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I received my first dose of the Moderna vaccination against COVID-19 on January 25, 2021. I must admit, I had my reservations about receiving it. After considering my situation as an incarcerated individual, I thought it was the best form of protection I had. In a medical facility where the coronavirus seems to be as routine as the common cold, I felt the vaccination would be the best safeguard against the virus.

Despite my skepticism, I sat in the chair and allowed the nurse to stretch my arm before inserting the needle into my flesh. She was gentle; so much so that I had to ask her if she had administered the shot. 

After receiving the vaccine, the staff gave each of us a timer set to beep when 15 minutes had passed to ensure we did not have any allergic reactions to the vaccine. Everyone in the housing unit chose to receive the vaccine with the exception of two women. Those of us that did all seemed to tolerate it well. Until later that evening.

It was later that evening when we all experienced this same achiness in our bodies. Many women experienced redness, swelling, and hardness at the site of the injection. Thankfully, that was the only side effect that I experienced. Only one person reported symptoms of the virus after the injection. The next day we were all tested. She was indeed positive for COVID-19 and moved to a different housing unit designated for those with the virus.

Almost simultaneously, four other people also tested positive and were moved as well. It seemed as if each time we were tested, someone else was positive and was moved. We have usually been tested using the rapid test. While we waited for the results, we stood at our cell doors, hoping against hope that a nurse did not walk in our direction. If they did, it was to inform you that you had tested positive and had to pack your belongings to be moved into a “Red Zone,” as it is called.

We await test results holding our breath. I pray it continues to skip over me. All of us who received vaccinations on that day were due for our second injection on February 22, 2021. I’m looking forward to having it done since we have all been moved around yet again, from one housing unit to another. The only constant in Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women is change. I find it troubling.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Chanell Burnette is a writer incarcerated in Virginia.