My experience getting the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine

Joanna Chait

“Okay, it’ll just be a little poke.” I squeezed my eyes shut. “Three, two, one.” 

I received my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on March 10. It is hard to believe that just a year ago, on the last day of in-person school, I was pacing around the Wilson track at lunch, shoulder to shoulder with two friends. It was among the first warm days in March; the sun was shining. And yet, I was too stressed to sit still. 

I knew we had reached a precipice. Below my feet was a two-month lockdown and at the time even that was too much to fathom. 

But we made it. One year later things are finally starting to look up. 

Through Children’s National Hospital, 16 and 17-year-olds in DC with qualifying medical conditions can receive the Pfizer vaccine. The distribution began with direct patients of Children’s National, although teenagers who are immunocompromised can get on the waitlist through their doctor. 

I qualified to receive the vaccine because I have severe Ulcerative Colitis, which causes ongoing inflammation of the large intestine. To manage the disease, I am on an immunosuppressive biologic drug that I get through infusions. 

The process of registering for a vaccination was nothing like the horror stories you may have heard from people who have registered through the DC portal. The system was simple and organized.

When the day finally rolled around I was giddy with excitement. On the car ride to the hospital, my dad and I cracked our windows. The sun was shining, and it was, just like it had been a year before, the first real warm day in March. Karma Chameleon played on the radio. My dad danced in his seat as I laughed at him.

However, our carefree attitudes did not last long. We were almost at the hospital when my mom called, notifying us of a location change for my appointment. We started driving in another direction.

But then I remembered I had received a text from Children’s confirming the location at the main hospital just a few hours ago—we were heading in the wrong direction and my vaccine appointment was indeed at the main hospital.

We frantically turned around again and drove in the direction that we had come from. 

When we arrived at the hospital it was as if “The Amazing Race” had just begun. After waiting a painfully long 15 seconds, we checked in at the front desk and then proceeded to take off running towards the Genetics department. At this point, we were about 15 minutes late. 

We did not think they would give up my dose, but we did not want to find out. 

In the classiest fashion possible, my dad and I sprinted across the hospital. We passed

sick kids, worried parents, doctors in full scrubs, and lots of Dory the fish wall decals. 

We finally arrived at the desk a mere two minutes later and, once we had completed a short checklist, everything went extremely smoothly. When the nurse arrived into my room she gave us a quick spiel and handed me an information packet, my CDC vaccination card, and a sticker that said “I got the COVID-19 vaccine.”

 I expected a sharp stabbing pain but was met with a soft little pinch. One second later I had received my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

In the hours that followed, my side effects were quite minimal. At five p.m I felt like I was going to fall asleep, but that only lasted for an hour. However, I had muscle aches in my arms and back for the next week. 

As excited as I was to receive the chance to be vaccinated, I couldn’t help but feel a little guilty. There are people suffering far worse than I am, who are unable to avoid the risks of COVID-19 to the extent that I am. I took up the opportunity to be vaccinated because I believe in the power of vaccines. Experts say that when your risk-group is offered vaccinations, it is perfectly ethical to accept the offer. 

I know I am extremely lucky to be receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. First off, It is a privilege to have parents who are able to take me to my appointments in the middle of the day during a workweek. I am lucky to be a patient of a doctor who works with Children’s National. I am really lucky that the DC government prioritized my risk group. 

I feel extremely fortunate to have received this opportunity.