The Canton of Geneva says I’m nearly at the front of the line to get the Covid-19 vaccine. Should I?
By Bill Harby
I’m not a front-line medical worker, so how did I get so close to the front of the line to get the vaccine? Nor am I a grocery store worker, a restaurant server, or anyone who needs to come into close contact with the public except when I take the bus or tram. I’m just someone who, due to my age, got placed just behind those first in line.
Beginning Jan. 4th, those age 75 and older in Canton Geneva are beginning to receive their first shots.
I’m 68, so I’m in the second age group – 65 to 74 – who can get ours starting sometime in February depending on availability. This is also when frontline medical workers will be eligible.
I want to get vaccinated as soon as possible, but I’m having second thoughts. Not because needles give me the heebie-jeebies. They don’t. When I get a shot I just look away and stare at a blank space on the wall that is suddenly intensely fascinating.
Nor am I having second thoughts because I fear serious side effects. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which is the first one available in Switzerland, has completed the usual Phase-3 trials all new medications go through under ordinary circumstances. The vaccine has already been given to more than 43,000 volunteers, who have exhibited almost no side effects, except for a few people who were prone to allergic reactions. I’m not allergic to anything I know of other than failed American despots and girls doing that smooch face on social media.
I also don’t have any underlying medical issues that make me more vulnerable to Covid-19. I just lucked into the good timing of recently watching middle age vanish in my rearview mirror.
I’m having second thoughts about getting the vaccine tout de suiteprecisely because I’m not among those higher risk groups who work in essential services. I’m more or less retired, and work almost entirely from home. My wife and I are embarrassingly content living our cloistered, online-enabled lives, only masking and sanitizing to run errands, or get groceries or takeout.
So, to paraphrase that respected public health group, The Clash, should I wait or should I go now?
My wife, who recently retired from the Geneva lab of a multi-national pharmaceutical testing company, plans to wait awhile to see if the first wave of public inoculations reveals any icky side effects.
Another family member, who’s a genetics researcher at Geneva University, and lives and breathes data, notes that the vaccines “use a novel technology,” so he gets it that some people might be skittish. Nevertheless, under these crisis circumstances, would he get the vaccine if it were offered to him today? He’s young, fit and healthy. “Yeah, I would,” he says.
We’re already seeing prominent politicians, public health officials and celebrities being photographed and filmed getting inoculated, hoping, they say, to encourage those who are afraid of needles or vaccines in general to roll up their sleeves. Of course, there’s been the inevitable backlash: Why do these bigwigs get to have the vaccine first?
Were I to get poked on TV, it’s doubtful anyone would change their mind about getting theirs. So, thank goodness, that’s not on my conscience.
What ison my conscience is this: As long as the first deliveries of vaccines must be rationed, how dare I cut in line before every frontline medical worker who wants one has gotten theirs, and before any young mother stocking grocery store shelves, and before my friend serving kebab every day in the café down the street?
On the other hand, how dare I notprotect myself with the vaccine as soon as possible, knowing that my wife and other loved ones would be rather discombobulated if I were to become seriously C-19 sick?
And what if most of us decide to wait and see if the first wave of vaccinated populations suddenly sprout purple horns? How long would we wait? A month? A year? If so, how long would that delay the mass immunity the world needs to smother the pandemic?
I'll still be weighing all these questions one day soon when I sit down in a bright, sterile room, stare at a fascinating blank space on the wall, and roll up my sleeve.