My Experience Taking One Of The Covid-19 Vaccines

Openly Discussing Getting Vaccinated

As many of my readers and YouTube subscribers know, here on the Big Words Blog Site, most of the content published is now coming from collaborators and customers in the form of shorter informational pieces. With multiple YouTube channels and now another blog for more literary writing, I only have time to write and publish a few pieces of my own here. While others opted for the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, I took the Johnson and Johnson Covid-19 vaccine within the last month and as a scientist, I wanted to write something about it.

As described in my initial submission on the new ScoonTV publication, one of the videos on my science and technology YouTube channel was taken down for ‘violating community guidelines’. I have since been hesitant to talk about the vaccines in any way, but with this platform belonging to me, I can discuss whatever I want to. Whether or not the social media platforms allow it to be shared, remains to be seen.

As you know there was a lot of controversy surrounding the Covid-19 vaccines, in addition to the pandemic itself. When talking with a good friend, I pondered that the pandemic may have been the younger generations’ World War 2 or Vietnam, in addition to maybe the 911 attacks. That is no disrespect to anyone who lived through those wars and tragedies or participated in them, but none of the younger generations have lived through a crisis like this.

My Reasons For Getting Vaccinated

I decided to take one of the Covid-19 vaccines for a number for reasons. As described, for a period I uploaded several videos on the pandemic on my science and technology YouTube channel. In short, I honestly was not one of the individuals who was in a rush to get vaccinated. In my opinion there were some very peculiar circumstances surrounding the pandemic which I will not go into here, but to some degree, the need to vaccinate everyone did raise my antennae along with those of other people. In short, I wasn’t going to be one of the first to get vaccinated and took a “wait and see approach”.

In that regard, seeing my relatives get vaccinated with no adverse reactions helped allay some of my concerns. Other individuals who were close to me received their vaccinations was also another line of evidence for me. Ultimately, like most everyone else, I wanted to be able to move about freely without concern and get back to a level of normalcy.

Returning To Normalcy

On that same vein, the featured image for this story is from my trip to the Albany area for Father’s Day 2021. Prior to the pandemic, I made two to three trips a year to New York State’s Capital Region to visit my father via train. During the pandemic, I defaulted to making the five-hour drive to the Albany area and the eight-hour drive to Buffalo to see family. Needless to say, that driving is more work than simply closing one’s eyes, or looking out of the window and daydreaming on a train or an airplane.

Going back to the featured image, it was taken trackside next to my Northeast Regional Train in Alexandria, VA. Amtrak did not mandate its passengers to be vaccinated, though we did have to wear masks once boarded, a rule that was respected by some and not by others. The first leg of my trip from Washington, DC to the New York City area got a little more crowded than I was comfortable with. The second leg from New York City to Albany was relatively empty though. The same was true for the return trip.

What’s In The Three Vaccines?

Now in terms of the vaccines themselves, having backgrounds in Pharmacology and Toxicology, my focus was always on what was in the vaccines in terms of ingredients (active and inert). I wanted to get a feel for their “pharmacodynamics” and potential side effects. In today’s information age, there were lots and lots of rumors and theories floating around about nanotubes and microchips being injected into us. My mother told me that someone in her circle believed that the vaccines would ‘magnetize’ our bodies. It was like the hysteria surrounding 5G technology when people attempted to make it the cause of the pandemic.

While many people are skeptical about the work done of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), their mission from the regulatory context is to protect the health of the nation and to make sure that the foods and medications we take are safe. The vaccines thus had to go through the FDA for approval for “emergency” usage. To determine the safety of the vaccines, I pulled the memoranda for each of the three vaccines approved in the United States from the FDA’s website to ascertain what was in the vaccines.

The following are the ingredients contained in the vaccines. The verbiage and characterization were lifted directly from the FDA memoranda which are hyperlinked in case readers want to go and look for themselves. The “efficacy” and side effects are also characterized in each memorandum.

The Moderna Vaccine

The Moderna vaccine is an off-white, sterile, preservative-free frozen suspension for intramuscular injection. The vaccine contains a synthetic messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) encoding the pre-fusion stabilized spike glycoprotein (S) of SARS-CoV-2 virus. The vaccine also contains the following ingredients: lipids (SM-102, 1,2-dimyristoyl-rac-glycero- 3-methoxypolyethylene glycol-2000 [PEG2000-DMG], cholesterol, and 1, 2-distearoyl-sn-hocholine [DSPC]), tromethamine, tromethamine hydrochloride, acetic acid, sodium acetate, and sucrose.

