Today, I got my first dose of the vaccine. At some point in the future, that may be a vague sentence, and people may not know which vaccine that means, or why I felt that it was important enough to blog about it. I mean, I don’t go around and cry from the rooftops when I get a tetnus booster. Today, though, we all know exactly what this means.
In many ways, this feels somewhere between anticlimactic and miraculous. I had to cancel two previous appointments, first because of a nagging sinus infection that left me ill and feverish, and the second because I was busy having pneumonia. Although I am still recovering from the pneumonia, my doctor cleared me to have the vaccination, and after a week or so, I was able to get an appointment at the local pharmacy. While the other teachers I know went to the big mass vaccination center with other teachers and felt a sense of camaraderie and hope, I went alone to the local pharmacy and had a poke in my arm, got a fairly immediate headache, and went home for a nap. I did not feel like anything life-changing had happened.
On the other hand, I do feel a sense of relief, as now I know that when I am unwillingly dumped back into in person teaching next month, I will have been vaccinated. My second dose is on the Sunday morning before the “first” day of school, which should be interesting. Also, I can go out and about in the world now with a bit less hesitation. As the asthmatic in my family, and the one who catches every single germ that floats by, I have spent an extensive chunk of the last year in my house and yard, with minimal forays into the actual world. This morning, entering the grocery store to walk to the pharmacy for my vaccination was at least as nerve-wracking as going to get the shot. I still do not feel like I have the slightest handle on how risky any sort of behavior is any more, and what I can or should do in order to keep myself, my family, and the greater community safe, but it seems more likely now that more than staying home will be on the virtual adventure table once again.
My parents and step-parents and in-laws have been vaccinated too, which took a huge weight off of my mind. They are all over 70 and most have a number of other conditions, and I have spent the last year watching the numbers rise stratospherically in California, where they all live, with a kind of paralyzing alarm.
The miraculous part is that a vaccine has come about at all. I know how medical science works, and that research and development of new drugs and new vaccines is a very time consuming process. A year ago, I did not think there could be a vaccine within about five years. Of course, a year ago, I was scared and I was confused, but, even so, I did not expect any of what has happened in the last year to come about: the massive waves of illness, the mystifying politicization of public health, the unwillingness of so many to take simple measures that could benefit society as a whole, the obscene amount of death. Miraculously, though, scientists put that aside and shared information and worked tirelessly and capitalized on existing and current research, and they did it. They made a vaccine. And another one. And another one. And another one. While distribution is complicated and frustrating and unevenly and inequitably skewed toward the developed world, that is still miraculous.
We may have spent the last twelve months swallowed up by a dark and terrifying tunnel, but now there is a light at the end. Spring has arrived, vaccine distribution is speeding up and widening to include more groups, and this year, perhaps, we will experience a truer sense of rebirth than we have had for a very long time.
If you are looking for me, I’ll be outside, wearing my mask, carrying my hand sanitizer, and blinking owlishly at the light as I ponder the world, and me, turning and returning to life once again.