As a training mental health clinician in Illinois, I recently qualified for the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Despite a history of severe anaphylactic reactions, I safely received my vaccination on Saturday January 23rd through Loyola Medicine.
Upon hearing the news that the revolutionary COVID-19 vaccine capable of producing 95% immunity with just two doses could also potentially produce elevated numbers of anaphylactic reactions in some patients, I was devastated. This potentially life changing scientific development was initially chalked up as yet another thing I would miss out on because of my allergies. Add it to the list of 2020 disappointments! However, with the help of doctors, scientists, researchers, and experts around the world, this initial defeat turned into no more than a minor setback.
In response to this news, the Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) organization got to work. FARE has taken the information provided by the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to create and continuously update COVID-19 vaccination guidelines for the food allergy community. I used these exact guidelines to help make my own personal decision about whether or not to vaccinate. You can view those guidelines here.
Some highlights from their guidelines include that neither vaccine contains egg or other food allergens, nor is either vaccine exposed to latex. Most notable for my situation, FARE stated “If you have had a severe allergic reaction to allergens unrelated to vaccines or injectable drugs, such as food, pet dander, venom, environmental allergens and latex, you can receive a COVID-19 vaccine.” Also important to note, FARE stated “If you have had a severe allergic reaction to another vaccine or injectable therapy, you should consult with your doctor, who can help you determine whether you should receive a COVID-19 vaccine.” In my experience, I have never had a severe allergic reaction to a vaccine or other injectable therapy, but this guideline is very important if you personally have.
Of course, I respect everyone’s right and responsibility to make their own health related decisions for themselves and their family, however, this information was enough for me to feel comfortable and confident with receiving the vaccine.
Loyola Medicine scheduled my appointment at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital for Saturday afternoon at 1:10pm. Before my appointment, I completed extensive paperwork online, which asked about my health history, medications, and thankfully, allergies. Upon arrival, I completed more standard liability paperwork which again asked about any history of allergies. After verifying my eligibility for the vaccine and providing my insurance card, I was ready to go.
Within minutes, I was escorted to the vaccination station where I notified the nurses about my allergies. (Self advocacy for the win!) They reassured me about their protocols and procedures, and reminded me that I was in the safest possible place to receive a vaccine.
As someone who has been receiving the annual flu vaccination for many years, I found the COVID-19 vaccine to be surprisingly painless. Besides, after everything we have gone through in 2020… One little prick is nothing!
For precautionary reasons, those with allergies (food or otherwise), were asked to wait inside the hospital for thirty minutes post vaccination, opposed to the standard fifteen minutes for other patients. Thankfully, in my case, I experienced absolutely no immediate symptoms post vaccination, and was cleared to continue on with my day with only mild arm soreness.
Before leaving, I was able to schedule my appointment for the second dose of the vaccine. In just over three weeks, I will be returning to Gottlieb Memorial Hospital to repeat the process again! I could not have been more impressed with the organization and punctuality of the knowledgable staff at Loyola Medicine. Thank you for the excellent experience!
In the day(s) following my first vaccination, I experienced very few symptoms or side effects. Waking up Sunday morning, I felt in perfect health, other than my arm soreness had worsened. Nothing unmanageable, but certainly more stiff than a standard flu vaccine. Two days post vaccination, I continued to feel mild arm soreness. However, by Tuesday, the stiffness was completely gone.
UPDATE: I received my second COVID-19 vaccination approximately three weeks later, on Tuesday February 16th. Immediately following my second dose, I experienced no symptoms or side effects. However, as to be expected (given the second shot seems to be giving others more trouble), I woke up Wednesday morning with a sizable headache and arm soreness. Although I never spiked a fever, I did experience some mild body aches and general fatigue. Despite the discomfort, these brief hours of pain are worth the peace of mind moving forward with antibodies!
As someone who gets anxious about doctors appointments and needles, I was undoubtedly nervous walking into the vaccination clinic. However, thanks to the help of the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, the Food Allergy Research & Education organization, the Pfizer Incorporation, and Loyola Medicine, I received the information and treatment necessary to make me feel safe and secure getting the vaccination. More than anything, I am extremely grateful, relieved, and proud to have been selected to receive the vaccine so early, after a year of trials and tribulations regarding the Coronavirus pandemic.
While everyone’s health, allergies, reactions, and situations are completely different, I hope my positive experience can help others in the food allergy community feel more hopeful about the COVID-19 vaccine. Please feel free to reach out to me at any time with any additional questions about my vaccine experience.
If anyone needs me, I’ll be over here making antibodies!
DISCLAIMER: The content of this post is for educational purposes only, and should not be substituted for medical advice. Please consult with your doctor or another medical professional for any health related questions or concerns.