There is so much information in the news, in print, discussed online and seemingly everywhere else about the COVID vaccines, how many doses and when and now the possibility of a booster. The needle seems to move daily on what we know and what we don’t know since much of the monitoring of the efficacy of the three FDA approved vaccines is happening in real time. I’ve personally had to narrow the amount of outlets I monitor about the vaccines — at some point, it gets exhausting.
When I heard that the Pfizer vaccine (the one I received) booster was recommended for those who are immunocompromised 6-8 months after receiving the second shot, I contacted my doctor to get her input. She shared with me much of the information that I’d read and added her own evaluation, which was for me to get it with the adjustments to my medication that I’d done for the first and second shot. You can read about my experiences with the first and second shots, where I went into much more detail about those adjustments to the schedule of the medication that reduces my white blood cell count, Kisquali.
And so, off I went to a local retail pharmacy to get my booster shot since my cancer center doesn’t have them as of yet. I was armed with the boxes of the medication that reduces my immune system and a doctor’s note that clearly demonstrates my diagnosis of Stage IV Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC) from 2017 along with a copy of the report of a recent PET scan in case they questioned whether the diagnosis was ongoing. When I called ahead to find out what I needed to show that I qualified to get the booster, I’d gotten several different answers, so I figured I’d better be over-prepared.
In the end, all I had to do was sign a piece of paper certifying that I qualified for the booster and no one looked at all my proof. To be honest, I was a little surprised that they didn’t want to verify, but I didn’t spend any time or energy arguing with them about that. I went first thing in the morning (literally got there before the pharmacy opened) so that there were few people around and I was able to get in right away to get my shot.
I waiting the requisite 15 minutes to ensure that I didn’t have a concerning reaction immediately and then I went off on my way. That first day, I didn’t experience any side effects outside of a rather sore arm. As with the first two shots, the pharmacy technician pushed the needle deep into the tissue of my muscle and because I had lymph nodes removed from my left side, I have to use my dominate right arm.
Not to scare anyone, but my experience the booster was the worst of the three shots. I ran a fever for nearly a week, mostly low grade, I had headaches, body aches, and really significant fatigue. The first few days really wiped me out and some of the malaise had lingered.
Rather than bemoaning my experiences, I’m actually really happy that my body reacted to the third shot so strongly. I am much more confident that my immune system is up to to task of dealing with a COVID exposure. I’m in Florida, where the delta variant is surging way too much for anyone’s comfort and my elementary school aged boys aren’t old enough to get vaccinated yet. Just doing normal life stuff puts me and them at risk. Anything that can reduce the risk of dealing with COVID or side effects of COVID is a necessity.
I’m thankful for science and for the ability to protect myself a little more with this booster shot. As referenced above, I didn’t get the shot until my main cancer doctor, my medical oncologist, was on board. If you are considering getting the shot, I’d strongly recommend that you follow the advice of your medical team!