At first glance, I shouldn’t have much reason to be worried about COVID-19: I’m young, and I’m not at particularly high risk of hospitalization or death from the virus.
I don’t even live with anyone who does.
Statistically, the worst part of catching COVID for people like me (not surprisingly, the age range which has made up one in five of Oregon’s virus cases) is an inconvenient two-week quarantine.
So why would I jump to get a vaccine as soon as I became eligible?
It’s for much of the same reason I’ve turned my life upside-down the past year — the same reason I’ve enjoyed Coos Bay’s restaurants only through their takeout fare, skipped more than one family tradition, and tried to make the best of an online college graduation:
Whether we like it or not, we’re in this one together.
I’ve been worried about my impact on others for much of this pandemic. Could I catch the virus at the grocery store and pass it to a friend at a socially distanced picnic? What if they passed it to their immunocompromised partner, or their parents?
Those worries could be paralyzing. But slowly, we learned how to protect ourselves: Masks were more important than we thought, and mail and packages less so.
We learned how to deal with government restrictions: No, we discovered, the state wasn’t going to shut down grocery stores (and no, I didn’t actually need to stock up with that many cans of black beans).
And we learned to place our trust in public health experts and community leaders.
Quickly those experts began singing the same song: A safe and effective vaccine, and getting it to as many people as possible, would be key to getting life back on track.
To me, that means seeing family and friends without a nagging voice in my head reminding me how, as safe as we tried to be, a meal shared together could hurt someone’s grandfather or coworker.
So, when I became eligible for a Bay Area Hospital appointment a few weeks back, was I excited to have a sore arm for a day? No.
But was I excited to finally start quieting that voice in my head? Absolutely.
When the opportunity presented itself, the choice was easy, as was each step after that.
I signed up with the hospital’s online scheduler, and showed up at the building’s front door a few minutes early.
There, chipper volunteers made the process a breeze, handing me a few forms and moving me along quickly.
Soon, I sat down next to a nurse — who, serendipitously, I’d photographed giving out one of the hospital’s first shots on December 22 — and rolled up my sleeve.
“That was a little anticlimactic,” I remember telling her as she threw away the needle.
I’m not sure what I’d been expecting — confetti or celebratory music to fill the room, I guess.
But really, it was just a shot. I sat down in the waiting area for 20 minutes, and would have forgotten all about my vaccination by the afternoon if not for a bit of soreness in part of my arm and the card listing the date and time of my next appointment.
In the months leading up to it, that day had meant a lot to me.
I’ve lived in three different communities as they experienced their first virus-related deaths. Each time, I felt that nagging voice ask me uncomfortable questions: Who was that person, and who were they leaving behind?
Could I, a member of their community, have done more to protect them?
I still can’t answer any of those questions. But there is one question I can: With vaccines available, what could I do to protect those I come in contact with and those they love?
Taking an hour of my day to get a free dose — even if, to my great dismay, there was no confetti.
Bay Area Hospital now schedules appointments with other Coos County hospitals online at www.communityhealth.events/scheduler/. You can also call 541-435-7353.