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On Getting Vaccinated

I had no trouble setting my COVID-19 vaccine appointment over the phone, but when my son Jacob insisted in doing the driving, that’s when my anxieties began. Just in case you turn into a zombie, he said.

“Nothing will happen to me!”

“You’ll be okay, pa.”

“I was okay -- until you offered to drive.”

I’ve been watching the news on TV lately, especially those linking the vaccine with several deaths in care homes. That the elderly patients had previous underlying diseases did not assuage me. The fact is they died after receiving the vaccine.

I’m watching a scientist explain the term “herd immunity,” so I channel surf to look for more relaxing programs. It does not work. My thoughts are still on the vaccine. What about its long-term side effects on seniors? What are the ingredients of the vaccine? What about allergic reactions? Has this vaccine undergone rigorous tests to ensure its safety?

“All right, but if it turns out badly, I won’t go for a second dose.”

The Brooklyn Army Terminal Vaccine Mega Site is some 55-minute drive from my house. My first scheduled appointment to a nearer location was canceled due to the lack of vaccine supply in NY.

I try to grab a cat nap in the car but could not sleep. My nervousness has magnified other worries: Will we find a good parking spot? Will there be long lines at the site? Didn’t the news warn us of another snowstorm slam brewing up? It’s freezing cold today maybe we should call this thing off.

How about all the conspiracy theories floating all over the place? The rumors that it will alter our DNA, that “they” will now be able to digitally track us anywhere, or implant us with the “mark of the beast” microchip, that it is all part of Bill Gates’ plan to annihilate 15% of the population, and so on.

It’s odd but I suddenly catch myself rebuking myself for not realizing that my fears are caused by the experience of disconnection from a Higher Power, from God. So I grab my constant travelling companion, my Bible.

Isaiah 8:12-13 is comforting:

“Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear nor be in dread. The Lord Almighty is the One you are to regard Holy, He is the One you are to fear, He is the One you are to dread.”

Suddenly, the “herd immunity” explanation on TV comes back to mind. This virus has already killed more than two million people worldwide. Hospitals are at full capacity. I stop thinking of myself and start thinking of others. How can I help those who can’t get vaccinated because of health issues? I want to do my part to protect those who can’t protect themselves, and the only way to achieve this, apart from social distancing, hand-washing, and proper masking up, is to receive the vaccine.

It makes sense: When a certain percentage of the population becomes immune, the rest who cannot be vaccinated because of health issues will be protected. If I take the shot, I will not only protect myself but others as well. If 70% (or 90%, what matter) are immune, the virus will stop spreading. This is how past pandemics like polio and the Spanish flu ended.

Even if this thing did its worst to me, I’ll still be performing my role in doing the right thing for the human race.

Suddenly I’m no longer fearful if the vaccine will alter my DNA, or make me sick with the virus, or even make me test positive in a COVID viral test. I am connected.

We arrive at our destination earlier than expected. Parking spaces abound. We choose a spot at Pier 4 along the Hudson River. It has a magnificent view of Manhattan’s skyline.

The blast of winter wind slams on our faces as soon as we get off the car. But the five-minute walk to the Brooklyn Army Terminal Vaccine Mega Site invigorates me for my 7:45 AM appointment, as I keep repeating I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me all the way to the center.

To my delight and surprise there is no chaos, no waiting-in-line. A medical staff employee immediately approaches us and assists us at registration. The paper work takes less than ten minutes.

“Have a blessed day, sir.”

“Thank you! God bless you!”

A nurse in blue uniform leads me to one of the steel-legged private clinic pods and prepares me for the shot. She swabs my right arm, I look away, but before I could cry uncle . . .

“That’s it? No pain?” The nurse’s eyes lost in slits behind her steel-rimmed glasses could not conceal her smile behind the mask.

“But I hardly felt it.” My bravado is incorrigibly unoriginal. “That was a breeze. No problemo.” My son rolls his eyes.

I am led to a holding place to wait for another 15 minutes for observation. It’s SOP. I notice what looks like a couple of doctors on stand-by.

I am back in the car in no time, passenger side. My son and I take turns spraying ourselves with Lysol. Then we both bow our heads and say a short prayer of thanksgiving.

“I’ll take the wheel.” I prepare to open the door to get off and transfer to the driver’s seat.

“No, I’ll drive. Just in case you turn into a zombie.”

“The problem with you kids when you’re all grown up you think your dad isn’t a cool guy anymore.”

“You’re still the cool guy, pa.” My son smiles broadly, negotiating the car out of the parking space. “But I’m doing the driving today.”

Inside the car I call two of my bosom friends from Naga, Jun Quijano and Nick Miraflores, to tell them about my experience. Both have already received the shot. All three of us got the Moderna vaccine.

“Any side effect?”

“Other than a sore arm,” Nick and Jun assure me, “which disappeared quickly, none.”

Traffic was building up as we neared home, but we arrive earlier than expected, just in time for late breakfast.

My wife meets us at the door. “How did it go? You need to rest upstairs?”

“Nah, I am looking forward to the second dose.”


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