True Story - I'm participating in a COVID-19 vaccine trial (Part 3: After the shot)

December 16, 2020
Nurse Gabby Ruiz-Coss gives a COVID-19 test to vaccine trial participant Kelly Warren.
Nurse Gabby Ruiz-Coss gives a COVID-19 test to clinical trial participant Kelly Warren. Photo by Sarah Pack

Kelly Warren is a manager with MUSC’s Enterprise Campaigns and University Communications. Warren volunteered to be a participant in the MUSC/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine trial. She shares her experiences so that others might also feel comfortable receiving the vaccine. This is part three. Read part one here. Read part two here. Read part four here. Read part five here.

 Well, this has been a most interesting week! 

After receiving the injection at my morning appointment, I returned to my house for the workday. All day, I found myself a little on edge. I stayed busy, but in the back of my mind was a running stream of questions – “Are my arms sore? Or is that a normal shot and blood draw feeling? Am I feeling achy? Or did I do something wrong during my last workout? Is this fatigue? Or is it explainable tiredness after a week with not enough sleep?”

As the day progressed, I noticed an increasing soreness at the injection site. The other thing I noticed was discomfort in my inner elbow where the tape was wrapped from the blood draw. I’ve donated blood many times and never had an issue, but this time, I experienced a small reaction from it. Perhaps I left the tape on too long or maybe my arm didn’t like this particular tape. Whatever the case, fortunately the reaction disappeared after a few hours.

I had a normal working day, feeling overall OK. However, around 5:30, eight hours after my shot, I noticed a shift. First, I noticed my brain seemed to be moving a little bit slower and things were taking longer to “connect.” While this isn’t unheard of after a workday, it felt different, like I was moving though molasses. 

Then I got very tired – tired enough to lie on the couch for a bit, instead of my normal post-work walk. This is when I started to think something may be up, but I still wasn’t fully convinced I wasn’t just on edge and willing things into existence.

I finally knew and accepted that something was up when I got the chills and felt achy. Anyone who knows me knows I get cold easily, so again, this isn’t unheard of. However, the sudden onset made my wheels start turning about the shot I received. I put on a warm sweater and wrapped up in a blanket. In about 20 minutes, the chills were gone; there was minimal achiness, and I didn’t experience either again.

Given all of this, I decided to take my temperature and found I was running a low-grade fever of 100.4. 

After spending more quality time on the couch, I was feeling exhausted, so I made a quick dinner then decided to retreat to bed for a thrilling evening of reading and an early bed time. I checked my temperature about an hour later, confirmed I was still running a low fever and called it a night.

The next morning, I woke up and felt fine. No fever, no aches and only the normal pre-coffee fog. I’m not sure when the symptoms ended and fever disappeared, though I briefly woke up in the middle of the night and noticed I didn’t have a fever. I contacted the study coordinators to let them know about my fever. Based on this, they ran my specimen collection for COVID. Fortunately, it quickly came back negative.

Since the few hours of symptoms that first evening, the only thing I’ve noticed was a little muscle soreness in the back of my shoulder. This lasted a couple of days and was nothing unmanageable, though it did make workouts a little more challenging! Otherwise, the first week since my injection has been smooth sailing. I’ve completed a digital diary each day and am now waiting for my next appointment. 

I’m certainly no medical expert, and there’s no way of knowing right now what shot I received, but I have my suspicions that it was the real-deal vaccine and not the placebo. Some of the initial symptoms could have been imagined in my hypervigilance, but the fever, chills and aches were undeniable. I’m imaginative, but not that good!

Only time will tell – more in two weeks after my next appointment.

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