Getting the COVID-19 vaccine as a chronically ill teenager

As teenagers across the country sign-up for vaccines, our Opinions Editor Erin Sockolof shares her unique experience.

A+Pfizer+COVID-19+vaccine+is+administered+in+the+shoulder+of+a+young+woman.

Staff photo by Erin Sockolof

A Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is administered in the shoulder of a young woman.

Like many people, at first, I was concerned about getting the COVID-19 vaccine, and rightfully so. I have a whole host of chronic health issues. I had no clue how my body would react after being exposed to such a new medication. 

Being immunocompromised has forced me to develop a unique perspective on the pandemic, at least for someone my age. I had to get used to being isolated from my family and friends because if I got sick with COVID-19, my immune system would likely not be able to fight it off. I learned to adapt to my new circumstances, but that never alleviated my fear. 

However, when pharmaceutical companies started releasing statements promising an effective vaccine, I saw hope. Hope that I had not felt since the pandemic began. That hope did not come without hesitation, though. I was concerned that I would have an adverse reaction to the vaccinations. After all, there was not much research into how the weakened immune system would react. 

Despite my concerns, I did get the vaccine. Well, eventually. It took a long time for me to find a vaccine appointment. I was shocked that there were so few appointments to get the only vaccine approved for those 16 and older — at the time. 

Once I did get an appointment, it was smooth sailing. Like any vaccine, there were side effects. However, I did not have any negative reaction to it like I had once worried about. 

After my first vaccine, I felt great. I did not feel like I had the flu or anything similar. I did have an odd reaction to it, though. My arm became so weak that I wasn’t able to move it for a few days. This included limited motion in my hand. That part was annoying, but it was definitely worth it. After my first dose, I already had more peace of mind. Even though I wasn’t fully vaccinated, I felt freer than I had in almost a year. 

I learned to adapt to my new circumstances, but that never alleviated my fear. ”

I did have a slightly worse reaction after my second dose. Again, nothing that would prevent me from recommending the vaccine, but it was not pleasant. I felt like I had the flu the next day. I was tired, had a headache, chills, muscle aches, congestion, a sore throat, mild fever and I was moody –more so than normal. The day after that I felt pretty much back to normal. 

Looking back on this experience I can say without a doubt that I made the right choice. Not only am I safer now, but so is my family. Now that I am fully vaccinated, I am much less likely to contract the virus, have a severe case and spread the virus. 

It’s okay to be concerned about getting the vaccine, but do not let your apprehension stop you. Getting vaccinated is the only way to return to anything close to what our normal society used to look like.