As someone with an underlying health condition, I was qualified and fortunate enough to be able to sign up and receive my initial COVID-19 vaccine last week. The following is a brief account of the experience for anyone interested, concerned, worried or just curious.

On Wednesday, Jan. 27, I received my initial vaccine at the Morris County Mega Site in New Jersey (which was a closed Sears store in the Rockaway Mall). I signed up online the night before and received an 8:00 AM appointment the next day.

Once appointments were actually available to schedule – which in my case occurred between 5-7 PM the evening before the appointment – I was able to logon to www.mychart.com, and from there the process was fairly straightforward and easy.

Instructed to get to the site 15 minutes before my 8:00 AM appointment, I showed up around 7:30 AM for (son of a military father). I waited outside for about 10 minutes behind 11 people (yes, I counted).

The site was being run by the Morris County Sheriff’s department with assistance from the New Jersey National Guard. The process was incredibly orderly and organized, like a military exercise, which gave me great pride to be an American.

When the line started moving, at the first gate I was asked for my appointment time and name so they could find me on the list. Then I was asked a few questions that would be repeated several times during the process – but these have become standard operating procedure lately in a number of different settings with regards to exposure to COVID-19, etc.

The next step was getting my temperature checked and then going to another queue where I was asked the same questions about COVID and received a white ID badge with a UPC code that would be used throughout my visit. All along the way there were those now-common “stand 6 feet apart” dots on the floor to continue to encourage social distancing.

The next queue brought me to an administrative person who “checked me in,” scanned my drivers’ license, took my insurance card, asked a few more questions. It really felt like I was at a doctor’s office.

Here there were 20 workstations set up with Plexiglas shields separating the patients and the staff. I should note there were New Jersey National Guards in force assisting in wiping down the chairs, advising when it was your turn and, like crew on a cruise ship, trying to provide a safe and orderly experience for everyone.

Once I was done checking in, I went through two different queues where my ID badge was scanned to track me along the process. As the site had just opened, one queue that was set up wasn’t required but was set up in case there was a backlog in the process (very organized and well thought out).

I finally made it to Line #2 and was ready for the vaccination. My turn came up in a few minutes and the nurse again asked me a few questions. These were the same ones asked before but also included some medical ones such as am I allergic to any medicines and have I had a reaction to a vaccine I may have received in the past.

Then, I got jabbed! Being right-handed, I requested to get my jab in the left arm. It was about 6-8 inches below my shoulder and as someone who abhors needles, I can honestly say I did not feel a thing! It is worse for me giving blood than it was to get this injection.

Next, I went to another New Jersey National Guardsman who asked me a few questions, scanned my ID badge and directed me to the observation area for a 15-minute wait. At this time, two different volunteer nurses asked me how I was feeling, and a New Jersey National Guardsman came by, scanned my ID badge and set me up for my appointment for vaccine Number 2.

Since I’d received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, my second vaccination will occur 21 days later, on Feb. 17.

At the conclusion of my 15-minute wait, and showing no ill-effects, I exited the waiting area, had my ID Badge scanned again and turned the badge in.

Prior to leaving the building and heading to my car, I stopped off to speak with Sheriff Jimmy Gannon to share my thoughts and compliments to his team and all the National Guardsman who provided a wonderful experience. Even accounting for my early arrival, the entire experience only took about 45 minutes which was much quicker than I ever could have asked for.

Outside of having a sore arm for about 36 hours, I experienced no adverse side effects from the first vaccine shot. I was a little tired the first evening and maybe a little tired the next day but not something that was extremely noticeable.

I was advised by a doctor friend not to take any Tylenol if I could help it and “GRIND THROUGH” any discomfort of adverse symptoms if possible so the vaccine can have the best result should I come in contact with COVID-19 in the future.

While I am still wearing a mask and practicing social distancing outside of my home, I am looking forward to getting the next jab and getting this behind me.

While I know I won’t be bulletproof, I equate it to wearing a seatbelt in a car. If I’m in an accident, I have a better chance of avoiding injury or death with a seatbelt on. I still need to drive carefully, but I could still be in a crash – however the seatbelt just gives me added protection and a better chance of survival.

I’m in the process of adding my COVID-19 seatbelt but will still use caution until this pandemic subsides.

Editor’s Note: Jerry Ruud is CEO of Grateful Media Group, Inc. and founder of Grateful Packaging LLC.

cdc.gov