My Experience with the COVID-19 Vaccine

Jessica Massler, LSW, LMSW


I am not a physician.

I am happy to speak about what my experience was like, the information I received, and what should be expected.

My goal is not to force anyone to get a vaccine; I believe that should be left to each individual to decide what is best for them.

The Process

– I scheduled an appointment through my former employer in New York City (Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center [MSK]), as I qualified under Stage 1a. The State of New Jersey has an information page and a website where one
can pre-register:
> (Note- be patient- this site is slow due to demand!)

– I showed up on January 9, 2021 and was asked to confirm my identity, had to fill out an online form with my smartphone to register in the NY State database (NJ will have this also), and then waited.

– After my name was called, a nurse took me to the vaccine administration area. This was a private area at MSK, but it is public at a lot of other places.

The Process, cont.- Information Packet

– I was given a packet with the following information:

> Information about the contents of the vaccine/manufacturer/risks and benefits. In my
case, I received the Moderna vaccine. Both Pfizer and Moderna are equally safe. Vaccine
sites will not let you choose which you receive; it will be based on what is available.
However, you have to have the same manufacturer for the second dose that you receive
for the first.

> Side effects and how to deal with them. These include arm pain, redness, or swelling at
the injection site; systemic side effects including fever, chills, fatigue, headache, muscle
aches, joint aches, elevated heart rate, or nausea. For any pain, ibuprofen is ok after the
vaccine (not before!); for the systemic side effects, they recommend drinking plenty of
fluids/eating broth.

> What to do in the event of an allergic reaction/who to call. If you have a certain allergy
history with vaccines or take certain medications (i.e., corticosteroids), you will be
observed for a longer period after the vaccine is administered.

> A list of symptoms that are unlikely to be due to the vaccine and who to call if you
experience them. These include cough, runny nose, shortness of breath, sore throat, or
loss of taste/smell.

> After reviewing the packet with the nurse, she asked me a series of questions
about my medical history and confirmed I consented to receive the vaccine.
After completing this, I received the vaccine and was given a vaccination card
with information about dosage, who administered it, the manufacturer, and
the date. DO NOT LOSE THE VACCINATION CARD. You need it for your second
dose and as proof, you received the vaccine.

> Some sites give two cards- one for each dose. If this happens, keep both cards.

> I was escorted to an observation room afterward; if you don’t have an allergy
history, you are observed for 15 minutes. If you have an allergy history, you
are observed for 30 minutes. If there are no issues, you can leave. Due to my
allergy history, I was observed for 30 minutes.

My Side Effects- First Vaccine

>I started feeling arm soreness 4-hours after injection. It was painful the
following day, but it didn’t prevent me from doing any activities.

>I had an elevated heart rate the day after the vaccine, but I felt fine by the

>About two days later, I experience a headache that lasted approximately 36
hours. This was easily alleviated by taking Advil (or Ibuprofen).

Second Vaccine Experience and Side Effects

>I had my second vaccine on February 6, 2021.

>I had arm soreness and fatigue. However, a lot of people I know felt very run
down and as if they had a bad cold for 24-48 hours following their shots.

CDC Questionnaire

There is a voluntary program the CDC has launched, called v-safe, where you receive a text message
and can answer a daily questionnaire about how you are feeling post-vaccine.

>I am participating in this. It doesn’t take more than 60 seconds each day.