The Pfizer Vaccine

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine is a white to off-white, sterile, preservative-free, frozen suspension for intramuscular injection. The vaccine contains a nucleoside-modified messenger RNA (modRNA) encoding the viral spike glycoprotein (S) of SARS-CoV-2. The vaccine also includes the following ingredients: lipids ((4-hydroxybutyl)azanediyl)bis(hexane-6,1-diyl)bis(2- hexyldecanoate), 2-[(polyethylene glycol)-2000]-N,N-ditetradecylacetamide, 1,2-distearoyl-sn- glycero-3-phosphocholine, and cholesterol), potassium chloride, monobasic potassium phosphate, sodium chloride, dibasic sodium phosphate dihydrate, and sucrose.

The Johnson And Johnson Vaccine

The Janssen COVID-19 vaccine is a colorless to slightly yellow, clear to very opalescent sterile suspension for intramuscular injection. The vaccine consists of a replication-incompetent recombinant adenovirus type 26 (Ad26) vector expressing the SARS-CoV-2 spike (S) protein in a stabilized conformation. The vaccine also contains the following inactive ingredients: citric acid monohydrate, trisodium citrate dihydrate, ethanol, 2-hydroxypropyl-β-cyclodextrin (HBCD), polysorbate 80, sodium chloride.

Getting My Shot

Assuming none of the ingredients were intentionally omitted, nothing I read personally in any of the vaccines alarmed me. I chose the Johnson and Johnson vaccine because I liked the mechanism of action more (a DNA Adenovirus vs micro RNA), and I just wanted to take one shot and be done with it. I was discouraged, though, after the Johnson and Johnson vaccine was initially pulled for a rare side effect, blood clots, I believe. When I decided to get vaccinated, I could not find it initially and then one day when doing a random search online, I saw that the CVS pharmacy that I frequent at Pentagon City was, in fact, offering it. After making a reservation, I went and got it on a Friday around noon.

I was cautioned from the nurse or pharmacist that I might experience symptoms of some sort over the next 48 hours. There was the inevitable pinch/sting from the needle and then I felt a sensation in my shoulder which radiated up towards my neck. That went away quickly. I hung around in the pharmacy area for the next 15-20 minutes as instructed. I then took my complimentary 20% off coupon, purchased something and left the store. I did not expect any adverse reaction(s) as I keep myself healthy and have faithfully taken vitamins C, D, E and Magnesium since the pandemic started.

Abandoning Our Masks?

And that was my vaccine experience. I did not write this to sway anyone. Again, as a member of the science community, I just wanted to share my story. I am happy that I got the vaccine I wanted, though I saw an article on Yahoo that said that the Johnson and Johnson vaccine has not rebounded from the initial pulling in terms of popularity. I do not know if this means that it will be abandoned altogether, but I hope not, especially if it has efficacy against the new “Delta Variant”.

I have not completely abandoned my masks. I honestly will have to get used to not using them again. As described earlier, Amtrak insisted on its passengers using them and at least initially and when I fly, I am certain the airlines will also err on the side of caution. For the type of mask I had, it was not that bad for the seven hour ride.

Some stores and proprietorships are still mandating mask. Interestingly, before making my Father’s Day trip, New York State, one of the most vigilant of all the states during the pandemic, lifted all its restrictions. I met up with some old friends at Latin Dance Night in Albany, and no one wore masks as they danced up a storm, respired all over the place and socialized that night.

Do you have a vaccine story? Please feel to leave some comments below this piece. Also please subscribe to my science and technology YouTube channel to hear more science-related discussions like this. I am about 225 subscribers away from the holy number of 1,000.

Author: anwaryusef

Anwar Y. Dunbar is a Regulatory Scientist. Being a naturally curious person, he is also a student of all things. He earned his Ph.D. in Pharmacology from the University of Michigan and his Bachelor’s Degree in General Biology from Johnson C. Smith University (JCSU). Prior to starting the Big Words Blog Site, Anwar published and contributed to numerous research articles in competitive scientific journals reporting on his research from graduate school and postdoctoral years. After falling in love with writing, he contributed to the now defunct Examiner.com, and the Edvocate where he regularly wrote about: Education-related stories/topics, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), Financial Literacy; as well as conducted interviews with notable individuals such as actor and author Hill Harper. Having many influences, one of his most notable heroes is author, intellectual and speaker, Malcolm Gladwell, author of books including Outliers and David and Goliath. Anwar has his hands in many, many activities. In addition to writing, Anwar actively mentors youth, works to spread awareness of STEM careers, serves on the Board of Directors of the Friends of the David M. Brown Arlington Planetarium, serves as Treasurer for the JCSU Washington, DC Alumni Chapter, and is active in the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace Ministry at the Alfred Street Baptist Church. He also tutors in the subjects of biology, chemistry and physics. Along with his multi-talented older brother Amahl Dunbar (designer of the Big Words logos, inventor and a plethora of other things), Anwar is a “Fanboy” and really enjoys Science-Fiction and Superhero movies including but not restricted to Captain America Civil War, Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Prometheus. He is a proud native of Buffalo, NY.