I know that the topic of Covid-19 vaccinations seems controversial, esp. when I read comments on social networks. To me it is not. I have been fully vaccinated since February, got pregnant in May – and received my Covid-19 booster shot this week. Today I want to share with you my thoughts why I went for it.
Here is the whole journey of my Covid-19 disease and the vaccination against it:
In general I take a very rational and scientific approach with my health. I prefer precaution over actual sickness. For example, after at least one terrible (frontal) sinus infection annually over many years, I now take Claritin every day and have never had a sinus infection again. It is great, esp. considering how much I detest pain (and I believe I have a rather high pain tolerance). Besides, I go to all recommended medical checkups every year and I always get all necessary vaccinations. Like I get a flu shot every single year because I feel safer. That is something my parents have already done the same way. I have had my vaccination passport since my birth and keep it updated.
Moreover, I enjoy doing a bit of research before I make decisions. While I look up information online, I only use trustworthy sources like the WHO or the CDC. It also helps that I am married to a physician (he does PM&R). I can ask Rich for recommendations. He and I easily agree on personal medical decisions. Since I have been pregnant, I also feel a little more checked on because of him. We have just started our 26th week of pregnancy. I have been to every checkup and they have run what feels like a million tests, mostly because of my age. This week I decided to make an appointment and I got my Covid-19 booster shot.
I had Covid
When Covid-19 officially reached the U.S. in March 2020, the school I worked at closed and I worked from home. I mostly stayed inside and didn’t meet anybody except for my husband. At the time I still believed that Covid was more of an old people disease that I would most likely never catch. Or if I did, it wouldn’t be worse than a little cold.
How wrong I was. I still remember how Rich developed a sore throat one and a half days before our wedding day in early April 2020. One day later I fell sick. Most of my memory from April 2020 is blurred. I know I started with a bad sore throat. Shortly after I had problems breathing. At one point Rich took me to the ER where they didn’t even run a Covid test. At the time Covid tests were rare and they were sure I had the disease anyways. I returned home after a few hours when it turned out that I was doing okay.
Since Rich felt better after a few days, I figured the same would happen to me.
My Course of Covid-19
I was wrong again. Covid-19 worsened in waves for me. In total I think there were three significant waves. The first was the sore throat and my breathing issues. After that I fell so sick that I only stayed in bed. The third wave came when I could hardly get up anymore. Overall the virus attacked my digestive system much more than my lungs.
I have one last memory of dragging myself to the bathroom while trying not to wake up Rich. He was well again and back at work. But I could hardly make the approximately 4 meters from our bed to the bathroom. I know that I spent days in bed. I assume I slept most of the time. At least I didn’t feel like doing anything, not even watching TV or reading. I also remember the worst headaches of my life. And that my whole body ached, like every single bone. My worst memory definitely is that I pooped blood for at least a week – just to give you an example of how bad it was. Funnily enough the only symptom I never had was losing my smell or taste. Not that I ate much back then.
Overall, I was sick with Covid for about 3 weeks. For most of this time I wasn’t able to do anything, but lie in bed. Rich had to deal with everything, like he fed me, set up a virtual doctor’s appointment, called in sick for me, informed my family of how I did … Apparently my Covid-19 disease is considered a mild one. I can say that I have never been as sick in my life. And it definitely made me reach the conclusion that I never ever want to have Covid again.
We also think that I have some form of long Covid. Again more of a mild form with fatigue and some breathing difficulties. But that is hard to prove. To us it is certain that Rich picked up the virus during his work in the hospital. There was almost nothing at the time we could do to prevent an infection.
My Vaccination Journey
My First Moderna Shot
We followed the news on the Covid-19 vaccine development closely. Rich received his first dose already in December 2020 because healthcare professionals were eligible first. Then I was lucky when New York State authorized teachers for the vaccine early in January 2021. My school had been open pretty much the whole school year 2020-21. While I wore masks every day and kept a distance from everyone, I was still skeptical if that protected me well enough.
I immediately made an appointment for my first vaccine shot, which wasn’t easy at the time. Everybody wanted to get one and there were neither enough time slots nor enough vaccine doses around. When I went for my first dose on 20 January, I was fortunate because a day later New York City ran out of vaccine. I was super proud receiving my shot – even though I anticipated that it would most likely knock me out. And it did. The next day I couldn’t get out of bed. The side effects of my Moderna shot felt like a short version of actual Covid-19. I had a fever, severe head and body aches. I couldn’t even go and take a Covid test – they required a negative one for me to return to work. The test was to make sure that I hadn’t been actually infected. But I take the side effects any time over another real Covid-19 infection.
The first vaccine shot already made me feel much safer. I didn’t really care if I received the Pfizer Biontech or the Moderna vaccine. During those weeks NYC only offered Moderna and that was fine with me. Since I already had Covid and feel the virus really likes my immune system, I was glad that they injected the newly developed mRNA instead of an attenuated vaccine.
