With the recent arrival of COVID-19 vaccinations and the gradual roll out of the programme in Grenada, getting a needle in one’s arm is no longer a prospect but a reality. This week we present a first-hand report from our reporter Nancy McGuire who recently took the AstraZeneca vaccine.
“Making my mind up about getting vaccinated against COVID-19 took some doing. Ever since the Prime Minister and other government ministers and officials made a spectacle of getting the jab on February 12 – as leaders around the world have done in recent months – I have been asking myself ‘should I?’
First, one has to consider how quickly COVID-19 vaccines have been developed and get over fears that any steps in the development process could have been overlooked. Given the number of people who have been vaccinated around the world so far, I believe it is safe to conclude no step in the process was overlooked. The results from pharmaceutical companies involved in the production of the vaccines, including the sharing of research and what the clinical trials showed, provide a comforting level of transparency.
Second, if taking the vaccination helps in curbing the spread within Grenada, am I duty bound to get it? Should I do my part in getting Grenada closer to the illusive herd immunity?
I had pretty much made up my mind to get vaccinated when all the talk about blood clots and the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is the only vaccine available to Grenadians at this time, gave me pause to reconsider. However, it was a short pause. After all, the AstraZeneca vaccine was approved by the World Health Organisation, the Pan American Health Organisation and Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunisation (NACI).
At first the NACI recommended the vaccine not be given to persons over 65, based on the results of clinical trials. However, after the NACI looked at three recent real-world effectiveness studies, it changed its recommendation. On Tuesday (March 16), referring to new evidence from the United Kingdom where the vaccine has been given to persons 65 and older, the NACI said: “This evidence demonstrates that the vaccine is safe and effective in older adults, particularly against severe COVID-19 disease and hospitalization.”
Coming to its own defence, AstraZeneca reviewed the safety data of 17 million people vaccinated in the European Union and the United Kingdom, and found “no evidence of an increased risk of pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis or thrombocytopenia, in any defined age group, gender, batch or in any particular country.” While some countries temporarily suspended the use of the vaccine, the European Medicines Agency said there is no indication of a link between the vaccine and blood clots.
One can always find a reason not to do something, and postponing my vaccination could go on indefinitely. But, at what cost? After reading and researching the pros and cons, again and again, I called the Grand Bras Medical Station and was told yes, they are giving the vaccination and, no I do not have to register.
Arriving at the station at about 11 am there were three people getting the shot. The process was very efficient. One health care worker took my photo identification to prepare my vaccination card while the nurse told me what to expect from any potential side effects, including possible tenderness at the injection site, body aches, head ache and fever. I was required to remain at the medical station for 20 minutes and the head nurse was most watchful to ensure everyone who received the vaccination sat quietly for the full 20 minutes before leaving.
A day later, my arm aches slightly. I will return in May to get my second shot, which, the science says, should improve and lengthen my immune response.
Although I do not know how long I will be protected against COVID-19, I feel better about taking the vaccination and have no second thoughts. And, if I do get the dreaded virus, the science says the vaccination should protect me from hospitalisation. That, in itself, is reason enough to take the jab”.