I confess I was astonished that they’d got to my age group already, but our NHS have worked miracles with this vaccine programme. They announced 42s and over on the Tuesday, and we were booked in for our first Astra Zeneca experience by the Friday morning. With a bank holiday weekend following on, which contained both my first haircut since October 2020 and my 43rd birthday, it felt there would be plenty of time to get over any little side effects.


I’d heard many different reports on the effects of the jab. My Dad, in his mid-70s, had felt little more than a stiff arm and a bit tired – and he had the Pfizer. My Mum, a little younger, had felt a touch of the flu, and my uncle had suffered most after his second dose. Friends who’d had theirs before me described a hangover-type feeling that persisted for two or three days, or had no reaction at all. Twitter – where all life can be found, if you look hard enough – has accounts of everything between lying prostrate for days, to gaining new super powers or being controlled by Bill Gates (really).


Disregarding the usual Twitter nonsense (which is really all you can do with Twitter), I didn’t know what to expect. I’m generally quite robust, though, and while all around me fall with colds and ailments in the winter, I’m usually impervious; so I was hopeful that I would sail through the whole thing with a sense of relief, and satisfaction at doing something for the greater good, as well as myself.


Oh dear.


Friday dawned, the kids were off to school, and we set off for our appointments. We were both so impressed with the centre – ours was at the Open University, here in Milton Keynes – as there were friendly people to help us with where to park, where to go, where to wait, and what we’d need to do. The whole operation took 15 minutes from start to finish, and we were advised to wait 15 more before driving to make sure we had no adverse reactions. So far so good, and I was fine all day on the Friday.


I woke up on Saturday morning feeling all 42.9 of my years old, as though I’d had a massive night out with all the wine, beer, spirits and jaegerbombs – head pounding, foggy, and eyes refusing to stay open for more than 30 seconds at a time. I made it downstairs but couldn’t bring myself to do any breakfasting…and with any usual hangover, I’d be first on the UberEats for a MaccyD’s. I clutched my coffee mug, fell asleep on the sofa, and vaguely remember Mr RLC saying he would take care of the usual Saturday morning child taxi service. When that finally registered and I realised I didn’t need to remain conscious for anything, I stumbled back up to bed and fell asleep for two solid hours.


The afternoon was much the same – I made it down for lunch and forced a few bites of sandwich down, and after that valiant effort and a brief wave at the family, I headed straight back up the stairs until 5:30. My FitBit registered a total of 14 hours’ sleep for that 24 hour period, and I was still ready for bed by 8:30. I ached all over, my head was still splitting, and my injection arm felt like lead.


On the Sunday I felt a bit less foggy, which was excellent news for my haircut, and the headache was abated with some paracetamol. We also needed a trip to B&Q for various bits that needed to be bought that weekend, and I managed both of these things before 1pm…but by 2:30, the fog had descended again. A nap on the sofa in the afternoon gave me the boost I needed for putting together the pork and cider stew for dinner, but I couldn’t manage to eat much, and once again I felt overcome by all the nastiest symptoms of the flu. Another early bedtime, hoping I’d be better for my birthday the next day.


I was – much better – and could manage most of the delicious breakfast, lunch and dinner the boys had lined up for me. We had fun with games, presents, and video calls with the nearest and dearest – but the gin and tonic did for me. On what must be the driest birthday I’ve had since being pregnant, I rounded off the night with two cups of Earl Grey and a good film – and a promise to myself that I would raise a nice glass of red as soon as I felt less sleepy.


And that was about the last of it. The next few days I did still feel more tired than usual in the evenings, but the pain in my arm has got less by the day, and now I’m looking forward with optimism to AZ – The Sequel in July, which I have heard can be milder if you reacted this way with the first – I hope!


One day of that wiped me – and it shocked me, actually. I’m not used to being ill, and it really took me by surprise. And if one day of a reaction to a vaccine could do that, I am grateful beyond words to be at least partly protected from the unknown devastation of the real enemy – the evil that can leave a perfectly healthy adult on their knees (or in their bed) for months, and a different person; or steal them completely from those who love and need them the most.


Thank you, NHS – from the bottom of my heart.

Astra Zeneca Experience

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