The worst part was the parking.
It was a crystal clear morning with temperatures in the high 60s, complemented by a gentle breeze. One year ago today the world shut down. Now, I was taking probably the most significant step yet in getting over the impediment known as the coronavirus pandemic, which has been actively disrupting everyone’s lives for a full year, longer than that in places outside the United States.
I was getting a vaccine.
My eligibility came as a surprise. As a journalist (not an overly critical job) and healthy college student, I assumed myself in North Carolina’s group five, aka “the people we have determined literally need this vaccine the least.” Given that my work required me to meet people in-person, this concerned me.
Everything changed when my boss texted me last week, saying that another journalist had inquired about the eligibility of frontline reporters and the state of North Carolina responded, confirming they were actually part of group three, which was currently in the process of getting vaccinated.
I fumbled around with my phone to make a hasty call to Atrium Health. They were booked solid until at least April, but there was a mass distribution event being held at Bank of America Stadium for the Pfizer vaccine. A couple questions about my work and birthday later, and I was set up with my dates. The first dose would be the morning of March 11, while the second had to be exactly three weeks later, on April 1st.
This brings us to the present day. Parking was a pain, I did it once already Tuesday when I took a friend to his appointment, and it was not much better now. Hundreds of people were entering a single parking deck reserved for their appointments- in uptown Charlotte. The line of cars waiting to get in was backed several blocks away, and it moved at a crawl.
Things went much smoother after that. I approached the grandiose entrance of Bank of America stadium, reminiscing of when I’d walked the same route under happier circumstances to go see the hometown Carolina Panthers play football. An employee took my temperature with a contactless scanner and handed me a small paper packet, which had a card to fill out personal information on. My phone screen changed to a green QR code.
The QR code and its corresponding color was an indication of a pre-appointment wellness check, which asks questions not too dissimilar from the Novant Health-sponsored daily symptom checker Queens already has its students do. Green meant you were fine and would have to wait 15 minutes after your shot before being able to leave, just to make sure you didn’t have any adverse side effect. Orange would have been an indicator of either a pre-existing allergy, feelings of malaise or other specific conditions that would have required you to wait 30 minutes.
I was directed down several passageways with metal grates guiding pedestrian traffic on either side of me, in a scene similar to waiting to go through terminal security at an airport. I then came around a black curtain to a clearing, where people were being split off and sent to different tables. Everyone was getting their vaccine out in the open together, which made my stomach churn a bit.
There are two types of people when someone receives a shot: Those who watch and those who look away. I am firmly in the look-away department, I cannot handle the sight of a massive needle being thrust into my arm, while a fluid slowly drains from the vial into my body. I’m getting queasy just typing this out.
But that was it. I sat in the chair I was directed to, presented my right arm, and grit my teeth at the brief stab of pain that flared up in my shoulder. I dragged my form- now stamped with the time of my first vaccine dose- and an aching right arm over to a group of chairs, where dozens of people were sitting a few feet apart from each other while their post-shot waiting periods ticked away.
The important takeaway here, however, is that I feel great. No adverse side effects. No expulsion of black bile or sudden desire to sing karaoke. I feel like someone should feel after an ordinary shot.
30 minutes later, I was back home. The experience took about an hour in all, most of it just waiting to get there.
If you have a chance to get the Covid vaccine, please take it. This pandemic has been a brutal trudge for us all, but we’re approaching its finale, and these vaccinations are critical to doing so.
Don’t just take my word for it. Other Queens students have begun getting vaccinated too.
“Given the circumstances and everything we have been through as a nation and as people this past year, it was an extremely exciting and monumental moment,” Naomi Matthusen, ‘22, said after her shot.
“I could see the light at the end of the tunnel as I sat down to receive my shot that day.”