After months of waiting, it was finally my turn to roll up my sleeve and take my first shot in the arm to help put the COVID pandemic behind us. I was more than happy to oblige.

Truth be told, my family and I have been extremely fortunate when it comes to the virus. Despite my wife being a school teacher and going to school every day, our daughter going to school in-person, and our son playing contact sports, we have managed to dodge the virus thus far. I know several people who haven't been as fortunate. Some lost family members to the virus, while others who contracted it themselves had varying degrees of illness. One said it simply felt like a "bad cold" for a couple of days. Another said it was "pure hell" and unlike anything they had experienced before. A couple are still dealing with post-COVID effects months after getting it. Things like fatigue and "COVID Brain," where they find themselves losing their train of thought way more than they did before and feeling like they're "in a fog" every so often. Hearing their stories helps remind me how fortunate, lucky, blessed, or whatever you want to call it, my family and I have been.

Those stories also helped me decide to get the vaccine.

I'll be honest, there was a time after Pfizer and Moderna were given emergency approval by the FDA when I wasn't sure I was going to for a few reasons. 1) I rarely, and I mean rarely get sick. The last time I went to my doctor because I wasn't feeling well was at least six or seven years ago when I came down with strep throat. 2) I never bother getting a flu shot (see reason 1). 3) I had some concerns over the safety of the vaccine due to how quickly it was created and made available to the public. I thought for sure it was too good to be true. That somewhere along the way a step was missed and it either wouldn't work as hoped, or there would be some unforeseen side effect that could result in a whole new problem.

What changed my mind? Research.

I read as much as I could about the results of the clinical trials including how effective the vaccines were, the types of side effects people were getting, and how common those side effects were compared to other vaccines that have been around for decades. I also spoke to family members and those I knew who had received their vaccines to see how their bodies reacted. Most, if not all of them, had no ill effects outside of a sore arm and feeling a little more tired than normal for a day or two. Both of which I knew were normal reactions from doing my research. All those things combined were enough for me to decide the vaccine was safe and when my time came, I would go wherever, and whenever, I could get an appointment.

That time came Monday, March 22nd when the state Department of Health expanded vaccine availability to those of us between the ages of 40-44. I don't have a problem being over the age of 40, but this was definitely one of the times I'm glad I am.

I was able to secure a 7:10 p.m. appointment last Wednesday at the Deaconess Downtown Clinic shortly after the state's vaccine website updated to the new age range. I felt a sense of excitement the moment it confirmed my appointment was set. It was really happening. I had started to feel some sense of hope there was light at the end of the tunnel as the vaccine started to roll out, and all signs pointing toward it working, but it didn't feel quite real to me until I booked my appointment. Now, I just had to wait a little longer. But believe me, if I could have left my house and went to get my first dose at that moment I would have. I felt like a kid a few days out from the family trip to Disney World. The irony of the whole thing is that I hated, I mean HATED getting shots as a kid. To this day, Mom still likes to tell the story of how I got away from the nurse and ran down the hall screaming at a doctor's appointment when I found out I was getting a shot. That was roughly 40 years ago.

That wasn't the case here. I was looking forward to this shot. It meant I, my family, and our community in general, would be one step closer to the pre-pandemic life we enjoyed way back in 2019. Going to the movies, concerts, Guns & Hoses, the Fall Festival, all those things we took for granted would (hopefully) be happening again, and we could go without the looming fear of possibly getting deathly sick.

As I made the drive to the clinic that day, my excitement grew. It was a beautiful spring day, I had my tunes cranked up, singing along, bobbing my head, and "playing" guitar on the steering wheel. I walked into the clinic and followed the signs to where the vaccinations were being given. After a quick check-in where I signed one paper and filled out some of the information on my vaccination card, I took my place in line. Maybe 10 minutes later, I was sitting in an exam room with Janet, the nurse who would be giving me my vaccine. We made small talk while she prepped my left shoulder. Rubbing it down with an alcohol wipe, before poking the needle in my skin and pushing the vaccine into my veins. Two minutes later I was walking out of the room and headed toward the lobby where they have you sit for 15 minutes to make sure you don't have any adverse effects to the injection. When all was said and done, the moment I waited months to happen was over in roughly 30 minutes.

I experienced very little pain during the process outside of the initial stick of the needle Janet warned me about just as she got ready to begin. For about two to three days afterward, I did feel a little soreness where the injection happened, but nothing bad enough that I couldn't use my arm. The only time I noticed it was if I tried lifting my arm above my head. Outside of that, I had no fatigue or any type of weird feeling at all. The only thing I felt was a sense of relief that the end was near.

I'm scheduled for my final dose on April 14th, a little over two weeks from the day I'm writing this story. I'm already counting the days, getting a little more excited as that day gets closer and closer. I'm not a crier, but who knows, I may shed a tear or two of joy that day.

LOOK: Answers to 30 common COVID-19 vaccine questions

While much is still unknown about the coronavirus and the future, what is known is that the currently available vaccines have gone through all three trial phases and are safe and effective. It will be necessary for as many Americans as possible to be vaccinated in order to finally return to some level of pre-pandemic normalcy, and hopefully these 30 answers provided here will help readers get vaccinated as soon they are able.

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