April 1, 2021

Why COVID-19 Vaccines are Giving me Hope—Finally.

*Editor’s Note: Elephant is not your doctor or hospital. Our lawyers would say “this web site is not designed to, and should not be construed to provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, or treatment to you or any other individual, and is not intended as a substitute for medical or professional care and treatment. Always consult a health professional before trying out new home therapies or changing your diet.” But we can’t afford lawyers, and you knew all that.

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Please get vaccinated as soon as you are able.

When the coronavirus hit us in early 2020, we were blindsided by a swift loss of control and blinding fear as tens of thousands were hospitalized overnight, gasping for breath on ventilators, alone in their beds praying to be spared and to, once again, be embraced by their families.

As we watched the news each day, the numbers of positive COVID-19 cases soared along with the death toll and our collective fear. For months, the list of what we didn’t know grew longer each day, as the list of what we did know shrank. Businesses and schools shuttered, people stayed home as frontline workers were labeled as essential, and our economy suffered.

It was a difficult year of losses and grief, terror, and isolation. I was so anxious even the sunny warmth of summer couldn’t cool my fear. We tried to soothe ourselves with regular Zoom calls with friends and family—trying to satisfy ourselves with 2D videos of those we love, substituting video chat for face-to-face visits to express love and sorrow.

It wasn’t a fair trade-off.

One aspect of COVID-19 that instilled real horror in me was the idea of dying alone in a hospital room unable to talk or breathe. That is a real fear that kept me from relaxing or finding peace over the last year.

Nothing is an adequate substitute for the real human connections we lost and, over a year into it, haven’t recovered. I am still carrying the effects of it all, still waiting to hug my aunt and cousins, still waiting to enjoy the 3D IRL (in real life) company of my best friend. Still suffering through socially-distanced education as I struggle to connect with my students through face masks, endless rows of plexiglass desk guards, and trauma-worn spirits.

As spring 2021 eases in and warms our tired bones, one thing is slowly seeping into my heart and easing the aching dread.

Hope.

Hope. I haven’t felt hopeful in a long time.

The sun is shining, birds are singing, and I just received my one-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine through a partnership between my school district and Walgreens Pharmacy. (In fact, a former student who is now a pharmacist with Walgreens administered mine.) My parents and aunt received theirs a few weeks back, as did my sisters who are doctors. My husband and son got their first dose of the Moderna vaccine, as did my daughter.

As of today, over 2.89 million people have died worldwide from COVID-19, but over 596 million doses of the vaccine have been administered (this includes those who have been fully or partially vaccinated). All around the country and world, people are lining up in droves to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

And with it, we are feeling hopefulness injected into our hearts once again—hopeful that we will see the numbers of severe cases and deaths decrease dramatically.

The world’s countries are rising to the challenge to make these vaccines available to people around the world, all people, not just the people in rich countries—all people need to receive the required protection. (Read to see how rich countries reserved enough doses to vaccinate their populations many times over, while some nations may not reach mass immunization for years, here and here and here. ~ Ed.)

The World Health Organization and pharmaceutical companies worldwide are struggling to make enough doses for everyone and deliver and administer them. It’s going to take some time for the projected 60-70 percent of the world to be vaccinated in order to achieve herd immunity similar to the measles vaccine. (That’s roughly 7.8 billion people.)

I am not a scientist, so I can’t speak to the scientific details as to why this vaccine works and how long it will protect us, but I know it will keep us from contracting a severe case of COVID and prevent subsequent deaths, which is great. Scientists aren’t sure yet how long protection lasts or if we can still be carriers to other people. And we must remember that the COVID vaccines have not been approved for all age groups. There is no evidence that this vaccine is safe or effective in children. We must be patient and vigilant.

For these reasons, we must still practice the precautions, especially the masking, the physical distancing, the handwashing, and not gathering in big groups. We cannot let pandemic fatigue or overconfidence stall our progress and cause unnecessary illness in ourselves or others. Once scientists start to see what the vaccine is doing to prevent infection, we can slowly start to ease up on these precautions so we can be sure COVID-19 doesn’t start to escalate again.

All I know is that now, since I have been vaccinated, and my family is in the process of being vaccinated, I am hopeful again and I haven’t been for a long time.

Please sign up to get your own vaccination as soon as you are able.

Please keep yourself and others safe by following all the precautions.

You are valuable and precious. And so are your friends and neighbors. And so is a teacher in Georgia. A trucker in Rome. A bookseller in Vietnam. A doctor in Ghana. A student in India. A salesperson in Ontario. A writer in Argentina.

We are all special and deserving of a life free from fear and illness.

We all need hope. We all can share hope with each other.

Get vaccinated ASAP.

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