A Real Shot in the Arm

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Now, that was a real shot in the arm.

We received our second dose of the Pfizer vaccine on Thursday out at the Gregg County Fairgrounds as rain clouds began gathering. My Beautiful Mystery Companion’s appointment was a few hours earlier than mine, and she encountered more traffic getting into the site, but nothing serious. My appointment was late morning, and I was able to drive straight to the checkpoints, show my vaccine card, park and go inside. I was sitting in the holding area in less than 10 minutes.

As it was for the first dose, the entire operation came off with precision and ease. The hub is run by Christus Good Shepherd Health System, with lots of assistance from police and fire personnel. These guys could run a Chic-Fil-A drive thru, as efficient as this process was. Wait time was minimal as were the after-effects — just a slightly sore arm. That is a tiny price to pay to know that in a few weeks my BMC and I will be 95-percent immune to COVID-19, which has killed more than a half-million Americans since reaching our shores in early 2020.

President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris marked this grim milestone on Monday with a brief speech honoring those who have passed, and their families, followed by a minute of silence. I listened while sitting in the gazebo and prayed as well, for those left to mourn their passing, and in gratitude that the virus thus far has not touched our families. My BMC and I both know people who have died from COVID-19, who were sick for months, or are right now hospitalized and battling for their lives.

I have been keeping close track of hospitalizations, deaths and vaccines administered in Texas as part of the weekly column I write for the Texas Press Association, called Capital Highlights and published statewide. The blizzard that began on Valentine’s Day weekend nearly completely shut down vaccines for a week, but the pace is picking up rapidly this week.

As of Friday morning, Feb. 26, 3.265 million Texans had received the first dose, while 1.6 million had received both doses. In Gregg County, where we live, 13,124 residents had received the first dose and 5,289 folks were fully vaccinated. With an estimated population of 95,544, that means about 19 percent of Gregg County residents have received at least one dose of one of the two COVID-19 vaccine. Statewide, roughly 16.5 percent of the population has gotten at least one shot in the arm.


I waited in the holding area after getting the second dose, to ensure there were no immediate side effects. I sat there in a room of mainly elderly masked folks, reflecting on how differently this could have turned out with competent

leadership at the top, if folks had taken this seriously from the beginning, if virus deniers and people unwilling to make even the tiniest sacrifices weren’t far too common. It saddens me that, even today with a half-million dead Americans, many still don’t take this seriously — sometimes at their own peril. At least now, regardless of one’s political beliefs, we can have confidence that the new administration will pull out no stops in getting the vaccines widely distributed and finally breaking the back of COVID-19. At last, the scientists are being listened to, their advice being taken.

The speed in which the COVID-19 vaccines were developed and are now being widely distributed is truly remarkable. In less than one year, the vaccines were being administered to health-care workers and other first responders. Now they’re going into the arms of folks over 65 or with underlying health conditions. That is unprecedented. In addition, the swift development of this vaccine means when the next pandemic hits — and there will another at some point — it is more likely that a vaccine for that virus can be swiftly developed as well.

Though I will feel much safer to be in public, go to stores, even go out of town to work on stories or do research, I will still wear a mask, practice social distance and good hygiene. That’s the advice of folks like Dr. Anthony Fauci. When he says we don’t have to wear masks anymore, that’s when mine will come off.

Besides, it is the considerate thing to do. Strangers whom I encounter won’t know I have been vaccinated and likely can’t spread or catch the virus. After all, I don’t plan on wearing the “COVID-19” sticker I received every day. Wearing a mask is a personal decision, one everyone must make once they have been fully vaccinated.

If you are interested in keeping up with vaccine stats for Texas, go here. For the latest grim statistics on COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations, I recommend the Johns Hopkins University of Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center site, found here. Please stay safe and get the vaccine when you are able to.

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