We are one year into the COVID pandemic. It is an incredibly sad anniversary. More than 500,000 Americans are dead from the disease. Virtually everyone knows someone who is no longer with us because of this virus. There are still more cases coming, and that means that there will be more deaths to count in the days ahead. We have come through a dark time unlike any other in memory. There has been an ocean of tears shed.
But even as we recount this grim milestone we are heading in a new direction. The vaccines to counter COVID have been given provisional approval. Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson and Johnson have all come up with vaccines that have tested to be safe and effective. We are now in a national push to get as many vaccinated as quickly as possible. This is the way that we can regain some sense of normalcy in the year ahead.
People are lining up and getting their shots. I have heard numerous stories of those who have endured online waits and inline delays—all so they can be safe and insure the safety of those around them. I have heard of many who sort of ‘lucked into’ a shot that might have been discarded otherwise. I have heard the tales of those who happened to be in the right spot at the right moment to get a shot even if they may not have qualified otherwise. Mind you, I’m not complaining one bit. I want to see everyone vaccinated ASAP.
Last week I finally became eligible for vaccination. I’m only 62 so it was taking a while before we got through those who were older, and those living in nursing homes, and those front line health care workers who needed to be vaccinated first. Again, I’m not complaining. I applaud those who have worked tirelessly for the past year to attend to the medical, physical, mental, and spiritual needs of others. These folks deserve a great deal of appreciation, and I want them to be and stay healthy for their own sakes and the sakes of others.
But the combination of my age and medical conditions (hypertensive, diabetic, history of heart arrhythmia) finally got me on the list. So last Wednesday I got active in the process of finding some vaccine. As with most everything else that has happened in the last year—it was all online. Through a variety of websites I registered for the waiting list in Knox County. I also found some pharmacies that would administer shots—but the one closest to me had an answering machine and informed me that it could be up to a month. Waiting was going to be a big part of the game it appeared.
And I could have waited for results from that process. But there was also another site that was designed for finding vaccines in Tennessee. Once I got myself there I could find numerous places that had available vaccine and could also schedule an appointment to get it. It was not just in Knox County either. This site was including outlying health departments and facilities that could help.
I found an opening on Friday a couple of counties away. Fridays are usually a Sabbath day for me and an off day for our church staff. Great! So I got myself signed up in short order. An email arrived quickly confirming my appointment for Moderna-shot 1. Yay! This was quick, effective, and I would not really have to wait all that long.
It also required an hour’s drive out of town. So I got breakfast and a cup of coffee and headed that way. Traffic was not too bad since I was heading out of town. It was a gray morning, but the rain was not due till in the afternoon. GPS guided me to the location which I found without problem. This was going very smoothly.
The Claiborne County Health Department had erected a large white tent with a sturdy aluminum frame in back of the regular building. It was large enough for two lines of vehicles to pass through. It was staffed by 6-8 nurses in gowns and face masks and shields. There was a National Guardsman out front to insure that folks behaved and moved along as briskly as prudent. I got myself in line and pulled out the paper confirmation of my appointment and also pulled it up on my phone. I got out my photo ID as well.
I didn’t have to wait but about 10 minutes before I was greeted and checked in by a very pleasant lady who had all my information. I read the warnings and instructions and signed the consent forms. It was a good stick and I was told to go around and park in front of the building and wait 15 minutes. If I felt I was having any reaction, then I was to blow my horn and someone would be right there to check on me.
It another sign of how quickly they were responding to the circumstances, the health department had dug out a bank and made an exit way around the building where there had not been one before. It was still graveled and the bank was covered with straw to keep the grass seed in place. There are so many ways in which we have had to adjust and adapt in this process.
I sat and waited. Someone came around and checked on me even without blowing my horn. Some others in the car next to me were getting quick tests for COVID. I did a couple of small tasks on my iPad—something that would have been unthinkable for me just a few years ago. I set the timer on my smartwatch—again, something new—Dick Tracy would have been proud. I waited my time, then headed back towards the house.
By the time I was home I had an email advising me about setting up my follow-up shot in 28 days. I made that appointment online as well, but for yet another health department in another county so that it would fit my schedule.
So the very week I was eligible, I was vaccinated. I arranged all of it online. I have my follow-up on the books. I am relieved, or at least starting to feel that way. Right now, truth be told my arm is sore, but my soul is hopeful. It was not the typical shot that one reaches for, but I found it a shot of comfort nevertheless.