My First Day at the Vaccine Shot Clinic

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My First Day at the Vaccine Shot Clinic

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I belong to a nonprofit organization called “Team Rubicon.” We normally devote resources and time to helping communities across the world recover from natural disasters while giving military veterans and Kick-Ass Civilians (my title within the org) a chance to serve in ways not otherwise possible. I’ve worked several community projects over the years, and I recently spent a day assisting one of my county’s COVID-19 vaccine clinics. I anticipated intrinsic benefit from the time spent, but I didn’t understand the extent of the highs and lows I felt that day.

At one site in one day, our collective efforts administered vaccine to more than 1200 of our neighbors. Most everyone I encountered was happy, excited even, to be there, despite what has largely become our collective increased levels of anxiety. I have new empathy for healthcare workers who don masks for 12 hours. I interacted with several folks, though, who exhibited truly crippling fear and anxiety. One would not even roll down their vehicle window to speak with us despite the prevalence of PPE on everyone in sight and within a hundred yards. Another patient wore a high-end, professional respirator and swim goggles; they refused to touch any paperwork or documents passed through the sliver-thick they created in their window only for that momentary purpose.

I lost my grandfather late last year, and speaking with several folks in his age bracket compelled me to tear-up a few times throughout the day. I’m grateful those grandparents, and likely great-grandparents, will very soon be much more likely to be around for future holidays. A deep breath or two, a forced smile, and on to the next patient. We don’t have the right to project our struggles onto those we’re trying to help.

For most of the folks I met, the relief emanated from them like sunlight. Many intended to travel soon, some just wanted their basic freedoms back. Almost all expressed imminent plans to see absent family members and finally hold those most important in their lives. Without fail, everyone laughed when I asked, "Do you have an appointment to get shot today?"

For me, the hardest part came at the very end of the day. The last group in line, in fact. A caretaker came in with two elderly patients with significant COVID risk factors. They weren’t on the confirmed appointment list despite having a digital confirmation in their email. For reasons unknown, it appeared to them they had appointments that day, but no such corresponding record existed to support that, which meant there was no vaccine for them. None. Doses could not be brought over or manifested regardless of what everyone wished could be done. As I understand it, the vials are stored in deadly-cold temps and cannot be retrieved for immediate delivery. All the fear, anxiety, and outrage those “confirmed” appointments might have lessened or dispelled for them came rushing back, and their anger had only one target: the guy saying, “No.”

I intend to continue this volunteer mission, and I look forward to working ourselves out of a job. Someday, perhaps, this entire episode of our lives can become a bad collective memory we all agree never to discuss again.

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This item was submitted on January 24, 2021 by [anonymous user] using the form “Share Your Story” on the site “A Journal of the Plague Year”:

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