I have been covering the coronavirus pandemic since March 2020 and it’s been a surreal experience.

I have reported on rising and declining cases in Dorset, the emergence of more transmissible variants, spoke to Dorset County Hospital’s chief medical officer to get an understanding of how the Dorchester hospital has been affected, heard moving tributes from families of Covid-19 victims and also spoken to businesses struggling with the everchanging restrictions and rule changes.

I also saw first-hand the hard work of doctors and volunteers at Bridport Medical Centre for mass vaccination days and was taken aback by how friendly, well organised and helpful everyone was amid a backdrop of a deadly second wave of coronavirus cases and deaths across the country.

So to get a text from my GP inviting me to book my coronavirus vaccine, I was taken aback. Those over the age of 25 were encouraged to book their jabs on Monday, June 7 but I suspect myself, and many others, were offered a vaccine just before.

My parents have had both of their jabs, as well as my in-laws and my wife, and I have been patiently waiting for my turn and ensure that those more vulnerable got their jabs.

I was weirdly excited to receive the vaccine, even if I hate getting injections and have a fear of needles. But given vaccination is a key step to returning to normality, reduce the deadly risks of Covid-19 and transmission of the virus, how could I turn down a free vaccine?

I have decided to share my experience of receiving my first Covid-19 vaccine, the organisation at the clinic, the jab’s side effects and how I felt afterwards to encourage any doubters to book their vaccine appointment.

Getting the jab

Dorset Echo: Outside the vaccination clinic at Weymouth Community HospitalOutside the vaccination clinic at Weymouth Community Hospital

I was booked for my vaccination at Weymouth Hospital on Monday, June 7 and my wife dropped me off outside the hospital’s entrance.

Wearing a face mask, I walked towards a white tent and gave my name and details to a polite woman and I was guided towards the hospital.

From here, they took my temperature and asked if I had any Covid-19 symptoms before giving my name again inside the hospital to a receptionist.

After this, I queued behind a line before I was called into a room to receive my jab.

I sat down, gave my name again, and I was asked a range of questions including if I had any heart conditions, any allergies, or if I was on any blood-thinning medication.

I was also asked if I had coronavirus in the past, which I confessed I had. I tested positive for coronavirus in early November last year where I had a mild cough and some fatigue but was able to make a full recovery.

We briefly discussed my coronavirus experience, but I was reassured that it wouldn’t have an effect on my imminent vaccination.

The atmosphere was friendly, made me feel comfortable and at ease with what was about to happen. I did quip I wasn’t a fan of needles, but they smiled and heartened me that it was going to be fine.  

Before I could share a joke about hilariously false Covid-19 vaccine rumours, I was told about the potential side effects and how to mitigate them. The clinician was advised if I felt faint, sore, or tired, I should drink plenty of water and take some paracetamol.

Electing to have the jab in my right arm, I felt a sharp scratch and looked away. It was certainly noticeable the injection, but not painful, nor did it make me feel faint.

Maybe it was the excitement or the bowl of Shreddies that kept me awake.

My 15 minutes in the waiting room

Dorset Echo: My post-vaccine selfie inside the waiting roomMy post-vaccine selfie inside the waiting room

I was given a leaflet about what to expect after the vaccine as well as my vaccination card. I was also given a ticket and told to wait for 15 minutes in a waiting room for observation and flag to any nurses if I suddenly felt unwell or faint.

I sat down and immediately felt a heavy arm and soreness in my right shoulder. I wish I had brought a water bottle with me as drinking water and keeping hydrated help counteract any side effects.

Around me were people of a similar age, some on their own or with their partners just patiently waiting for their time to be up.

The atmosphere was quiet, but everyone was content. There was almost a feeling of relief and satisfaction to have received the first jab.

There had been questions of how those under 30, among those most socially mobile and more likely to spread coronavirus, would receive at least one dose of the vaccine, especially given how the previously dubbed ‘freedom day’ date of June 21 was looming.

So to receive a dose felt like a step towards normality for many people. I counted at least three people who took a selfie with their vaccination card, presumably to share on social media or to share with friends and family.

I took one to mark this historic day and my wife and family were really happy that I got my vaccine.

Towards the end of my stay in the waiting room, someone complained of ‘not feeling good’ following the jab. A nurse came over to reassure him and gave him a cup of water.

The nurse also told a roaming doctor to keep an eye on him. I hope he was OK after feeling unwell.

From tiredness and a heavy arm - The side effects I felt shortly after jab

Dorset Echo: Leaving the vaccination clinic at Weymouth Community HospitalLeaving the vaccination clinic at Weymouth Community Hospital

Pain at the injection site, tiredness, headaches, and muscle pain were among the Pfizer side effects reported by people who had received the jab.

My parents, who had received the AstraZeneca vaccine, did experience some side effects too, but they were able to recover and feel like themselves a day or two later.

Immediately after the jab, I felt a sore arm which felt heavy and difficult to use. This was one of the side effects I was warned about, and I drank some water as soon as I returned to my car to see my wife.

I continued to nurse a heavy sore arm, muscle pain, and some fatigue during my lunch so I had a coffee with two sugars to help keep my blood sugar up and to get over the shock, presumably.

We continued to run some errands, go shopping and saw a friend but as time went on, I felt tired and unwell as if I were dehydrated. This happened about six hours after I received the jab.

It was clear that I just needed a sit down at home, drink plenty of water and take some paracetamol. After doing this, I felt much better, albeit with a sore arm and pain in muscles around my shoulder joint.

But the side effects beat the reality of having no vaccine and the harmful effects of coronavirus. A fully vaccinated world will return us to a time where seeing full football stadiums won’t be an anxious sight.

My advice to anyone who receives the jab is to bring a water bottle with them, constantly drink water and take paracetamol as soon as you can. It’s also important to speak to anyone if you don’t feel OK, so you can be reassured or nursed upon just in case.

'I felt my usual self' - My experience days after the jab

Dorset Echo: Definitely take painkillers after taking the coroanvirus vaccineDefinitely take painkillers after taking the coroanvirus vaccine

I had time off work in lieu on Monday and Tuesday, so this allowed me to recover and relax in case I felt any ill effects of the vaccine.

The side effects had definitely peaked by Tuesday but the heavy arm was causing some difficulties, especially when I was driving as it felt painful to turn the steering wheel with my right arm.

I felt some fatigue but this eased throughout Tuesday and I kept drinking water and took paracetamol if I felt unwell.

After all, the vaccination leaflet said chills, muscle aches, and tiredness were all very common side effects and nothing to be too worried about. Plus I haven’t had a vaccine or injection in several years, so perhaps my body wasn’t prepared for a sudden injection.  

I was able to work on Wednesday and Thursday - two and three days after my jab – but I did bizarrely feel some pain in my left shoulder. However, that could possibly be work-related and down to sitting down at a desk for many hours.

I continued to have a heavy sore arm until about Friday, but other than that, I felt happy, healthy, and content.

I felt my usual self over the weekend as I spent time with friends, watched the Euros with a cider with a friend, and able to enjoy a family meal on Sunday.

This week, beginning Monday, June 14, I can’t think of any problems I may have had as a result of the vaccine.

I feel comfortable in myself, able to go about my normal life with no bizarre self-effects. I don’t feel magnetic, I don’t feel like a microchip is causing irritation in my arm or my DNA being altered.

I feel general optimism that I have had at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, which gives me partial protection to Covid-19 and I eagerly await my second jab in August.