I didn’t even feel the shot go in. I was still chatting with the pharmacist, asking how busy they’d been, learning that next week they expected to give out ten times as many vaccines.
“All done,” she said, pressing a bright red “Flu Fighter” band-aid onto my arm.
And that was that. One year and two weeks after our world shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a vaccine against that novel virus was being injected into my very own arm. It felt like a miracle, a miracle of science, but a miracle nonetheless.
Here’s how it happened.
We’re living in the Washington, DC area while my husband works as a foreign correspondent covering American politics for the Toronto Star. Even though the U.S. seems to be a month or two ahead of Canada in vaccine distribution, I hadn’t expected to get my Covid shot so soon. I was thinking my turn would come up in mid-May and I was happy enough with that timeline, to be honest.
Then two things converged that suddenly gave me the chance to get vaccinated right away. The first was that the state of Maryland (where we live, just outside the D.C. boundary) opened up eligibility to anyone with a wide range of pre-existing conditions that suddenly made me qualify. The second was that it was spring break and we’d planned to take several day trips to explore other parts of the state, hiking in parks and eating take-out picnics.
There are long waitlists for vaccine clinic appointments in the D.C. area and pharmacy slots are snapped up as soon as they are released. But when I plugged in the zip code for a far-flung county in a decided-ly pro-Trump and anti-vax part of the state multiple green-coloured open spots popped up. Hey, we were planning to take a road trip anyway. Vaccine road trip it is!
How it felt.
I’ve been hearing people talk about how emotional it can be to finally get your vaccine. A sense of overwhelming relief floods through many people and they end up quietly weeping during the fifteen minute waiting period that follows the shot. I was prepared for that emotional release, but I didn’t get it.
I went from feeling incredibly happy for about thirty minutes to instantly snapping back to worrying about Covid again. We had popped into an antique store in the small town where we got our shots not realizing the store housed a restaurant in the back. There must have been twenty people sitting around tables without masks on! OMG! You never saw a person tear through an antique shop like me. I looked like I’d caught fire. “C’mon, let’s get out of here,” I was hissing so as not to be heard, because of course I’m Canadian first, and didn’t want to be rude about it. I didn’t want to hurt the feelings of the tables full of maskless people during a pandemic.
Leave it to me to manage to catch to catch this thing after getting vaccinated, man. While I do think I dodged that particular bullet, I’m still counting down the days until I hit two weeks after this first shot. At two weeks I should have immunity that is 80% effective against contracting the coronavirus and 100% effective against hospitalization and death. At two weeks I won’t be diving back into mosh pits (oh god, remember those?) or even squeezing onto crowded elevators, but it will still be such a relief to be mostly protected. I may even take my laptop into an empty coffee shop. What a thought!
But what about the kids?
My wild imaginings about a post-vaccine life quickly hit a dead end when I remembered about the kids. None of the vaccines have been approved for paediatric use yet and I’m looking at a best-case scenario of this fall for my older kids and perhaps not until next year for my youngest. What does that mean for our family? What will it mean for all the families who are soon to be in the same boat?
If quarantine restrictions are eventually waived for vaccinated people, would that mean my kids still can’t travel home to see their grandparents? Are my visions of carefree restaurant dining as a family premature? Will next year’s school year still be subject to masks and distancing and other restrictions?
It’s clear that getting vaccinated isn’t a get-out-of-jail-free card for people with kids. Our days of weighing the risk of exposure before every outing and every decision aren’t over yet. But I’m also trying to remember that the stakes have changed. We know kids are far less likely to get seriously sick from this virus. And when most of the adults in our circles have been vaccinated, they won’t be likely spread it to anyone else who is especially vulnerable. We should still be careful but that certainly takes the paranoia-tinged edge off.
My real hope is that as vaccination rates increase we’ll see a dramatic drop in the community spread. I hope that adult vaccinations will be enough to achieve herd immunity and keep our kids safe. I hope that by summer we’ll be living much more carefree lives once again. I am crossing all my fingers and toes and hoping to get home for a visit before summer is out.
But we’re not there yet. Getting vaccinated is good. Getting everyone vaccinate would be great.