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My COVID-19 Vaccination Journey

Mandy Flower

In the summer of 2020 when I heard two vaccines for COVID-19 were getting ready to start research trials, like many people, I was wary. I thought there is no way I will take either vaccine. I was determined to let others get the vaccination before I did so I could have more knowledge of the effects. I had no idea what was in that shot, and I also thought it was way too soon for there to already be a vaccine to fight off the COVID-19 virus. 

Then I saw that a vaccine trial for the COVID-19 virus was taking place in my community. Seeing the availability of the study in Kansas made me think about the impact this study could have on our state. Through my work at the CDDO, I saw firsthand how the virus was affecting the IDD community. I began discussing the trial with my friends who are pharmacists and doctors. They were watching the research and gave me confidence that the trial would be safe. 

They were also volunteering to participate in the trial based on the research and knowledge they had on the vaccine. I wanted to be able to understand what was in that vaccine they would soon be offering to my family members and the people we serve. I also saw that I was not the only one who was distrustful of the vaccine. Many of my friends here and in other states were not convinced that the vaccine would be safe. 

I also thought of my grandparents during World War II. They did whatever they could to benefit the greater good of society during the war effort. COVID-19 was impacting our communities in a way that we all needed to step up and do our part to help the community. With the knowledgeable advice from my friends in the medical profession, my own research, and the hope to help our community, I decided that it would be in the best interest of the people I care about to volunteer for the Moderna trial. I was selected for the trial, and I had my first appointment on Sept. 4, 2020. 

The trial was a great experience as I learned more about the vaccine and the methods that were being used to ensure the safety of the participants. The trial was done utilizing scientific method, consistency and the goal of finding out if this vaccine was effective. I had weekly check-ins with medical staff to see how I felt and if I was displaying any signs of the virus. If I did not feel well, they would have me come to the clinic and complete bloodwork and would monitor me for any signs of illness that would indicate a reaction to the vaccine or if I have the virus. 

I had to go in and get blood drawn and received two shots, one in September and October. I was unsure if I received the placebo or the vaccine. I was hesitant about the vaccine because it was so new and I have not been taking the best care of myself during the pandemic. I really was not sure what to expect. The clinic was comprehensive in their approach to determine the efficacy and safety of the trial. In addition to weekly check-ins, I had to complete an e-journal daily after the first dose. I had to record my temperature, oxygen levels and if I had any of the symptoms of COVID-19. After the second shot, the e-journal submissions were weekly. During this time, I would also have a nurse call me to see if I had any symptoms or questions that needed to be answered.

When Moderna received approval in to administer their vaccine for the COVID-19 virus in December 2020, I felt very confident telling my mother and father that I felt that the vaccine was very safe for them to get. After going through the trial personally, I could see that the effectiveness of the study was completed in clinics that had a main focus of ensuring the safety for all who would get the vaccine. If the macro-data coming from the trial was also aligning with my own personal experience, I felt that was a very good sign. I do not think I would have had the same sentiment if I did not participate in the trial. When I would go to the clinic, I would see people from all different backgrounds and ages in the facility who were also going through the trial. We had all individually worked on something that was benefitting the community. 

On Feb. 6, I was unblinded in the trial and notified if I received placebo or vaccine. I had received the placebo. Therefore, I volunteered to take the vaccine and continue in the trial. I will continue tracking my health, exposures to COVID-19, and the clinic will track my blood work and other information to see how effective the shot was. 

My first shot of the actual vaccine was uneventful. I had some soreness in my arm, but nothing terrible. While the vaccine effects us all differently, I was sure to take it easy after my vaccination. The first dose was reminiscent of receiving a flu shot. I have my second dose on March 6, and I am excited to have my vaccination series completed. After I receive my second dose, I will continue to wear PPE and physical distance to keep others safe and myself safe while we get more information on the effectiveness of the vaccine on preventing transmission.

Like many people, I was on the fence about the vaccine prospects. After participating in the trial, I got to see firsthand all of the work that was being put into ensuring that the vaccine was not only effective, but also safe for the people receiving it. Now, I am a firm believer that the COVID-19 vaccines that are going through this comprehensive study will be a positive step in keeping me and others safe. Vaccination will also be one more step in helping us get back to a more normal life. If you would like to chat with me about my experience, please feel free to reach out.

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About the Author

Mandy Flower is the CDDO Director for Johnson County Developmental Supports.