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Published January 26, 2021

 

THE VIEW FROM MY SEAT

I weighed risk from Covid, shot, then rolled up my sleeve

By Ernie Williamson / The Bulletin

“I will let you go first.”

That’s what I said to my wife as we prepared to get the first of two Covid-19 vaccinations at the Brazoria County Health Department in Angleton.

I am such a gentleman.

My wife asked the woman with the needle if this vaccination would hurt. The woman, who said she was administering about 40 shots a day, said no. She was right. My wife barely felt it.

It was my turn. I was nervous. It had been a stressful journey getting to this point.

As I wrote last week, under normal circumstances I have no problem with vaccines. If Dr. Fauci says a vaccine is safe and effective, that is usually good enough for me.

But, because of a rare neurological disorder, I was concerned about getting the Covid-19 vaccine.

I have transverse myelitis. I was stricken with it after coming down with the flu. My body, for reasons that are still fuzzy to me, produced antibodies that not only attacked the invading virus but also my spinal cord, causing permanent damage.

I have been in a wheelchair for nine years.

The Moderna shot I was about to get is an mRNA vaccine. The vaccine helps your body build antibodies if the virus strikes. Virus? Antibodies? Sound familiar? Haven’t I already had enough trouble with viruses and antibodies?

When I first read about the vaccine, I had a purely emotional response. I decided I would not risk injecting anything into my already-disabled body. I would just continue to be careful. I would wear a mask, keep my social distance and avoid crowds.

But my attitude started changing as I read more about the science. My neurologist indicated he thought it would be safe for me to get the vaccine, although he also said “there are no guarantees. “I assumed that was just cautious doctor talk.

What finally drove me to get the vaccine was when the virus surged again in our area and the death toll grew. To this 73-year-old with an underlying condition, the risk from Covid-19 seemed far greater than the risk posed by the vaccine.

I decided to sign us up.

After several futile attempts to find a location with the vaccine available, I got lucky and happened to check the right website at the right time. The Brazoria County Health Department had just received 200 doses of the vaccine. I jumped at the chance to get the vaccine for my wife and me.

Once we were given an appointment date, we were asked to go online to fill out a consent form to bring with us on vaccination day. The form was pretty routine. It asked standard questions about possible exposure to the virus and if you wanted to join an immunization registry.

For safety reasons, the form also asks for consent to stay 15 minutes after the vaccination so staff could respond to any potential reactions.

I didn’t have any. The vaccination itself was more like a pinprick than a shot.

As we left the waiting area after the 15-minutes, I asked one of the staff if there had been any serious reactions. She said no.

On the drive home, I felt both relief and pride. Relief that we had taken the first step toward protecting ourselves from the virus without any immediate serious reaction and pride that we were helping our community and country conquer the virus.
We decided to celebrate on the way home. We stopped at a drive-thru for hamburgers. We joked that this is what passes for celebrating when you are in your 70s and are usually careful about your diet.

Ironically, Kelly eventually had a worse reaction to the vaccine than I did. Her arm was sore on Day 1, and on Day 2, she became nauseous and had fever, chills and a headache. The symptoms lasted a day, but she was fatigued for several days.

We will never know for sure if this was a reaction to the vaccine, but she is convinced it was.

I only had some minor nasal congestion on Day 2. As we all are aware, there are hundreds of other possible causes for that in our area.

We are scheduled for our second vaccination in early February. I don’t think I will be as worried then.

(Ernie Williamson welcomes reader input. Please contact Ernie at williamsonernie@gmail.com. Or, send letters in care of The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton, TX. 77516)