While many have described the physical benefits of the COVID-19 vaccination and extolled its remarkable success rate, few have described how it lifts the spirits. It’s wondrous to walk out of a vaccination center thinking, “so many have died. Now I have the chance to live.” Seems like that exhilarating exit should be heralded by mariachis, a gospel choir, brass band or string quartet.
I know: many have not yet had the opportunity for vaccination; many have wasted agonizing hours trying to get scarce appointments; the supply of vaccine seems limited. The communities of color where deaths have been disproportionately high lag behind on vaccinations. So, some readers may want to file this away for the future when all have better access. Pundits have joked how “Operation Warp Speed” turned to “Operation Lost Turtle,” but finally it seems to be accelerating. Old people like myself are getting the chance–so we rejoice.
My appointment came about because a friend, a former ICU nurse called, sounding urgent. “Go to this website,” she said tersely. This was clearly no time for chit-chat. “They have openings if you hurry.” Indeed, the city of San Francisco in cooperation with Kaiser Medical had opened a huge facility at a downtown convention center. I had no idea where it was or how it worked, but I grabbed a time slot.
I arrived ready to wait, bringing a book and three magazines to read. To my astonishment, the whole process took less than half an hour. Plenty of staff directed us to follow the “yellow brick road” of arrows painted on the floor. They were prepared to inoculate 10,000 a day, but apparently that number had not materialized. Those who came were shepherded so efficiently through that by the time I thanked the nurse who administered the shot, I was almost teary.
“You don’t really need it,” she responded kindly. “But would you like a smiley face band-aid?”
“My grandchildren would love it!” And indeed, one took a photo for all the others.
They understand only that now grammy probably won’t get sick. From her standpoint, it opens the chance, denied for a year, to hug a beloved son and daughter, see grand-daughters in Seattle who have probably grown taller than me in so much time. Travel beckons—after the blessing of that second shot—and restaurants, meetings in person, all the life and culture we once took for granted.
It’s heartening to be part of probably the largest world-wide vaccination effort in history. Yes, our country goofed up a lot. But now we’re trying to remedy. We’re the beneficiaries of countless scientists and medical researchers working hard, staying up late at night and developing this vaccine with unheard-of rapidity. Writing in the NEW YORK TIMES 2/2/21, David Leonhardt acknowledged the lack of data on variants, but quoted Dr. Aaron Richterman, an infectious-disease specialist at the University of Pennsylvania: “In terms of the severe outcomes, which is what we really care about, the news is fantastic.” Surveying test results of five potential vaccines, Leonhardt concludes: “don’t confuse uncertainty with bad news. The available vaccine evidence is nearly as positive as it could conceivably be.”
That could lead to the relief of Israelites escaping slavery in Egypt, or survivors of World War II celebrating VE or VJ day. At last, we can live without the constraint of fear, in what the gospel terms “the freedom of God’s children.”
I couldn’t restrain copious thank yous to the staff at the center, and even the most ordinary yellow flowers beside the road going home glowed with new radiance. When we’ve been part of miracle, its light surrounds and pervades us. We walk forward in grace and gratitude.