“The reality is that the vaccine might make you feel average for a couple of days, but the complications from contracting COVID-19 are far worse.”
With COVID-19 vaccines being very much the focus of many conversations, we wanted to share more of our people’s experiences and help those who are wondering what to expect. We recently spoke with Tim Clark, Nursing Coordinator at Moorabbin Hospital’s Monash Cancer Centre. Tim was the first Monash Health employee to receive the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine and gave us some valuable insights and impressions of the lead-up, the process and the days following dose one.
Reassuringly, Tim’s experiences were in keeping with the many millions of recipients of the vaccine so far.
How did you feel in the lead up to being vaccinated? Were there butterflies the night before?
“I didn’t get the chance to be nervous about the vaccination. I knew I was due sometime in the next couple of days but hadn’t had the official word as they were very busy setting up, literally outside my office. One of the team came into my office and asked if I wanted to go first. I said ‘sure’ but didn’t think they were serious. However, before I knew it, I was filling out forms and shown to a chair.”
What were your initial thoughts when you realised you were the first employee at Monash Health to receive the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine?
“After the vaccination, you are monitored for 15 minutes, and it was then I found out that I wasn’t just the first at Moorabbin as I initially thought; I was the first at Monash Health to get Oxford AstraZeneca! I jokingly said that’s why they wanted me to go first, as they wanted a guinea pig. But after that, I felt privileged to be the first in line to what was hopefully the first steps back towards a relatively normal life.”
Can you talk us through the process of being vaccinated?
“I didn’t actually feel the injection at all; it was completely painless.”
How did you feel immediately after and in the days after being vaccinated?
“Immediately after the vaccination, I felt fine. No symptoms at all. Later that evening, about 14 hours after the vaccination, I felt a little unwell but not too bad, and I went to bed. At midnight, 16 hours after, I woke up shivering. My temperature was 38 degrees. I took some Panadol and made my way back to bed. I felt muscle aches all over and continued to shiver for about another 20 minutes, and then it subsided, and I had a restless sleep.
In the morning, I felt unwell, had a headache, and was achy, but I could get up and have some breakfast. I took some more Panadol and, by lunchtime, felt much better. I had mild headaches and tiredness intermittently for the next couple of days. The injection site started to feel sore after the first day, but it wasn’t too bad. A sore arm is the only symptom I have six days later.
My wife works in ICU at another health service, and she had her vaccination the day after me. The timeline for the onset of side effects was similar to mine. However, she had a headache and a pain in her armpit. So we have been comparing similar symptoms and timelines.”
How have your family, friends and teammates reacted?
“The most common reaction from people is curiosity. ‘What was it like?’ ‘How did you feel?’ I think this is because they all realise they will be going through it at some stage to return to normality and want to know what to expect.”
There’s a lot of discussion comparing the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine to the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine; what would you say to any of your colleagues who are concerned about which vaccine they have?
“As for comparisons between vaccines, I think the main goal now, thanks to everyone’s hard work that has brought us down to minimal cases, is for the population to receive enough vaccinations to eradicate the virus. Both vaccines will achieve that if enough people have them.”
What would you say to any of your colleagues who are at all concerned about any of the COVID-19 vaccines?
“For anyone concerned about the vaccine, I would say that it is a normal human response to be concerned about the unknown. However, the reality is that the vaccine might make you feel average for a couple of days, but the complications from contracting COVID-19 are far worse. The question to ask is, ‘Which is the bigger risk?’”
It’s early days yet, but are you thinking about what you will do after your second dose of the vaccine and when protection from COVID-19 kicks in?
“After being fully vaccinated, the main thing I look forward to is overseas travel. I’m not sure when that will be possible, but I will enjoy it more knowing that I have added protection when I do.”
Are there any pivotal moments in the last twelve months that convinced you that vaccination was the only way forward?
“When I saw the virus spreading through the aged care sectors like wildfire, I first started thinking we need a vaccine sooner rather than later. Moorabbin has a lot of immunocompromised patients, and the outcome would have been very similar if the virus had gotten in here, and it’s a credit to every single team member that it didn’t. Hopefully, vaccinations will help keep it that way.”
Is there anything else that struck you throughout this pandemic?
“I keep thinking about this one part of the pandemic, and it actually makes me chuckle when I think of it; who knew that the stock levels of toilet paper in the supermarket would be a barometer for bad times?”
We want to thank Tim for taking the time to recount this exciting chapter of his vaccination journey and look forward to bringing you more of your colleagues’ insights over time.
Approved by Professor Rhonda Stuart, Medical Director, Infection Prevention and Epidemiology