I received my first COVID-19 vaccination shot over the weekend. The choice was personal. But things weren’t always so absolute.
For weeks, I was firmly against getting the shot. I have no particular aversion to needles. I trust health officials; the coronavirus has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives in the U.S. Its spread will have far-reaching consequences for some time.
The internal struggle was real.
I was slow to warm to the idea of a vaccine on the market within a year of a worldwide health emergency, even though the research behind it has been underway since the 1980s. None of us can really deny the importance of the vaccine as we seek a return to a semblance of normalcy.
Still, I wasn’t getting the shot. Close friends and trusted colleagues urged me to reconsider.
What changed? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recent recommendation that fully-vaccinated people could forgo masks in public. I place a great deal of trust in data and science, unlike COVID-19 deniers and anti-vaxxers. But could I trust that everyone now running around without a mask really has been vaccinated? No.
After a week of stalling, I made good on my change of heart Saturday. With the help and encouragement of a good friend who had been vaccinated, I went online, set an appointment for a local CVS, and walked in less than 12 hours later for the first of two doses of the Pfizer vaccine.
An older gentleman greeted me with a thumbs up after small talk about my visit. The pharmacist who administered the shot was quite friendly after the rather harmless poke. My friend asked me if I was nervous. I was not, I told her.
Less than 10 minutes after checking in and taking a temperature scan, the procedure was complete. I was instructed to return in June for the second dose.
“That’s it?” I said to the pharmacist.
“That’s it,” he replied.
We all have a social responsibility to vaccinate. But full vaccination will be difficult, health experts say. Holdouts slow the process.
I didn’t feel that way two weeks ago. Despite scientific evidence showing the vaccine was relatively safe, I turned my nose up at the idea of being injected.
Admittedly, I’ve never taken the flu shot, something offered by my employer. No particular reason other than the personal freedom not to.
That’s the beauty of this country. We have freedom to make the best choices for ourselves and our families. But we also have an obligation to protect our neighbors and friends. I’m no saint. Long ago, I learned you don’t get a pat on the back for doing what’s right. The vaccine shot is more than protecting your personal health. It really is a step for the common good of mankind.
Last week, The New York Times ran a story headlined, “Meet the four kinds of people holding us back from full vaccination.” They include the watchful, the COVID-19 skeptics, the cost-anxious and the system distrusters.
I identified as “watchful,” a crowd taking a wait-and-see approach to the vaccine. We wear masks, practice social distancing and regularly wash our hands, yet remain hesitant to commit to the shot right away.
COVID-19 deniers were more apt to believe pandemic-related conspiracy theories, including that microchips were somehow implanted with the vaccine.
The unidentified pharmacist (CVS employees aren’t allowed to speak with the media) seemingly read my mind.
“No microchip can fit in there,” he cracked. “See you in three weeks.”
As expected, there was some minor soreness in my arm the day after my first dose. The discomfort was a small price to pay to help slow a pandemic that has killed so many and changed how we all live.
We’ll see how the second shot turns out.