Column: My experience receiving the COVID-19 vaccination


Image courtesy of Reuters

By Aleea Evangelista

I was one of the youngest people receiving the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on March 5 at the Santa Paula Community Clinic. Alongside eager Ventura County residents, I waited outside the clinic in a line along the sidewalk that was admittedly shorter than it looked.

The night before, I nearly worked myself up into a panic while maniacally researching the vaccine’s side effects. Then in the morning, I spent the drive over trying to quell my anxiety and hoping that everything would pass over smoothly.

The entire vaccine process at the Santa Paula location was impressively organized and only took 30 minutes. After waiting outside in a socially distanced line, vaccine recipients were directed inside to the paperwork line. A volunteer verified my personal and employment documents while confirming my identity with one of the accepted forms of identification.

From there, I was guided towards the main event and the biggest source of my anxiety: the vaccination distribution site. The location neatly partitioned a large room into an area for vaccines and another for observation.

At the head of the room, three stations were fully equipped with vaccines, biohazard disposal containers and healthcare providers wearing masks with face shields.

Nervous with apprehension, I failed to sit still but the incredibly kind healthcare worker who gave me my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine kept me wonderfully distracted from the needle stuck in my arm.

After receiving the virtually painless vaccine, I was led to another station where a strip of tape labeled with my name and the time ’15 minutes from now’ was stuck to my shoulder. Shepherded out of the room, I sat outside in an adjacent courtyard with chairs provided for vaccine recipients.

A healthcare worker guided the freshly vaccinated group through light arm stretches to prevent any soreness. For 15 minutes, we sat stretching as the volunteers observed for any allergic reactions to the vaccine.

Luckily, everyone reacted well to the vaccine and we were sent home with hand sanitizer and masks, as well as a reminder to schedule the second dose appointment. Thankfully I did not experience any side effects from the first dose and was more than happy to only have a sore left arm.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a 21-day interval between the first and second doses of the Pfizer vaccine and notes that COVID-19 vaccines are not interchangeable.

My second dose of the Pfizer vaccine went just as smoothly, with no wait times on April 9 at the Ventura County Fairgrounds.

Guided into the Seabreeze Square, the vaccine site sat alongside the COVID-19 test center. Similar to the Santa Paula Community Clinic, a volunteer assisted me throughout the entire process, from signing in to post-vaccine observation.

Receiving the first dose alleviated a lot of my anxiety, but I worried about the side effects of the second dose, that my friends and family have reported. A weekend of chills, nausea and muscle pain sounded incredibly unappealing. But the hope of one day sitting inside in a coffee shop surrounded by the orchestra of chatting people and clinking of coffees being prepared won me over.

With no allergic reactions found in the observation period, I left the Ventura County Fairgrounds thrilled to be fully vaccinated. This sense of achievement would be quickly eclipsed 12 hours later by the tough side effects I’d wake up with. The next day after my second dose was spent with tissues and reruns of Modern Family while a killer headache took a hit to my productivity.

Despite their intense wrath, the side effects subsided after one day and I have since enjoyed the benefits of getting vaccinated.

As an education essential employee, I was able to receive the vaccine due to Ventura County’s updated COVID-19 vaccine qualifications from March 1.

On April 15, Ventura County opened up vaccine eligibility to everyone 16 years old and above.

As of May 5, Ventura County had administered 699,311 total doses of the vaccine.

For more information on Ventura County’s COVID-19 response or to schedule a vaccine appointment, please visit their website.