Why I took the Covid vaccine despite being allergic to hospitals

It was all about weighing the pros and cons

Apr 8 · 6 min read
Photo by Elena Mozhvilo on Unsplash

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In the last decade, the Indian healthcare industry has turned into a blood-sucking business, almost totally devoid of ethics. This is why I generally avoid visiting hospitals unless it’s a serious infection or a critical illness.

Anyway, the second wave of Covid has just hit India and the infection rates look like they may exceed the first wave. Meanwhile, the Indian government has begun its Covid vaccination drive. My mother who is in the eligible age group felt it’s better to get it done with the Covid flare-up. As for my reservations, I knew it was a government initiative, and free of cost, which was a relief as the private sector hospitals always have an angle. So we went to the local Medical College hospital where my mother was given her first dose of the Covishield vaccine and asked to come back for the second one after 45 days.

Having sort of broken the ice with my allergy to hospitals, I began to weigh the pros and cons of taking the vaccine myself.

The pros are straightforward. If I catch the virus, I will be less likely to have long-term issues that some Covid patients have reported, like headaches, reduced lung capacity, loss of sense of smell, besides the new complications of the second wave of Covid like joint aches and gastrointestinal issues. And secondly, I will be less likely to be a carrier, probably infect and maybe kill other people.

The cons are a bit more complex. There’s a lot of fake news on Indian social media about the vaccine having side effects like causing infertility in women. Yes, some people do indeed react badly to the vaccine. But that’s the same as people who are allergic to life-saving antibiotics like penicillin informing doctors about it before taking any medicine.

But there was one bit of news that was quite concerning. There are two Covid vaccines in India: Covaxin and Covishield. The latter is based on the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has been banned in Europe because of reported cases of blood clots in the brain for young and middle-aged women.

The vaccine that is being given by hospitals in my locality is Covishield. However, I was not in the risk group of the vaccine. So if I ignored the wilder claims, it was relatively safe for me.

But I still had a serious issue with chemicals as I usually have as little to do with them as possible. Be it food products with chemical additives. Or those seemingly harmless, home-use chemicals (here’s an article about one that’s been linked to a possible epidemic of Parkinson's). Or medicines that are nothing but chemicals with positive effects that we know of, but negative effects we often have no clue about.

The fact is I generally avoid taking any kind of prescription drugs. I usually self-treat myself and prefer to stick with time-tested, traditional home remedies. You know what I’m talking about. If I have a tummy upset, it’s usually black tea and honey or black peppercorns and honey. If it’s a cold or cough, I go with a couple of spoons of a potent ginger-lime-honey juice.

The other reason I stay away from meds is my experience with India’s healthcare industry has been a disaster on many fronts. In fact, the last time I took a pill is so far back that I can’t even recall when and what it was. I did make a visit to a hospital in 2019 to get an ingrowing toenail sorted out, which involved a shot of local anaesthetic and some antiseptic ointment to prevent infection but I refused the offer for a painkiller prescription.

Coming back to the Covid vaccine, I had observed that the hospital checked with my mother if she had any allergies before they vaccinated her. They also kept her under observation for half an hour after the vaccination, to check for unwanted reactions. When I checked with her a couple of days later, she reported no side effects except for a slight soreness at the vaccine site.

After considering all these factors, I decided that the positives of taking the vaccine far outweighed the negatives. So I put aside my distaste for chemicals and decided to go get myself vaccinated. Accordingly, I went online and booked myself a date with the vaccination authorities.

My vaccination was on a hot summer day with the temperature hovering around 32C but feeling much hotter with the 61% humidity. It was worse indoors at my home, which is built in the concrete box design of most Indian homes. I was literally being baked alive. Anyway, I chose to walk to the hospital in the afternoon and so avoid the morning rush. Also, it was just a little more than a kilometer away, and I didn’t fancy getting in and out of the hot metal box on wheels. Surprisingly, it was much cooler outside than I expected probably because I take a shortcut via the back roads which still have a lot of trees, which was also true of the shady medical college campus.

Cool campus, relatively speaking

As I expected, there wasn’t much rush, and I was vaccinated in 15 minutes, though I had to stay back for observation for another half an hour.

When I came out, it was past four but it felt so much cooler outdoors than indoors at home. So I hung around in the hospital campus and watched a game of cricket happening in an open ground while tapping out this post.

Cricket game on a hot afternoon

Of course, me being me, I had to push the limits and go for a 20-minute jog around that ground despite just having had the vaccination. It didn’t seem to bother me. I then ran into a friend and we spent some time chatting before I eventually strolled back home at sunset.

The sun sets on a busy day

The next morning, I spent a few minutes quietly observing myself to check my body’s reaction to the vaccine. The vaccination pinprick still had a light stinging sensation, lingering like a mosquito bite itch. There was also a little metallic aftertaste at the back of my throat. I recall this taste from when I was involved in an accident and was given someone else’s blood at a hospital some years ago. So there is something in my blood alright. But it hasn’t affected me in any way. No aches, no lack of energy, apart from coming awake a bit earlier than my usual time this morning.

I’d say the vaccine is doing its job well. After all the agonizing over possible reactions to the vaccine, the biggest risk was when I nearly stepped on this five-foot-long guy who crossed my path on the way back from the hospital. And even that’s debatable as it looks like a harmless rat snake.