I remember the hopelessness I felt about a year ago at this time. There was a raging virus circulating that had no cure or effective treatment; it was spreading uncontrollably; our government efforts were being undermined by toadies and incompetents, led by a president who talked of injecting bleach or shining ultraviolet light into your body as treatments; and I despaired. I couldn’t believe any of it — that I was in an actual global pandemic, that my life plans were going down the dumper, that so many of the things I took for granted were now gone.
One thing I definitely did not expect was that there would be an effective vaccine — heck, a number of them — less than a year later. I’ve spent a few years editing health care news and am familiar with how long it typically takes to develop vaccines, even when everything went right and the effort was well-funded. The gap ranges from several years to never. I put my thin hopes into the development of an effective treatment instead.
Yet here I am, two weeks after receiving the second dose of the remarkably effective Pfizer vaccine, and I now am considered fully vaccinated. I doubt most of us will ever truly understand what a miracle this is, especially given the stunning first-pass effectiveness of this and a number of its alternatives. It’s unprecedented and it’s saved millions of lives already.
This pandemic is far from over, of course. Most of the world has no access to a vaccine yet, and a pretty good chunk won’t have it at this time next year, either. But its deepest, darkest dangers are probably over for me, at least for now. I lived through a pandemic.
Holy crap, I’ve caught a couple of gigs. They’re both outdoor shows — one in May and one in June — and they will end a 14-month gap in live performing. I hadn’t had more than two months without a show since 1993 before Our Current Unpleasantness, and I feared my performing days were over.
You can find out more about the gigs here. I hope to add to this list very soon.
Got Pfizer #2 today, and found out an hour later that a friend had decided against getting a vaccination at all so that he can own the libs or whatever. I expected better out of him. I expect better out of you, too. Fairfax County’s now taking appointments for everyone over 16. As of this writing, over 80 million Americans have been fully vaccinated. Serious side effects are extremely rare — even the concerns about the J&J vaccine involve six cases out of about 6.8 million doses administered — and pretty much all of us know people now who died or became seriously ill from COVID-19. This is pretty much a miracle that’s being handed to you for free. Don’t turn away.
Tonight I pulled out my guitar and played it for a while. That should be unremarkable, and it used to be that way, but I hadn’t touched it in months. I couldn’t. All it did was remind me of loss — loss of the gigs I used to play, and the audiences that were no more, and the connections with friends that I made through music.
I love this guitar. I bought it for myself as a 60th birthday present, and although it’s not expensive by acoustic guitar standards, I think it sounds remarkable. But two months after I gave myself that present, the world went to shit, my music went away and the guitar went in a case. It’s mostly stayed there.
But I get my second vaccine Saturday. And I’m supposed to play a gig in May. And I’m hoping others will follow. So out came the guitar. I’ll probably pull the harps out Saturday, and I played a little mandolin around a campfire recently, and maybe I’ll set up a little practice space. It’s about time.
The event felt almost anticlimactic: First came the text message, then came the email inviting me to make an appointment for my first COVID-19 vaccination. I’d signed up online earlier in March, when I found out my hypertension made me eligible in Virginia for early vaccination — but the last I’d checked, my county was still vaccinating people who signed up in January and I assumed I’d wait quite a few more weeks.
I followed the instructions and was shocked to find I could get an appointment four days later and three miles away. And when I pushed that button and made that appointment, I seeped around the eyes a little.
That’s happened a lot in the last year, as I (and everyone else) tried to cheat death or at least stay a couple of steps ahead of it. Some of us failed and some of us got bit but recovered. I’ve been in hiding, mostly, which brought on its own guilt as others were forced to venture out, but I just kept trying to duck this invisible killer any way I could.
I’m only halfway home on my two-shot regimen. My wife, who is a chunk younger than me and has no chronic health issues, is still waiting. There are signs of a new virus surge. But there also are signs that even a single shot brings strong short-term protection. I’m still a couple of weeks away from that second dose, and then a couple of more weeks have to pass before I’m fully protected, but I can see the road ahead — a road that has real human interaction again.