ONE of the first people in the world to have the Covid vaccine has revealed that she suffered from a full range of side effects following her injection but said she was so ‘proud and privileged’ to have been able to have it.
Donna MacKinnon, aged 47 and head of care at Roscarrack House Care Home in Falmouth, together with her 18-year-old daughter Erin Lilly, who also works as a carer within the home, were the first people in Cornwall to receive their Covid-19 vaccination in last Wednesday.
She said the day after receiving the vaccine at the Royal Cornwall Hospital, Truro she went down with the full range of side effects which lasted 24 hours.
“I did have quite bad side effects,” she told the Packet. “I had the vaccination on the Wednesday then on the Thursday I had all of them. Fever, I was absolutely exhausted and I was sick through the night, aches and chills.
“[But] I was the only one out of 12, the only one out of all our employees.”
UK regulators have already issued a warning that any person with a history of a significant allergic reaction to a vaccine, medicine or food (such as previous history of anaphylactoid reaction or those who have been advised to carry an adrenaline autoinjector) should not receive the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine.
However, this is likely to be only a very small number of people in the UK.
While this does not apply to Donna, she believes that as she was still yet to fully recover from Covid she caught back in the spring this may have had an effect.
“I haven’t been fully well since I had Covid in April. It takes a long time to recover. I was off for six weeks and in hospital twice,” she said.
Before the pandemic struck Donna said she had been very fit, running a couple of marathons and regularly going to the gym. “We were quite stressed during that period and run down,” she said. “We had five residents with Covid and we were all working and I had Covid and my mum died.”
She said she has no idea why she was chosen to be the first to have the vaccine.
“We were one of the first care homes in Cornwall to be hit by Covid before everything was put in place,” she said. “Doctors said if you get Covid in your building you’ll just have to deal with it.”
She said there was a lot of support from the members of staff who had to pick up the slack when Covid struck including her daughter Erin who started off working in the kitchens but stepped up to the plate to help out with the residents when other staff were poorly. She had such an aptitude for it she is now a fully qualified member of the care staff herself.
“People really rallied round,” said Donna. “People in the community came to do shifts for us. People were really helpful. After that I was asked to do a lot of talking to other care homes about how to manage.”
She said it was amazing to take the vaccine and she was so ‘proud and privileged’ to be one of the first in the world to be able to take it.
She said she understood why some people wouldn’t be able to take it but as head of care at a home with vulnerable residents she had a duty to do so to set an example.
“It’s up to people to decide whether it’s right for them to have the vaccines,” she said. “Yes, I had side effects but we have got to keep moving forward.
“Everybody’s got their own opinion for their own personal reasons not to have the vaccine. It is absolutely their own decision. For me as head of care, if I had said no then what right do I have to ask other people to come forward? We have to put ourselves out there.”
She said it had been awful during the pandemic with residents and carers mental health at ‘rock bottom’. Residents were exiled to their rooms for about eight weeks. But she can see new hope now the staff have now all had the vaccine.
Speaking at the thospital at the time of the vaccine Donna said: “As a carer I wanted to do all that I can to protect our residents and their loved ones and that’s why I have had my vaccination today.
“We have had residents who have become poorly with the virus at our home and we’ve seen first-hand the impact it has had on their lives, those of their families and their friends inside and out of the home.
“I feel quite overwhelmed; it almost feels as if Christmas has arrived early. I know my colleagues across Cornwall feel exactly the same way as I do, which is why so many have already signed up to have the vaccination.”
Donna’s daughter Erin added: “Today is a really wonderful day and I’m looking forward to getting back to work and telling the residents about the vaccination and what they can expect when they receive it, and the protection it will provide.”