The Covid Vaccine: My Two Cents and then some

1D194D4D-0EE0-4B49-8BBD-46396D693D4A When news of the vaccine approvals started floating last year, I was skeptical. I felt like this virus was something that was unknown and possibly evolving, and there was an obvious rush to get a vaccine developed to combat it. While other areas of research were focusing on how to get the pandemic under control and treat the illness more effectively, there was a parallel effort to come up with the vaccine that would, at the very least, minimize or eliminate hospitalization and death. While the cure was, by itself, quite a debacle, the vaccine to protect us from it was both a welcome and scary thought.

I will be honest and admit that my first thought was that I wasn’t too sure I would want to receive the vaccine. I was thinking about how the many years that were devoted to pharmaceutical development, testing and approval were being waived given our current situation. There’s also a paranoid side of me that goes back to the premise of the movie “I am Legend” which implies that the transformation of the infected to zombies was caused by a botched vaccine for cancer. (If my memory serves me right). Of course, that version took a lot of liberties converting the original movie “Omega Man” into a modern day post-pandemic scenario. What is heartening is that both movies end with a cure being discovered. Sadly, not without a huge casualty count in its wake.

But back to the modern day covid era where our lives in all parts of the world have been upended. Even the countries where they have successfully controlled the spread of the disease have chosen to close their borders— yet another drastic change in the normal that we all used to know.

New York started its vaccine rollout by prioritizing the elderly and front line workers. News of long lines and difficulty securing an appointment made me pessimistic about getting vaccinated. Being just weeks shy of 55 when the vaccinations began, I told myself that I’d be lucky to get vaccinated by the fall. Not that I was all excited about the prospect of being vaccinated, but I know any plans to travel home (Manila) would hinge on my getting past this hurdle.

By mid-February, a glimmer of hope came when it was announced that certain co-morbidities would qualify, even without meeting the age requirement. This was set to take effect on February 15. I had made plans to request for a letter certifying my asthma when I logged on to the patient portal of Columbia Doctors, and found the letter already in my inbox. The hospital had sent it on the 13th, in anticipation of me qualifying for vaccination. I must say I was impressed that they had made good on their promise to let their patients know when we qualify. My general practitioner, hematologist, orthopedist, nephrologist and dermatologist are all in their network — including my radiology center— so I must say I’m a happy patient.

But that was just the start. There was the debacle of finding an actual site that had an available appointment. The pharmacies were only taking on the elderly and the frontline workers. Even the vaccination center of Columbia Doctors at the Armory were focusing on the same and eventually on certain zip codes. I heard horror stories of people waiting for hours in the mass vaccination sites after the initial struggle to land a slot. I told myself that maybe I’m not meant to get it. It seemed that everywhere I went, there were no appointments available.

Until a friend sent me a link to another avenue of vaccinations in New York, and I immediately got an appointment when I registered. The appointments for March and April were gone in 48 hours.

Getting vaccinated

My reluctance and misgivings about being vaccinated was greatly dissipated by the fact that everything seemed to have fallen into place with little effort. It literally landed on my lap. I felt like the ease with which I secured a vaccination appointment was a gift I should not waste, given all the hurdles others were facing to secure their own.

On the appointed date, I showed up, and fell in line behind the one person ahead of me outside the entrance of the hospital. I had my paperwork ready – proper identification, the appointment email, and my letter certifying my comorbidity.  I chose Lenox Hill Hospital downtown as my vaccination site.  Upon arrival, I was asked to check in through my phone with a standard questionnaire common to covid screening and tracing. By the time I was done checking in, I was in line for the elevator taking me to the vaccination floor. I fell in line for actual registration with the same 5 people who went up on the elevator with me, giving my name, my ID, and my proof of residency since I didn’t have a state-issued ID. (Thank you, Spectrum, for the utility bill.) I also presented them with the letter certifying my qualification. All done in 10 minutes. I was then directed to the vaccination line, where I was ushered to the nurse who would administer my shot.

