By Patrick Whitehurst

It’s a mad scramble but worth the effort.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) nearly 4.5 million people in Arizona have been vaccinated against Covid-19, with 268,000 of them right here in Pima County. That’s a lot of sore arms. Not to mention a lot of people waiting in line.

That needle is all the rage for Spring 2021. More and more of us are getting that extra protection against the illness that has haunted our sleep and changed our waking lives. Only it’s not always easy to get the shot. With so many in line for their turn, and a quick rollout in the name of public health, the scramble has created confusion and frustration amongst the general population, me included. But it’s not impossible.

The online sign-up process can be daunting. Numerous sites are available through a quick Google search of Pima County and Tucson, but the information overload may seem overwhelming, the rules a bit too confusing, and ultimately many of those sites may put you on a waiting list. For how long? They don’t say. Some may simply let you know they’re out of vaccines and to try again later. It ends up feeling like a game of roulette. The trick is to keep trying.

I got lucky one Sunday afternoon and landed on the right website at the right time. At the Fry’s on Houghton and Rita Road of all places. I scheduled a vaccine appointment and got in within days of signing up. The shot in the arm came Monday evening just after five. No line. No wait. I met the doctor and got jabbed with the Janssen vaccine. When I heard the name, I had to ask the doc to repeat himself. Not Johnson and Johnson? I learned then the names go together. But essentially Janssen is the Johnson and Johnson. In any event, one and done. That’s all I needed to hear. Like the almost seven million others who’d received this brand, I did a little internal dance at the idea of a single trip.

I felt the juice march into the muscle of my left arm, a brief period of discomfort, and not a big price to pay for improved protection from the coronavirus. As someone with allergies I hung out in the store for a while after, about 20 minutes, and didn’t feel any different, so I grabbed some fried chicken from the deli and zoomed home. When I ate, I hoped the following vaccine ingredients were having a good time mixing in my blood stream: recombinant, replication-incompetent adenovirus type 26 expressing the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, citric acid monohydrate, trisodium citrate dihydrate, ethanol, 2-hydroxypropyl-β-cyclodextrin (HBCD), polysorbate-80, sodium chloride; of which I recognized about two words. I just knew they’d made a good cocktail.

The next day I woke to the news the vaccine, the very one now circulating in my veins, had been put on “pause.” The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that use of the vaccine would be halted on Tuesday, April 13, after six women developed blood clots from taking the vaccine. One person died as a result. To top it off, I felt like I’d been hit by a truck. Not a Ford extended cab thankfully. More like a Ford Ranger. Two days passed before I began to feel like myself. In three weeks, I’ll be paying attention to those other possible side effects, abdominal pains and headaches for instance, that could be an indicator of blood clots. Anyone experiencing said symptoms should contact their doctor and let them know about the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

In the meantime, I’m still thankful to have gotten the vaccine and encourage everyone to do the same. The sooner we’re all bolstered against this new disease, the sooner the masks come off. I knew there might be side effects going in, but as of this writing the Ranger that hit me is in the rearview mirror.
And I’m thankful my scramble for the jab is over.

Patrick Whitehurst has worked in journalism and communications for over 15 years. He’s the author of the nonfiction book, “Haunted Monterey County” and the forthcoming book, “Murder and Mayhem Tucson.”

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