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COVID Vaccine at Expo New Mexico

5 days ago, I received my first COVID vaccination. The experience went well, although it was also a little...traumatic? Just a little!

I registered to be vaccinated through the State of New Mexico. (Be sure to register for the COVID vaccine, if you haven't already. Select the option 'I do not have an event code; I want to register for the vaccine when it’s available.' Even if you're still on the fence, it makes sense to at least get in line.) 

Everything you've wondered about receiving the COVID vaccine, including tips to make it painless.
Side note: I'm pretty pleased with how this graphic I made turned out.

When COVID is behind us, we can get back to enjoying fun events like the Green Chile Cheeseburger Smackdown and the New Mexico Fermentation FestivalAlthough I've always expected to receive the COVID vaccine, I'll admit my hope was to be vaccinated later. 

I'm 99.9% confident that the vaccine is safe...but let's see how a few million other people respond to it first, just in case. Working in the healthcare industry though, my number came up much sooner than I'd expected.

According to the State of New Mexico, I was to receive my first dose of the COVID vaccine on January 5th at Expo New Mexico. I knew where that was - the convention center downtown. I asked a few people, just to make sure, and they agreed that Expo New Mexico is the convention center in downtown Albuquerque.

If you're a New Mexican and you just read that last part without screaming, congratulations - you are just as confused as I was. Expo New Mexico is the fairgrounds, not the convention center!

I made sure to review all of the information that was available on the vaccine and on what to expect when I went to Expo New Mexico. I found a reassuring COVID vaccine infographic, but there was not much information on the process for actually receiving the vaccine. 

Would I need to pay to park? Surely not...though you always have to pay to park for anything at the fairgrounds, right? I couldn't even find an address - Expo New Mexico is a big place.

That's where my trouble started. 

If you're a regular reader of my blog (THANK YOU!), you know that I am a ridiculously wimpy wimp. 

Receiving the COVID vaccine can be scary, especially when you have a fear of shots. Here is everything you need to know, courtesy of a self-described wimp.
Photo from when I was trying to decide which was worse - receiving a tetanus shot or developing tetanus. (I eventually summoned my courage and was rewarded with ice cream at McDonalds. In the COVID world, there is no one to join you at McDonalds after your vaccination.)

In all of the discussions about the COVID vaccine, I never see anyone mention how stressful this is for people who have a fear of shots. While I have recently become brave enough to receive the flu vaccine every year (Target rewards me with a $5 coupon, which I use to buy myself a treat for surviving the ordeal), I joke that getting the flu shot always seems like such a scary thing but always turns out to be no big deal...and that I begin worrying about having to get my next flu shot while on the drive home from my current flu shot.

The night before my COVID vaccine, I was too nervous to sleep. The day of my COVID vaccine, I was too nervous to eat. When your appointment isn't until 3:30 pm, that's a problem! My boss told me I didn't look well.

It's no big deal, I reminded myself. It's not going to hurt. You're not even going to feel it.

Reassurance didn't help. As the day progressed, I went from being anxious to terrified. Don't be a baby. Everyone is doing this. You have to do this.

By the time I drove to Expo New Mexico, my eyes were watery and I felt lightheaded. Stop being ridiculous. What's wrong with you? Just stop it. 

I was on the lookout for signs directing me to the correct gate. I'd made arrangements to leave work with enough time so that I would arrive at Expo New Mexico early. If you're not early, you're late, right? Everyone at work agreed that the wait would most likely be at least an hour and I didn't want to be last in a long line.

No signs. Here is the route I took to my vaccination:

COVID vaccine at Expo New Mexico

By the time I finally reached the correct gate at the fairgrounds, I was late. I hate being late. There were signs for COVID testing but nothing about vaccination. When I pulled up, still unsure I was at the correct place, I overheard the driver of the car ahead of me ask if they were where they were supposed to be. It was comforting to know I wasn't the only one who was confused.

(Side note: My friend says they probably didn't put out any signs because it would encourage people to just show up, rather than registering and waiting their turn. Couldn't they have been more specific in the instructions I was emailed though? Just my luck, they probably hung signs everywhere the very next day.)

There had been so little information available online that I wasn't sure if I would be receiving the vaccine while inside my car. COVID testing is a drive-thru process at Expo New Mexico, so that made sense. I drove through the maze that is the NM fairgrounds. Volunteer after volunteer waved me toward my destination. When I finally parked, I was surprised that I had to get out of my car. 

Despite there being about a dozen people to help me park, the moment I stepped into the parking lot, I was completely alone. I was surrounded by buildings on all sides and there were no signs directing me where to go. Where was everyone? I wandered from empty building to empty building. 

Tired and hungry and afraid, my anxiety took over. Thousands of people have received their COVID vaccine and you're the only one who couldn't figure it out. The only one who got lost. What an idiot. And now you're going to cry. Pathetic.

After what seemed like forever, a group of people exited a building in the distance. It was Tingley Coliseum. Why didn't the information I'd received about being vaccinated at Expo New Mexico say anything about it being at Tingley Coliseum?

(Side note: You just know the instructions were updated the minute after I received mine, so now everyone knows the vaccine is at Tingley Coliseum and it's especially ridiculous that I'd had no idea.)

Here's where my story turns positive, with the exception of the man who made a smart-aleck comment as I walked through the door, saying he'd been waiting for me to arrive. (Read my watery eyes, dude. Not. In. The. Mood.) 

There was no line!

The volunteers were patient and friendly!

THE COVID SHOT DID NOT HURT! (!!!)

I had no adverse reaction to the vaccine!

Once inside Tingley Coliseum, I was asked a few basic questions, led to a chair, and received my Pfizer vaccination within about a minute. Easy peasy. The woman who administered my vaccine didn't mind that I looked away and she even offered to have her assistant hold my hand. (Which seemed very kind at the time, though looking back, I wonder if she was just teasing me.) Volunteers check to make sure everyone is feeling fine and I was allowed to leave 15 minutes later.

Driving home, I called my dad to wish him a happy 70th birthday and to tell him that I'd just received my first COVID shot. He asked where and I told him Expo New Mexico. He said, "Oh, the convention center, right?" Maybe it runs in my family. 

Now I just need to work up the nerve to go back for my second dose of the vaccine. I'm so scared! (Kidding!)

COVID Vaccine Tips

  1. Drink lots of water before and after your vaccine.
  2. Be sure to eat something before your vaccine, especially if you are nervous.
  3. Wear a sleeveless or short-sleeve shirt.
  4. Don't tense up - shake your arm loose and try to relax prior to the injection.
  5. Don't take an Ibuprofen prior to your vaccine. (I did because I'm a wimp, then read that it can make your vaccination less effective. Oops.)
  6. Decide ahead of time which arm you would like to have vaccinated. Do you sleep on your left arm? It's going to be a little sore afterward.
  7. Try to schedule your vaccine for later in the day so that you can just go home afterward instead of returning to work. I was tired.
  8. Exercise your arm after receiving your vaccine.
Everything you need to know about receiving the COVID vaccine in New Mexico
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