Another series of questions – and she entered my information, and finally, the jab. I was directed to another table to set my next appointment for the second shot within the approved window, and my appointment card was duly noted. Because of my abnormal bleeding — I am a “bleeder”, by medical standards — I was made to sit in the waiting area for observation for 30 minutes instead of the usual 15. All went well. Finally, one last check out in the system, a sticker (or two) to take home, and I was on my way.

Getting vaccinated

I walked out of the building feeling just fine. As I turned the corner and crossed to the other side, I saw this huge sign on the front of the hospital proudly declaring “Heroes work here.” Indeed.

Getting vaccinated

I only felt a tenderness in the arm that took the injection and a general sense of fatigue. I’m not too sure if the latter was caused by the medication, or if it was because I had walked my 10,000 steps and then some that same afternoon around the hospital. I had half jogged and walked on my way to Lenox Hill because I had been “stalled” by what was supposed to be a quick trip to Strand’s many blocks away but in the same area. (So much for a quick stop, which is not nearly that easy when you walk into that bookstore. I can literally spend the day there..)

The following day, I was fine. No side effects, and the tenderness, although still present, was barely noticeably except when I touched my arm. I felt okay. I was okay. Truth be told, I was relieved. The anxiety building up against the idea of being vaccinated, and then the subsequent dilemma of not being able to find an appointment and then getting that link, and then finally leaving the hospital knowing I had my first vaccination running through my veins was like a load off my back. I felt like I had more than just a card up my sleeve — that for the first time, beyond my masks and all the safety protocols that we now observed on a daily basis, I was actually armed with a shield. I just need the second shot — the sword — to actually have a real fighting chance.

The 21 days to my next appointment couldn’t have come sooner. The line was just a little longer (around 12 people deep) because second shot recipients were now overlapping with people who were getting their first shot. A staff member was now meeting people who were just joining the line to check their names off a masterlist. No more phone check in this time, we were ushered up again in groups of 5-6. Same deal with the registration/identification, with our names being checked against a masterlist and our information being verified with our appointment and vaccination cards. Then we fell in line for the actual vaccination.

Getting vaccinated

I was fortunate enough to have landed a kababayan (fellow Filipino) nurse who assisted me so ably. We did the run through of the questions, and even chatted about his own experience with the vaccination. As an ER nurse, he told me that he still saw a lot of people being brought in for Covid, and that it was alarming that more younger people between the ages of 20-40 were being admitted. He, too, felt relieved, when he was able to get vaccinated. Like my previous nurse, he made me feel at ease and even gamely posed for a selfie which I wanted to put on my feed to encourage my other friends to get vaccinated.

It’s ironic how my initial sense of anxiety over the thought of being adversely affected by the vaccine turned into anxiety about not getting it. It’s like running full circle on this rollercoaster ride over Covid 19 which has taken over our lives in sweeping strokes. A year after everything ground to a halt and “normal” as we knew it completely disappeared, there is still much to be done to help us go back to a sense of what we had before.

I have been fortunate to not have suffered any adverse side effects beyond the pain in my arm. I am now vaccinated, but I still wear my mask wherever I am in contact with others. I still carry and use a pocket hand sanitizer. I wash my hands when I get home or get near a sink after touching door handles and other surfaces that have been touched by others. I have even returned to work, even if only partly.

Getting vaccinated

As the pandemic continues to rage in all corners of the world and we are racing to keep in step with its onslaught, the vaccine has provided a much needed crutch to keep us steady as we try to outrace this killer. I am far from being optimistic about a return to normal any time soon. But I am hoping that the effort to vaccinate as many as possible will stop us from sliding into rising casualty figures. We aren’t quite there yet, but there is a better chance for us to get there.

I have friends who still refuse to be vaccinated. I respect their stand. But I try to goad as many as I can to get themselves innoculated against the covid virus before it gets to them. I have been fortunate enough to not have had anyone close enough to me, succumb to the ravages of the virus. My friends who have battled it have won— and successfully recovered. Still, we can’t let our guard down.

It is my hope that more people will see the wisdom in being vaccinated at the soonest opportunity. Many people envy us for the availability of choice here— whereas other countries have to contend with making do with less options for vaccines to take, and worse yet, scarcity of resources to get themselves the jab.

