Healthcare Worker Talks about Her Experience with the COVID Vaccine

  • Registered nurse Casandra Oakes receives her first dose of the COVID vaccine. (Photo Provided)
    Registered nurse Casandra Oakes receives her first dose of the COVID vaccine. (Photo Provided)

With distribution underway and plentiful discussion surrounding the COVID vaccines, Mercy Hospital registered nurse Casandra Oakes talks about what her experience getting the vaccine was like.

With the strain COVID has had on her workplace, such as a lack of beds and having to send patients to other cities to be treated, Oaks said she views this vaccine as a symbol of hope.

Despite the vaccine being new, Oakes said once she researched and consulted others about the vaccine, she decided to take it in hopes of getting through COVID and back to seeing her friends and my family without masks.

“I want to be able to hug my grandparents without fear of making them sick. To me, it's definitely worth whatever risks there are,” Oakes said.

The Watonga Republican recently had the opportunity to talk with Oakes about how getting the COVID vaccine has been for her. Here is what she had to say.

Q: What was your experience like when getting the vaccine?

A: We were offered the vaccine a couple of months ago and they asked us to make a decision about it. They wanted to know in advance, so they would have enough to bring. I wasn't really sure at that time if I was taking it yet.

I did some research and talked to some people who were more knowledgeable about it and about the science of the vaccine because it is new, so I was kind of skeptical. I decided to take it because I felt the benefits outweigh the risks. I take care of COVID patients every shift I work, and I felt that I should take this extra step of protecting myself and hopefully those around me.

The process was very easy. They set up a day at the hospital that the health department would be there to give the vaccines, and it went smoothly. We had to fill out a little bit of information about ourselves and make sure that we were eligible to take the vaccine.

Q: How did it feel? Was there any discomfort, pain, anything like that? Was it like getting any other shots, for instance, like the flu shot?

A: I felt like this vaccine was less painful than the flu shot. I didn't feel any pain with either of my doses, but a couple of days later my arm did hurt for just a little bit.

Q: Were there any side effects that you were told about that would come with the vaccine? If so, did you experience any of them?

A: We were warned beforehand of the potential to have some side effects, and I did happen to have side effects with both.

With the first one, I had some chills and body aches for 24 hours, but my symptoms were gone completely by 24 hours after the vaccine. After having those side effects, I had heard that the second dose tended to have worse side effects than the first, so I made sure that I didn't make plans for the day after. Just like I had heard, it

Just like I had heard, it was a little bit worse. I had chills, body aches, and a fever as high as 101.5. My symptoms lasted up to 36 hours after the vaccine. I took Tylenol and Motrin to help, and it did seem to help with my symptoms.

Q: Were you at all worried when you had been told about the potential side effects?

A: I was a little bit nervous about taking a vaccine that we don't know a ton about, but I did decide to take it. I'm viewing it as a symbol of hope for getting us through COVID and back to seeing my friends and my family without masks. I want to be able to hug my grandparents without fear of making them sick. To me, it's definitely worth whatever risks there are, but so far, we don't even know what those risks are.

Q: When you were experiencing the chills, body aches, and that 101.5 fever that you had, what was going through your head?

A: I knew to expect it. I did get a little nervous when it reached the 24-hour mark, and I was still not feeling well. The fever, the chills, and body aches were my only symptoms. I still had an appetite. I knew I wasn't sick, and I knew it was just my body responding to the vaccine.

Q: Have you heard any skepticism around town or when patients come in? When you're treating someone and have conversations about the vaccine, does skepticism come up in those conversations at all?

A: I think it's normal to have skepticism about it. It's something new. They're using new technology that we don't have years of research on. It seems like it was created quickly, although they have been working on this technology for longer than what we have known about. I think everyone just needs to do their research and use reputable sources to help make an informed decision about it.

Q: When you did your research, where did you go for it and who did you talk to about it?

A: I talked to one of our position assistants, Jeff Johnston. He's really knowledgeable about the science of the vaccines and he stays up to date on everything they're doing. I trust him, and he helps me feel better about taking the vaccine because I know that he's knowledgeable about it and stays up to date on what the scientists are doing.

I also used websites. I checked the CDC’s website, and I did some Google searches on stuff that I had been hearing. You hear all sorts of crazy things that could happen from the vaccine. I kind of did some Google searches of why this isn't true or why this is true, and through that, I was able to make a pretty wellinformed decision about it.

Q: What do you tell others about the vaccine? Do you encourage others to get it?

A: I encourage everybody to do their research because I don't feel like I could tell them to get the vaccine. I could tell them the benefits of the vaccine, but I feel like it's everybody's own choice to make their own decision.

Q: Earlier you mentioned you view the vaccine as a ‘symbol of hope.’ Could you expand on that a bit?

A: Just as a symbol of hope for getting us through COVID. We don't know if it's going away. We even hear that there are new strains coming out.

Right now, we have a huge strain on our healthcare system and work has been extremely difficult. It's been difficult finding places to transfer sick patients. There are no beds. We've had to send patients out of state just to get a bed. I want the vaccine to be a

I want the vaccine to be a symbol of hope so that everybody who's sick has the opportunity to get treated. A symbol of hope so that people who are scared to come out of their houses can come out without fear.

Q: You mentioned the new strains of COVID. How does that make you feel? Is there any sort of feeling such as fear that a new strain could still affect you even now that you have the vaccine?

A: From what I've heard, the vaccine should cover the new strains. As far as the ones that might happen in the future, we don't know. For now, I'm just doing what I can to protect myself, and we'll just try to live life and go from there.

Q: Has anything changed in terms of how you go about dealing with COVID in your personal life now that you have the vaccine? I assume with worklife nothing much has changed, but in personal-life are you still wearing masks, social distancing, etc.?

A: Yeah, we still wear masks and socially distance. The studies aren't really out on if the vaccine protects other people from you. We know that it'll protect the person who gets it, but we don't know if we can still have it, not show symptoms, and then give it to other people. Until we know that, there's still that possibility of us giving it to other people.

Q: Going from the beginning of the pandemic, where everyone was only kind of worried to where we are now with not having enough rooms in certain hospitals, how has “office life” changed now that there is a vaccine?

A: In March, when it first started, we weren't seeing cases. We didn't start seeing very many cases until summertime, and then it picked up from there. With the vaccine being available, I know a lot of people are getting it and I'm just really hoping that it will slow the strain on the healthcare system for a while at least.

Q: With conspiracy theories spreading online about the vaccine, do you think they are a danger in trying to get the COVID-19 situation under control?

A: I think potentially it is. That's why I say that people need to find reputable sources. Not everything on the internet is true.