A Dose of Hope—Make That Two Doses, Please.
On a cloudy January afternoon as I drove up Hawthorne Boulevard through the Palos Verdes Peninsula, I heard the good news on my car radio: Los Angeles County had just opened up its COVID vaccination program to residents in my age group.
Then came the challenging part.
I turned the car around and headed straight home. Racing into the house with great urgency, as if our roof were engulfed in flames, I screamed to my husband David, “NOW! We both have to get on our computers right this second!”
We did. After a frustrating 60 minutes of no availability messages and crashed websites, the two of us succeeded in snagging appointments at the Dodger Stadium drive-thru mass vaccination site for three days later. Though it felt as if that anxiety-fraught hour shaved years off my life expectancy, I had no idea how lucky we actually were to find appointments right out of the gate. As I would later learn, some of my friends spent weeks at the computer struggling to secure a date. For many, the word disappointment took on a new double entendre.
Not everyone was vying for the vaccines, however. Some remained leery:
“What if it doesn’t work against the Brazilian and South African strains?”
“I think I’d rather wait till they come out with a single-dose vaccine.”
“I’m gonna give it six months or a year and see what happens.”
“Maybe when they have it in my doctor’s office…”
My response to these measured criticisms was always the same: “Are you effing kidding me? I would get the shot in a nanosecond.” My impatience was not motivated entirely by self-interest: It was, and is, my hope that the planet can reach herd immunity through widespread vaccinations, rather than through half the population dying of COVID.
After three days that felt like three weeks, we headed to Dodger Stadium to receive Dose #1. The setup in the parking lot was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. After checking in at the front entrance, we had to snake through an elaborate series of switchbacks reminiscent of the lines used for crowd control at Disneyland. Turnout was light that afternoon, enabling my husband to pretend he was a racecar driver, skillfully navigating the hairpin turns like an honor graduate of the Bondurant School of High Performance Driving.
In no time we reached the vast and highly efficient vaccine staging area, where we were ushered into a line of cars to await our Moderna shots. The first dose went off without a hitch. We both suffered sore arms for a day or two, but no worse than the reaction to a flu shot.
Then came the nail-biting period in which we had to wait to receive our appointments for Dose #2. At the Dodger Stadium site, it’s strictly don’t call us, we’ll call you: They promise to assign you a follow-up appointment five to seven days in advance of the date, and then they tell you not to worry. Hah! To a person like myself who—well, let’s just say I prefer to be the one in control—this system leaves much to be desired.
The recommended interval between Moderna doses is 28 days. And sure enough, we both received appointments for that date about six days in advance. I read up on second-dose side effects and contacted everyone I knew who’d already been through the experience. Some felt nothing more than tenderness at the shoulder. Some were too ill to get out of bed for 36 hours: high fevers, headaches, muscle aches, chills. Most wound up somewhere in the middle, reaction-wise.
OK, worst case scenario, you feel like crap for a couple of days, but it’s totally worth it! I was psychologically prepared for anything. I shopped for bland food that would be at the ready if we were both incapacitated—chicken noodle soup, whole grain bread, a roast turkey breast.
And then the bad news came down: Our appointments were postponed. The deep freeze in the South had halted vaccine deliveries around the country, and our doses were stranded in Louisville, Kentucky. We were told again: Don’t call us, we’ll call you. Oh, and don’t worry.
Back into high anxiety mode. The next day, channeling Alexander Hamilton, I declared, “I am not throwing away my shot!” I spent the morning online, trying in vain to secure appointments at a different location. Then, acting on a tip about a new mass site that was accepting walk-ins, David and I jumped in the car and drove there to give it a whirl. After the ride over and a 20-minute wait in a line of cars, we were greeted by a warmly apologetic staffer who informed us, “Yes, we do take walk-ins, but for first doses only. I’m so sorry.”
Three days later, thanks in large measure to my persistent fretting, we received the much-awaited texts announcing our new appointments for the following morning.
This time, we encountered a sea of cars—thousands, without exaggeration. Dodger Stadium is one of the largest vaccination sites in the country if not the world, processing up to 8,000 people a day, so the three-day forced closure had made national news. The TV crews were out in force for the grand reopening, and the place was mobbed.
The traffic backup ensured there would be no high performance road maneuvers this morning. We zigzagged through the snaky lanes at a crawl before taking our place in the long, final vaccination line.
And then—it was over. Everything but waiting to find out how we would both feel.
As I write this, more than 48 hours have passed since the second dose. It’s been a strange couple of days, filled with anticipation. I’ve found it unsettling to have no idea how I might react to the vaccine. I knew I just had to go with the flow (again, not my strong suit) and take whatever might come. I almost welcomed the prospect of feeling miserable for a day or two as a signal that my immune system was responding vigorously to the vaccine.
As it turned out, David and I had no such issues. He played golf the day after the shot, and I went on a four-mile hike and worked on my writing. We experienced no reaction other than sore arms and a little fatigue.
Should I worry?
There is a tragic footnote to this story. On the drive back from Dodger Stadium, we learned that Tiger Woods had been in a serious car wreck less than two miles from our house. When we arrived home, a fleet of news choppers hovered to the southeast, where they would spend the rest of the afternoon monitoring the scene of the accident.
Tiger crashed his SUV on the same stretch of hilly road where I was driving when I first heard the radio announcement about LA opening up the vaccine program…demonstrating that life is beyond strange sometimes.
Suddenly the side effects I'd feared paled in comparison to the pain and trauma Tiger must have gone through after that crash, a suffering that will not likely ease for some time. I join the world in wishing him a successful recovery.
And I wish each and every one of you a successful vaccination experience.
Soon, I hope.