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  • Writer's pictureDr. Rachel Hallmark

The waiting game

Updated: Feb 4, 2021

The first time I saw a picture of a friend getting a Covid19 vaccine posted on social media, in mid-December 2020, I thought - YAY! It’s happening! The 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th pictures I think were similarly reacted to.

But then it shifted. My feed was FULL of pictures of my medical school classmates all over the country receiving vaccines. Then started the nurses, and slowly others further outside of the “front lines” started to get theirs too.

My reaction? “Good for you, but what about me???”

I can’t tell you how many times this sentiment echoed in my head.

I had to stop logging on to social media for awhile (this is basically always a good idea if you are considering it, lol). I couldn’t handle my own gut reaction to seeing these vaccines going out.

I finally got my first vaccine scheduled, for Jan 11 - an appt in hand on December 30. Okay, so now I’m feeling relieved, right?

Not exactly. Watching others (non-medical) get theirs before me the first week of January... I was still nervous that I would show up on Jan. 11 and be turned away.(Thankfully that didn’t happen - the 1st dose was given, and at this point I actually have received the 2nd one as well!)

My emotional response to that first dose? Very anti-climactic. Yes - a big sigh of relief that I had finally gotten “my turn” and was starting the process of building some immunity to this monster. But there was also this sense that I was the last one in line (of all the physicians I know). As well as some sense that I am not being looked after, or cared for. Not made to feel important enough to get one of those first doses being rolled out to the “front line.”

It’s been 20 days since that first dose, and I’ve seen a lot of people getting shots since then, and a lot MORE people not getting their turn. And I can empathize. I don’t know what to label the emotion I felt, but the best term I have for it is “jealousy.” And it doesn’t sit well with me. I “shouldn’t” feel that way, I tell myself. The “correct” emotion is happiness for those who are getting their chance. This emotion existed also, but it seemed overshadowed by the frustration I had.

Add on to this that my home state of Virginia was recently declared last in the union for vaccine rollout, and there are a lot of folks out there feeling this same weird combination: half-joy/hope/optimism, half-covetous anxiety. I discussed vaccines with almost every patient I saw this week - and the vast majority are in this place right now. Only a handful of my very “deserving” seniors have received a single vaccine dose so far.

I don’t any real “words of wisdom” to share, other than to just acknowledge the emotion (whatever it is) and examine it. And try to find the balance with the joy - they are both there usually for me if I look for it. The hopeful reality is that the vaccines are coming - 2 months ago, we didn’t even have an effective vaccine, and now we have thousands already vaccinated against this terror. Most healthcare have now received their 2nd doses, and the most at-risk segments of our society are starting to receive theirs as well. They are coming... just a little more patience is needed.

This patience feels like way too much to ask, I know. It’s like a kid waking up on the much-anticipated Christmas morning and then being asked to WAIT to go downstairs and see what Santa brought. It is SO HARD. But Santa did come! (He brought a vaccine!) You will get one too (if you want one) - I don’t know when, but you will get one!

We are in the last phase of this really difficult period - we just need to hang in there a little bit longer.

Don’t allow yourselves to get too bogged down by the frustration you encounter. Our vaccine rollout has been far from perfect - I have experienced that firsthand - and it can be very frustrating. Especially when you see people who “need it” less than you do getting it before you... but try to balance that moment of jealousy (don’t dismiss it!) with the gratitude for the science that has brought us this therapy, relatively quickly. All of these emotions have validity. We are nearly 1 year into this war on a deadly pathogen, that has reshaped our economy and killed so many people it is difficult to conceive, in addition to altering our daily lives in the most dramatic of ways. We are tired. We need hope.

Hope is here. Santa came, and said we have all been good girls and boys, and gave us a vaccine. Just wait until mom & dad get their coffee, and I promise you’ll be getting to open your present soon too!

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