My COVID-19 vaccine story: Dr. Jeanne James

Dr. Jeanne James after getting vaccinated.

This is part of a series sharing real stories of people who have decided to get a COVID-19 vaccine – how did they decide, what was it like and how are they feeling now?

As a pediatrician, Dr. Jeanne James knows firsthand the importance and impact of vaccines.

“Many childhood diseases — like smallpox, measles, chickenpox and whooping cough — have been almost fully eradicated or at least controlled with vaccines,” she says. “People shouldn’t think of the COVID-19 vaccines as different or strange, as vaccines overall have long been an important part of advancing preventive medicine.”

Here’s what Dr. James, vice president and chief medical officer of BlueCare Tennessee, shared about her decision to get a COVID-19 vaccine and her overall experience.

How I decided to get a vaccine

For me, it wasn’t a difficult choice. My immediate family hasn’t been impacted by COVID, but I’ve lost friends and seen extended family members struggle with illness and prolonged symptoms.

In my role as BlueCare Tennessee chief medical officer, I’ve closely followed vaccine information since the beginning of pandemic. As I monitored development, testing and approval, all of the same processes in terms of review and testing that have been used for decades took place with COVID-19 vaccines.

Typically all of those steps happen before a factory starts to make any vaccines but, because of this crisis, factories began making vaccines parallel to those steps. That way, when all of the testing and evaluation was finished, vaccines were ready for distribution.

Sometimes people think that because the process was faster, it must’ve somehow been shortened. But really it was about taking the initiative to begin production parallel to testing, instead of waiting until after.

When I got my vaccine

I was in Phase 1c because I have hypertension and asthma. I knew that if I got COVID-19, I was more likely to become seriously ill.

I received my first dose on Sunday, March 14, at my local Walmart pharmacy. It was very easy. I walked in, they had a little window where you check in and a little section set off where the pharmacist administered the vaccine. Then I sat in my chair for 15 minutes so the pharmacist could make sure I didn’t have a reaction. The main concern there is for folks who’ve had serious allergic reactions to vaccines in the past. They should talk with their provider about any specific concerns with these vaccines.

At Walmart, I received instructions about when to go onto their computer system and schedule my second dose. I received my second dose on April 11.

How I felt shortly after

With both doses, my arm was a little sore, but no different than when you get a tetanus booster or flu shot. And my muscles ached a bit the next day, but that meant it was working. My body was reacting and making antibodies, which is a good thing.

How I feel now

I’ve experienced no lingering side effects. But even if I had, I’d take those over the long-term effects of COVID-19. Some of my family members who work in health care and got COVID-19 have had prolonged symptoms. COVID-19 symptoms can last for months.

Once two weeks after my second dose have passed, I’ll be considered as immune from COVID-19 as I can be. That means by the end of April, I can feel better about visiting relatives. And I really want to get back to seeing people in person! There is something special about laughing together, hugging a friend, and enjoying activities together. I love to travel with my college-age daughter, and we miss that. I think our first trip will be to the beach.

Need more advice?

If you have questions or concerns about vaccines based on your health status, speak to a provider who knows your medical history. Your friends and family may have good intentions, but they may not know your body like you and your doctor, so it’s important to speak to a provider who knows you well.

If you do decide to go online to learn more about vaccines, do seek reputable sources like the CDCFDA or World Health Organization (WHO). You can also visit BCBSTupdates.com to get the latest facts on and support for COVID-19 and vaccines, along with information on how we’re supporting our members and communities through the COVID-19 pandemic.

More COVID-19 vaccine stories from WellTuned

Jesse Thompson

Jesse Thompson

Jesse joined the BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee corporate communications team in 2017. A Chattanooga native, he has more than 15 years’ experience in content creation, management, and strategy for consumer audiences, including a six-year stint in health care marketing.

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BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee members can access wellness-related discounts on fitness products, gym memberships, healthy eating and more through Blue365®. BCBST members can also use tools and resources to help improve health and well-being by logging into BlueAccess and going to the in the Member Wellness Center under the Managing Your Health tab.

Filed under: Health Topics, Real Stories

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Jesse Thompson

Jesse joined the BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee corporate communications team in 2017. A Chattanooga native, he has more than 15 years’ experience in content creation, management, and strategy for consumer audiences, including a six-year stint in health care marketing.