Home Technology EPtalk by Dr. Jayne 9/8/22 – HIStalk

EPtalk by Dr. Jayne 9/8/22 – HIStalk

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I’m one of the few people in my social and work circles who has yet to have COVID, so I was eager to get one of the new bivalent vaccine boosters. There’s already a lot of misinformation going around with this booster and I feel more credible as a physician being able to genuinely say that I trust it enough to get my own dose on the leading edge of the rollout. I also have quite a bit of work travel coming up and am looking forward to the extra protection.

I initially scheduled a booster through my hospital’s patient portal, only to receive a phone call that they aren’t yet offering the bivalent version and aren’t sure when they’ll get it. However, I was able to find a convenient 8 p.m. slot at my local CVS HealthHub, so I decided to check it out.

Online scheduling and registration processes were quick and easy, and I immediately received a confirmation via email and text. About an hour before the appointment, I received a text with a link to check-in when I arrived, although the check-in button was locked out until 15 minutes before the appointment.

I quickly found the vaccination area in the store, although the signage for where patients should check in for vaccines was difficult to see given all the Halloween candy displays that were stealing my attention. Since I had registered online, the check-in process only involved verifying my name and date of birth. The pharmacist mentioned that they had been giving vaccines all day, which was good to hear.

The vaccination cubicle wasn’t soundproof, but it was clean and well organized. Barcode scanning was used to capture information from the vaccine vial prior to administration. I needed a new vaccine card since mine was full and the pharmacist had to hand-write, it which I’m sure becomes tiresome during the day. They may not be at a volume of administration where it makes sense to print labels as some of the high-volume hospital vaccine clinics do. I was in and out before my actual appointment time, making it back through the gauntlet of Halloween candy without a purchase.

I felt fine the rest of the evening, doing a little work and binge-watching the first part of the new season of “Call the Midwife.” I received a patient satisfaction survey from CVS, which I completed. Upon reading the questions, I realized that they didn’t offer me a Vaccine Information Statement like they should have. An interesting part of the questionnaire is where the patient can record a video snippet instead of a typed review. Any submission becomes the property of CVS and they can use it for marketing, so I wondered how many people actually do that. I took a pass on that one.

I slept well, but woke up terribly achy and felt like the joints in my fingers didn’t want to work at all, which is rough for someone who types all day. I also had significant pain in my underarm, which made me remember the issue I had in 2021 where my COVID vaccines caused an abnormal mammogram, sending me down a diagnostic rabbit hole with ultrasounds, extra mammogram views, and more. I was so excited to get the vaccine that I completely forgot about the follow up at the high-risk breast cancer clinic that I had scheduled for later in the month, and immediately cursed my enthusiasm. I mean, how do you forget something like that?

I’d like to chalk it up to the fact that I think I’ve blocked most of 2020 and 2021 from my mind as a coping mechanism for what I experienced on the front lines. Current recommendations call for waiting several weeks after a COVID vaccine before having a mammogram, so I hit the patient portal and messaged my surgeon to find out what she recommended. I was pleasantly surprised to receive a reply within the hour giving me a specific recommended time frame, so I called the office to start the rescheduling dance.

Any time you try to reschedule an appointment with a busy surgeon, especially if it has to be linked in time with a diagnostic study, it’s stressful. The staff did their best to find me a slot within a month of my “clearance” date, so I was happy with that. While I was on hold so they could dig through the schedules and try to make something work, it got me thinking – if I’m a professional who should know better, especially from my own previous experiences, and I couldn’t remember how this works, what are the odds that the average patient isn’t going to do the same thing?

It would be useful if the breast center could send a reminder to patients educating them on the need to space their vaccines and their mammograms so that others don’t wind up in the same predicament. Especially for a high-risk individual, that reminder would be most appreciated, and it should be pretty easy to send out a message through the patient portal. Any time spent crafting and managing that outreach would more than recouped by not having to deal with numerous patients calling to reschedule.

A couple of hours later, about 14 hours after the vaccine, my immune system was apparently doing a really good job of reacting to the vaccine because I started feeling terrible. Headache, crushing fatigue, nausea, and shaking chills came first, then hot flashes, followed by dizziness. I literally had to lie down between conference calls. Then came the drenching sweats. I’m sure the people on my afternoon calls got a kick out of my wardrobe changes.

Then, as quickly as the symptoms started, they were gone – no more headache, significantly reduced achiness, and with nausea giving way to feeling hungry. It was like a switch had been flipped. I had some dinner, did a quick Zoom with one of the organizations where I volunteer, and felt back to normal enough that I went out and walked a couple of miles.

All in all, this was similar to the experience I had with the second dose of the original COVID vaccine, with symptoms right at the 12-hour mark that totally resolved within 24 hours of the vaccine. I didn’t have anything like this with the first or third doses, however.

Although I wouldn’t want to repeat the experience, I’d rather have it than some of the debilitating cases of COVID I’ve seen in the last few months. It’s certainly preferable to the ultimate “bad outcome” that is dying, and which we still see (most recently in my world in a 42-year-old, which was truly tragic). The long COVID clinic at our local children’s hospital has a one-year waiting list, so hopefully vaccines will be helpful in preventing the need for those services. Everyone’s mileage varies as far as how they experience this vaccine. I don’t share this to frighten anyone, but as a longstanding early adopter of many technologies, including this one, knowing what to expect or what might happen might allow someone to plan ahead.

Have you received the new bivalent vaccine, and what was your experience? Leave a comment or email me.

Email Dr. Jayne.

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