Column: Don't buy into the fear; get the vaccine

Tina Bridenstine
The Shawnee News-Star

I finally did it.

Last week, I received the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

There's a lot of talk about the vaccines, and so many who are afraid — both afraid of getting vaccines or afraid of not getting them.

I'll be honest and admit I was afraid. Not of getting COVID and not of having a bad reaction to the vaccine. Nope. My fears boiled down to the same two reasons I am ridiculously behind on my tetanus shot:

1. The very idea of picking up the phone and talking to a stranger to make an appointment is pretty far up the list of Things I Avoid If At All Possible (located below sky diving but above getting food poisoning), and

2. Needles and shots freak me out and are also really high on the aforementioned list.

For me, breaking down whether or not to get the vaccine involved a very complicated internal struggle. Could I really let fear of a tiny little needle, or even nervousness about talking to strangers, keep me from doing my part to slow the spread of a global pandemic? But, also, by scheduling an appointment would I take a spot from someone who needs it more?

Eventually, the decision was made in seconds when I saw a friend posting about her little girl, who is not eligible for the vaccine due to an illness that also makes her particularly susceptible to COVID. In the end, it's easy for me to put off getting a tetanus shot. After all, I'm hurting no one but myself. But the thought of unintentionally passing on COVID to that little girl, or to my parents, or to someone's grandparents? If it means preventing something like that, I can conquer a fear or two.

Having come out the other side, this is what I can tell you about my experience.

The first shot was a breeze (even if my heart was pounding like a scared little rabbit at the sight of those needles). My second shot was scheduled while I was filling out paperwork, which means I never had to call to schedule a follow up (a dislike of calling to schedule follow up appointments is the reason I am woefully overdue to visit the eye doctor). Everyone at the clinic was kind and patient, and I barely even felt the shot. Granted, my arm did develop some tenderness as the day went on, and it smarted a little when I tried to sleep on that side, but it was nothing to write home about and faded away by the next morning.

The second shot went just as smoothly, and that afternoon while talking to Editor Kim Morava I said, “I don't have any symptoms yet, and I think they would have appeared by now if I were going to get any.” Well … not exactly. Other than a mildly sore arm (I made a point of moving it around a lot and trying to use it, since I've read that helps mitigate the soreness from the shot faster), I didn't show any other symptoms until that night. I started out bundling up in blankets and cursing the cool weather that's moved in, but eventually acknowledged that those sort of bone-chilling, “Am I in the Antarctic??” kind of shivers typically only hit me as the result of a fever. But, other than cold chills from a fever, I still felt fine. And the next day I was feeling more-or-less fine, though with that sort of tired feeling you have when on the mend from being sick.

Overall, though? It wasn't so bad. I know side effects are different for different people, but I would encourage everyone who can to make an appointment to get their vaccine. We're all in this together, and the more people who step up and do that they can to end the pandemic – whether it's getting a vaccine or wearing a mask (yes, the CDC still recommends masks even after being vaccinated) – the faster we'll be out of it.

Tina Bridenstine is a reporter for The Shawnee News-Star. She can be reached at tina.bridenstine@news-star.com or 405-214-3934. Follow her on Twitter @tbridenstine1