To sum it up shortly: Scientists have researched mRNA vaccines for over 30 years so they are nothing new. The vaccine gives our immune cells the instruction to make a certain protein that is found on the Covid-19 virus. Because of this protein, our body creates antibodies. If we ever get infected (again) with Covid, the antibodies are there to fight it. The mRNA vaccine doesn’t enter or alter our DNA at any time.
My Second Moderna Shot
My second vaccine shot did not go as smoothly. I was on the way to the public hospital for my appointment on 18 February when I slipped at a street corner that nobody had cleared of snow. I was so unlucky that I fell and broke my right wrist. But on my mind was only that I really wanted my second Covid vaccine shot. Undeterred, I got up and took public transport from Midtown to the hospital in Harlem. Yes, I was aware that I had most likely broken my wrist, esp. since I saw how dislocated the bone was. But the vaccine appointment seemed more important.
When I arrived at the hospital, I couldn’t move my right hand at all. I couldn’t hide it either because I wasn’t able to sign the documents they handed to me. Funnily enough, I was more afraid that they wouldn’t give me my vaccine shot. The doctors and nurses definitely conferred, but ultimately decided to vaccinate me. Afterwards, a nurse immediately walked me over to the ER where they dealt with my wrist. I didn’t really feel the pain until the physician relocated both my major wrist bones. Yep, I had done a proper job and broke and dislocated both bones.
Good news was, of course, that I don’t have any recollection of any side effects of the second Moderna shot. My wrist definitely hurt like hell and I took lovely, super strong painkillers. But I had my two Covid vaccine shots. Priorities! I felt finally protected enough. Thus, for example, we planned a short vacation with Rich’s grandmother in Florida in April. Ever since I have felt better around people. At this point all the friends and family we meet with are fully vaccinated as well.
The Covid-19 Booster Shot
Pregnancy, Covid-19 Vaccinations and Booster Shots
In May I conceived which we were/are overjoyed about. I also believe that this is excellent proof that the mRNA vaccine hasn’t affected my fertility or pregnancy. Since June I have had a bazillion medical tests for me and the baby since doctors consider me geriatric. One important test was the genetic one – it showed that my genes contain 0 of the more than 300 genetic carriers for congenital diseases they test for. Now that we are almost 6.5 months pregnant, we know that both the baby and I am fully healthy.
Because I know that my immune system weakens during pregnancies, I want to make sure that I am still as protected as possible – mostly against Covid-19. That is why I considered a booster shot. Our baby’s health is just as important to me. Newborns are immunocompromised, which includes that Covid affects them much worse than the ordinary person. With Rich working in a hospital, we are just not able to prevent encountering the virus again, even if we isolated from everyone else. Which we don’t want either. He also already has an appointment for his first booster shot. Besides, it doesn’t look like there will soon be a Covid vaccine for babies or infants. I mean they have only authorized shots for 5- to 11-year-olds in the U.S. today.
The U.S. has recommended Covid vaccines for pregnant women for many months. Recently, they authorized pregnant women to receive booster shots. There have been studies proving that, during pregnancy, I pass my Covid-19 antibodies on to our baby, which is the best I can do to protect her. After talking to my ob-gyn, who didn’t raise any objections, I went online this Tuesday and made a booster shot appointment for Wednesday.
The Moderna Booster Shot and Its Side Effects on Me
On Wednesday morning I took the subway to Long Island City where I received my Moderna booster shot at a public vaccination site. I am aware that you can mix and match vaccines and booster shots, but it seems like Moderna is very effective. That is why I stuck to it. The Pfizer and the Johnson & Johnson booster were available as well to me. The site even offered me a flu shot, although they then didn’t have one for pregnant women. So I went to a pharmacy on my way home and got my flu shot there. I figured that if I have some pain in my arm(s), I can as well just do both vaccinations on the same day.
As was expected with my history, I felt miserable from the Covid-19 booster shot. Under Rich’s supervision I took Tylenol as a painkiller and antifebrile. I still had a shivering attack and some body aches. But it was by far not as bad as after my first vaccine shot in January. Yesterday, I mostly just felt exhausted and slept for most of the day. That was quite pleasant as the cats kept me company. In the evening I already felt well again. In total the side effects lasted for about 20 hours. That is so much better than spending 3 weeks in bed with Covid-19. I can warm to the thought of feeling bad for 20 hours per year, should it ever turn out that we need booster shots regularly, maybe once a year like flu shots.
Within the next two weeks my Moderna booster shot takes full effect and has my body create new antibodies. Those I will directly pass on to the baby. Just in case you are wondering: despite – or rather after – the booster shot and the side effects yesterday, she moves and kicks around as much as ever.
I don’t think the booster shot has affected her at all. But it will hopefully help her in the future when she encounters Covid-19. Unfortunately, it is a terrible disease that is not going to go away. So I want to make sure my baby is as prepared as possible.