For the past few months I’ve been volunteering at M Fairview Hospitals and Clinics at their Ambulatory Covid Vaccine clinics. I’ve done all different roles ranging from greeter, observer, labeler to patient registration, and I have truly enjoyed interacting and talking with people from all walks of life. It has been a profound experience participating in the massive effort to stop the spread of Covid-19. In the first few days of working my four-hour shift, our team vaccinated over 400 people just in the morning at the site.

Since January,  M Fairview, one of the many mass vaccination clinics in our state, has provided over 300,000 vaccines to over 150,000 individuals (including me!) in the state of Minnesota. As of today, over 60%  percent of Minnesotans who are eligible are totally vaccinated.

It has been an astounding feat and also for me, a very rewarding experience being a part of it especially in the beginning when people would literally be crying tears of joy because they were so happy to get the life-saving vaccine. After over a year of isolation at home and hardly any social face-to-face interaction with people, I was able to suddenly be around people again and make connections with strangers from all walks of life. As an extrovert, it has been a healing experience after so much isolation this past year.

I’ve met many fellow volunteers including many frontline health care workers who on their days off chose to volunteer their time helping the vaccination effort. One nurse who I spoke with shared her story and it really struck me. She had been working as a Respiratory Therapist at the main Covid hospital in town (it was converted from a regular hospital to treat exclusively Covid patients when the numbers got so bad). Surprised why on her day off of working with very sick Covid patients she would spend her little free time volunteering at the Covid vaccine site, I asked her why. Her answer was simple. She had seen so much death, pain and suffering in the past year that she knew that she had to be a part of ending it. Her powerful words remain with me every time I mask up, put my face shield on and volunteer.

February 2013 Shot@Life advocates on Capital Hill asking for global access to vaccines (I’m in this photo somewhere!)

Even I who am not a frontline health care worker, but just an average citizen have realized how much darkness we have seen and how much we have all suffered these past fourteen months. Covid even struck my own family back in October although it was scary, fortunately we were all fine. This past year has been utterly brutal, tragic, dark, terrifying and filled with an enormous amount of anxiety and angst.  Then to throw on top of the pandemic, we had a contentious election, the murder of George Floyd (less than three miles from our home), and the aftermath of upheaval, it has been perhaps one of the hardest years of my life.

Yet, to believe that a little over year after the news of that strange virus from Wuhan had spread around the world, becoming a pandemic, has already developed and administered 1.4 billion vaccines worldwide only 14 months later is astounding and a miracle. But it also comes with its own level of inequity.

As of early April, just 0.2% of the over 700 million vaccine doses administered globally were given in low-income countries, while high-income and upper middle-income nations accounted for more than 87% of the doses, according to Tedros.

A big part of the problem has been that low-income countries who have pooled together as part of Covax ( a global initiative to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world ) has slowed. Per the World Health Organization, “Covax had been expecting to distribute almost 100 million doses by the end of March, but due to a marked reduction in supply, we have only been able to distribute 38 million doses”.

We are becoming a world of two pandemics where rich countries are living almost like before the pandemic and poorer countries such as India and Brazil are living in death and despair. We need to come together as a world and help each other, and there is a lot that we can do.

LifeStraw1million Campaign Kenya

Our team at LifeStraw in Kenya bringing safe drinking water to schools. March 2018

Through the pandemic, I have learned how insanely blessed I am to have had early access to the life-saving vaccine, a vaccine that billions of people are in dire need of and praying for. Yet, others deny it filled with misinformed and distrust about getting the vaccine. Believing just like wearing a mask and carrying a gun, it is my own Godforsaken right and freedom to not get a life-saving vaccine that could save other people’s lives and stop the spread. In my opinion, I just think it is selfish but then again, that is America, there is a strong belief by many in their own rights and freedom.

This past year, I have seen an ugly, cruel side of America that I didn’t want to see. Besides the systemic racism that has been ingrained in our nation since its founding, I saw American people getting so upset over having to wear a face mask in a building that they have beaten people to a pulp, have verbally harassed others and have torn apart relationships with family and friends. Public health has become a political weapon and tool of control all over wearing a piece of cloth over your face. It shouldn’t be that way.

When I received my first Covid vaccine back in March, I felt a tremendous amount of guilt that I would be vaccinated when I knew the many countries and frontline health care workers in poor countries haven’t even seen a single shot. It reminded me again of all my travels around the world and how there is so much Americans take for granted. Safe drinking water at your disposal, excellent health care, schools, infrastructure and yes, that American freedom to say what you want without fear of prosecution. The right to vote. To have a say in our future without fear of being put in jail for life. We are so blessed.

However, after the guilt I realized that with this advantage comes an obligation. An obligation to help the voiceless and advocate for equitable access to vaccines around the world. Remember from my days as an advocate for the UN Foundation’s Shot@Life initiative and the fact that millions of mother’s around the world walk days on foot to get a vaccine for their child. Whereas, all we have to do as an American is go to the nearest pharmacy to get a life-saving vaccine.

And a realization that by just getting my shot, I am in a small way helping mankind and making a difference. For every shot is one step further to ending this pandemic and saving more lives. We live in an intricately inner-connected world which we realized firsthand once the virus began to spread and didn’t take long to reach every country on the planet.

