Weighing The Pros and Cons of Receiving the COVID-19 Vaccine

December 15, 2020
Tamera Anderson-Hanna
Tamera Anderson-Hanna

Tamera Anderson-Hanna is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Certified Addiction Professional, Certified Rehabilitation Counselor and became a Registered Yoga Teacher while coping with breast cancer in 2015. She owns Wellness, Therapy, & Yoga in Florida where she provides personal wellness services and coaching and she is a public speaker on wellness-related topics. You can connect with her at www.wellnesstherapyyoga.com.

Heal, Heal Winter 2021,

With the first COVID-19 vaccine authorized by the FDA, a cancer survivor weighs the pros and cons of taking a COVID-19 vaccine and what more information is needed.

In approximately 4 weeks, I will be presented with the option to take a vaccine for COVID-19. The vaccine is being offered to me since I work in a high-risk position as a first responder. It is optional for me to take the vaccine, so I need to ask myself what are the pros and cons of taking the vaccine?

Reasons I might consider taking it are to reduce the risk of having complications related to contracting COVID-19 without having any immunity to support my body and the chance of severe complications. I observed a family member contract COVID-19 and end up in the hospital, gratefully, remdesivir was available to my family member along with a plasma treatment. Their lung function was impacted, and it has been taking time for them to build back up their physical stamina and lung function following hospitalization.

READ MORE: Johnson & Johnson’s Single-Dose COVID-19 Vaccine a ‘Tremendous Asset’ for Patients With Cancer

Prior to getting the vaccine, one of the first things I am doing is speaking to a couple of my health-care providers regarding their thoughts about actually getting the vaccine. In their opinion, I will want to know if getting the vaccine is a recommended choice knowing my medical history with cancer. What I will be weighing with my medical team is if the benefits of taking the vaccine are better even with potential side effects than contracting the virus. I currently assume they will say take the vaccine or live with the risk of experiencing the full effects if I contract COVID-19, which according to antibody testing I still have not contracted.

What are some of the side effects? Well, what I have read thus far, the common side effects include pain at the injection site, fatigue, muscle aches or pain, joint pain, headache and depending on the vaccine is given, potential fever, which is short-lived according to the recent authorization of the vaccine by the FDA.

The injections appear to be given approximately one month apart. Earlier this year, I was due to receive a vaccine for pneumonia and I was encouraged to obtain a flu shot, which I have not personally taken for almost the last 10 years. I obtained both of the recommended vaccines my primary care physician suggested along with starting the vaccine for the shingles, which much like the COVID vaccine is given in two separate injections. Surprisingly, I was informed I could take all three together and my side effects included a stomach upset, loss of appetite along with a headache that lasted around 24 hours.

READ MORE: The COVID-19 Pandemic Has Reminded Us All About the Importance of a Phone Call

The benefit is hopefully having fewer to no problems with pneumonia or ever getting the shingles. I would hope if getting the COVID-19 vaccine I could expect the same, but I will also ask if it is known how long potential immunity or partial immunity will last. To be honest, COVID-19 concerns me as the virus seems to impact lung function along with sometimes having other unusual symptoms that to me seem more severe than your typical flu.

Other concerns of not getting vaccinated have included being able to get proper medical care and attention while there is a demand on the healthcare system for COVID-19 treatments. Also, the potential for supportive treatments to not be available should I get COVID-19 while traveling, for example, and away from home. I would like to resume a more normal lifestyle if possible in 2021 and get back to traveling and enjoying life more fully.

I also see and hear about providers who are getting burnt out and are themselves continually being put at risk for infection every time they need to treat a new patient. I do not want to add to that.

One of my biggest concerns when having to monitor for infection was not wanting to pass COVID-19 on to someone who might be immunocompromised and find the virus to be more harmful than it might be to myself, as I now am NED but still have a higher risk for severe complications because of my asthma. Maybe I will be able to feel better about helping to protect the community I live in if vaccinated.

READ MORE: Make Room For The Under-65s: What the COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout Has Taught Me About My 'Value'

I don’t look forward to getting ill from a vaccine, but maybe the payoff will be having fewer negative complications and helping myself to avoid having hospitalizations due to the side effects of COVID-19 as I saw my family member experience.

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