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'I Saw What the Virus Can Do': Physician Shares Experience Receiving COVID-19 Vaccine

Photo of Vincent Ganapini

Courtesy of Vincent Ganapini

Throughout the past year, surges in COVID-19 cases have frequently overwhelmed hospital systems across the country. Now, those healthcare workers at the frontlines are among the first eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccines. Physicians display some of the highest rates of vaccine acceptance, with 70% willing to get vaccinated.

Vincent Ganapini, a physician and gastroenterology fellow working at a hospital in New Jersey, received his first dose of the Moderna vaccine on December 29 and his second on January 22.

Ganapini spoke with Verywell about his experience receiving the vaccine, how it felt to get his shot after working as a physician during the pandemic and why you should get vaccinated against 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?

Vincent Ganapini: I'm a physician, so I knew I'd be in the first priority group. My hospital system emailed me around mid-December saying they would be getting the vaccines. Because I don't work in the emergency room, I was after the emergency room and the intensive care unit workers. But ultimately, I received the vaccine probably about one to two weeks after I was notified from the hospital system that I'd be getting it.

They gave us all an assigned time, just because so many people wanted to get the vaccine. The time it took to get the vaccine was very short—I'd say, five to 10 minutes just to sign in and get the injection. What took the longest was waiting at least 15 minutes after getting a dose just to make sure there were no adverse events.

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

Vincent Ganapini: After the first dose I just had a sore arm and a headache, both of which lasted one or two days. I was able to work; it didn't affect me at all. After the second dose, I felt a little bit more tired. I had some muscle aches and a headache. But it was just for a day. I probably could have worked, but it was on a Saturday. I took it easy on the couch took one ibuprofen. I was 80% to 90% better on Sunday and was able to work out.

Verywell Health: Was getting vaccinated an easy decision for you?

Vincent Ganapini: While working in the hospital during the surge last spring, I saw what the virus can do. After reading through the study data on the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines and listening to other expert opinions, I was able to quickly deduce that any minor risks with the vaccine were temporary and the benefits far outweighed getting the vaccine as opposed to potentially contracting the virus. So it was a very easy decision for me to get the vaccine.

Verywell Health: What was it like for you, emotionally, to receive the vaccine after almost a year in a pandemic, especially while working in a hospital in the heavy-hit tri-state area?

Vincent Ganapini:  It was pretty unbelievable, I'd say. I rolled up my sleeve and the shot was put in my arm, taking only a matter of a few seconds. It just felt like—wow—that's it. Of course, it's not like everything's back to normal now. But after everybody's lives have been totally upended for the last year and I saw things I had never seen before, all of a sudden, I have partial immunity. It was a mind-blowing feat of science to have a vaccine this quickly. I felt very impressed and overwhelmed.

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

Vincent Ganapini: My parents just got their first dose and my partner just got her second dose too. So we're all a little bit more at ease since getting the vaccine. We're still masking and taking all the safety precautions, of course. But there's been a bit of a weight lifted.

As for my friends, some have inquired about any potential side effects that I had. I did a brief Facebook post as someone in healthcare trying to demystify any concerns and hesitations about the vaccine. I had people that I hadn't talked to in over 10 years from high school, messaging me, asking me questions, and trying to get reassurance. So that was neat to hear from those people, but also nice to be able to reassure and encourage them to get this vaccine.

Verywell Health: On that note, what advice would you like to share with those who aren't sure about getting vaccinated?

Vincent Ganapini: The temporary side effects of the vaccine are just that: temporary. And they're minor compared to what the virus can do. So in my mind, and from what I've seen, the benefits far outweigh any risks with the vaccine because the virus can kill you. The vaccine will not kill you. That's the way I look at it—as almost a black and white issue when trying to encourage people to get the vaccine.

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  1. Yale School of Medicine. 1-7 COVID-19 update: vaccination updates, COVID variants, and more. Updated January 7, 2021.