Today I was vaccinated for Covid

Today I was vaccinated for Covid.

It occurred to me that people might have a question or two about the process, what it’s like, and what happens, and I think that’s reasonable.

A roadsign in Birmingham reading 'Stay Home, Essential Travel Only, Covid'

Hang on, why did you get vaccinated? You’re not 70, you’re, what, thirty-six or something?
[bad Southern damsel accent] “Why, Mr Vorce in my Haird, I do declare, I’ve come over all a-flutter!” [bats eyelashes].
Nah, it’s ‘cos I’m considered clinically extremely vulnerable.
What’s vulnerable?
According to Google if you’re strong and vulnerable then it’s recommended to open with a no-Trump bid. That sounds like a good thing to me.
What’s it like?
It’s like the flu jab.
Like what?
Fair enough. If you’re reading this to learn about vaccination around the time that I’m posting it, January 2021, then maybe you’re someone like me who has had a bunch of injections and vaccinations, such as the flu jab every year. But if you’re reading it later, you may not be, and the idea of being vaccinated against something for the first time since school might be vaguely worrying to you because it’s an unknown sort of experience. This is fair. So, here’s the short form of what happens: you walk into a room and roll up your sleeve, they give you an injection into your arm that you hardly even feel, you sit in the foyer for 15 minutes, and then you go home. It’s like buying a kebab, except with fewer sheep eyebrows.
That’s a pretty short form. Some more detail than that would be nice.
True. OK, well, the first tip I can give you is: don’t put your big heavy coat and a scarf on in the mistaken belief that it must be cold because it’s January and then walk for 45 minutes to get to the hospital, because you’ll be boiling hot when you get there and aggravated.
Just the coat was the problem?
Well, it also turns out that if you stay indoors “shielding” for a year and then go on a long walk, you may discover that your formerly-Olympic-level of fitness has decayed somewhat. Might have to do a sit-up or two.
Or two hundred and two maybe, fatso.
Shut up, Imaginary Voice in my Head.
What next?
I was told to go to the hospital for the vaccination. Other people may be told to go to their GP’s office instead; it seems to vary quite a lot depending on where you live and what’s most accessible to you, and it’s possible that I am very lucky that I was sent to City Hospital, somewhere within walking distance. I’ve heard of others being sent to hospitals twenty miles away, which would have been a disaster for me because I don’t have a car. So, either Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust are particularly good, or others are particularly bad, or I happened to roll double-sixes this time, not sure which.
How were you told?
I got a phone call, yesterday, from my GP. They asked when I was available, and suggested 12.55pm today, less than twenty-four hours later; I said I was available; that was it.
And at the hospital?
Finding the specific building was annoying. SWBH: put up some signs or something, will you? I mean, for goodness sake, I’ve been to the hospital about twenty times and I still had no idea where it was.
No more griping!
I haven’t got anything else to gripe about. It was a marvellously smooth process, once I found the building. This is what happened:
I walked up to the door at 12.45 for my appointment at 12.55. A masked woman asked for my name and appointment time; I gave them; she checked on a list and directed me inside, where I was met by a masked man. He gave me some hand sanitiser (I like hospital hand sanitiser. Seems better than the stuff I have) and directed me to a sort of booth thing, behind which was sat another man.
The booth seemed like a quite temporary thing; a rectangular box, like a ticket booth but probably made of thick cardboard, and with a transparent plastic screen dividing me from him; one of two or three of them in a line, I think. He asked me to confirm my details — name, appointment time, address — and then asked four or five very basic questions such as “do you have the symptoms of coronavirus?” Then he handed me two leaflets and directed me to two women, one of whom led me directly to an examination room in which were a man and a woman.
The man confirmed my details again, and asked if I’d been injected with anything else in the previous month; the woman asked me to roll up my sleeve (I ended up half taking my shirt off because it’s long-sleeved and rolling it all the way up to the shoulder is hard), and then gave me the injection in the upper part of my arm. Took about two seconds, and I hardly felt anything.
Wait, that’s it?
Yup. That whole process, from walking up to the door to being done, took maybe ten minutes maximum.
And then you left?
