What it’s like to be among the first to get it
I was naive
For 10 months I thought that a COVID-19 vaccine would be found and then the vaccine would be distributed and administered and then I would get one. From that point on, Boom, the After Times would begin and look very much like the Before Times.
I dreamed about that day. I made plans to resume my old life. I went back to the coffee shops and sat down and enjoyed my latte. I would play pickup soccer again. I would go to stores without fear. I would go back to work and interact with my students. I would go back to the stadiums and cover games. We would see friends and go on vacation again. I would see my mother and family in Europe again. My dreams were small, but those were the things I was looking forward to.
I’m a college professor in my other job who qualified me for a vaccine in New York State last Monday. I don’t make rules, so direct your complaints to the governor. I stayed up late on Sunday and angrily made an appointment as soon as the clock struck midnight.
I was excited. My personal pandemic would be over.
At least it would be me if I had my second shot 28 days after the first and then waited another two weeks to complete the six-week vaccination process.
I got my first shot of the vaccine on Thursday evening. It was both a fearful and a joyful occasion. I feared that I would turn out to be ineligible after all, even though the language in the New York State Phase 1b eligibility rules was clear as a day. I was worried that it was so late in the day they might run out of cans or something. I was worried about everything.
After a quick temperature check on the door, I was shown into a room. What impressed me was how pleasant and upbeat the staff were so late in the day at this family health center in the Hudson Valley. The nurses had already worked an awfully long shift, but they were still chippers. They understood the importance of their work very well and it seemed to support them.
People had come to them in all sorts of moods, from scared to festive. But they’d all got a shot that would get them out of the pandemic. That was the part of the job that the nurses seemed to enjoy. “It’s a bit of hope for all of us,” one nurse told me.
The thing is, not much has changed yet. And that’s what I didn’t expect, what I didn’t prepare for.
And it won’t change drastically anytime soon. Now that I have been vaccinated, it turns out that things are not as simple as just resuming my old life. We are faced with other considerations, a whole series of new complications.
Our family was extremely careful during this pandemic. We didn’t go to grocery stores. We haven’t eaten in restaurants yet. We avoided overcrowded playgrounds. We didn’t get haircuts. We certainly didn’t take any planes or public transport. My son personally went back to preschool for a while until the numbers rose again in our area around Thanksgiving.
For a long time we wiped food and left our mail for a few days before opening it until it was confirmed that low-touch surfaces are most likely not to transmit the virus. We haven’t seen most of our friends in almost a year. We formed a capsule with my in-laws and committed each other to preserve the sanctity of our bladder.
In hindsight, we assumed that we had taken too many precautionary measures and were too careful. But that can only be true if neither of us gets sick. It only looks like an overreaction when it works. When we relax and one or more of us get sick, it means we haven’t done enough. There is no space between these two results. It’s a zero sum game. We may lose experience, but it is certainly better than losing a life – whether one of us or someone else. Or even to permanently lose the full function of your heart or nose or taste buds.
But now that all four adults in our pod got their first shots by a great godsend and favor of career choices, we have other things to attend to. My old life feels closer, but I can’t touch it yet.
Moderna assumes that there will be no data on children between the ages of 1 and 11 by 2022. That said, my 4 1/2 year old will be at risk for much longer. If the virus isn’t brought to its knees by herd immunity, he may be at risk for another year.
Up until now the worry had been the danger he put to uswho have favourited Adults in the Pod. Science said children were more likely to catch COVID asymptomatically at school and pass it on to adults. Now the concern is that we could there be him.
Because there is no clarity as to whether those who are vaccinated can transmit the disease and can transmit it to those who are not. This is the next stage in vaccine research. Scientists believe that, in theory, the vaccine should also prevent the spread. But they haven’t confirmed it yet.
Until we know that we cannot make our child sick, we need to adapt our lives accordingly after the vaccination. Like everyone else in this pandemic, we had to assess the risk that we are willing to tolerate. And how exactly you analyze that remains almost as exhausting as it was before the vaccine.
It will now be much safer for the adults to do things – although when it kicks in fully we are still only 94.1 percent protected, which means there is a 1:20 chance of infection if we do exposed to the virus. However, relaxing our own protocols has an inverse risk factor for our son. Furthermore, we could still potentially spread to other people, whether we know them or not, and inadvertently continue the pandemic.
The equation is different now – much cheaper, but still complicated.
Don’t get me wrong, we are very grateful for the vaccine. I am grateful that it was developed, produced and distributed so quickly. I am grateful that we got our turn relatively early. I am grateful that our family is much safer now.
But it is not the end of our worries. The pandemic does not end the day you are no longer at risk yourself.
Leander Schaerlaeckens is a columnist at Emox News and a lecturer in sports communications at Marist College. Follow him on Twitter @LeanderAlphabet.
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