My liberation from COVID-19 is near

The privilege to get vaccinated allowed me to think of my future again.

Canada began its COVID-19 vaccination campaign in December 2020 [File: AFP/Joel Saget]

These are chancy and dangerous times.

Each of us has dealt with the nagging peril and uncertainty in our own way.

I am lucky. My family and I have been able to get by largely unscathed in the face of a capricious and deadly virus that hovers like a gray pall, a constant reminder that our good fortune can end in an instant.

I know, of course, that many people, in many other places, have not been so lucky or privileged; that despite them taking care and heed, this mutating virus has infected too many lives with pain, loss and questions about what might have been.

To avert disaster, my family and I have hunkered down, rarely leaving our home that, for more than a year, has been converted into a virtual office and boarding school.

From time to time, we go on long drives or walks together to feel the spring sun’s soothing warmth and to remind ourselves that there is a world out there, filled with life and possibilities.

We have been patient, too, waiting for the white-coat cavalry to arrive to offer us a way out of a pandemic that has made every today a surreal facsimile of yesterday.

We have marveled at and been thankful for the ingenuity of brilliant scientists who have managed, within months of the outbreak of COVID-19, to fashion several vaccines that blunt the debilitating and lethal consequences of this galloping scourge.

The cynic in me doubted it could be done. Now, I am beginning to believe in man-made miracles.

Still, I reasoned that, given my age, I would have to wait awhile before getting a shot. Others, in more pressing need, had to be at the front of the queue.

I struggled knowing that when my turn came, I would be vaccinated before my children. The impulse to protect – to go last, rather than first – is engrained in a parent’s DNA. To think or act otherwise, offends every measure of that abiding instinct. So, the prospect of going first rather than last is a hard pill.

But I thought I had time to prepare for the bitter sting of guilt since the roll-out of vaccines in Canada has turned into a hodge-podge of unfulfilled promises made by bureaucrats and politicians trying to reassure me and other Canadians that they are in charge when it is apparent to me and other Canadians that no one is in charge.

Instead, premiers and a prime minister play the usual sport of finger-pointing to avoid blame or accountability for the unfolding debacle over the erratic supply of vaccines and the shambolic infrastructure set up to stab needles in arms.

Then, another miracle happened: a large batch of the troubled AstraZeneca vaccine was unexpectedly shipped to Ontario in mid-March as part of a province-wide “pilot project”. The catch: the prized first doses had to be administered to those aged 60 to 64 before their potency expired on April 1.

My wife and I qualified. The trick was getting a coveted golden-ticket/appointment which could be made only by phoning a participating pharmacy.

The predictable frenzy ensued. I dialed again and again, only to be greeted by the heart-beat-like thump of a busy signal hour after hour. Resignation set in.

Then, another miracle happened: I got through. Startled, I spoke to a kind, effervescent woman who told me that a few spots were still available for the following day. My luck was holding. She also told me about angry, impatient callers who, given the urgency of now – blamed her for the irritating inconvenience. It was Western privilege, defined.

With my golden tickets in hand, I shared the happy news with my equally excited family. A vaccine that once seemed so implausible, so distant, so out of reach, was less than 24 hours away.

Soon, our giddiness turned to relief. We were finally on the exit ramp out of foreboding and into a strange place called the future.

The next day, disaster struck. Like dominoes, several European countries abruptly stopped using the AstraZeneca vaccine after reports that people who got it developed thrombosis days later. Several died.

Worried, I called my GP, who told me every vaccine has risks. The question was: what risk was I prepared to accept?

My simmering doubts were compounded by my former work as an investigative reporter that conditioned me to be wary of assurances made by people with impressive calling cards in corner offices and suits.

Concerned, we debated waiting. We waivered until, having weighed the risks against the benefits, we agreed to go ahead.

Hours later, I was standing in a long, quiet queue that threaded its way through the upper floor of my neighbourhood pharmacy.

My mood was a mixture of anticipation, excitement and a whiff of doubt. I knew I was among the lucky ones. I knew that older folk and front-line workers – bus drivers, grocery clerks, teachers, paramedics, nurses and doctors – ought to have been standing in line ahead of me.

And yet, here I was. For me, the guilt of being first rather than last passed, replaced by a necessary selfishness and profound gratitude for the gift I was about to receive.

Eventually, a young pharmacist waved me forward. I answered a few perfunctory questions, before rolling up my right sleeve.

Then, I felt the pinch that so many other people, in so many other places, have been waiting for.

While I was walking home, it began to rain heavily. I did not mind. I was a big step closer to being free of a loathsome virus that, until that moment, had imprisoned me.

My liberation from COVID-19 is near.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

More from Author
Most Read