I feel like I just won the lottery. Yesterday morning I opened my email and discovered an invitation to go that afternoon to get my first shot of the vaccine. I panicked that maybe I had missed the window to register already, so quickly filled out the form and sent it in. Immediately I got a return email with a time to appear at the Rockingham County Fairground. My husband had also gotten an email, so we filled out his registration and he got a time right after mine.
Our time was 4:12 pm. We turned into the fairground about 3:45 and were confused at first about where to go. The grounds were filled with trucks and trailers, cows and horses. Signs pointed to “Barn event.” Was this the right place? We kept driving down a winding road and came at the end to a small sign: “Vaccinations.” The lot was filled with cars, but these were practical Subarus, SUV’s, and Prius’s. The vaccinations were taking place in a huge exhibition hall probably used more recently for 4H displays of pies and jams, now arranged for a snaking line of seniors in sensible shoes and mufflers. The atmosphere was calm, and the line moved quickly from registration tables to another line for actual injections, to check-out, where volunteers signed people up for their second shots. It all took about an hour for the two of us.
I feel such a sense of relief. Ever since the inauguration, the attention of the country has finally been able to shift from Trump’s desperate antics to try to stay in office to asking when we will get the vaccine. I filled out every form I could find, but specific information about when we would actually get the vaccine was impossible to come by. My best guess was late February or March if we were lucky.
The fire and rescue volunteer giving the shot said they would be doing local clinics like this three times a week into the foreseeable future — as long as it took. They expected to vaccinate 1000 people that day. The pace is definitely picking up under Biden, and the organization of the process is taking shape. And none too soon. The variants appearing on the horizon are making it look like the process of getting back to normal may be longer than we think and eventually we may need to get a booster shot.
It is a good news/bad news story. So far the variants in South Africa and Brazil seem to spread more quickly than the current strain but not be any more lethal. The UK variant, however, may be 30% more lethal. The vaccines we have appear to confer long lasting immunity and make any recurrent infection from a new strain much less severe. The emergence of variants threaten to lengthen the time it takes to reach herd immunity, however. Epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health said it won’t be decade of dealing with the virus, but, “The concern is whether it will be a year or three years until we can make enough vaccines against enough strains to get this under control.” Ugh, masks for another couple of years? Not a happy thought.
It is urgent to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible. The key will be cooperation. The best case, according to Dr. Francis Collins, NIH director, is that “people roll up their sleeves as quickly as possible to get to that 80 to 85 percent [vaccination rate] and no other strains emerge that are more resistant.
“The worst case is that if people ‘continue to be irresponsible,’ more transmissible variants will rip across the country and potentially escape vaccines, treatments and naturally acquired immunity.”
Despite the dark clouds still looming on the horizon, I feel more optimistic about the future than I have for a long time. At least for the next four years.