The Pandemic and I (15) – if you were offered the vaccine would you take it?

You don’t have to answer the question. I only pose it here because last Friday (29 janvier), after weeks of deliberation on my part, I agreed to have the vaccine.

Re-Animator. 1985. Image: Empire International Pictures.

As a health care worker I’m among the first in line to be offered it. And my main dilemma was: fear of importing a still largely unknown substance into my body VS the high risks of catching Covid-19 through my work. In the end, the latter won out.

So, come Friday, I was nervous but determined to get jabbed. A team of external doctors and nurses came in to administer the vaccine to approx 90% of consenting residents and approx 40% of consenting staff – a small staff percentage there, and for those who I spoke to who declined to have it the reasons ranged from ‘fear’ to ‘allergic to vaccines’ to ‘I’ll let my body fight it out naturally if need be’. Good reasons, and some that I also shared. For those who did accept, I was surprised by the age group; from early twenties to late fifties. Somehow I was expecting only the older staff to agree.

Before the jab, you had to:

  • Complete a simple medical questionnaire related to any previous vaccines and allergies.
  • Undergo some standard medical checks like blood pressure and temperature.
  • Then came the jab. Painless. Quick. A shot of first-dose Pfizer-BioNTech into the muscle of the upper arm.
  • After was a fifteen minute observation by a nurse to ensure no immediate adverse reactions.
  • Then you were ‘set free’ 🙂

I’d researched some of the common side effects:

  • tiredness
  • headache
  • muscle pain
  • chills
  • joint pain
  • fever
  • injection site swelling
  • injection site redness
  • nausea
  • feeling unwell
  • swollen lymph nodes (lymphadenopathy)

And the less common + allergic reactions:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swelling of your face and throat
  • A fast heartbeat
  • A bad rash all over your body
  • Dizziness and weakness

So how did the vaccine go for me?

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The Pandemic and I (14) – when Covid-19 comes looking for a fight…

…It gets a fight

It’s been two weeks since I posted about how we discovered a positive case of Covid-19 at my work place, and how that figure went from one to seven cases in the space of a week. I was assigned to work on a four-person Covid team (a nurse, two nurse assistants, and a person to carry out disinfection).

Here is a broad breakdown of what happened when Covid-19 came to our place looking for a fight:

Week 1 

  • Discovery of our first case via a routine hospital admission of an asymptomatic resident who tested positive on admission.
  • We go into immediate lockdown; residents remain in rooms, all visiting stopped; rapid testing undertaken – a weekly testing regime initiated.
  • Three other residents confirmed positive. All staff negative.
  • Two Covid teams assembled to work with the positive cases.
  • Positive cases = four residents, zero staff.

Week 2

  • Three more residents confirmed positive.
  • Two become seriously ill and are admitted to hospital for critical care.
  • Three staff test positive. Note: these aren’t any staff assigned to the Covid teams.
  • Four more residents confirmed positive.
  • Positive cases = eleven residents, three staff.

Week 3

  • The two seriously ill residents who were admitted to hospital both die.
  • The resident who was originally found to be infected returns from hospital negative.
  • No other residents return as positive in latest tests.
  • No further staff return as positive.
  • Three residents who were previously positive now return as negative.
  • Positive cases = five residents, three staff.

Week 4 (current)

  • A further resident previously positive, returns as negative.
  • No other residents or staff confirmed positive.
  • Positive cases = four residents, three staff.

The above breakdown is clinical and bereft of any emotion. But to say emotions were absent during this period is wrong. Fear; anxiety; stress; mental and physical exhaustion; sadness; loss… just some of the feelings known to staff, residents, and their families.

When I learned of the two residents who died I had to push my emotions to one side in order to carry on working. In private I cried. Seeing someone, one week, who is fit and healthy, then the week after struck in bed and unable to respond properly, eat and drink, or breathe without oxygen, is just hard.

By contrast, seeing some of the infected residents become negative and make a recovery is cause for jubilation. Maximum respect for those who were able to kick the ass of our dear Covid-19 when it came knocking at the door. Let me tell you that three of the cases who recovered had underlying health conditions, and one was more than a 100 years old. Imagine being that old, and beating Covid? Respect.

I’m off the Covid team now for the moment and back to my normal duties – pending no more new cases. And if our few remaining positives can come back soon as negative, then we can say we successfully fought back with only small losses and fatigue.

I don’t want to use any ‘war terminology’ to describe how we must face Covid-19 (especially on the day I’m posting here, the eleventh of November), but in some ways it’s unavoidable, and you do feel like you’re battling an enemy, and even if you manage to claim some small victories there is the understanding that further battles might occur.

For me personally, working on a Covid team has been draining and emotional, but not without rewards in terms of expanding my experience and my sense of duty as a health care worker. Working with other care staff has forged solidarities. Just before going back to my regular duties, I was assigned to work a shift with a laboratory nurse for the testing. Something I would never have imagined doing before.

Staying upbeat? 

Regular readers will know one of my themes is to stay upbeat and offer a little ‘Pandemic Gallows Humour’ to help take the edge off things. Am I upbeat right now? You betcha! Despite our losses, we’re fighting back, we’re on track, like a mean machine Big Trak!

Upbeat USA!

During our ordeals at work came the long and drawn out presidential election results in America, which we saw on TV, and the news that Biden had won and that a brighter future might be in store! It caused some cheering in our small part of France I can tell you 🙂

Upbeat archiving!

On my two days off I decompressed by archiving music for a change and not vintage images. It was for a psychedelic hard rock band I played with in the mid-90s. Found a whole bunch of old cassettes we recorded live on, mostly jams, rough around the edges, but cool to hear again. I bought a cassette to MP3 converter, and… ah… went back in time. Beautiful.

Zig Yell Seed flyer. Collage by Ford.

Then there is the upbeating matter of chocolate

Just like in the last lockdown at work, the residents’ families are sending in parcels of delicious treats to help keep us going.

Good job!

A popular English expression heard among my French colleagues (aside from “What the fuck!”) is…

“Good job!”

Job par Mucha 1896

Stay safe and healthy out there everyone!

The final word goes to Wooof’s ongoing new feature …

TVTA Thinks:


Disclaimer. This report is meant to offer an overview of the fluid impact upon a care worker in the French medical system. No names of any persons or institutions are given. Some of the reportage here concerns decisions made at a French national level which is available to the public at any time. No breach of confidentiality or professional workplace standards is made or implied. Any health advice stated here is exactly the same as that given by the World Health Organization public advice pages