In late December, the governor of Texas decreed that people in Tier 1b could now get the vaccine. Tier 1b included individuals over the age of 65, or those over 16 who suffer from a number of chronic health conditions (frequently associated with high death rate from Covid). The decree and category caused mass chaos as they differed both from federal and international guidelines, but that’s kinda what happens when you let every state do whatever they want. Furthermore, only about a quarter of individuals who qualified under Tier 1a had received their vaccines, so it became up to each individual health provider to decide if they would move from 1a to 1b. Most chose to stick with 1a, but a large health group here, University Health System, chose to open somewhere between 11k and 17k slots for Tier 1b patients to get the Moderna vaccine, starting January 4th.
I got really lucky. Yes, I fit into the 1b category due to particular medical conditions. (I was surprised, tbh.) On Dec 31st, I happened to log onto Facebook at the exact right time to see an announcement from the mayor that the UHS scheduling system had gone live early. There was almost no forewarning or publicity regarding the UHS 1b slots, but even though I saw the announcement only a few minutes after the mayor posted it, the first five days of appointments were already booked. It took four tries – the fourth, I went several days ahead of where people were grabbing appointment times – but I got an appointment booked for this past Monday morning, on Jan 11th. (I’m happy to say my friend Stephanie and her parents all got in on the 13th, and my friend MJ got her appointment for the 15th. Appointments only went through yesterday, and they were all filled up in under five hours.)
It really did seem too easy. I didn’t have to say why I qualified or anything. (Honestly, I was a bit worried I’d get turned away at the door because I’m not 65+!) They just confirmed the appointment via email and said to come to the Wonderland of the Americas Mall Monday morning. Gotta be honest: I was more nervous about driving to an unknown-to-me location than I was about the vaccine! I despise not knowing exactly where I’m going, and where to park, and where to go/what to do after parking! Stupid agoraphobia. So thankfully, Jason took the morning off of work to go with me.
Everything was extremely efficient. There were signs in the mall parking lot for where to go, and once we got inside, there were both signs and employees to point us into the right line. People in line were separated out in six-foot breaks, and there were several employees checking people in. I literally just had to give them my name, and they filled out a card for me. The only thing I had to verify was my birthday. They kept asking Jason for his name, too, and it really seemed like he could have easily gotten his vaccine while there if he wanted to game the system. (But we’re honest, and didn’t do this.)
The entire process was quick and easy. In under five minutes, I’d gone through two registration lines and was sitting down to get my shot. I gave Jason my phone to take a picture, and the vaccination nurse got all excited and gave me a sign to hold that said, “I followed the science and got my Covid-19 vaccine. Let’s all do our part to end the pandemic!” The shot didn’t hurt at all, and I was sent off to the next registration line, where they set up my next appointment for February 1st. It was at this point that I discovered that I’d received the Pfizer vaccine rather than the Moderna one. I have no idea why they made the switch, but I’m glad I’m not the sort of person who cares! Hell, getting the Pfizer vaccine means that my second dose is in three weeks instead of four. I’ll take it!
After the last registration was done, I was sent into an observation room, where I had to wait for a (self-timed) ten minutes to make sure I didn’t have an allergic reaction. Then Jason and I walked out and went home. Altogether, including the ten minutes of observation, we were in the mall for about twenty minutes. Like I said, extremely quick, easy, and efficient.
Now, as for the after-effects. I was on the lookout for side effects especially after discovering this was the Pfizer vaccine. (Not sure why, exactly – maybe I’ve just heard more stories about it from them?) For the first few hours, I had some mild transient headaches pop up and move around my head, but I think that was related to lack of caffeine and food rather than the vaccine. Later that day, my arm got sore in the muscle that was poked, as one would expect. By morning, that muscle was stiff as well, making it more difficult to raise my arm. A few hours later – roughly 28 hours post-vaccine – the arm pain was gone. I had no other side effects at all. Of course, I’m told that there are more side effects with the second dose, but I’ll have to wait a few weeks to see how I react then.
I’m very happy I was able to get in when I did. I know too many folks who have been unable to schedule their vaccines, even as the city and several other health systems have opened up to Tier 1b now. (Thousands of slots in some cases have been filled in under five minutes. !!! ) Chaos is the order of the day, people scrambling desperately for their golden ticket, with supply only enough to get to 3% of those who qualify at this point. People are sick of being told to be patient, but there’s nothing that anyone can do about it. It’s…absolutely nuts, tbh. Frustrating, poorly managed, and scattershot. But as for my own personal experience, things went well, and if they continue to go well, I should be as protected as I can be by around Valentine’s Day (two weeks after my second dose).