By Theran Galisa | Staff Writer 

When the COVID-19 vaccine was first introduced I was very skeptical with how it was rushed. I didn’t quite feel as if it was safe to take. I have friends who are also students who felt the same way as I did at first.

After doing research through credible sources and seeing how much of a positive effect the vaccines have had on the United States as a whole, I became inclined to get it. My grandparents had COVID-19 during the beginning of this year, and hearing how bad they had it made me want to get vaccinated even more so I can protect them and my other family members.

When I received my shot (Johnson & Johnson) on April 6, I felt relieved to get vaccinated. A weight was lifted off my shoulders, a weight that I have been carrying around ever since the pandemic started in early 2020. Although I had side effects, some pretty harsh ones at that, I still felt that it was all worth it knowing that my body is now better protected against COVID-19.

With now over 1 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine administered in Hawai‘i, the people of Hawai‘i are creating a safer environment and are pushing for herd immunity. On Monday, Oʻahu will be expanding its COVID-19 vaccination eligibility to everyone ages 16 and older.  

With the possibility of the University of Hawai‘i deciding on if vaccinations will be mandatory or not for all current and incoming students, many students, including myself, found an increased desire to get vaccinated. After getting vaccinated, I would say I am more inclined to get back in the classroom now more than ever. 

Wanting to protect myself and those around me, I decided to get vaccinated as a 21-year-old UH employee/student. 

When I first went on the Hawai‘i Pacific Health website to reserve my spot for a vaccine, it told me I had to wait a week to try again. Seeing this made me realize just how many people were taking the initiative to get a vaccine and how hard it can be to get one. 

The process behind reserving a spot online was very simple. When I applied, only essential workers were able to get it, so it asked me what line of work I was in. Now it won’t ask that since the rules are more inclusive to everyone ages 16 and older. I believe that this inclusion of everyone above 16 years of age was vital in creating herd immunity and was an important next step to take. 

The website then lists what time slots on what days are available. Once the time slot is confirmed it asks for basic patient information like name, phone number, address, etc. 

The last step of this process is entering in insurance information like the insurance company and subscriber ID. Although it asks for proof of insurance, you don’t necessarily need one to get the vaccine; it is free to take. Once that is done it shows a confirmation and sends a confirmation email, and that’s pretty much it. You will have to show proof of this so what I did was just screenshot the confirmation from my phone to save it. 

On April 6, I went down to the vaccination clinic at Pier 2 Cruise Terminal near Aloha Tower, which was where Hawai‘i Pacific Health was administering the vaccines. 

I did feel a little nervous going in, but once I was inside I felt more comfortable. The workers there were helpful and nice. I felt like I was being taken cared of so a lot of my stress got lifted off my shoulders.

Before getting checked in for a vaccine a worker will ask if a Pre-Vaccination Checklist was filled out and if not, they will hand one to get filled out there. I printed mine out at home and filled it out from their website here. Doing this limits the amount of time spent there. 

Once I showed my confirmation and got checked in, I was led to a waiting line in which I was told I would be getting the now-paused Johnson & Johnson vaccine. People aren’t allowed to choose which vaccine they are getting; the workers will tell you that day which vaccine is being administered. (In Hawaii, only Pfizer is available to 16 and 17 year olds. Moderna is only offered to those 18 years of age and older. Johnson & Johnson was put on hold recently due to concerns about rare blood clots.)

I do feel kind of odd about how you don’t get to pick which vaccine you are taking. It makes me feel like I have no freedom of choice, especially with news about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine being paused, and I would like to be able to choose which vaccine to take. 

I waited in line for about 5-10 minutes before actually getting vaccinated, so it wasn’t that long. 

After every checkpoint, a worker would ask my name and birth date, which showed me that they were trying to stop anyone who shouldn’t be getting a vaccine. 

When I finally sat down to get vaccinated I was then asked again about what my name and birth date was before actually getting administered the vaccine. Of course I felt nervous sitting there waiting for the needle to puncture the skin on my arm, but it turned out to just be a little pinch. My arm did hurt a little after, almost like a bruise. The worker then proceeded to process my COVID vaccination card right there. 

After being administered the vaccine I was told to wait in a waiting area for 15 minutes where I would be monitored by workers to make sure I wouldn’t react in any way. There were multiple waiting areas, I was taking into account of the different ages of people and it seemed like there were mostly older people, not so many people around my age. 

After 15 minutes of waiting with a mildly sore arm, I was allowed to leave. 

This whole process was surprisingly fast and easy. From start to finish it took me around 30-40 minutes to get vaccinated and get out of there. The operation was organized; there wasn’t a moment where I felt uncomfortable.

I was aware of the possible side effects of getting vaccinated but never thought it could happen to me. For about 5-6 hours after being administered the vaccine I felt normal besides a sore left arm. I then started to feel extremely fatigued with harsh chills, body aches, and a headache. 

For the next three days I felt the side effects from the vaccine. The first night was the worst for me, experiencing all of those side effects. The second day I still had slight chills, fatigue, but not so much of a headache. On the third day, fatigue was the most present side effect. After those three days I started to feel like I was back to my normal self. 

Being vaccinated doesn’t mean you won’t get COVID. It gives your body a higher chance of not getting it, and if you do get it, you are more likely to fight it off. Wearing masks and practicing social distancing is still advised. 

While the side effects were pretty harsh and in no way fun, I still felt like getting vaccinated was worth it. I am better protected against COVID-19 now than before. This has led to me being less afraid and worried every time I go out somewhere in public. I also feel that I can now protect my family and those around me from getting COVID-19. Going back to in-person school will be easier and less worrisome for me. 

I would recommend UH students to get vaccinated.