By Eric Redard, Volunteer Services Manager
Many of us remember where we were, and what we were doing, when significant historical events occurred. Neil Armstrong walks on the moon in 1969. President Reagan says, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall” in 1987. The unimaginably tragic events of September 11, 2001 test our country’s resilience. The Red Sox break the “curse” to win the World Series in 2004. These are just a few memorable highlights that immediately come to mind.
Each of us has our own list according to our likes, dislikes, interests and perspectives on the world. Does the date December 23, 2020 ring a bell for anyone, like it does for me?
I was sitting at my desk quietly doing my work, like any other day, when my computer chimed letting me know I had an email. Clicking over to Outlook, I briefly skimmed the email. As I scrolled down, the following bolded text immediately captured my attention: “Thanks to recent shipments of the Moderna vaccine to Lowell General Hospital, at this time it is possible for all HHF staff, whether patient-facing or administrative, to sign up to take the vaccine.”
The announcement took me by surprise to say the least. Not knowing how to respond, I ran down to Chief Medical Officer Dr. Burkarth’s office and asked, “We can get the vaccine?” She confirmed, “Yes, we are now eligible for the vaccination.” I quickly ran back to my desk and clicked on the link to schedule my first dose. Not knowing how the scheduling worked, I found the calendar full. I ran back down to Dr. Burkarth’s office, but before I could say anything she advised, “Just scroll down. There are more appointments on other calendars.” Back to my cube I ran and booked my appointment for the following Monday. I will never forget that crazy back-and-forth and Dr. Burkarth’s patience. I probably looked a little frantic when I appeared at her office door… twice.
This date is important for me because symbolically, I saw the email as a life ring being thrown to me when I was floating in the middle of a choppy ocean, trying to keep my head above water.
You may be asking why I am writing about receiving the vaccine now, when on June 15, the Massachusetts State of Emergency was rescinded and society is appearing to return to normal. It’s because things won’t be back to normal for a long time. COVID-19 is still out there, people are still becoming sickened and dying from the virus and not everyone is becoming vaccinated – by eligibility and by choice.
I can summarize in three words why I chose to receive the vaccine: faith, hope and love. Not the first three words that you normally think of, yet they define my reasoning.
Faith is having trust or confidence in someone or something. One needs to have faith to receive the vaccine, even though mRNA technology is well studied and the COVID-19 vaccine went through proper clinical trials. Like Indiana Jones taking that step of faith onto the invisible bridge in “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” we, too, need to have faith and take that step. Believing in the research and laboratories, scientists, doctors, nurses and the mRNA technology itself can generate anxiety. So, too, can the unhealthy propaganda that stems from fear. I chose to ignore the hype and believe in the wisdom of those who developed the vaccine and the technology that will help fight this deadly virus.
After receiving the vaccine, I was filled with hope. Hope is having the feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. The vaccine will not only protect me and my family, it is my contribution toward helping to end the global pandemic. Once the shot was in my arm, I let out a sigh of relief and perhaps a tear was shed, releasing some of the stress that had built up since the previous April. From the beginning of the pandemic, this is something for which we hoped. There seemed to be a light at the end of the long tunnel and a path to bring the world back to normal.
Love is having an intense feeling of deep affection. I love my family. Period. Like many, I will do anything I can to keep them safe and receiving the vaccine provides an additional layer of protection from COVID-19. I also love those in my community, including my neighbors, coworkers, patients, their families and my fellow shoppers in the grocery store – even when they do not follow the arrows. The list goes on. Because I love and respect all my neighbors (both literal and figurative), I want to protect them as well. For me, not getting the vaccine would be putting my family, my community and myself in harm’s way. I would not be able to forgive myself if I passed the virus onto someone when there is a known way to stop it.
I’m writing this article to share my experience and my reasoning behind getting the COVID-19 vaccine. My intent is to offer another perspective on why being vaccinated is important to me personally, as well as my belief that it is helping to end this global pandemic and its untold suffering. I’d be happy to share more details of my experience with anyone who wishes.
In the meantime, I am proud to record three new significant dates as part of my personal history. I registered for the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on 12/23/2020; I received it on 12/28/2020; and my second dose was administered on 01/25/2021.
I am thrilled to report that subsequent hugs exchanged safely with other fully vaccinated family members and friends have been too numerous to record. We’ve had a lot of catching up to do.