First, when the pandemic began I was in a Toastmasters meeting and then I got home and found out that we have a pandemic going on from my Dad. At this point we did not know what that meant and everything was closed down for a couple of weeks. Then we got used to working virtually with Zoom, Facetime, Teams and other resources. As we were going through this I got really anxious about the unknown and what was going to happen during the pandemic and how long it was going to last. I know this. Because of my condition I did not want to get sick. I started watching local media coverage to figure out what was going on and as I was doing my research I found out that individuals with developmental disabilities are able to get the vaccine as soon as it became available after doing the vaccine research and trials. My first shot was at a mass vaccination site on the Evergreen State Fairgrounds in Monroe. We were in the car and I felt weird getting the shot the first time, but then I felt okay getting the shot. My second shot was at the Alyssa Burnett Center with the UW Mobile Unit. After getting the second shot is when my immune system activated. I ended up being in bed for a couple of days with a slight fever, headache, and a sore arm. I continue to wear a mask to this day even though I am fully vaccinated and continue to follow public health guidelines. And I feel better since being vaccinated going out in public and my anxiety is better. I’m nervous to find out what will happen next. Whether we will need a booster shot or if we are good with what we have now.
Hello, my name is Ben Moore. I’m an autistic adult, and I’m writing to you, the reader, to explain what the process of going through a worldwide pandemic (and getting the COVID-19 vaccine) have been like from an autistic point of view. Keep in mind that my view and experiences living through these turbulent times will not match the experience of every other autistic person out there.
At the start of the COVID pandemic last March, my life wasn’t at its most serene. I was hospitalized for non-COVID related issues when the first cases started appearing, so I was kind of frightened that I might catch it, and that it would only compound my health problems in the moment. Thankfully, that did not happen, even though patients with COVID were being quarantined on the floor directly above me.
Afterwards, my experience in the pandemic has been much like everyone else’s – trying to maintain social contact in a socially-distanced world, and re-thinking how we go about our lives in the new era of online learning and meetings using applications such as Zoom and Microsoft teams.
When I first heard via the news that Pfizer and Moderna were developing mRNA-based vaccines to the coronavirus, I was excited and hopeful. Finally, I could look forward to life “returning to normal” once herd immunity were reached. I felt this optimistic leading into the morning of my appointment for receiving the first shot.
With the prick and jab of the small needle, my first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine was a success! I went home, and after a few hours, and persisting for a couple of days, were a minorly sore left arm (the arm I got poked in), and a tad bit of general fatigue. That was it – nothing too bad! Compared to my first shot, there were no observable aftereffects post-second shot.
Now that I’m vaccinated fully, and the state’s mask mandate has been rescinded, I’m looking forward to meeting up with all of my friends at the ABC – the Alyssa Burnett Adult Life Center – once again, so that we can continue to laugh and grow together.
One last thing I’d like to say is, if you’re autistic – and even if you aren’t – getting the COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine isn’t scary, and it doesn’t hurt. Please, if you haven’t gotten in your doses, please do! If not for yourself, then for everybody else who, for whatever reason out of medical necessity, cannot.
May we all soon embrace each other with open arms once again!
As we come out of a year of COVID-19 and the challenges that came with it, I reflect on some of my toughest, and brightest, moments. Among the top are the moments I’ve shared with my patients. I’ve seen them endure the devastating impact of isolation but have also heard the excitement and relief about their world’s opening back up.
In my clinic I see hundreds of individuals across the autism spectrum, of all ages. I have seen routines broken and opportunities for connection lacking. I’ve heard engagement with peers dramatically drop and have seen first-hand the regression this has caused.
During visits, my patients come to me sharing concerns about the vaccine and misinformation that they have heard. As a health care provider, I know the best way to boost quality of life is through returning to the community- through learning opportunities, engaging activities, and by surrounded ourselves with support systems.
It’s time for us to separate myths from facts. As a trusted provider serving the autism community for 25 years and an advocate for this population the entirety of my career, here are my biggest takeaways:
1- Review the data and facts; the vaccine is safe and trusted
2- The vaccine is needed for this population to return safely to society
3- The vaccine is vital to reestablish routine and connection, which ultimately contribute to quality of life
John, one of my patients, recently shared the following: ‘I continue to wear a mask to this day even though I am fully vaccinated and continue to follow public health guidelines. And I feel better since being vaccinated going out in public and my anxiety is better.’
Returning to group settings can be nerve-racking. In John’s case and in many others, the vaccine has benefits beyond the physical. Not only will it protect your body from illness, it can also improve mental health anxieties about returning to settings we were conditioned last year to avoid.
If you have questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor. You have my vote of confidence in the COVID-19 vaccine.
In partnership with the National Center on Disability in Public Health through University of Washington LEND, our goal is to promote vaccine confidence in the developmental disabilities population. To support our efforts in disseminating this information, please pass along this blog and accompanying materials. If you’re interested in disseminating broadly, please email Valerie Unger at Valerie.firstname.lastname@example.org to provide the organization name and estimated number of people you will reach. Providing the numbers and regions this blog post reaches will help us in our ultimate goal to vaccinate all eligible people with disabilities.
A parent and a provider share their thoughts:
Katrina Davis is a family advocate at Seattle Children’s Autism Center and mother to Arthur, her 20-year-old beautifully complex young man with autism who gave his permission to share his story. Read full post »