COMMENTARY: The Second Shot

by Feb 25, 2021OPINIONS





Roughly four weeks ago, I received my first Moderna COVID-19 vaccine inoculation. Wednesday, Feb. 24, I went in for the second shot. 

Arrival was just as it had been for the first. At the Cherokee Indian Hospital (CIHA) entrance, staff took my temperature and ask me some questions to confirm, to the best of their ability, that I had not been exposed to any of the virus through contact with others. Then I was permitted to go to the area where they were staging patients for the shot. At that point, I filled out a few more forms, like the previous visit as well. One of the intake coordinators when I arrived was Hugh Lambert, a friend and acquaintance for years. We exchanged a few pleasantries in Spanish. Then, I waited just a few moments before being led to the nurse’s table for the shot. 

At this point, I have to say again how incredibly polite and professional our hospital staff treats those who are going in for the shot. Both visits, they treated me with great care and respect, just as I saw them doing with many other patients. It is so important for them to do that, particularly in the case of the second shot. 

There are many people out there saying many things about the vaccines. Some of the talk in the community rises from personal experiences, some from gossip, and some from propaganda. There are folks pontificating on social media about a vast conspiracy to make sheep out of the population and that there is some nefarious agenda built into the vaccination process and the whole idea of a virus and virus response. They will espouse speculation as fact and promote it as reason to resist any persuasion to “take the shot”. 

At no time in modern history have I seen the leadership of our country, from government leaders to health care professionals to top scientist, more in tune with each other on an issue. And never in my lifetime have I seen so many ignore those same authorities and, even more, disagree with factual findings of the likes of the Center for Disease Control, United States Surgeon General, and the Indian Health Service. Even in the face of a nationwide effort to protect the health and wellbeing of children, elders, and the infirm, there are people still fence-sitting on the decision of whether to take the vaccine. 

There are literally millions of people who are not blessed to be Native who are on long waiting lists to get their first shots. There are families losing loved ones as we read this, people who had been waiting on their opportunity to get the vaccine who didn’t qualify in time because their age group wasn’t being vaccinated due to limited supplies of the vaccines. 

So, the brief moments that I waited for my turn at the second shot, I felt thankful and humbled at the privilege of being 60 and that my Tribe was making sure to protect me, and protect those who might be around me, from the virus. God bless those who provided the vaccines to our Tribe and those who are working so hard to get all of us protected. 

I spoke briefly with my nurse about the size of the needle, jokingly asking her why the needles were so much longer than the flu shot needles (they are not). She did tell me that larger needles were sent with the shipment, but that CIHA had replaced those needles with smaller ones for the comfort of their patients. That is something they didn’t have to do, but wanted to do because they are professional, humane, and want to ensure the best customer (community) service. 

She asked if I had any reaction to the first shot and I said no. I actually did have a bit of a sore arm afterward, but I figured that would be normal after having a needle stuck in it, so I didn’t think it was worth mentioning.  She let me know that I might have some reactions with the second one because with the first one, they are building up antibodies, then with the second shot, they are actually putting those antibodies to work. She said that the hospital was getting feedback from patients after shot two that they were experiencing some discomforts. 

Informally, I had asked around about what to expect from shot two from friends and colleagues who had gotten it before me. A family member said she went through 36 hours of flu-like symptoms (chills, fever, headache) and she said it was pretty rough. I have spoken with others who have had those same flu-like feelings, some who had visions and weird dreams, and still others who couldn’t even tell that they had a shot, except that the only universal complaint is a pretty sore shoulder where the needle went in. I also had one lady tell me that the shot kept her awake for the first 24 hours. 

Maybe my favorite description was an elder gentleman, who told me to “expect to have a little diarrhea and headache, oh, and be sure to rub the injection site a lot because it will help it from being sore.”

My nurse gave me the injection. Oh, and she replaced my vaccination card, which had fallen victim to my clumsiness (spilled a cup of coffee on it in my car’s front seat). I was then sent to the 15-minute waiting room to make sure I didn’t have an immediate, possibly allergic, reaction to the vaccine. So, I sat there, played on my phone, and chatted with other poor souls whose 15 minutes weren’t up yet. The time passed quickly, and I was told I could be on my way.

As of this writing, it has been 30-plus hours since the second shot. As foretold, the shoulder is pretty sore to the touch, but is in no way debilitating. It continues to be sore, but I am sure that elder would say that I am simply not rubbing it enough. Off and on, over the past hours since I have had a mild headache. Honestly, I took the rest of the day off on Wednesday, anticipating that I might have a bad reaction to the shot, but soreness and the mild headache are all that have materialized. I was even able to attend Wednesday night church services without problem and do some electronic paperwork for the newspaper after services. I had no problem getting back to the office and in the swing of things today (the day after the shot). 

I wanted to share my experience with you in hopes that it will help you with your decisions about taking the vaccine. Like many other things in our life, it is prudent to seek out as much firsthand information as possible instead of listening to the loud volume of unsubstantiated material thrown on the internet through social media. I have no doubt that my friends and colleagues experienced every symptom that they described to me. I have been, so far, fortunate in that my shot reaction has not been severe in any way. We are all different and will respond differently to the vaccine. Also, so far, one thing is certain. Our medical community was so sure that we needed this vaccine that they were willing to be first in line to receive it. That speaks volumes to me, and it should to you too.    

I again want to thank the amazing staff at Cherokee Indian Hospital for the excellent care as I went through this month-long process, especially the young ladies who administered shot one and shot two. And I promise Hugh that I will brush up on my Spanish.