerning Australia’s vaccine rollout. I should have been able to access the vaccine in March, according to the original rollout plan. But concerns with AstraZenica meant that I needed to wait until supplies of the Pfizer vaccine allowed me to receive both the contact shot and the booster.
To be clear, the risk of serious complication with AstraZenica (AZ), even in my age group, is about 1 in 1,000,000. Yep – one in a one million chance of having a serious adverse reaction to AZ – if my math holds up that’s a risk of 0.0001%. I was prepared to take that risk – but it seems the vaccine hubs on the Gold Coast (and I called 5) were not. Why was I prepared to take a one in one million risk? Because my calculated risk of developing serious, life altering illness from COVID-19 is about 6 in 100. Yep, because I am chronically ill have a few of the other risk factors – I have a 6% chance of developing serious complications including death from Coronavirus. That’s about the same chance I had of dying on the table during my surgery in 2013.
Really run those numbers in your head. Do you understand now why I was willing to take that risk?
The second question I have been hit with time after times is: why the rush? You can’t travel anyway, why not let other people be the guinea pig? I find that attitude so repugnant – so much so, I have trouble dealing with it. I have an incurable condition – do you really want to know how often I am, what you call, a ‘guinea pig’? Often – and I do it willingly. This is how medical science works. This is how we get better treatments, this is how we find a cure. This is how I service my community. Following on from that, these vaccines are in no way experimental. Not even slightly. They all started their life as the SARS vaccine, but when that epidemic and the funding that comes with it fizzled out – the work was pushed to the end of the queue – but it has still been consistently worked on for the 14 years after work began. 14 years of work has gone into this vaccine – more than what is regularly conducted. And when science is properly and correctly funded, advancements have the opportunity to move faster still.
If I said this wasn’t about being able to travel at all – that would be a lie. And like I said, I’m being real here. So, of course this is about being able to travel for me. It’s about being able to travel safely without the risk of a privileged white person (me) being able to spread the illness to a poorer nation, less equip to deal with the consequences. Before that happens, however, every Australian should be offered a COVID-19 vaccine of their choice – and yearly booster for those of us that were fortunate enough to be vaccinated early. That’s a year guys – that’s still a year away. So, realistically, is it about travel for me? No.
My urgency is related to my condition and it’s treatment. As I said above – I have a much higher than average chance of developing serious illness. More than that, they treat my illness with targeted, but heavy immunosuppression. Immunosuppression interferes with the efficacy of vaccines. Yes, they still work – but not perhaps as well as they were designed. I am not currently on treatment for Crohn’s disease – I have in fact been Chemo free for a few years. But that can change – and it can change very quickly. Right now the vaccine will work on me with peak efficiency. Right now is my window. To use a commonly coined phrase from our main association, I can’t wait.
If you are reading this and need more of an incentive than 100% confidence that you won’t die from COVID and a halved chance of being able to pass it on to a loved one. I do think there will be easing of restrictions for fully vaccinated Australian’s – to the point that in the next few months we will be exempt from lockdowns.
Get vaccinated for you. Get vaccinated to protector your neighbour who might be on immunosuppression therapy. Get vaccinated to get your life back.