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"I wanted to protect me and my family."

Grace a refugee advocate presenting on stage

Refugee Health Community Engagement Officer Grace Edward shares her experience getting two doses of the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine.

I recently moved out of home and live in the city. You hear of more COVID-19 cases popping up closer to the city and surrounding suburbs.

When I visit home in Logan, which is often, I want to protect my family from COVID-19. My sister has just had a baby and my mum and brother both work in health—mum in aged care and my brother in a health service. They’re both fully vaccinated.

Coming from a country outside of Australia, the situation there is getting far worse right now. In my country of birth, Uganda, I have two family members unwell with COVID-19 and the medical system is not as good as it is here.

Seeing the impact of the virus on the world—being away from loved ones because of hard lockdown restrictions or being in another country—this gives me perspective.

In Queensland, we’re safe for now but this can change so easily. Getting vaccinated is consideration for others.

Getting information about the vaccine

Although I am now fully vaccinated my main concern was, and still is, being able to have children one day. Many people I know think the COVID-19 vaccines were developed too quickly.

Working at the Mater Refugee Health Network, I have been fortunate to access information from a wide range of sources. I’ve heard Dr Jeanette Young, Queensland’s Chief Health Officer, answer questions from community leaders on Zoom calls and Dr Paul Griffin, Director of Infectious Diseases from the Mater, talk about how vaccines are made.

I’ve also found helpful information on the Queensland Health and Australian Government websites. We also have COVID-19 resources available on the Refugee Health Network website.

I now know a lot of research has gone into developing the COVID-19 vaccines and that no step was skipped in the process. I also saw a statement from The Royal Australian College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists that said no safety concerns had been identified for women who receive the Pfizer vaccine during pregnancy compared to those who had not. There was also no increased risk of premature delivery or stillbirth. This made me feel a lot better.

If getting the vaccine isn’t going to harm me, but protect me, my family, and the rest of the community, I would rather choose that than leave it up to chance of catching the virus and getting sick.

To book my vaccine appointment online I had to answer some medical questions on the pre-vaccination self-assessment. I had to use Google to understand what some of the medical terms were. These questions could be overwhelming for some people who have limited English language proficiency.

For help to book your vaccination appointment, call 134 COVID (that is, phone 134 268). They can help you to answer the pre-vaccination self-assessment. You can also ask for an interpreter. For COVID-19 vaccine information in language and plain English, go to the Queensland Government website and the Australian Government website.

Vaccination day

I wanted to get the vaccine at a hospital just in case something went wrong. Even though I had made the decision to get the vaccination and was comfortable with my choice, I still had this tiny fear that something might go wrong.

I decided to get it in the afternoon so if I felt unwell after my appointment I could go straight home. After I got it, I felt fine and was able to return to the office and finish at my normal time.

What to bring to your appointment:

  • booking confirmation email (on your phone or printed)
  • medicare card, if you have one
  • photo ID (driver's license, work ID or student card).

You should tell the health team about:

  • any medications you are taking
  • any health conditions you have
  • if you have had a reaction from any vaccine before
  • any vaccine you've had in the past 14 days.

When I arrived, the clinic seemed well organised. The person at reception took my Medicare card and entered my information into the system and gave me a little vaccination card.

When I was called by the nurse, she went through the pre-vaccination assessment with me. Even though I’d never had a reaction before, I told the nurse my brother had a reaction to the meningococcal vaccine once. I told this to the nurse before my first and second dose.

The nurse then gave me the Pfizer vaccine in my left arm. After that she wrote the name of the vaccine, the date and time of administration, and the batch number on my little vaccination card which I took home with me.

The nurse also gave me a printout about some common side effects I might experience, and some rare but severe side effects that I need to watch out for. I understood that if I experience any of these rare but severe side effects, I must call 000 for an ambulance immediately.

These are rare but severe symptoms. Call 000 for an ambulance immediately if you have any of these symptoms after your COVID-19 vaccination.

A chart showing severe vaccine side-effect symptoms

I then waited for 15 minutes in the observation area. You need to do this if you get your vaccination at a GP, respiratory clinic, or an Aboriginal Medical Service (AMS). If you have allergies, they may ask you to wait 30 minutes in the observation area.

The vaccination appointment will take about 45 minutes. This allows time for check-in, the vaccination and waiting time after.

Once my observation period was finished, I was directed to the reception area where I booked my second appointment. It’s best to organise your second booking when you’re there. After that I returned to work.

“I think its important people know they can have a friend or support person with them. You can also request an interpreter in your language to help you feel safe and comfortable with the experience.”

After vaccination

After my first dose, my arm was sore and there was a little bit of swelling at the spot where I got the injection. I didn’t need to take any time off work.

Just before I was due to get my second dose, I got sick with the flu, so I called the clinic to cancel my appointment.

If you are feeling unwell with any of these symptoms you need to call and cancel your vaccination appointment, get tested at a COVID-19 clinic and stay home until you receive a negative test result.

A chart showing possible post-vaccine symptoms

Two weeks later and feeling much better, I got my second dose. I felt some soreness in my arm seven hours after the injection. By 7pm that evening (nine hours after vaccination), I couldn’t lift my arm. This is a one of the common side effects.

After the COVID-19 vaccine you might experience any of these common side effects.

A chart showing common vaccine side effects

I think if I needed to drive home after my first appointment, I would have been fine. If I had to drive home after my second appointment, I would have found it difficult driving a manual car.

For the first time in my life, and because of COVID-19, I got the flu shot before my first Pfizer vaccine dose. Everybody over six months of age can get the flu shot seven days before or after the COVID-19 vaccine.

With news of the very contagious COVID-19 Delta strain outbreak in New South Wales and many people very unwell in intensive care, I am very relieved I am now fully vaccinated.

My flatmate is a nurse, so we are proud to be a fully vaccinated household for our safety, and that of our families and community.

For help and more information

  • For COVID-19 vaccine information in language and plain English go to the Queensland Government website and the Australian Government website.
  • You can also call 134 COVID (that is, call 13 42 68) for help any time of the day or night every day.
  • Contact the National Coronavirus Health Vaccine Helpline on 1800 020 080, available any time of the day or night every day.
  • If you need an interpreter to phone any of these services, call the Translating and Interpreting Services on 13 14 50 and they can connect you.
  • If you are finding it hard to cope with the COVID-19 situation, call Multicultural Connect on 1300 079 020, Monday to Friday 9am to 4.30pm. This is a Queensland-wide service for people from multicultural backgrounds.
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Last updated: 12 August 2021