COVID Frontline: What’s it like to get a Moderna booster?

On 17 September, CNN published an online story with the heading: “Moderna’s vaccine is the most effective, but Pfizer and J&J also protect well, CDC-led study says.” That news suited me just fine – I received my first dose of the Moderna vaccine in January, and took the second shot in February.

Two days earlier, in Redding, the northern California town where I live, the local newspaper reported that “public health officials announced this week that the COVID-19 outbreak in Shasta County is the worst of any county in the state”.

In much of the United States, and aggressively so here in Shasta County, the solution to the COVID crisis has been to pretend it’s over. Mask wearing here has always been optional. And, although during the northern winter months, when national and local COVID numbers soared, mask wearers were generally in the majority in indoor public places, this summer our numbers dwindled into a small minority. Meanwhile, the number of COVID cases increased day by day, amid anti-vax and anti-mask demonstrations.  

For these reasons, and because I am a caregiver for my elderly parents, I have been closely following reports about COVID vaccine booster shots.

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On 29 September, the C/NET website published a story with the headline: “FDA could authorise Moderna COVID booster vaccine at a half dose. What to know.” The story came with this secondary line: “If you got the Moderna vaccine against COVID-19, you could be in line for a booster shot.”

Notice the use of the auxiliary verb “could” in both lines.

The story referenced a 28 September Bloomberg story headlined: “Food and Drug Administration leans toward authorising Moderna booster at a half dose.”

Again, note the tentative wording “leans toward”.

I mention these grammatical points because on 24 September my wife and I received Moderna booster shots – full shots.  

It came about because a friend wanted a booster, even though his original Moderna shots had been administered weeks after we’d had ours. He simply showed up at the pharmacy department of the local supermarket chain where he’d received his original shots, filled out a form, and got the jab.

It sounded so easy that we decided to follow suit. We found the pharmacy at the back of the store, through the cleaning-products aisle, near the packaged-meat department.

On the form we were given to fill out, the only question that mattered was the one about the medical condition that made a booster necessary. Because we didn’t meet any of the listed criteria, we wrote in the blank space, “old and fat”.

In the waiting area, the pharmacist explained that our reason wasn’t acceptable, but that if it was OK with us, he’d ignore it and proceed with the injections – full shots of Moderna vaccine. Bring it on, we said.

As a postscript, I feel obliged to say that the booster had some unpleasant after-effects for about three days – nothing serious, but we did feel tired, achy and listless, as if we’d caught a dose of influenza. Other than that, it’s been fine.

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