Looking through the windshield while waiting in line at the Jefferson Healthcare drive-thru vaccination clinic. (Karen Sullivan photo)
Have you overheard the wafting conversations from six-foot intervals at the grocery store or post office? No longer is everyone talking about the number of COVID cases, nor politics, nor even the weather after the cold snap. “Have you registered with the hospital yet?….I heard Safeway has open appointments….You went all the way to Bremerton?….Costco is now giving vaccines….You got your first shot!” And so on.
As winter turns to spring and we slowly progress to some new version of normal social interaction, cautious optimism is bubbling and perking through the community. As of the end of February, 24% of Jefferson County residents have received the first COVID-19 vaccination, starting with the Phase 1A high-risk health care workers, and now whittling down the long list of people over 65.
About 40% of Jefferson County is 65 or older, so we have a ways to go:
As a 59-year-old, relatively healthy Jefferson County resident who works from home, I can report that I am experiencing the onset of a bad case of Vaccine Envy. I write this with due respect to the medical community in Jefferson County – they are doing an outstanding job getting our residents vaccinated in a way that is fair and as expedient as possible. I acknowledge I am happy and grateful to be living in Port Townsend, healthy, and able to earn a living while living at home.
Given those caveats, if I am subjected to any more of those rumor-filled vaccination conversation amongst my 65+ year old friends and neighbors, well, please understand if I do not appear to share in your enthusiasm. Yes, I am happy you got your vaccination appointment. I’m sorry your arm hurts. I’ll see you in July. Maybe.
According to Washington State’s vaccination plan, people in my category do not even have a ‘phase,’ or rather, I am in the category of ‘Future Phases’ that should happen by this fall. So congratulations Phase 1A, 2A, Tier 1-4 folks. Perhaps things will go smoothly and I will get one earlier, but I don’t want to get my hopes up. I am not a high-risk healthcare worker, I am not older then 65. I do not work in a congregate setting, nor do I have any underlying conditions that would cause me to get a vaccine earlier. So I should be last in line: behind the teachers, medical workers, and those from whom I buy my groceries. But perhaps I don’t have to be happy about it.
My diagnosis of Vaccine Envy requires mental preparation for the onset of spring and summer. I am girding myself for some future beautifully sunny day when my fellow 65+ year old and/or healthcare worker friends are out on the water, rowing in group boats while I try to keep up in my single. Truth is, I hang out with a lot of admirably healthy 65+ citizens here in Jefferson County. This demographic, in fact, is the fastest growing group in our county while my own demographic category has plummeted more than any other over the last 10 years:
I take some comfort in the fact that the vaccinated population (whom I think of as the ‘Stars-Upon-Thars’ subset of the Sneetches population, à la Dr. Seuss) will still have to wear masks just like me. The coronavirus is still spreading, and there is now the lurking potential of scary variants. We are on a slow trudge towards herd immunity, estimated to be 80% of us (do Sneetches travel in herds?). (Updated news note: “The Sneetches and Other Stories” is still available and recommended by this author.)
Once the Jefferson County herd is immunized, it will feel strange at first, I think, as we get used to being in close quarters again. We will be able to actually smile at each other, using our mouths, rather than attempting ‘smile eyes’ or ‘smize’ as coined by Tyra Banks. In only a short few months, we will all be able to hang out together again in coffee shops and other indoor (gasp!) places. Until then, I vow to be grateful for those who have been vaccinated, happy for my friends and neighbors who can finally get relief from the anxiety of worry, and patient for myself and those of us who are lucky enough to be at the back of the line.