While everyone has their own beliefs, I truly believe the more educated you are on the facts and the truth, the more informed you are to make a decision.  If you are concerned about the safety of the vaccine, reach out and talk with your doctor. Listen to this podcast to help dispel the myths. And please whatever you do, please don’t tell me that Covid is not big deal. That the tragic, avoidable loss in the US alone of almost 600,000 people is nothing. If you haven’t been personally effected by Covid or have lost a loved one from it, consider yourself blessed. We can end this nightmare, and return to a normal life. But it doesn’t come for free.

For me, if you chose not to get the vaccine for whatever reasons that of course is your choice. Yet for me personally, if I ever was inadvertently responsible for passing along this virus unknowingly to someone who would die, I would never be able to forgive myself. That is just me.

 

Want more food for thought? As mask requirements change, do we really trust that those not wearing them will be vaccinated? 

 

 

 

 

 

18 comments

  1. Great what you are doing!
    We live at the North Norfolk coast. Here 83% got their first jab and 73% the second one (like us) as well. We suppose that’s why the incident rate is 0 for 7 weeks in our area. Nevertheless everyone is very cautious. In our rural area we hardly have people who refuse to wear a mask or who don’t keep distance. Actually, we feel quite safe. From tomorrow life is nearly back to normal but a lot of our people here think it’s too darly. We’ll see.
    Thanks for sharing your experience.
    Keep well
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    1. Thanks so much for the post. That is good to hear. Yes, we are being cautious as it has hit our country so hard and most people I know in my community has had Covid or someone in their family has. Take care!

  2. Good on you for volunteering. In New Zealand, because we don’t have COVID in the country, we are still waiting for mass vaccine roll out but I am looking forward to it happening. BTW, althugh the whole idea that the vaccine is a plot to microchip people is totally mad, microchips certainly CAN fit in needles – think about pet microchipping! Not to mention that there are huge efforts going on to develop microchips for health diagnostic and management purposs. One needs to be careful not to use incorrect information if you are trying to counter conspiracy stories.

    1. Thanks for letting me know. I was definitely off on that comment and made a mistake. I edited the post. Thanks for letting me know.

    1. Thanks Ruth. My 14 year old daughter got her first shot today. It feels pretty surreal. I feel hopeful. Hope you are well!

    1. It’s the least I could do. Wish I would have been a nurse and able to help more. But glad that things are improving. My daughter just got her first shot today. In five weeks, our family will all be fully vaccinated. After the Covid scare and losing relatives due to Covid, it feels like a good step. I also think about how horrid this past year has been for education. My daughter’s class continually got shut down from Covid cases and right before spring break, 13 out of the 22 kids in one class all got Covid and brought it home to their parents. My one friend got very sick but has recovered. It has truly been horrible.

  3. I read how in many richer countries, some Covid-19 vaccination centers are empty because people are hesitant of being inoculated. While in poorer countries, people are waiting for millions of vaccine doses to arrive so they can roll out mass vaccination immediately. In my opinion this is outrageous. What you’ve been doing is very commendable, Nicole. I hope there are more people like you and less deniers, because we really need to end this pandemic soon.

    1. Yes it is true Bama. It is so sad. It really has become a political divide as well which is even more tragic for me as people have been reading so much incorrect news and have come up with misperceptions about it all. It is so awful as I read the news daily around the world and know how much billions of people are desperate for the vaccine. I guess my hope is that we (the US) will finally send out our hordes of supplies and do what we should have done all along, help out and help poorer countries. WE are all in this together.

  4. You are a Hero my friend. Please extend my thanks and appreciation to the other volunteers. After all the negativity in the daily news, to read a post that is genuine good and kind is like a breathe of fresh air. Yes, we need to vaccinate most and particularly the rest of the world deprived of the vaccine. Until the world is vaccinated, covid will always be a threat. Stay safe and take care.

    1. Thanks for reading the post. I’ve been reading all of your posts about Covid this past year and you have really inspired me. I wish I could do more but like I said, every shot counts and makes a difference.

      1. Thank you. We’ve seen covid begin in the U.S., didn’t even know it was at first because I too was in denial that it was already here. Public health and the US Govt. was two weeks behind. When we were asking travel questions to Wuhan for covid test qualifications, it was already in Europe, and when asking travel to Italy, it was already close to our homes. No one wants to admit why it became a pandemic when it was initially containable, now it’s back to “normal” when it will never be. Thank you for making a difference, because the world needs it badly. Stay safe.

      2. Yes it is so sad. Now I look at the rest of the world and it is just tragic. India, Nepal, Brazil and Africa. I wonder when they will get more access to the vaccines that people here refuse.

      3. It is sad & disheartening. It also shows the effects of economic inequality and insensitiveness in the world. Where I am, many act like covid is no longer existent and they don’t care what’s happening to the rest of the world. It’s like , “I got the vaccine and I can do what I want now.” People get surprised when I tell them you have flu symptoms which could be covid. Their response, “ but I’m vaccinated.” Like the flu vaccine, people still will get covid but lesser severity. I drive memorial weekend and haven’t seen so much people and traffic. In 3 weeks, it’s make or break thing. We’ll find out then if herd immunity happens. Stay safe my friend.

  5. A very thoughtful post Nicole. And I agree with all of it. There shouldn’t be this terrible inequity, or people refusing to wear masks or be vaccinated. It’s so short-sighted and selfish. And you are such a hero to help out like that!
    Alison

    1. Thanks Alison. It makes me so sad about the rest of the world and how bad Covid is hitting poor countries with already inadequate health care systems. What a terrible pandemic this has been.

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