My COVID-19 vaccine story: Shamila Montgomery

Shamila Montgomery at her home office

This is part of a series that shares 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?

Shamila Montgomery witnessed first-hand what COVID-19 was capable of – when it took the life of her grandmother, Callie Mae, in November 2020. So once vaccines became available to her age group, she wanted to be the first in line to get one.

Here’s what Shamila, an OnLine Help Analyst Associate in the Senior Care Division at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, shared about her decision to receive the vaccine and her experience.

How I decided to get a vaccine

Shamila and her grandmother

As silly as it may seem, I always thought my grandmother, Callie Mae Simpson, would live forever and never thought I’d have to live without her. In November 2020, my grandmother contracted the coronavirus in the nursing home she resided in – COVID-19 claimed her life within a week’s time.

My mother and I were fortunate enough to be able to see her before she passed – it was one of the toughest experiences of my life. To see my grandmother on her death bed and suffering the way she did was extremely heartbreaking. As I held her hand, I remember telling her that it was ok to let go and stop fighting, because she was clearly in so much pain. I told her that we appreciated everything she’s done for us and what she’s meant to our family. I told her we love her and I promised that we would be ok.

Sadly, my grandmother passed shortly after we left her side that day.

But in that moment, I knew I’d be the first in line to get a COVID-19 vaccine once it was available to me. I was determined to honor my promise to my grandmother – not only for her, but for myself because I had witnessed first-hand what the coronavirus is capable of. And I wanted to do my part to protect myself and others around me, whether that’s family, friends, or my community.

When I got my vaccine

I received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine (April 5 and May 3) at a Walgreens near my home in Chattanooga. It was quick and easy to schedule to the appointments online via the Walgreens mobile app. They provided scheduling availability for both vaccines that were convenient to my work schedule – I was very thankful for that. I was in and out within an hour for both doses. I truly appreciated how quick and easy the entire process was!

How I felt shortly after

Within a couple of hours of the first shot, I experienced some lightheadedness and my arm was sore at the point of injection. After the second shot, I had a really bad headache all day but there was very little pain in my arm – which I was very thankful for.

The very next day, I felt much better and was able to function at 100%. I was able to come to work and do all other normal activities without experiencing any side effects outside of feeling a bit tired.

How I feel now

Sometimes, I still wear masks when out in public places or areas, depending on how crowded it is. I still use hand sanitizer and wash my hands often. Needless to say, my family and I are still taking any and all necessary precautions to prevent getting COVID-19 and by protecting others around us. This mindset and due diligence is critical when we’re around our aunts and uncles or my newborn niece at family gatherings.

Being vaccinated gives me peace of mind knowing I’m contributing to the solution in this pandemic.

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 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

Ali Whittier, CHES®

Ali joined the BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee corporate communications team in 2014 and is a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES®) through the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing (NCHEC). A native of Iowa, she has more than a decade of experience in health promotion and community engagement, as well as health care communications. When she’s not at BlueCross, she and her husband Spencer are racing their bikes, spending time outdoors or cooking healthy food and treats in their kitchen.

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Get more information about specific health terms, topics and conditions to better manage your health on 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 find tools and resources to help improve health and well-being by logging into BlueAccess and going to the Managing Your Health tab.