Not quite: they ask you to sit in the waiting room for fifteen minutes before leaving, just in case you have some sort of a reaction to the injection. People who have had the flu jab will recognise that they do the same thing there, too. This gave me a chance to read the two leaflets, both of which were fairly boring but important descriptions of what the vaccine is, what vaccines are in general, and any risks.
They also stuck a big label on my shirt showing when my fifteen minutes was up, which I think is a really good idea — they don’t do this for the flu jab, in my experience, but it’s a good idea for a vaccination where you have to put basically everybody through the process. I also got a little card which I’m meant to show at the second vaccination, which is now safely in my wallet and will probably still be there in twenty years unless they take it off me, along with the receipts for everything I’ve bought since about 2007.
So then you left?
Yes. Another of the staff confirmed I’d been there for long enough, asked if I was feeling OK (which I was), and asked if I had any questions. I didn’t, but I did ask if I had to go back to work now or if I could just hang out there for a while longer — I’m sure she’d heard variations on that eighty times already that day, but she laughed anyway, and I like trying to chat to hospital staff as human beings. God alone knows what a dreadful year they’ve had; they deserve courtesy and smiles from me at least.
Were they smiling?
Indeed they were. Even though you can’t tell because of the masks. Everyone I spoke to and everyone there was cheery, upbeat, courteous, and competent, without being dismissive or slick. I can’t speak to other NHS trusts, or other hospitals, or even other days in my hospital, but every time I’ve been there the staff have been helpful and nice and ready to share a joke or a chat or to answer a question, and this time was no exception.
What, you didn’t ask any questions at all? What about whether you’re being microchipped by Bill Gates? And the risks of 5G with the vaccine? And…
No, of course I didn’t. Vaccination is safe, and it’s one of the greatest inventions humanity has ever come up with. The NHS guidance on vaccinations is a nice summary here. If I’d walked in the door and someone in scrubs had said to me, “the best way to make web pages is to require 500KB of JavaScript to load before you put any text on screen”, or “Ubuntu has secret motives to undermine free software”, I would have said to them “no, you’re wrong about that” and argued. But me and the medical profession have an agreement: they don’t tell me how to build software, and I don’t tell them how to save millions of lives. This agreement is working out fine for both of us so far.
What’s that about risks and side-effects, though?
Apparently I may feel tired, or an ache in my arm, for the next couple of days. I’ll keep an eye out. They said that if it aches a bit, taking paracetamol is OK, but I am not a medical professional and you should ask the question yourself when you get vaccinated.
Which vaccine did you have?
Remember the two leaflets? One of them is a generic NHS leaflet about Covid vaccines; the other is specific to the one I had and is from BioNTech, which means it’s the Pfizer one. The little wallet card also says it’s Pfizer. I didn’t ask the staff because I could work it out myself and I’m not going to change anything based on their answer anyway; it’d be pure curiosity on my part. Also, see previous point about how I don’t tell them how to do their jobs. I assume that which vaccine I got was decided at some sort of higher-up area level rather than tailored for me specifically, but hey, maybe I got a specific one chosen for me. Dunno; that’s for medical people to know about and for me to follow.
What now?
The vaccine doesn’t properly kick in for a few weeks, plus you need the second injection to be properly vaccinated. That should be 9-12 weeks from now, I’m told, so I’ll be staying inside just as I was before. Might empty all the litter out of my wallet, too.
But I have more questions!
Well, I’m on twitter, if they’re sensible ones. Conspiracy stuff will just get you blocked and possibly reported with no interaction, so don’t do that. But this has been a delightfully simple process, made very easy by a bunch of people in the NHS who deserve more than having people clap a bit for them and then ignore the problems. So if I can help by answering a question or two to alleviate the load, I’m happy to do that. And thank you to them.
Are you really thirty-six?
Ha! As if. It is my birthday on Saturday, though.
You know that thing you said about bridge bids is nonsense, right?
Ah, a correction: also do not ask me questions about bridge. Please.
I'm currently available for hire, to help you plan, architect, and build new systems, and for technical writing and articles. You can take a look at some projects I've worked on and some of my writing. If you'd like to talk about your upcoming project, do get in touch.