Let us not let that precious resource go to waste because of a fear magnified by misinformation and misplaced doubt. Despite its rushed approval, the vaccines that have been approved for distribution are based on existing studies and science. There will be casualties of side effects, true. But even the simplest of medication that we take everyday have the same dangers on any given day. To me, the most relevant point we must consider is would we rather risk getting sick with Covid, rather than take the chance on the vaccine that will help us fight it off.

I think about the millions of people still running scared in the shadow of possible contamination, and the millions of others being ravaged by the disease. It seems to be such arrogance to shirk away from the one things others are not as lucky to have access to. As of mid-May, vaccination numbers are beginning to slide and there is news of people missing their much needed second shot.

I am done with mine. My 17 year old is about to get his second shot. And yet even while I’m fully vaccinated, I’m not putting my masks away, nor letting go of the now ingrained habit of washing my hands and keeping the sanitizer close at hand. I know things are far from returning to normal. The news that finds its way to us from around the globe and even around us here continue to remind us of this. Many parts of the Philippines are on lockdown. That, in itself, is a stark reminder of how the pandemic is far from over. It hits so close to home for me.

This post has been churning in my head for over two months now. It started when my first vaccination was approaching.. and now I am almost a month into being fully vaccinated.

And the journey continues.

Sunday inspiration

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I made some vegetarian lasagna last night which might actually become a go-to recipe for me this season. Like previous years, I have opted to forego beef and pork for the Lenten season as my personal sacrifice. But the lasagna will have to wait another time. It’s not exactly from scratch and more of the semi-home made kind, and I’m pretty proud of how it came out to be. Now if only it didn’t add the pounds the night after. (And I have one more slice left.)

I’ve been taken by M. Night Shyamalan’s “Servant” which I’ve been watching since Friday. I can’t wait until next Friday when the next episode drops. I’ve always been a fan of M. Night’s work because of his story telling mastery. No matter how dark or fantastic a story he might be telling, I don’t mind watching his movies over and over again. So when I saw the series on Apple TV, I decided to give it a try. The first episode was classic M. Night. I paused. When I went back, I couldn’t stop. I’ve watched the entire Season 1 and all of the episodes of Season 2 that had been released so far. Like I said, waiting for the next episode.

I’ve tried to stay away from the postcards today, because it’s preoccupied a lot of my time the last few days. The sorting continues, (Yay!) and I’ve been weeding out the cards for destashing. I’ve also discovered some cards on Amazon to add to my New York and map cards. I’ll say it again, much as postcrossing has changed the world of postcard collecting, I still prefer direct swaps. The disappointments are not as jarring as the surprises that might come your way from some other place of the world.

I have letters to write. One has been popping in and out of my head to a long time penpal and fellow postcard collector I’ve corresponded with for many years. She is like a little sister to me — and we share various passions together. From personal art (although she is undoubtedly the more accomplished artist) to jewelry making and postcards, we have share a friendship via long distance for many years now. I am wondering how she’s doing, and hoping that she has gotten my last postcard. She and I are close enough that I send a small packet for her whenever I send something to Manila in a balikbayan box, I will start the letter tonight.

I am in the February section of my art journal. I have the layout in my head, but I’m trying to make up my mind about the way I will execute it beyond the heart pages that I’ve already cut. It’s a bit problematic with the thinner used Manila folders that make up most of my journal. I can probably use something thicker, or layered pages for the watercolor or acrylic heavy layouts.

So I thought I’d try my hand at maybe thickening the pages by doing collage. I had a color in mind — I’ve been cutting away, but after picking up some pieces decided it wasn’t the direction I wanted to go. Maybe I’ll change my mind later. But I’m keeping the magazine pages that called out to me. I started with this heap below.

Collage

The black and white pages are similar to layouts I had used in last year’s art journal. I like the black dresses which can be drawn over or written on. From this pile, I got to the cut outs below.

