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My experience of the COVID-19 vaccine as a patient living with vasculitis

Sherry, who has vasculitis, initially had doubts about getting the COVID-19 vaccine due to concerns about potential side effects with their existing medications. However, as community cases of COVID-19 started to rise, she became increasingly anxious about the potential consequences of getting infected. After consulting with their rheumatologist and receiving reassurance, she decided to get vaccinated when she became eligible.

 

When news of the rollout of the vaccines first came out, I admit that I was somewhat apprehensive, and thought that it was not urgent as the community cases in Singapore were rather low in early 2021. As a patient with vasculitis, an autoimmune disease, for the past 20 years, I was on a cocktail of drugs, such as the immunosuppressant cyclophosphamide (a chemotherapy drug), prednisolone, aspirin, calcium supplements, vitamin D, and Yaz. Some medications were targeting my vasculitis, while some were targeting the side effects caused by my long-term medications. In April, my rheumatologist changed my medication from cyclophosphamide to Cellcept, another type of immunosuppressant. My rheumatologist told me that since I was only eligible for the vaccine 2 months later, it would be alright, even with the change in medication. As the community cases started to rise in May, I was anxious that if I was infected with COVID-19, the consequence would be worse and even with recovery, the long-term damage of COVID-19 might be irreversible.


6 different types of medication on a table
Medications

Finally, when I was eligible to take the vaccination, I registered online and was able to get my first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in early June. Although I had received a few vaccines in my adult life, such as the annual flu vaccine, and a few other shots before I embarked on a 4 months world cruise as a staff, I was feeling some anxiety from all the news and even from friends who cast doubt on the vaccine. I was convinced that I needed to be vaccinated, but I couldn’t shake off the nagging fear.


It was a Sunday evening and there were pockets of people waiting outside Canberra Community Club I could see quite a lot of people sitting inside the hall. I braced myself for a long wait. Surprisingly, I was actually the second person to register. Just to be sure, I brought my medications and the person at the registration beckoned another staff to have a look at them and was cleared to take the vaccine. I was ushered into a makeshift unit where they confirmed my name, and NRIC number, and without much ado, gave me my first dose of the vaccine.


Photo of a COVID-19 vaccination centre in Singapore
Photo credit: Straits Times

After coming out from the makeshift unit, I was given a reusable mask, then pointed to a seat where I would wait for 30 minutes. A big screen flashed our registration numbers and the discharge counter that we should proceed to. There were other people seated in the hall, with safe distancing measures, waiting for their turn to be discharged.


Photo of a reusable mask with the words #IGotMyShot
Reusable mask

The whole process took less than an hour. Around 10 pm, I started to feel overwhelmingly tired. Being a late-night owl, it was a welcome change that I felt tired so early! I had a good sound sleep for 12 hours and felt refreshed, except for a sore left arm (the arm that had the shot). I could still do my work on the laptop, but could not lift my arm fully. This was similar to what I experienced with the annual flu vaccine and by the next day, the soreness had disappeared. In mid-July, I will be getting my second dose and will be fully vaccinated. Here’s hoping that the post-pandemic era will come sooner than later. *Update on 14 July: I've received my second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. The process went as smoothly as the previous shot. For the side effects, my sore arm set in much more quickly (same night as the shot) and on the second day, I could only lift my arm slightly above shoulder level and felt fatigued. However, after having a long rest, I felt perfectly fine on the third day. The vaccination has given me some peace of mind from the COVID-19 pandemic. However, I am still taking precautions by limiting my social groups for the time being.

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