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Allergy Today: The COVID-19 Vaccine: From Sceptic to Advocate

If you are reading this right now, congratulations! You may be thriving or surviving in what seems to be a never-ending roller coaster ride of a coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. 

With the rampant spread of information and misinformation in social media and all other types of media, I wouldn’t be surprised about your perspective on the COVID-19 vaccine. iStock-1146471610-925

I was invited to get the Pfizer vaccine sometime in July 2021. Just like some of the people around the globe, I was too sceptical to get it. I had so many “what ifs” in my mind and of course, I read a lot of things on social media. I was also focused on thinking about negative side effects, considering I have allergies and asthma.

So, I tried to delay having my first dose, waiting for my relatives and friends to share their experience of the vaccine’s side effects. I was thinking we are alright here in New Zealand, we were living quite a “normal” life and that I thought there would be no more lockdowns.

I have friends and relatives around the world who experienced mild to severe reactions to their first and second doses. One friend who has asthma and allergies like me had anaphylactic symptoms and passed out after her first dose.

Because of what I heard from them, I was scared that I might experience severe side effects and worst, die after getting the jab. I was anxious. I admit that during that time, I was overpowered by fears and negative thoughts about the vaccine.

And then the worst happened, immediate Alert Level 4 lockdown for the whole country. Eligible individuals were highly encouraged to get their vaccines sorted. I was still sceptical and fearful to get vaccinated despite the situation.

So what made me change my perspective and get vaccinated?

Penny and Mark from Allergy NZ gave their sensible advice and support to help me to ease the anxiety and fears surrounding my decision. I also had one friend who gave me reassurance that everything should be fine for me, like how everything went well with her two doses. With all the support and empathy that I received, I braved my way to 575 Doctors Mount Eden Clinic. I was well looked after, and it was a pleasant experience! What is even better is that I did not experience any side effects, except from a sore arm which lasted only for a day.

We all know from our own experience and scientific studies that the lockdown has negative effects on people’s wellbeing and finances. I believe that most of us wish for the restrictions to be eased especially that summer, Christmas and New Year are around the corner.

Currently, the Government is looking at vaccination rates to inform their decisions on pandemic management. However, misinformation* can affect people’s judgement and decision in getting the vaccine. Lack of support and encouragement can add to this.

Having gone through the misinformation, distress and apprehension in relation to getting the COVID-19 vaccine, I hope to share my experience with those who might have similar fears and emotions to mine. I wish they could get as much care and reassurance as I did. I believe that people who are hesitant or fearful to do some things can be empowered to make clear and objective decisions if they are heard, well-supported and guided.

Getting the jab and encouraging each other to go for it can help us enjoy the things we like with less of pandemic-related restrictions.

I hope there will be more people like Mark and Penny who are knowledgeable, compassionate, empathetic and non-judgemental to support, guide and empower people to make sound decisions not only for their own health but for the wellbeing of the community.

“Everything you want is on the other side of fear” – Jack Canfield

* Ministry of Health. (2021). Covid-19: Vaccine Research Insights. Accessed from: https://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/diseases-and-conditions/covid-19-novel-coronavirus/covid-19-vaccines/covid-19-vaccine-strategy-planning-insights/covid-19-vaccine-research-insights

Thanks to Roann Ilao for providing her personal story.

Allergy Today, October 2021