Updated: Apr 7, 2021
As an in-person student worker in Meredith College’s Office of International Programs, I became eligible for the vaccine in early March as a part of North Carolina’s Group 3. I was fortunate enough to get appointments at the drive-thru vaccine site at PNC Arena on March 6 for my first dose and March 27 for my second dose. Essential workers and people with high risk medical conditions are eligible for the vaccine now. All adults, including college students, who live in NC will be eligible starting on April 7. More information regarding a possible vaccine clinic at Meredith should be coming out soon.
My vaccination experience at PNC Arena was very smooth. When I arrived at PNC both times, there were people, including some members of the NC National Guard, stationed at several points who were ready to direct me. Once I was in the main loop, traffic cone lanes made it easy to see where I was supposed to be going. On March 6, it took me about 10 minutes to drive through the arena parking lots and wait to be served. When I got to the area where vaccines were administered, an employee took my driver’s license and filled out my registration card for me, then came back to my driver’s side window to give me the vaccine. I was able to remain in my car the entire time, and the shot was quick and painless — getting the flu vaccine was more painful than this one.
Since you are required to stay in the parking lot for 15 minutes after being vaccinated in case of any reaction, the employee who gave me my shot also gave me a slip of paper with the time I could leave written on it. At my March 6 appointment, he also had me turn on my flashers to indicate that I needed to be scheduled for my second shot. By the time I made it through the line to the parking lot area where you wait for 15 minutes, the time had already passed. Once I scanned a QR code given to me by a member of the NC National Guard, which took me to a sign-up page for my second appointment, I was good to go. At this time, I also received a packet of information about the vaccine.
When I got to PNC on March 27, the lines were much longer — I assume because more people are eligible now. I would budget about an hour rather than a half an hour for the time you’ll be there, including the 15 minute waiting period in the parking lot after you get your shot. Make sure to bring the vaccine card you receive at your first appointment with you.
I received the Pfizer vaccine, and following my first dose, I didn’t feel any adverse effects beyond some soreness in my left arm. After my second dose, my arm was again sore and I felt a bit tired for the rest of the day but otherwise didn’t feel bad. The day after receiving my shot, I had a mild fever, a headache and felt tired, but I felt better by the next day.
It is important to remember that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines don’t actually contain any live virus, unlike many other vaccines. These mRNA vaccines give instructions to our cells to create “spike proteins,” which are the proteins found on the surface of COVID-19 virus particles. The immune system is then able to better recognize these spike proteins and target any actual COVID-19 particles more effectively. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a viral vector vaccine, which means that it delivers a harmless version of another virus (not COVID-19) to one’s body and that virus delivers instructions in the form of genetic material to cells. For all three vaccines, you are never infected with COVID-19 and therefore aren’t contagious even if you have symptoms — any adverse effects you feel are simply your body’s immune response.
Overall, I would highly recommend getting a COVID-19 vaccine. I know people who have gotten the Moderna vaccine and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which consists of only one dose, and their experiences are similar to mine. A quick prick with a needle and a couple days of feeling under the weather were certainly worth it to me to be able to protect my family and friends, and myself, from COVID-19. The more people get the vaccine, the quicker our lives can all go back to normal and our fear for our loved ones’ safety can be eased.
By Olivia Slack, Co-Editor in Chief