I Got the Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Before the Pause - Here's What It Was Like

Caitlin Flynn
·5 min read
Close-up of a female patient young woman adhesive bandage to her own arm after taking vaccine.
Close-up of a female patient young woman adhesive bandage to her own arm after taking vaccine.

Like millions of other Americans, I closely followed the development and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine and eagerly waited for the day when I would be eligible. Although I would have gladly gotten the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine if that's all that was available, I really hoped to get Johnson & Johnson.

The main reason I wanted to get the J&J vaccine is that, because it's one dose, I would be fully vaccinated three to four weeks sooner. Because I have an autoimmune illness, I've had to be extra careful over the past year when it comes to choosing who would be part of my pod and making decisions about any outings at all. Plus, it would be an understatement to say that I was beyond excited for the moment I could fly across the country to see my parents and my grandparents for the first time in more than a year.

Luckily, I was able to get an appointment for the J&J vaccine on the morning of Monday, April 12. All my vaccinated friends and family members had gotten either Pfizer or Moderna, and most of them reported feeling pretty sick with the standard side effects, especially after the second dose. I didn't know anyone who had gotten the J&J vaccine, so I wasn't sure exactly what to expect, but I assumed I'd feel sick for a few days as my body mounted an immune response. To be completely honest, I have a phobia of needles so I was probably most nervous about the shot itself.

The pharmacist administered my shot and, as always, it didn't hurt anywhere near as much as I expected - there was just a very brief sting that I would say was comparable to the flu shot. As I'd been told in advance, I waited in the pharmacy for about 20 minutes after getting the shot just in case I had any type of negative reaction. I felt just fine and returned home after receiving my vaccine card. My arm was a little sore throughout the day, but I didn't start to feel sick until around 9 p.m.

Related: Taking These Simple Steps May Help Reduce Side Effects of the COVID Vaccine

I wasn't concerned by any of my symptoms because they all appeared on the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention's list of possible side effects from the J&J vaccine. I felt exhausted even though I'd taken a nap in the afternoon, my body ached, and I felt a headache coming on, so I decided to go to bed. I woke up in the middle of the night with a fever. I was sick for about 48 hours, but I spent most of the time sleeping. I had arranged my work week so that I didn't have any news shifts or deadlines in the 72 hours after getting vaccinated, because I figured it was better to be safe than sorry.

As it turned out, I was one of the last people to get the J&J vaccine before it was temporarily halted.

As it turned out, I was one of the last people to get the J&J vaccine before it was temporarily halted on April 13, after six women developed blood clots. (The vaccine had been administered to 6.9 million people when it was paused.) I read over all the signs and symptoms of blood clotting, but I was still glad that I'd gotten the vaccine. As many pointed out, women are far more likely to develop a blood clot from birth control pills than the J&J vaccine, although experts have pushed back on that comparison, noting that the type of blood clot and the treatment required is different. Still, I figured the small chance of a blood clot was worth it to me - and soon I'll be out of the window when these clots are considered a risk.

On April 26, the pause was lifted and J&J vaccines have resumed. Women in my age demographic, 30 to 39 years old, are more likely to experience the blood clots associated with the vaccine, and I certainly don't want to dismiss those who have been affected or anyone who may feel a little nervous. Although the CDC doesn't advise against women of any age getting the J&J vaccine, the agency does note that there are other COVID vaccines that don't carry this risk at all.

If you're feeling anxious and it would put your mind at ease, there's no harm in getting the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine instead. The most important thing is to get vaccinated as soon as possible in order to protect yourself and others. But if you can get an earlier appointment for a J&J vaccine or you live in an area where it's more readily available, I encourage you to consider it. Of course, I'm not a medical expert, so if you have any concerns or doubts at all, get in touch with your doctor. They have all the information about medications you take and any current or prior medical problems you've experienced, so you can make an informed decision together.

POPSUGAR aims to give you the most accurate and up-to-date information about the coronavirus, but details and recommendations about this pandemic may have changed since publication. For the latest information on COVID-19, please check out resources from the WHO, the CDC, and local public health departments.