Collage

I use straight scissors to cut huge chunks, and a pointy smaller pair for detailed cutting. Lessons from my days with mixed media artist trading cards. While others would prefer to cut with blades or a cutting knife, I have acquired some skill in cutting finely near the border or just outside the border.

Collage

I have the hearts cut out. I had hoped to try to at least assemble the signature together tonight but some cassava got in the way. Given how the folder paper reacts to water, though, I’m thinking if I should paint them first before I pull the section together. Decisions, decision.

My Sunday has been relaxing and busy. I’m thinking of three other chores I can focus on but they can wait. I want to relax and recharge and get my personal projects going this weekend. It’s terribly cold outside but I need to do my walk in a bit. No evening walks when the temperature dips so low, and not on a day when I don’t have to worry about returning to my laptop to continue working.

Last week, I received the health certification from my primary care provider that now entitles me to be vaccinated with the next cohort of qualifiers. Even if I am below 65, the fact that I have a chronic condition that puts me at risk as an asthmatic pushes me up the line. But it isn’t quite that easy. I now have to wait for the vaccine providers to open their system to people of my situation, and then I need to get an appointment.

My letter was dated February 13, in anticipation of the opening of the next tier by the state on February 15, Still, my provider has indicated that they hope to start vaccinating this next set of qualifiers beginning February 23rd. My local pharmacy’s webpage hasn’t quite updated their website to help me qualify just yet. So like the thousands before me, we must play the cat and mouse game of trying to get an appointment. This Sunday, I’m not going to bother myself with that. It can wait another day. And that is altogether another post — soon.

I’m getting ready for Monday and the rest of the week. I think I’ve gotten into a better rhythm after almost of year of working the way we work now. The stress has abated although it has not gotten any less busier. I guess I’m just coping better. Positive thoughts about what the week will bring will hopefully bring me to dreamland with more ease later. Here’s to a better and warmer week for all.

All that snow

1D194D4D-0EE0-4B49-8BBD-46396D693D4AWe had quite the nor’easter Monday which saw New York City buried in over 12 inches of snow. I stopped counting at 12 inches. When I went out Tuesday afternoon to pick up a prescription from the local pharmacy, it was still windy and snowing. The walkways had been plowed but the whole area was still blanketed with thick snow. I cannot imagine how it was in Central Park.

My thoughts about winter haven’t quite changed. I am a warm weather person. Humid, hot, warm.. bring me back home.

It is very pretty when the snow is freshly fallen — when everything is a pure white.. then it melts and turns to slush and then we have to deal with it as we go about our daily business. Then it’s no longer cute.

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The sad news is that after a streak of 169 days of walking over 10,000 steps a day, I got stuck at home and there was no getting around to even attempting any portion of my daily walk. Today was a struggle with thick snow even on the plowed walkways, and it had started to snow again, so I had to head home after just under 4,000 steps. I feel like I need to recalibrate and restart.

I was initially disappointed but I’ve tried not to be too hard on myself. Covid has taught me to be more flexible and to be more forgiving. And forgiveness should really start with ourselves. So I forgive me.. and yes, I will get started on my next streak of 10,000 steps minimum a day soon enough.

I woke up to a cool and grey morning, and I finally got to make my tsamporado or cocoa porridge. Yes, we Filipinos like our sticky rice porridge with cocoa. I tried to do a smaller portion, but still ended up with two servings. Gone in one sitting. LOL. It was one of those mornings when I weighed myself but refused to stick to my calorie limits for breakfast.. just this once.. so I indulged. (I am almost fearful to see how much I ended up gaining tomorrow.). It brings me back to memories of home — even if the last time I had this, I actually made it even I was supposed to be the visiting daughter waiting on Mom’s home cooking! I didn’t mind.. it was all part of the full experience of being home with family. I remembered to use a ratio of 1 portion sticky rice to 5 portions water, and 1/2 portion cocoa. I would normally have put sugar but I opted for sweeteners so I completely omitted that.

