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'Similar to a Flu Shot': Healthcare Worker Shares Experience Receiving COVID-19 Vaccine

Photo of Michael Crowley.

Courtesy of Michael Crowley

Healthcare workers, a group particularly vulnerable to the pandemic, were among the first eligible group to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in the United States. While headlines have pointed at unexpected vaccine hesitancy in this group, among physicians who work directly with patients, vaccine acceptance rates are over 70%—significantly higher than the percentage of the general public who plans to get vaccinated.

Michael Crowley, a physical therapist working at a hospital in Massachusetts, is among those who have received the vaccine. He received his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on December 20 and his second on January 10.

Crowley spoke to Verywell about his experience receiving the vaccine, how he's been able to provide a trusted look into the vaccination process for his patients, and why you should also get vaccinated for COVID-19—if you can—once your turn arrives. 

Verywell Health: How did you know you were eligible for the vaccine and how did you make an appointment?

Michael Crowley: We were alerted from the hospital that the vaccine would be available in the middle of December and certain departments would be receiving the vaccine first. I was alerted on a Saturday that I was eligible, and I received the vaccine the next day at Sturdy Memorial Hospital in Attleboro, Massachusetts where I work. It was really easy; I scheduled a time online, showed up at my allotted time, and was seen immediately. I was asked to stay for 15 minutes after the shot to make sure I did not have any side effects. 

Verywell Health: Did you experience any side effects after receiving each shot?

Michael Crowley: After the first dose, I had a sore arm that lasted for about two days, but it didn’t affect my everyday activities. I was still able to work and exercise during that time with minimal complaints.

After the second dose, I had some chills the evening of the shot and I felt cold for a couple of days afterward, along with the sore arm. The cold feeling lasted for about two days, but wasn't as extreme on the second day as the first evening. Again, I was still able to work and exercise without any issues.

Verywell Health: How comfortable did you feel with the process and the information you were provided with?

Michael Crowley: I received a pamphlet regarding the vaccine at the time of the injection, and we had received multiple emails at work regarding the vaccine. I felt like I received enough information about the risks and benefits going into taking the vaccine to make an informed choice. I had done my own research too, and I felt comfortable with the Pfizer vaccine. I knew that there could be side effects.

Verywell Health: What was it like for you, emotionally, to receive the vaccine after almost a year in a pandemic, especially while working as in health care?

Michael Crowley: It felt good to finally receive the vaccine, especially since I didn't have any significant side effects. My being vaccinated has made my patients feel more comfortable around me.

I've also been able to describe my experience to them. I've had conversations with patients regarding why I got the vaccine and whether I was concerned about the side effects down the road. When they ask these questions, I honestly state that I do not know about long-term side effects because no one currently knows if there are any. But, if we are going to get out of this pandemic, people are going to need to take the vaccine. So I took it and I had a pretty seamless experience.

Most people haven't met someone personally who has received the vaccine, so hearing about my experience will hopefully offer some relief in knowing I was basically unaffected by it and had no significant side effects.

Verywell Health: Do you expect your vaccination status to change any of the safety precautions you've been taking?

Michael Crowley: I spend my entire workday working hands-on with patients, seeing up to 60 patients a week. The precautions our clinic has undergone during this time include wearing gloves, a face mask, and goggles at all times. I expect this to remain the protocol for quite some time, as many of my coworkers have also gotten the vaccine and our precautions have not changed since. 

Verywell Health: As a healthcare worker, you may be one of the first in your close circle to be vaccinated. What is that like?

Michael Crowley: Working for a hospital definitely benefitted me in getting the vaccine as early as I did. However, surprisingly enough, a majority of my family has received the vaccine too because they also work as medical professionals. At this point in time, being vaccinated has not changed the way I go about in public in any way. I still have to wear a mask when in public settings.

I do have some peace of mind knowing that a majority of my family has been vaccinated, as there have been several instances where we've been unsure if we have been infected due to our occupations. In terms of my personal comfort, being a healthy 29-year-old, I knew I was unlikely to have serious side effects from getting COVID-19, but I was more concerned about the older patients I work with and possibly spreading the virus to them, which is when my main safety precautions come in.

Verywell Health: Any advice you’d like to share with those looking to get vaccinated?

Michael Crowley: My advice would be not to hesitate, I would definitely recommend it. The majority of my coworkers chose to get the vaccine as well and none of them experienced debilitating symptoms—we were all able to go about our regular work routine without any issues. I would tell them to prepare for symptoms very similar to a flu shot.

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  1. Yale School of Medicine. 1-7 COVID-19 Update: Vaccination Updates, COVID Variants, and More. Updated January 7, 2021.

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