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Vaccination vigilance pays off

Hallelujah! The combination of being in the right place at the right time, chutzpa and a lot of women-to-women networking resulted in my husband and I getting our first COVID-19 vaccinations during the past week.

The unparalleled feeling of relief it provided me was unexpected. A “shot in the arm” in every possible way.

We had been vigilant in watching for and accessing news updates and web-based links that offered vaccine eligibility information and vaccination venues. We had gone down a few rabbit holes with well-meaning friends directing us to locations that did not materialize. “Still she persists,” was my motto.

My husband has metastatic cancer, and I am, technically, his caregiver, so that was in our favor. Plus, of course, we are both old. Add to that, I am an educator — granted an “old educator,” who does daily computer-based tutoring of my elementary-age grandson. We checked a lot of the first wave boxes. But it is the need for vigilance that stands out for me. The importance of looking for an opportunity, having opportunity — and then seizing it.

In our case, we are in our mid and late 70s, but we are computer savvy, which many elders are not. We have a printer that allows us to create the “tickets” that are needed with Eventbrite locations. We have easy access to transportation to an identified vaccination site, and friends and family in the health care field to advise us about possibilities and protocols. We are fortunate in many ways.

Here is another reality. We are action-oriented. The retired friend who identified the vaccination opportunity phoned from the vaccination site saying, “Get down here! No lines. No appointments — it’s a soft opening.”

We were in the car within minutes of her call. She called three other couples in circumstances similar to ours and heard responses like: “I think we’ll pass. We are being incredibly careful and not going out much. We have masks,” or “We’re watching a good movie on Netflix right now — we’ll wait for another time.”

As we age, I think we all look back on decision points in our lives and recognize that had we taken a different approach at a certain intersection, the results would/could be life-altering. Had I been more assertive about the caregiving I arranged years ago for my father or asked better questions (exhibited more “chutzpa”) in the early stages of my husband’s cancer diagnosis, I believe the course of life’s events could have been different.

I do not think it is overreach to say the opportunity to be vaccinated is a life and death gift. When you are given that decision, I suggest, as our new president says about getting us more vaccine and vaccination opportunities, “Move heaven and earth” to take advantage of it.

If you have an elderly neighbor without a computer or transportation or enough information, provide it. If you have an aging friend (or a friend of any age) who has discomfort with a presented opportunity to receive the shot, help them understand its importance. Move heaven and earth on their behalf. And when it’s time for their second shot, do it again.

Sharon Johnson is a retired health educator. Reach her at sharjohn99@gmail.com.