COVID-19 vaccine: a patient’s experience

Hannah Mahoney is in remission from acute promyelocytic leukaemia. Here, she talks about her experience of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.

Hannah Mahoney

Hey! My name is Hannah and I am in remission for acute promyelocytic leukaemia, also known as APML or APL. But I am also a trainee ambulance medical technician – and due to being clinically vulnerable and working on the front line, a recent recipient of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Though my blood counts are stable, I still have to be cautious because we don’t really know how the bod will react if I do contract the virus. Blood counts only provide a limited insight, and as for the lungs…! They’ve been through enough thanks to a thing called all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA) syndrome, more recently known as differentiation syndrome (DS).

But because COVID-19 is a new disease with new vaccines, you may have questions about the vaccination and appointment. Hopefully, sharing my experience will help you know what to expect before, during and after the vaccination.

My vaccination was organised through my employer, and I received confirmation via email which also contained a digital ticket and things to consider before the appointment.

The vaccine centre itself was well signposted. I waited outside, but patients for 11:10 hours were soon called in. The staff took my temperature, and asked for my name and proof of ID. (Obviously it was a requirement to wear a mask that covered the nose and mouth.)

I was given a clip board, and attached to it were the following:

  • A paper based fact sheet and leaflet which contained information about the specific vaccine being offered – to help me understand the risks and benefits of receiving the vaccination.
  • A form which required me to enter information and answer questions with either yes or no. (FYI: The vaccine isn’t live which makes it suitable for the immunocompromised. However, the form does pretty much require those with current blood disorders, or those on medication for a blood disorder, to discuss the vaccination with their consultant or GP.)
  • And lastly, a clean-me sign. To leave on the seat for sanitising. And yes, chairs were socially distanced.

A nurse checked my form, signed it, and a member of staff directed me to an area behind a screen. I was introduced to a community first responder (CFR) who was doing my vaccination. She checked my form, I took a seat, and before I knew it… sharp scratch! It was done. Administered at the top of the upper arm. Quick, easy, and pain-free.

I was then directed to a desk to book my second dose, and given a vaccination card. This stated which COVID-19 vaccine I received, the date I received it and where. It also stated the details for my second appointment.

I waited in the post-vaccination area for 15 minutes where we were observed for side effects. I felt no difference! Just relief. There were plenty of medically trained professionals hovering around – nurses, CFRs and paramedics – just in case things did go t*ts up.

My arm felt a little tender and achy for the next 48 hours. And I was tired, but to be fair, that could have been due to recent shift work. Or the fact I am just a total pro at napping – thanks to my medical history and unfit bod. But otherwise, that was it.

If you have any questions about the vaccines for COVID-19, you can speak to our Advocacy team. Call them on 08088 010 444, or email advocacy@leukaemiacare.org.uk.

Working with the pharmaceutical industry

We work with the pharmaceutical industry to ensure that they take the interests of patients into account when developing new drugs and treatments for blood cancer patients.

Read More