Preventive Health

My countdown to beat COVID-19 starts with a vaccine

Want to know how long we’ve been living in the shadow of the coronavirus? My friend can tell you. His Facebook posts provide a count of the days the COVID-19 pandemic has ruled us with lockdowns, closures, mandates, physical distancing, virtual holidays, limited sports, no concerts and far too few hugs.

The daily count is well into the 300s now, since life as we knew it screeched to a halt on March 13, 2020, and well …

I’ve had enough.

I’m getting vaccinated. Got my first Pfizer shot two weeks ago. I haven’t been so excited about a health care appointment since – ever.

Happiest shot ever

It wasn’t just me. That afternoon at the vaccination site, everybody was smiling.

Yes, we all wore masks that covered our faces from the bridge of the nose to under the chin and from one cheek to the other. No, we couldn’t see each other’s mouths. But I swear to you, big bright smiles burst right through those masks. Happiness danced in the eyes and sang from the voices.

You ready for your shot?

You bet. Sock it to me!

And that’s exactly what it felt like. I rolled up my left sleeve, got swabbed with alcohol and prepared for the needle prick. Instead, there was a dull thump, followed by an ache, which lasted a couple of days. Kind of like what I felt when my on-and-off neighborhood friend Gerald punched me there back in fourth grade.

I got the better of Gerald then. And now I’m going to get the better of COVID-19.

We all need to be vaccine warriors

The author with his brother, Pete, and sister, Tammy.

This is personal. My younger brother, Pete, died two days before Thanksgiving. Ten days before that, he was a happy, healthy retired guy. He was being careful, not taking silly risks. But he got sick with COVID-19 anyway. A few days passed. Then one morning – boom! Pete was gone.

I’m angry, because I can’t make sense of this. The randomness of COVID-19 is baffling. I know people who do everything right and get sick anyway. I know people who refuse to wear a mask and pack into crowded bars but keep rolling.

My brother’s wife got sick with COVID-19 and recovered. So did my 90-year-old parents with underlying conditions and my healthy younger sister and her husband. Same with one of my sons, his wife and their three kids. During those four weeks of hell, my wife and I were fully exposed, quarantined and never even sniffled.

How can this possibly be? I am done trying to figure it out. Just vaccinate me already.

It’s a quick and easy process

I am an OSF Mission Partner, but that’s not how I got into the pool for my shot.

No, I’m here because I am 65 and officially old. A few weeks ago, I received a notice from my primary care provider that vaccine appointments in the next seven days were available for me. I went online and selected my time.

When I showed up, there were two lines, each about six people deep. I looked around the waiting room, full of people. Everyone was masked and physically spaced. My first thought was that this would take a while. Wrong.

At the front of the line, they ask you a bunch of screening questions. Then you are told to sit in the waiting room until your name is called. Next, you go to an exam room, answer some more questions, get your blood pressure taken, roll up a sleeve, swab, shot, bandage and welcome to the exit room.

I was in and out in less than 30 minutes, half of which were spent in the exit room, where you sit for 15 minutes to make sure you don’t have an allergic reaction to the shot.

People in that room – complete strangers – chatted with excitement. I asked one of the nurses how the general mood had been.

“Wonnnnnderful!” she said.

As it should be.

This really is #OurBestShot

I have an older cousin who was stricken with polio as a child. She has spent almost her entire life with one arm that dangles motionless and one leg several inches shorter than the other. So my parents rejoiced when the polio vaccine became available to the masses a few years later and made sure I got it right quick.

As a kid, I suffered through chickenpox and measles, and my brother and sister also got the mumps. Thanks to vaccines, none of our kids and grandkids contracted any of those.

I don’t understand why some people refuse to get vaccinated. These things work. They stop disease. They stop death. They stop untold misery and suffering.

And here’s the biggest thing. When you get vaccinated, you don’t just protect yourself. You also contribute to the protection of everyone in your community.

For now, these COVID-19 vaccines are a two-shot deal. And the only countdown I’m watching these days is the one to shot No. 2.

I can’t wait.

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