The way one goes about getting a shot varies from state to state, but here in New York it’s done in increments. First, all the front line workers got them – doctors, nurses, anyone in the healthcare industry, police, firefighters, grocery store workers – anyone that has to face the public day after day. Then it went to the oldest citizens – people over 75, as well as those suffering from life-threatening illnesses. Gradually the field widened.
However, as is the case just about everywhere on the planet, there are more arms wanting shots than vaccines. Getting an appointment can be quite frustrating. I know. I tried like crazy to secure one. No luck.
Then on Wednesday something happened. My boss Rachel and I had a meeting on Zoom. One of the people we met with had an appointment to get a shot. I asked where. It was at a newly-opened vaccination center, created to serve more people. 25 minutes from my house. I just hit the new eligibility requirement so I asked her for the registration link. After I got off the Zoomer, I registered myself and figured it’ll take me forever to get a shot, but the site promised I’d get an email with an appointment.
Later, just as I sat down to dinner, Rachel called me. “They have 200 doses left over and they’re first come, first served, and it doesn’t matter what your eligibility is. We have to get there by 7:30. What do you think?” I glanced at my watch: 6:20. gulped my food down and ran out the door.
Outside, it was absolutely pouring. Jumped in the car and drove like an animal to get there. Never mind it was getting dark, the roads were flooded and I had to drive over a steep mountain and curvy roads. I get there. No parking. Apparently, lots of people heard about these extra doses. Miraculously, a parking spot opens up. I pull in and run out to secure a place in line. It’s then I realize I forgot my umbrella. I didn’t care.
My glasses are completely fogged up because I threw on my mask and didn’t arrange it to hug my face. I fix it and feel my phone buzz in my jacket pocket. It’s Rachel. She texted me: Are you here? I’m in line. I text back: Just got here. Where are you? My phone rings. It’s Rachel, again. We start talking only to discover she’s three people ahead of me, standing there with her boyfriend. Both are under umbrellas, masked and have the hoods up over their jackets. No way could I have picked them out!
The line moves, at least. But then a man comes out and says there might not be enough doses for all of us. He goes back inside. No one moves from their spot. Then another man comes out and says,” There are 500 doses for tomorrow. You can sign up for them right now. If you are in this line, you can come right over to me and I’ll book an appointment.” Rather than take a chance, I was the first to go over to him. Rachel and her boyfriend stood in line. Even though they would’ve received an appointment, they wanted to take their chances. But I got one. By the time I got to my car, I was completely soaked through, but the sense of relief I felt made up for it.
Rachel and her boyfriend stick it out. The man comes out again and counts ten people off. Rachel’s boyfriend is in front of her. At first it seems like she won’t get in. It turns into, “You go – no, you go.” But they had one more dose to give, and Rachel is the last person to get in for the night. She texts me as I get home and tells me. I’m so glad for her. Who knows how long she’d have to wait otherwise.
On Thursday, my heart is racing because I’m equal parts nervous, scared and excited to get my shot. You hear all sorts of things and don’t know what to believe. Rachel calls me first thing and gives me a full report about how she got her shot, how well run everything is, and the only problem she experienced is her arm is really sore. Apart from that, it’s all good.
I leave an hour early to get to the vaccination center. I don’t want to leave anything to chance. Parking is at a premium, so I made sure I had enough time to find a spot. Turns out, there’s a place only around the corner from the entrance. Already a line is forming for the extra doses that they start administering at 6:00 pm. But those of us who have appointments head right on in, and we’re directed to a series of tables. One is to fill out a form with our name and signature agreeing to take the shot. Then we wait in line for our turn.
This is what it looked like inside the vaccination center. The man in the orange vest directs people to tables. Then the people you see to the right are those who will be getting the shots. On the other side of the table is a medic and an assistant who ask general questions about allergies and such. Then up goes your sleeve and in goes the shot. After all trauma, the fear, depression, worry, this moment is surrealistic. It’s such a simple thing. This little dose of serum will save my life, and millions more. Such a small gesture is incredibly profound. It’s difficult to wrap my head around it.
After that, the assistant hands me a card. Printed on it is the CDC’s logo. It’s information containing what vaccine I’ve received, where it was given and a few other details. On the reverse is my second appointment date. I’ll get an email two days before with the time. Off to the rear is a waiting area. I’m directed to a seat as a volunteer hands me a bottle of water. As I sit for the required 15 minutes, I read the handout I’ve received. It explains what to expect once you’ve had the shot, what to do if you have a reaction, what the Moderna vaccine is made off and other basic information.
My 15 minutes was up. I was free to go. So I left.
That line of walk-ins grew threefold while I received my shot. I walk past them, knowing that they’ll have the same opportunity I did. Once I’m inside my car, an enormous sense of relief overwhelmed me. Actually, I started crying. I was on my way to being safe. I could start to make plans soon. I could have a sniffle and a cough and not imagine I have COVID-19. Driving home, all I could think about was how fortunate I was, and how foolish people are for not wanting to get the shot. All these months of wondering and waiting came to less than a half-hour spent in a vaccine station that will save my life.
The next day, my arm hurt. Really hurt. And boy, was it stiff! Took some pain reliever and it mostly went way. Got a bit of a headache too. I was told to expect to feel run down after the second shot, like I have a really bad cold, but that’s my immune system kicking in, showing my body that the vaccine is working. And come one day in May, the vaccine will be fully integrated into my body and I’ll be completely safe. And saved. If COVID-19 comes after me, it’ll be a cold and nothing more.
If you’re reading this, please get yourself a shot. Many vaccination centers have open walk-in appointments at the end of the day, with no age or other qualifications necessary. Moderna and Pfizer serums need to be used up and quite often there are doses left. Go on your county website or Facebook page for more information.
Above all, don’t be afraid to take the vaccination. The life you save won’t only be your own, but everyone’s. For if we’re all vaccinated, the virus won’t have anyplace to go. Imagine that.