Here at our house, we celebrated the First Anniversary of Covid 19 by scoring a couple of vaccination appointments. You younger readers who have not yet become eligible for the shots have no idea what an astounding feat it was.
Remember that time you spent six hours chained to your computer, refreshing the screen over and over again, desperately seeking tickets to see your favorite band in concert, only to learn they’d sold out two minutes after going on sale? Then you heard there would be more tickets available at some later time, but nobody could say when? Then a friend of a friend told you about another website where tickets might also become available? And there were rumors about ways to “hack” yet another website?
Now, expand that six-hour experience to five days, several “friends of friends,” and copious different screens that need constant refreshing. And imagine the “tickets” you seek are not for a concert, but for a return to normal – glorious! – life, after a year of… well, you know.
As a member of the huge, wildly diverse group of South Carolinians lovingly referred to as “1B,” this is how I spent my last week. Along with thousands of other folks. Our demographic includes anybody 55 or older, anybody 16-54 with an increased risk for severe Covid-19, and a vast array of frontline workers – including teachers, grocery store employees, law enforcement officers, etc. In other words, we are legion.
And we all want our lives back.
What’s weird is that I didn’t realize how much I wanted this vaccine until I actually became eligible for it. Oh, I wanted it for my mom… and my older friends… and my friends with compromised immune systems. Over the last couple of months, as they began to get vaccinated, I felt my worry begin to subside. The waning of my stress level was a visceral sensation. My brow began to unfurrow. My jaw relaxed. I hadn’t even realized I was clenching it.
But I was never too worried about myself. For whatever reason, I felt invincible. I worried about my husband, and to a lesser degree, my daughter. But even when Amelia contracted Covid at Clemson – and was pretty darn sick for a few days – I never felt particularly vulnerable myself. And, the vaccine? Meh. I’d get it when I got it. No rush.
But then I became eligible. And suddenly, I was a woman possessed. I was Charlie Bucket in search of a golden ticket, tearing into any Wonka Bar I could get my hands on.
Last week, before my miraculous score, I expressed my frustration on Facebook, writing:
“I was totally chill about the Covid vaccine before I was eligible. Now I feel chained to my computer, checking page after page, over and over, while scrolling FB and seeing all the celebratory posts from those who’ve already gotten it. Argh. I kinda miss those peaceful days before I was eligible.”
An interesting discussion ensued. One friend about my age – mid 50s – commented, “I am right there with you! Thinking it would be fall before it was my turn, not giving it any energy – and suddenly I feel irresponsible if I’m not checking, checking, checking, to see if I can get an appointment!”
Others – some older, some much younger – who’d already been vaccinated, or managed to get appointments, chimed in with advice. Had I signed up with VAMS? (Yes!) What about Beaufort Memorial Hospital? (Yes!) Was I checking in with CVS? Publix? Walmart? (Yes, yes, yes! Every day! Every hour! Every 15 minutes!)
One friend sent me a long, complicated private message about how to “hack” Walmart’s Covid page. It involved staying up past midnight. I was not yet that desperate.
I must acknowledge that signing up with VAMS – the “official” vaccine finder of the CDC – was not entirely fruitless. After I answered all their questions and went through all their motions, they almost immediately found me an appointment. On Hilton Head. (I live in Beaufort.) For June 9th. (This was March 8th.) I was fine with all that – Hilton Head’s not that far away, and neither is June – until I started seeing the posts all over social media from deliriously happy people who’d just been vaccinated, or were about to be. The peer pressure was intense! Spring was here, and summer was coming, and I wanted to get out and about with everybody else! I wanted my vaccination! I needed it!
(I almost hyperventilated just writing that last paragraph. The memory of my recent mania is still vivid.)
In the end, help came in the form of a still, small voice. No, not God – though it felt that way – but a short, simple email from the Beaufort Pharmacy: “We have two appointments available on March 23 at 12:45. Would you like those appointments?”
I’m not exaggerating when I say that I cried.
I had emailed the Beaufort Pharmacy days earlier, per the instructions of their recorded Covid phone message. They had quickly responded, offering no appointment, and advising me to register with VAMS. I told them I’d already done that – and booked the aforementioned appointment for June 9 on Hilton Head – and heard nothing back from them. I’d lost hope that this small local pharmacy might be able to help me.
Then suddenly, a few days later – after many “refreshes,” disappointments, and bouts of anxiety – the email appeared in my inbox. Like a miracle.
I still have no idea how it happened. Was registering with VAMS a prerequisite for booking an appointment with the Beaufort Pharmacy? Did somebody cancel two appointments for March 23? Did the pharmacy suddenly get a new supply of vaccines? Did I just luck out? Beaufort Pharmacy is the only place in town, as of this writing, offering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine – “one and you’re done” – so I feel doubly fortunate. I hate shots.
I wish I had advice or inside information to share with those of you still on this crazy train, but alas, I do not. The mystery surrounding the process is maddening and far beyond my ken. All I can do is wish you well and encourage you to keep at it.
Oh, and if you fancy getting vaccinated on June 9th, on Hilton Head, give me a holler. I haven’t canceled that appointment yet.