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What Receiving the COVID-19 Vaccine is Like

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Laura Zabriskie

January 28, 2021
Because the supply of COVID-19 vaccines is still limited, few know what being vaccinated is like, and many people have questions about the process. Emergency medicine physician, William Zirkin, MD, who was the first person at GBMC to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, participated in WBAL Radio’s Coronavirus Townhall to describe his experience.

For the past 10 months, Dr. Zirkin’s life has looked very different than it did before the pandemic. Every day that he goes to work, he wears a mask and PPE and fully changes his clothes when he gets to his car. When he gets home, he immediately showers in order to protect his family. While the challenge of treating a new disease has been exciting for him, it is also stressful. “Compared to other diseases, this is really a unique problem because it’s so contagious and prevalent,” he explained. “You’re worried about both yourself and your patients, so it really is a completely different clinical experience for me.”

When it was time to be vaccinated, Dr. Zirkin was the first in line. “I was thrilled to get it,” he said, “it’s been a long road, and in a few weeks when full immunity kicks in, I’ll feel really good about it.” Asked about the side effects he experienced, Dr. Zirkin described them as very minimal. “I received the Moderna vaccine. After the first dose, I had a minor headache, and after the second, I felt a little sore and tired.” He was able to go about his day without interruption. “It wasn’t a big deal at all,” he explained.

Not everyone getting vaccinated will have the same experience. Studies have shown that it is possible to develop symptoms such as:
  • Muscle aches
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
These symptoms should go away within 48 hours. Rarely, an allergic reaction to the vaccine can occur. There is a 15-minute observation period after every vaccination to ensure that patients stay well and receive additional care if needed. There have been no severe reactions to the vaccine at GBMC.

Dr. Zirkin maintains an optimistic outlook. “We’re starting to see a plateau in cases and hospitalizations. I’m hopeful that as more and more people get vaccinated, we’ll be able to get back to some semblance of normal. I think we’re moving in the right direction.”

To learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine and GBMC’s vaccination process, visit
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