The Highly Bearable Lightness of Being (Vaccinated)
By the time this is published, I will have received my second COVID-19 vaccination. I’ll even be long past any short-term side effects of same. Some people I know have had those, but no one has complained even once about the fatigue or headache or injection site tenderness. Everyone is just grateful to have passed this milestone on their way to our next normal.
Even given a wait period of two-to-four weeks post-vaccination for antibodies to fully develop, I should be well-protected by the beginning of April. So—what does that next normal look like for me?
Well, in truth, it looks—short-term—pretty much the same as my current, pandemic normal. I’ll still have pockets stuffed with masks; will socially distance from most people; will frequent restaurants largely via take-out or outdoor dining. I won’t yet be convening my pre-pandemic dinner club for a meal in my dining room.
Why all this caution, given vaccination should well-protect me from becoming seriously ill or dying from COVID-19? One reason: Delaware is still (in early-March) vaccinating only people who fall into certain groups. These groups include people such as healthcare workers, nursing home residents and staff, emergency responders, essential workers, and people age 65+. That means a LOT of Delawareans have yet to even qualify for vaccination; they remain very much at risk.
Another reason: While it’s known that COVID-19 vaccination is highly effective at preventing serious illness and death, preventing disease does not necessarily mean preventing infection. People who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 may still become infected with COVID-19 and may still be able to transmit the infection to others, even though they themselves do not become ill.
A third: The COVID-19 virus in mutating, as viruses do, and there’s still a lot to learn about how effective the existing vaccines are in preventing infection, disease, and transmission with these new variants. It appears the vaccines still prevent serious illness and death, but even mildly or moderately ill people can transmit the disease to others who—if unvaccinated—may become seriously ill.
I want to be respectful of all those not-yet-vaccinated people. I want to be respectful of the virus and recognize it may mutate into something that is more infective and more transmissible. I want to avoid putting unvaccinated people at risk by abandoning all the practices that got me safely to the point of vaccination.
The question arises: if I’m still going to behave as I have during the past many months, why did I get vaccinated? I mean—wasn’t the point to be able to resume normal life? It was. And I will. I’ll just take my time in doing so. Of course, in some cases federal or state guidelines will require that I continue to wear a mask and socially distance in public places. But even where those guidelines don’t apply—say, at home—I’ll still proceed at a measured pace.
I don’t want to suggest—by continuing to take precautions—that vaccination makes no difference, thereby discouraging vaccine uptake. Vaccination does make a difference; will—as more and more people are vaccinated—make a big enough difference in all our lives that our next normal will begin to more closely resemble our pre-pandemic normal.
Vaccination is already making a big difference in my life: I feel a certain “lightness” of being; a sense that a load has been lifted. That surprised me, as I’ve not been one of those who has been severely isolated during the pandemic. I’ve grocery shopped and kept in-person medical and dental appointments. I’ve gotten my hair cut since the salons reopened last year, and visited with my daughter—outdoors—at her home. I shared outdoor walks and meals with a miniscule pod I built over a period of months.
And yet—the lightness. I think it’s the relief of feeling less vulnerable. I still might contract COVID-19—the vaccine is not a guarantee against infection—but it should manifest more at the level of a bad cold v. a deadly disease.
My longer-term next normal differs from my short-term one, though the masks and social distancing may be around for some time. I’ll be convening the dinner club—maybe outdoors on the deck, but still, convening. I have a car trip planned for early May, and a longer trip—including air travel—for late-summer. My daughter may visit for a weekend—something she’s been unable to do for over a year.
My next normal is looking nearer and brighter than it has for some time. Yours can, too. When it’s your turn—get vaccinated.