Dear Wayne and Wanda,
Because I work in a medical office, I was able to already get my first round of my COVID-19 vaccine, with my second round just a few weeks away, and instead of being happy for me, the people I have told have reacted with jealousy and judgment.
I know I am lucky that I was among the first to get the shot: I am in fairly good health, I am not elderly. But I also do work in a position where I encounter risk, and I qualified for the vaccine. It isn’t like I broke any rules or cut in line. I told my significant other, and she has been completely weird about the whole thing, acting distant and avoiding the topic. I told my (adult) sister and she basically said it was messed up that I was able to get the vaccine before our elderly parents and asked if I felt bad about it. I also told a couple of close friends, and they talked about how lucky I was that I could finally start being “normal” again — which isn’t at all true.
I have seen others who have shared news about getting vaccinations on social media and it seems like most people aren’t congratulating them or expressing happiness, but instead ask things like how they managed to get one so soon, and how they themselves can get one.
Has COVID turned us all into selfish jerks? Why are people being so weird about this? I am very pro-vaccine and would like to talk about my experience to encourage others but am afraid I will get blowback if I do. Thoughts?
Your dilemma is timely, as we all see this playing out in our social media feeds on up to national headlines, where the distribution of and access to vaccines has in many cases been painted as a case of haves and have-nots. The truth, more nuanced, is that everyone was never going to get the vaccine all at once, and some people were bound to go first just as some would have to wait.
What does it mean for you? I think you already know, because you’re living it: if you share your news, not everyone will be overjoyed for you. And even if they are happy for you, they are so worried and/or anxious about their own scenario, they legitimately don’t have the mental capacity to push aside their own situations to put you first.
And guess what? That’s OK! In fact, that’s normal, that’s to be expected. We’ve all essentially endured a year-long trauma-train at this point, with so many twists and turns and bumps and even derailments that any perceived pause between us and elusive normalcy feels cruel and unfair. It also feels cruel and unfair that so many have to wait for their vaccination.
So when your friends and family seem defeated, deflated and definitely not elated when you share your vaccine news, don’t take it personally. It isn’t because they’re mad at you; it’s because they’re working through their own overload of emotions while trying to navigate the complexities of getting a vaccine of their own.
Thank you for putting yourself out on the front lines through this pandemic — I don’t care what your role is, if anyone deserves the first doses of vaccines it’s you and all the hardworking health care professionals out there. Your work is appreciated and I’m sure you all have sacrificed more than most people will ever know.
Look, at this point, we’re all losing our minds and freaking out about low vaccine availability and high GameStop stock prices, new COVID-19 strains and politics as usual, not to mention waking up every single morning to learn what Earth-shattering, life-changing surprise the day has for us now. Like Wanda said: It isn’t personal. You almost have to shake it off and give everyone a pass for being jerks right now.
Hmm, if only you knew someone connected to the health care system who could help your friends and family, especially mom and dad, get clarity on when and where they can get their first shots. Oh wait —that’s you! You can be proud of your vaccination status and also play the hero. Move your parents through the online maze and phone games to get them signed up for one of the many vaccination events available for our Alaska elders. And keep your friends updated on possible openings around the community — you of all people know that providers don’t want to waste a single dose of vaccine, so if you hear of an event that has a surplus, tell them to get their shoulders down there!