Getting My First Vaccine

A close up of someone's arm with a small circular plaster on it

Tina, our London Ambassador, has received her first Pfizer vaccine and has shared what the experience was like.

Last week I had my 1st Pfizer vaccine. I’m so pleased and relieved that this has happened. I appreciate that deciding to be vaccinated is a very personal choice. However, I thought it might be helpful writing about the practicalities of getting this done.

As someone who is shielding, I’ve been wondering how long I would have to wait to be invited to get the vaccine. It’s not something I’ve talked about openly before, but I work in social care so my vaccine was arranged through my employer. So how I got notified will probably be different from how most people will be. I received an email saying there was availability the following day and I was invited to book a slot. However, also with friends and friends’ parents, it seems to be a very short gap, usually a few days between being notified and getting the vaccine. At the time of booking, I was told I was going to receive the Pfizer vaccine and once I booked, I received a confirmation text of the time and location.

I was booked in at the King George V Building at Barts Hospital for 10:50am. The date of the vaccine was my 132nd day of my second lot of shielding. I decided as I hadn’t been further than walking around the block during this time, I would book a taxi to take me there and back. I arrived at 10:10am, so I was early for my appointment. I already knew which building I needed to be at and the taxi was able to drop me off near the door. There was a large sign with arrows showing the different entrances for staff and patients.

On entering there are floor markers indicating where to stand to ensure social distancing. The first thing I came to was the hand sanitiser gel. Then as I made my way towards the reception desk, there was a member of staff in the hallway asking everyone why they were attending the hospital. I then went to one of the four or five desks designated for people arriving for their vaccination. The person at the desk was behind a screen. There was no chair for me to sit at. I had to provide basic deals of name, date of birth and the time of my appointment. They also asked if I had any covid symptoms and took my temperature at my wrist. I was also given a surgical face mask.

I was directed to the vaccine hub in the large atrium. There I was given 2 forms and a pen. One form was a basic health information form with a series of yes and no questions. It asked if I had any covid symptoms and if I had a reaction to any previous vaccinations. On the other form I only needed to fill in basic personal information on the top section and the rest of the form was to be completed by the medical staff. Once I had completed this I was booked into the system and given a card with a number on it. There were rows of seats in the waiting area and it was clear which ones you could sit on as every other seat was marked off. I waited about 40 minutes to be called through.

There were a number of rooms being used and the nurse who was seeing me was standing by her doorway. She checked my details and administered the vaccine. I was given a small business card size card with my name, name of the vaccine, the batch number and the date on it and at the bottom of the card is the space to write the same details down for the second dose. The injection itself was quick and easy. I was given 2 leaflets. One was the package information about Pfizer, similar to what you get with a box of medication, explain the vaccine and listing possible side effects. The other was a Public Health England leaflet entitled “What to expect after your Covid-19 Vaccine”.

Then in another waiting area, I had to remain for 15 minutes to see if I had any immediate side effects to the vaccine. I was free to leave when a member of staff told me I could.

I needed to use the accessible toilet before I left and I checked with staff and was told I was free to use the facilities without having to notify anyone, as they are regularly cleaned.

Overall, I was very impressed with how the whole thing was organised. Where you need to go to is clearly signposted. There are lots of members of staff about to assist. Everyone, both staff and patients, were wearing masks. It was busy but not overly so, so you could easily socially distance. Regarding disabled access, the building was step free and has accessible toilets. People with a visual impairment may need guidance due to the floor markers, signage and general layout. Likewise, all the hospital staff were wearing surgical masks which would make it difficult for people with a hearing impairment. Given the sheer scale of the vaccine programme, and that all NHS staff have been working in such stressful and upsetting situations dealing with covid for almost a year now, I think what they are achieving is amazing and I can’t thank them enough for what they are doing.

I now have to wait until I get called for my 2nd vaccine, but to date the only side effect was a dull heavy pain in my arm in the area of the vaccine, which came on about 5-6 hours after the vaccination. I took some pain relief and it was ok. When I woke the next morning there was a slight pain but nothing that needed medication and it didn't last for very long. I've felt fine since.

I hope you are all staying safe and well.

Total respect and gratitude to the NHS and its staff, you are a beacon in these dismal days of covid. I cannot thank you enough for what you have done for me.

Thank you Barts.

Thank you Tina for sharing your experience of getting the vaccine with us. If you are waiting for your first vaccine we hope you have found this blog helpful. It is part of our Voices of Covid blog series, where we share disabled people’s stories and experiences during the pandemic. Please contact us if you would like to take part or find out more.

Tags: Voices of COVID, case study, covid


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