As the COVID-19 vaccines roll out, and there are more people becoming “eligible” for their doses—either two or one—there is also a lot more chatter on social media about who is actually getting them and who is not. And more importantly, who is most deserving. I’ve seen posts from friends and acquaintances who are gleefully posting about their doses and describing the side effect of “happiness.” Then there are the more disturbing posts about frontline workers who are refusing to get vaccinated. As I doomscroll through Twitter, attitudes like, “I’ll wait and see what it does to you first,” or, “I really don’t care if I get the virus…” appear in personal accounts and news stories.
When I made my appointment, I didn’t post a thing on my Facebook page. Our practice—Angelo’s therapy and the supervision program–was identified as eligible in the initial phase and even though we both promptly signed up, I still felt uncomfortable. Angelo was anticipating in-office appointments for some of his clients and we were waiting for the go-ahead to begin scheduling face-to-face visitations. I also made sense of it since we were caring for my 90-year-old father in our home, but I still felt somewhat uneasy about getting it ahead of other, more deserving arms; like my own daughter, who works in a grocery store. I could reel off a dozen names and professions in a minute who I thought should get the vaccine before me. I especially felt that teachers should. With the great push to open schools, who needed vaccinations more than teachers?
I made my appointment, but I still felt like I was doing something wrong, until about two days before the appointed time. I got a phone call from the clinic asking if I could come in that afternoon—in less than an hour in fact—because they had doses they would have to throw out because so many people hadn’t shown up. I realized I could make it happen, except for one question: I had gotten my second shingles dose less than two weeks earlier and I heard that it could conflict with the COVID vaccine. I asked the nurse, would that matter? She put me on hold to ask her supervisor and when she came back, she said I should actually wait four weeks between vaccines. So, not only could I not go that day, I was going to have to change my original appointment for a few days later.
I called my own doctor and she said two weeks in between was fine so I kept my appointment for the first dose. Then I made an appointment for the second dose for a month later. And I decided that getting the shot was the right thing to do. The analogy I made up is that if bullets were flying and someone offered me a bulletproof vest, I’d take it. Of course, there would be more qualified people who needed the protection, but walking around looking for someone more deserving in a battlefield could get me killed. If I put the vest on first it would allow me to help others, much the way that the more people who get vaccinated contribute to the herd immunity we’re all waiting for.
This global pandemic is very much like a battlefield. We are in a situation where every human is at risk for contracting a virus through ever increasing transmission rates and evolving strains. There’s no precedent for this; vaccination plans are being rolled out in all shapes and sizes. You can’t just simply give up your place in line for a friend or otherwise medically complex person. It’s not like you snagged the last ticket for the Springsteen show, but you give it to your cousin who is a diehard fan because she would appreciate it more. This is the fault of the system, not the individual. Wanting to hold out for someone who is more deserving isn’t actually that altruistic, generous or even reasonable, because vaccines for humans in a pandemic don’t work that way. When it’s your turn, you get it, because that’s how you help your cousin–or whoever you think should get it before you.
Vaccines belong in arms, not vials. As Hamilton famously said: “I’m not throwing away my shot!”