By MARSHA MERCER
I got my first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine this week and felt a surge of relief, gratitude and irrational exuberance.
Irrational because a first dose is just that. A second dose of the Pfizer vaccine is needed three weeks later for full effectiveness. Plus, we don’t know if someone fully vaccinated can spread the coronavirus.
I never expected to get misty over a shot, but I did. Months lost to waiting and worrying about COVID-19, the unpredictable, deadly disease that has upended all our lives, could be nearly over.
Millions of Americans are lining up every day and rolling up our sleeves to get something that literally could save our lives. We are so lucky.
Lucky all the pieces of the puzzle came together. Vaccines are available, and we trust them. We were able to sign up online, and we could get to a vaccination center at the day and time specified.
I pre-registered for a vaccination through the Alexandria Health Department one month and a day before I received the shot.
Yet not all Americans are lucky enough. People in rural areas who lack the Internet or transportation to a vaccination site can, and are, getting left behind. This must change.
At George Washington Middle School in Alexandria, kind and efficient medical staffers wearing masks and plastic shields took my temperature and asked the now-familiar screening questions about exposure to the coronavirus.
I received an orange slip of paper and stood in another short line in the gym until someone at one of the many tables waved me over with a green “READY” sign. After I got my shot, which I hardly felt, staff asked me to wait 15 minutes in case of allergic reaction. Like most people, I had no reaction at all.
“Your arm is going to be sore -- not right away. Probably tomorrow,” the nurse told me. “But that’s OK.” She was right. The soreness didn’t last.
The COVID-19 vaccination delivery system is finally working.
I also signed up online for my elderly dad who lives in Richmond. He got an appointment a couple of weeks later in January. The contact person said everyone on her call list was 88 to 99 years old.
I drove my dad to the center, and we were able to wait in the car until the shot came to him about 45 minutes after his appointed time. I was so grateful we didn’t have to use the wheelchair I’d borrowed – and grateful for the man who helped direct traffic and then went car to car, offering a prayer to each.
But vaccination delivery varies greatly depending on where you live. A friend’s mother has spent many hours on the phone, trying to book appointments for herself and her mother, who’s in her 90s. The experience left her in tears of frustration and anger.
More than 470,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, among them about 100,000 in the last month. Millions have lost their jobs and businesses. And yet, with the rollout of vaccinations, there’s hope.
The number of COVID-19 cases, deaths and hospitalizations nationally is dropping, though it’s still high.
President Joe Biden appears likely to meet his goal of 100 million shots in his first 100 days. About 1.5 million shots are being given daily, reported the White House, which is expanding doses and vaccination sites.
Experts say 70% to 90% of us need to get vaccinated to achieve herd immunity, when most of the population is immune either through having had the disease or vaccinations. More outreach is planned to Blacks and Hispanics, who are wary of the vaccines.
As more people get vaccinated and tell their friends and family, others are more likely to want vaccinations, surveys show.
“Perhaps more important than any message is the impact of seeing a neighbor, friend or family member get their shots without any adverse effects,” Kaiser Family Foundation President and CEO Drew Altman said, releasing a KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor survey Jan. 27.
About half those who want to get vaccinated as soon as possible know someone who has already gotten a dose.
I plan to get my second dose when I can. I urge you to roll up your sleeve, too. We can do this. We must.
©2021 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.