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What It's Actually Like To Get A COVID-19 Vaccine, According To Montrealers' Experiences

They gave us an idea of what to expect when our time comes.
What It's Actually Like To Get A COVID-19 Vaccine, According To Montrealers' Experiences

On February 25, the day the province opened online booking for COVID-19 vaccine doses to the general public aged 85 and over, more than 72,000 Quebecers signed up in just four hours. 

MTL Blog talked to a few of those Montrealers who have already received a dose of the vaccine to hear about their experiences, giving us an idea of what to expect when our time comes. 

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What's it like when you arrive on-site for a COVID-19 vaccine?

Bob Kavanagh, a 78-year-old Montrealer, got his first vaccine dose at Palais des congrès on March 2. 

Kavanagh told MTL Blog he was greeted by staff at the entrance, which contained arrows on its floors for directions. 

He said wheelchairs were available for elderly Quebecers who weren't as mobile, and there were plenty of chairs for people to rest if needed.

"He gave me a [new] mask and verified my [medicare] card, told me a bit about the process and where to go next — up a set of escalators," Kavanagh said.

From there, a guide pointed him toward a nurse. At the nurse's desk, he confirmed his medical information and was asked to sit and prepare for the injection.

After removing his winter outerwear, Kavanagh said he was asked to place his left arm in an appropriate position — then he received the injection.

What's it like to get the shot?

Kavanagh told MTL Blog he did not experience any pain or discomfort when receiving the COVID-19 vaccine dose.

"The process was very smooth, courteous [and] professional [with] no ambiguity," he said.

Barbara Weston accompanied her spouse, 79-year-old Garry Bird, to his appointment at the Bob Birnie Arena on March 4.

"They had big plexiglass up in front of us [and] everything was done between the plexiglass," Weston said. 

She said the whole process took around 20 minutes from the time they arrived to the time they left the arena.

"I cannot sing their praises enough for how they treated us," she said. 

What's the process afterwards?

Weston said that after her husband received the vaccine dose, he was required to wait 15 minutes so health care workers could monitor for any reactions. 

She said they gave him a red slip to indicate he was waiting and then a different slip when he was cleared to leave the arena.

Kavanagh said that within five hours of receiving the dose, he experienced a mild headache, which persisted until the next morning.

"My shoulder was sore overall at a low to medium level and that persisted until [the next] afternoon," he said, but he noted that the symptoms went away by the following day.

The slip Bird received when he was cleared to leave, according to Weston, contained information on possible side effects.

The slip says that more than 50% of people feel pain in the place they were injected. 

While uncommon, it also says less than 50% of people could experience headache, fatigue, joint pain, muscle soreness, diarrhea, vomiting or swollen lymph nodes.

Less than 10% of people could experience swelling and redness in the place they were injected, the slip says.

Weston said Bird did not experience any side effects since he was informed by health workers at the vaccination site to move his arm regularly to avoid soreness.

Both Kavanagh and Weston said they immediately received appointments for a second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine after being injected with the first dose.

"A guide led me toward a desk where a person arranged a follow-up shot, gave me a paper copy of that appointment [and] explained it would be confirmed by text and email — which it was almost immediately," Kavanagh said.

In Weston's case, she said her spouse's documentation specified which vaccine he received, which was the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Bird is expected to receive his second dose on June 24, almost four months after receiving the first dose. 

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