First. Dose. Done.

Photo by Gustavo Fring from Pexels

I was conflicted. You might be too. Am I too healthy to deserve the COVID-19 vaccine? I’m not that overweight. I don’t smoke that much. Am I too isolated to deserve the COVID-19 vaccine? Sure, my wife and roommate work in-person 5 days a week, but I work from home.

What exactly does it mean to deserve a vaccine during a pandemic, anyway?

I signed up. I told myself from the beginning that as soon as the vaccine was made available for me, I would not pass it up. I would protect myself, my family, and my community.

The PA Department of Health expanded Phase 1A of its vaccine rollout to include everyone over 65 years old, regardless of health or exposure, and those from 16–64 years old with high-risk conditions.

Great news for those of us who have been yelling into the Twitter void about getting shots in arms. Approving more people and more vaccines (like AstraZeneca, which is already being produced in the US) will help push us towards herd immunity, which is currently estimated to occur sometime in mid-July. However, this would clearly send demand skyrocketing. Will there be enough shots? Am I taking a shot away from someone who deserves it more?

What exactly does it mean to deserve a vaccine during a pandemic, anyway?

My wife is a clinical provider in the school setting and received her first dose last week. In and out. She experienced zero side effects — besides the overwhelming emotions that come with realizing you’re one step closer to putting this historic pandemic behind you. Our medical provider was on the ball getting shots in arms. I was so happy for her and could not wait for my opportunity, which, at the time, I figured would be late spring.

When the guidelines changed last week, I was notified that individuals with an elevated BMI, a history of smoking, or conditions such as high blood pressure and asthma were all now invited to get the vaccine, I froze. I have an elevated BMI, and I smoke my fair share of cigars. My family has a long history of heart problems.

Is it really my turn?

It was Tuesday night; I couldn’t sleep. This is normal for the first week of classes. The excitement and anxiety of making sure the semester gets started without any hiccups were coupled with this new information of signing up for a COVID-19 vaccine.

I checked my health provider’s app and went through the process. There were appointments available the first weekend of February at an office 2.5 hours away. I didn’t book. I wasn’t sure if I really deserved to get the vaccine this “early.” Plus, it was 2am and office hours started in a few hours.

An opinion article in the NY Times says it best:

It’s important not to conflate the systemic problems plaguing vaccine rollout with the choices we make as individuals within this flawed system.

I continued to check the appointment-booking website the following day during office hours that were poorly attended. More and more times and locations opened up. It was clear they had the vaccine, and I had an arm for one.

I booked a time for two-days later at a provider 30 minutes away. I took a deep breath. I could always cancel if I weren't worthy of a vaccine. Right? The decision weighed on me more than I thought it would.

Don’t show up more than 10 minutes early. Bring your government-issued ID. Be prepared to stay 15-minutes after your appointment for observation.

Google Maps said it would take 37 minutes to get to the hospital, where I would take part in a moment that I would remember for the rest of my life. I gave myself plenty of time and arrived 25-minutes early. Found parking and waited. No looking back now.

My appointment was at 1:20pm. I walked in the front doors wearing two masks and a Happy Valley Improv sweatshirt at 1:10pm. Within minutes, an N95-wearing medical professional yelled to those of us in line, “Anyone with a 1:20 appointment can come with me.” Another patient and I went to a podium where we had our temperatures and ID checked, in that order.

“Go see Lauren in the leopard print shirt; she’ll take care of you,” we were told. Lauren checked us in with what I’m guessing was a huge smile behind her mask and had us sit, 6 feet apart, in a waiting area. Within minutes my name was called, and I made my way back to what looked similar to the cubical I worked at as an intern. At least 5 other people were getting their first doses at the same time. People were laughing. People were thanking each other. For the first time during this pandemic, I felt life in a public setting.

Pfizer. Left-arm. I go back on February 16th.

I thanked the woman who gave me the vaccine. I almost teared up when I reassured her how important her job was at this moment in history.

This is the first public announcement I’ve made about getting the vaccine because I know I will be judged. Some people are at a higher risk than I am to contract COVID-19 who are not even eligible — my mom is one of them. I don’t deny that one bit. However, we need shots in arms.

I hope you make the same call if you are on the fence about signing up for a vaccine. As soon as you are eligible in your state, do it. Let’s trust science and get this virus behind us.

Economics Educator. Improviser. Community Builder. Always looking for the next new thing, for better or for worse.

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