I was thrilled when I heard that vaccines were on the way. Yes, it’s going to be several months before it’s my turn (I’m non-essential). And yes, the two-shot series requires some time in between and some time after before you get the effects.
And yes, greater than 90% protection isn’t the same thing as 100%.
But still, I was hopeful. And I still am.
I was thrilled by the news — though still recognizing that there’s a ways to go before the new normal gets here.
I was thrilled — and then I was shocked.
Vaccines Are Preventative, Not Curative. Disappointed That Not Everybody Knew That.
I was shocked because of how other people responded to the news. A lot of people don’t seem to understand how vaccines work. They don’t seem to understand that vaccines are preventative, not curative.
I watched — in real time (since I live in a very busy densely populated area, with a good view of public spaces from my window) — people wear masks LESS after the announcements. I was puzzled by this, until my partner, who is on the board of a large non-profit and deals with the public a lot in that capacity, filled me in.
“They think the vaccine is going to save them if they catch it,” he said.
It was one of those disappointing moments, one that can crush you if you let it, to realize this. It seemed absurd. But I soon discovered he was right. I began to see it everywhere, this false sense of security over the vaccine arriving soon — or soonish, if you’re like me.
Realistically? I’m hoping I’ll be vaccinated by May 2021. I haven’t seen my in-laws since April 2019 and my family of origin since December 2019 (when I took a trip from Texas to Maine to be with my terminally ill father for Christmas, at his request; he passed in April 2020), since we live cross country from both families — and those are the highest priority, either having them visit us or visiting them. Even then, I know the vaccine won’t necessarily be a magic bullet situation. Especially if the numbers haven’t gone down, I’m likely to still wear some form of PPE while traveling (or wait to travel until the numbers go down, depending).
It’s the new normal — not the old normal. You have to be prepared that it might trail off in a weird tail, not a sudden finger snap.
So yes, I was a bit surprised. A little disappointed… at people buying into this false sense of security. But to be fair, it’s been a long year. We’re all tired. And people really want their winter holidays to be normal. So much that it’s easy to do things they shouldn’t.
The Siren Song of False Security
I don’t condone this. But I get it. It’s funny… before the pandemic happened, I had just settled down in our new home at Texas, having originally stayed behind to fix up and sell our 90-year-old house in Ohio while my partner went to start at his new job opportunity down here.
Those months leading up to finally moving were so long — when I was on my own in a house so empty that my voice echoed whenever I spoke, packing up everything we owned for the movers, taking loads of items to be donated, working night and day painting walls, landscaping, coordinating with contractors who would do the things I couldn’t do (like painting the exterior of our house), cleaning up after folks who came to see our place (they always tracked dirt and mud in), redoing the kitchen cabinets, all sorts of miscellany.
Even flying to spend the week with my partner in the middle of it was another task. I was pet-sitting while he flew to another state to do part of his company training — and also making sure SOMEONE was there to get our stuff if the movers showed up while he was out of town.
I’m glad we did it, but it was stressful. Before the pandemic hit, I had thought things would go back to normal, that I’d get to relax. Life is funny.
This Is a Long Time for Something Temporary
Anyway, when I was in the thick of it, I was talking to someone — and I can’t remember who it even was now, my memories of that time are so scrambled, and I couldn’t find a clear attribution in my private diary I kept at the time — I was telling them about how stressful it was. That I felt silly, however, even so… for being stressed. Because it could be a lot worse.
But that the hardest part was that I didn’t know exactly when it would end. It depended on a lot of things I couldn’t control — contractor schedules, plane ticket prices, how the home sale was going, and whether the Ohio BMV could ever get the documents to me that I needed to transfer ownership of my car to someone else.
And I felt foolish complaining about it, even so. Because this was stressful work, but it was work I was doing to prepare for what could be a truly exciting adventure.
And my friend — whoever it was — said, “No, that makes sense. This is a long time for something temporary.”
That phrase came back to me recently, thinking about the vaccine. This isn’t the end of the covid pandemic in the United States. It’s just the very beginning of the end. But it’s easy to let down your guard — and lord knows a lot of people want to. Because this is a long time for something temporary.
(And so is life, incidentally.)