Have your COVID-19 shots? It’s too early to celebrate yet

(Note: Because nobody was paying attention, the following column never made it into the Tuesday edition of The Union. If you don’t subscribe to the paper, consider this a freebie.)

I will be fully protected against COVID-19 Saturday, and my wife will join that club two weeks later, but we’re not exactly celebrating the achievement.

I received my first shot of the Pfizer vaccine January 30 because I’m over 75 (my wife isn’t) and I had the right connections. The process went much more smoothly than I expected.

An email Jan. 28 alerted me that shots were available, and I quickly made an appointment online. I walked through the door at my scheduled time and the process moved quickly through the four stations: Registration, shot/vaccination card, appointment for the second shot, and observation. I had no reaction to either shot, and didn’t observe anybody having difficulty during my time in the observation area.

None of this took place in Nevada County. After living in Lake of the Pines for 20 years, my wife and I have developed a network of doctors associated with Sutter Health. That’s where we got our shots. We had to drive to Roseville, but the restrictive world we live in gives us plenty of time to kill.

We hardly know what to do with ourselves when my wife becomes fully protected March 20. Entertainment venues remain closed, and I’m not interested in freezing to death while dining outside. I’m not inclined to eat indoors at establishments that just ignore the rules—if they’re cavalier about that, do they also take a pass on sanitation?

I’m not sure where we could travel safely unless we take an RV or camp. We’ll probably avoid any trips to Shasta County and other strongholds of the State of Jefferson movement. One of SOJ’s loudest web sites is questioning the value of the COVID-19 vaccine because it’s not a magic bullet for all of our COVID-related social issues. Maybe they should look at the experience of Israel, which is getting its citizens vaccinated faster than anybody else. They report a 94% drop in symptomatic COVID-19 infections while people are 92% less likely to develop serious illness from the disease.

I’d like to get back in the gym, where I’d have more access to weights than I have at home. Since we have easy access to the Cascade Canal trail, I’ve substituted walking for my leg work. I know it is good for me, but hiking has lost its novelty. It reminds me too much of the Army.

The Centers for Disease Control inform me that once I pass the March 6 mark, I don’t have to be quarantined if I’m exposed to somebody with COVID-19. However, that’s only good for three months, because nobody’s sure how long the vaccinations will be effective.

The CDC also advises those who are vaccinated to continue to wear masks (either two masks or one tight to the face), practice social distancing, stay away from crowds, and wash your hands, presumably until we achieve herd immunity. When will that happen? Well, the optimists say everybody will be able to get vaccinated by fall, but less than 80% of the people needed to achieve herd immunity are willing to get shots.

Then there’s one or more of the new variants, like the California version currently making the rounds. (Leave it to the Golden State to go its own way.) I suspect the coronavirus will be like the flu, requiring an annual shot that’s adjusted to that year’s variant, a shot that many people will just ignore because there will be a tolerable level of illness.  

In the meantime, I’ll continue to wear my mask. Walking around without one is likely to generate hostility I can do without, and you never know when one of the new variants is lurking in the area. (I think people who are fully protected should be given badges or stickers proclaiming, “I’ve been shot twice!” That may appeal to the MAGA types who think the virus is a hoax and are generally well armed. Feel free to use my idea.)

It’s easy for me to make jokes because I have what millions of Americans are desperate to get—vaccinated. The Biden administration has secured enough vaccine to inoculate most Americans by the end of summer, and Pfizer and Moderna are on pace to deliver the 200 million doses they promised by the end of March.

The biggest problem now is elected officials who over promise and under deliver. State officials eager to make their constituents happy have opened vaccination sites without a dependable flow of the medicine, causing skyrocketing demand in some states, overwhelming local providers and frustrating people seeking shots. It’s a real-life version of Hunger Games.

California is not a shining star here. We were slow rolling out the vaccine because of overly complex (and constantly changing) eligibility criteria to insure equity. Only Alabama (where they like to say, “Well, Mississippi’s worse”) trailed us. The Newsom administration finally threw up its hands and decided to pay Blue Shield up to $15 million to handle the distribution.

The state has since opened several mass vaccination sites to great fanfare, only to close them periodically because they keep running out of vaccine. It doesn’t help that the state can’t accurately track where vaccines have been sent and how many shots have been delivered.

You have to wonder if officials are just making up the vaccine allocations. Kaiser Permanente, the largest provider of medical services in Northern California, said it had trouble getting enough shots to vaccinate its own employees.

But that hasn’t stopped the state from continually expanding those who can get shots. Soon, adults under 65 with disabilities and underlying health conditions (obesity is one of them) will be able to get shots, even though we haven’t taken care of everybody over 65. While it is frustrating to residents, Nevada County officials should be commended for resisting the temptation to promise more than they can deliver.

Early results show the Pfizer vaccine works well, and my wife and I will apparently have protection before any of the variants show up here. But most of our fellow Americans don’t have that protection, so I’m not shouting, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, we are free at last!” But it would be nice if my wife and I can celebrate our 52nd anniversary in June sitting down in a restaurant.

Observations from the center stripe: Editing edition

ARE WE going to see the outtakes of the dashboard camera recordings of the Alta Sierra shooting now that the sheriff has finished editing them?…A DISTRICT attorney that depends on the sheriff’s office to do its work should not be conducting the investigation. Ideally, the state attorney general’s office should handle it…NEVADA COUNTY made a big show of getting educators to the front of the vaccination line. Now, when are all of the schools going to reopen?…WASTE MANAGEMENT’S crackdown on overstuffed recycling bins may motivate the lazy to flatten all of those Amazon boxes…IF YOU want to prevent more fast food stores in “Burger Basin,” change people’s eating habits…

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2 Responses to Have your COVID-19 shots? It’s too early to celebrate yet

  1. rlcrabb says:

    Oh, come on, George. Everybody knows masks don’t work. Ask any Republican.

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