Heather is an Occupational Therapist for the NHS who works in the community, visiting residential and nursing and coming into contact with clinically vulnerable people on a daily basis. Heather also has Crohn's and when she was offered the coronavirus vaccine early on, she was quick to say yes and is now waiting for her second jab.
By offering me the vaccine promptly, I believe the aim of my employer is to increase my protection from potential infection and therefore begin a return to normal duties.
There are a few reasons I was offered the vaccine quite promptly. Firstly, I have multiple comorbidities including Crohn’s and, secondary to this, axial spondylarthritis. Earlier in the year, I received a letter from the government advising me to shield because I am likely to be at high risk of complications if I do contract coronavirus and therefore have worked from home on adapted duties for the majority of the year. This is not the norm for me as I am usually a front line, patient-facing member of staff. Secondly, in my current working role I am supposed to have regular contact with residential and nursing homes which are inherently full of vulnerable people. It will also hopefully reduce the risk of me spreading the infection to others, which helps to protect the staff and patients I am likely to be in regular contact with.
It's about protecting each other and not just yourself.
When it came to the decision of accepting the vaccine, I said yes for multiple reasons:
- Longing for a return to some sort of normality in the world
- Being able to get out of the house more and interact with others (especially family) without being in a constant state of paranoia regarding coronavirus
- Wanting to begin my journey in returning to normal duties at work and to protect others
Recently, I've seen so many negative views from people that are lucky enough to be generally fit and well. Some people are not social distancing, wearing a mask or sanitizing their hands as much as they should. These people may be okay if they contract coronavirus (and of course I hope they are) but it's not just about them. It's about every single other person they may unintentionally infect by not being careful, including some that may not be able to fight off the infection at all. I think it's the same as the usual flu vaccine - you need to think about protecting your loved ones and the loved ones of others.
As far as my experience so far goes, it's been okay. Nothing too exciting to write home about so far!
I’ve had my first dose and will have another in a few weeks’ time. Then a week after that, I should be covered. Before you are vaccinated, you fill out a form with your basic details including your current medication, then the nurse (or other healthcare prescriber) goes through it with you to double check everything. It was at this point that I was advised that because I'd recently taken methylprednisolone the vaccine may not work as well as it does in those that aren't taking immunosuppressants, but I should still get some immunity. This is because the vaccine is new, so they are in the process of collating more information in how it affects people with different health conditions. This is different to it not being safe - it wouldn't be prescribed if it weren’t safe and that's what the initial research trials were for.
As with any medication or vaccine, there is a very small chance of developing an allergic reaction or complications but that risk is also there with anything else you are ever prescribed.
I was also advised against becoming pregnant in the three months following the vaccine because they don't yet have enough information on how or if, the vaccine affects pregnancy. They provided me with all of this information in a written leaflet, that also contained information on the company that produced it, Pfizer. You can take that information away to read in your own time and they then inject you quite high up in the arm, near the shoulder.
Crohn’s and inflammatory arthritis are such complicated and unpredictable conditions that you sometimes don't know what is causing what.
Over the first 24 hours, I did develop some soreness and muscular pain around my shoulder and into my armpit but this was minor and a normal, recognised side effect. Aside from that, I have had a flare of some Crohn’s symptoms in the past few days but, as is often the case with Crohn’s or Colitis, this could be coincidental and it's a case of just monitoring what is happening. I’ve spoken with my GP and they’ve said that its unlikely to be related to the vaccine but, because it's new on the market, they have to consider the link as a possibility. I suppose what I'm trying to say is, there's always going to be an element of risk in life and after spending the majority of my year shielding because of a global pandemic, I guess I'm prepared to take what I view as a positive risk, for the possible chance of regaining some normality, getting back to work and, most importantly, spending quality time with my loved ones (with hugs!).