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  • Gareth J. Greenaway 🟢 responded at I really thought you were in your 70s. TIL.
  • Stuart Langridge responded at I felt a bit like it after walking up and down a hill for an hour and a half :-)
  • Jeffrey Bouter responded at You must've really enjoyed writing this :-) Thanks for sharing! Even though we're not in the same country, I reckon I'll have a similar experience in…
  • Stuart Langridge responded at fingers crossed! It could have been a lot less easy than it was and still been pretty easy, if I'm honest :) @SWBHnhs did a good job on this.
  • Ian McKellar responded at Well that's a lovely birthday present!
  • Stuart Langridge responded at it is! still staying inside for my birthday, though :)
  • Bruce Lawson responded at "me and the medical profession have an agreement: they don’t tell me how to build software, and I don’t tell them how to save millions of lives. This…
  • Ivanka Majic responded at Stuart writing about his COVID vaccine experience. It is witty as well as informative. My sister was also vaccinated today. On our family WhatsApp sh…
  • Bruce Lawson responded at You forgot the before and after picture
  • Stuart Langridge responded at Ugh! I assume there is some sort of zombificatr startup that produces these things?
  • Tim Kadlec responded at Which is which?
  • Bruce Lawson responded at of course
  • Stuart Langridge responded at the thing that annoys me is the zombie version seems to have slightly more beer!
  • Bruce Lawson responded at harsh, Timotei, harsh
  • SyntaxError responded at Stuart Langridge: Today I was vaccinated for Covid…
  • Miia Sample responded at I am anxiously waiting when I'll be called in for mine. Nice to hear about your experience.
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  • Steve Clark responded at Good for you. I'm way down the list, but parents have had a jab already. The scaremongers need to be called out for the charlatans they are.
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  • Christian Reis responded at I want to nominate your FAQ for a nobel prize but am unsure of the category. Is it chemistry? Economics? Literature? Peace??
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  • Stuart Langridge responded at Thank you! Hopefully they're doing Nobel prizes over zoom these days, or I can't go to Stockholm for months :)
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  • Etienne Posthumus responded at This is SO damn well written, I salute you sir. Your pen is mighty and golden.
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  • Marshall responded at Ah you had the Pfizer one then.
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  • Hannah Mitchell responded at Really enjoyed this read. A light and comical, yet informative blog on getting the vaccine. Thanks @sil....this broke up the intensity of my day a lit…
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  • Léonie responded at Thanks. That was useful. Also, happy birthday!
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  • Matt Andrews responded at You need to read Stuart's blogpost/FAQ of getting the vaccine, if only for this brilliant section.
  • Matt Andrews responded at Chuffed for you, congratulations - and thanks for writing this, too. Encouraging and inspiring to hear about an aspect of ~all this~ which is being de…
  • Stuart Langridge responded at cheers! Yeah, the NHS are doing a great job, as far as I can tell, and I wanted to demystify the process a bit for people who might be worried about i…
  • Stuart Langridge responded at thank you! quiet birthday is likely closer to the truth, but now I've been made a supersoldier through government injections that will probably help :…
  • Terence Eden responded at "But me and the medical profession have an agreement: they don’t tell me how to build software, and I don’t tell them how to save millions of lives. T…
  • Andy Bell responded at Very useful post mate: thank you. Happy Birthday for tomorrow too!
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  • Stuart Langridge responded at thank you! for both :) Hopefully it might help to demystify the process for people who are unfamiliar with vaccines before they get to it!
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