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January just bid us goodbye and we are on the second month of the year already. Things seem to be moving faster somehow. And here I am looking at a stack of magazines that came in last month which I need to skim through and make a quick decision to keep or toss. I plead guilty to letting my subscriptions get the better of me — I don’t get to open to read and scan them when they get here, and they end up in a phantom pile which remains untouched for weeks on end. This year, I promised myself I will set aside time to scan, read, and discard what I don’t need. January magazines, you will be scanned this weekend.

I have been busy sorting my beads — again. I’ve made a concerted effort to eliminate the mini-bins I have all over the place containing pieces I had used to work on previous projects. Metal findings, crystals and glass, and gemstones. It’s been slow but I’m proud to have consolidated more than 12 mini containers. I’ve already washed them for use later. (I use dishwashing liquid but don’t use the sponge I used with the dishes and pots and pans. The oil residue tends to be left on plastic surfaces, so I use a half sheet paper towel to apply detergent to the plastic cups.)

The excess Christmas cards are all in one bag, ready to be put away in a special closet where I keep it for the following year. I was fortunate to have caught the after-holiday sale of Papyrus last year, and the subsequent clearance that followed before they closed for good just before Valentine’s Day. I am actually all good for next Christmas, but I’m thinking I might work on making my holiday cards again. Maybe.

It was a very different Christmas this year. I am hopeful that we will have an even more different Christmas come the end of the year — something closer to what we were used to. I’m trying to keep my expectations reasonable, though. We all thought the lockdown would end sooner, and that we would be going back to something akin to normal like back to the office by this time.. We were thinking that in October, but now, it looks like the projected return in May is still up in the air.

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I am patiently waiting my turn to be eligible to be vaccinated. At almost 55 and not being a frontliner, I think mid year or the fall is pretty optimistic given how the rollout has gone. So I’m taking care of the other vaccinations a golden girl like myself needs — like the shingles vaccine. I almost got it this weekend but the pharmacist told me I needed a prescription because I was under 60. (Something they could’ve told me when I called to inquire… they said, come on over and so I did.)

I will confess that my initial reaction to the vaccine was one of skepticism. I kept telling myself I don’t know what the side effects are — and is it worth the risk? Since the rollout started, the waiting has given me time to reflect and think. I’ve seen friends who are qualified to be with the initial batch of recipients get theirs, and I have to admit that I am green with envy. I wish I could get mine.. and shortly after, I wish my boy could get his. But the way they are going by age and risk factor, there are millions ahead of us.

I used to jokingly remind friends about the premise of “I am Legend” — the remake of “Omega Man” — and how a vaccine gone wrong started a mutation in humans that led to catastrophic results. And that was something that was supposedly vetted — even in the realm of cinematic fiction — and science failed miserably to foresee the consequences. What more this vaccine which was rushed through the usual years of trials and tests — not without reason, but still, it makes one wonder if we are taking a bigger risk putting our faith on the vaccine.

I don’t want to dwell too much on it lest it change my willingness to be vaccinated before I actually qualify to get my shot. That’s for another post altogether.

Speaking of other posts, I’ve actually started to trade postcards again — in baby steps, primarily because so much has changed about collecting. And of course there’s the usual burden of postage costs, and the added delays thanks to travel and cargo restrictions across international lines. I paused there and suddenly thought about whether or not it would be better to sit things out in the meantime. But I have the postcards to trade. Again, a product of my efforts to get organized. I’ve actually been going through my spares and have identified the postcards that need a new home. One postcard at a time. It’s given me ideas about writing a post on things I have learned about collecting postcards which the younger postcard collectors might want to read about. I’ve been drafting that post in my head. Next one in all likelihood.

We’re still looking at colder days ahead. And then rain. (Never good when it snows a ton and then it rains. That can only mean ice which no one likes.). I am just grateful the week is halfway done. Work has been busy but an okay kind of busy. I’m dealing with it. No fires to put out just yet. (Fingers crossed.)

I’m trying to wind down now so I can get to dreamland faster. The weekend was a struggle, and I am trying to be optimistic about tonight being easier. There’s the sleep cast.. and a little help.

Goodnight, world. I’m hoping the universe carries me through to a restful sleep tonight.