Crashing websites, endless wait times lead to vaccine envy

A contentious new vibe has recently crept into the thread of our usual weekly discourse.

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Christy Pohl, assistant director of public health service division of Winnebago County Health Department, prepares a dose of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine at Auburn High School on Feb. 5.

Scott P. Yates/Rockford Register Star via AP

My three closest friends and I are each over 65, and although we are all horrified by the attempted coup, appalled by the antics of Marjorie Taylor Greene and relieved that our 45th president has finally left the building, a contentious new vibe has recently crept into the thread of our usual weekly discourse.

Vaccine envy.

I recently participated in a Zoom call with the aforementioned trio of geezers, all of whom reside in states that have extended vaccine eligibility to people our age. Unfortunately, there have been glitches. My pal George from Florida complained that he had spent the last three weeks fruitlessly attempting to get an appointment for a shot. In an exasperated tone of voice, he ranted about crashing websites, endless wait times for customer service reps (“canned elevator music for three hours!”) and frustratingly short windows for appointments.

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My former college roommate, Steve from Ohio, was able to get the first shot but his state ran out of vaccine before he could get shot number two and he was worried that too much time would elapse between vaccinations.

Alan, a high school buddy, told us that he had received his first shot at a local stadium but he had had to wait for four hours in his car. (“I thought my bladder was going to explode.”) He had received the Pfizer vaccine and already had an appointment for the second dose but he was not overjoyed at the prospect of another bladder-bursting wait.

When he proudly held up his vaccination card, Steve shot him a dirty look and George emphatically harrumphed.But we all noted how crazy it was that people who had received the vaccine acted as if they had just won the lottery.

George then asked me about my status in the vaccination sweepstakes.I remained silent for a few seconds because I was embarrassed to reveal how easy it had been — UCLA had emailed me and I chose a date and time. There were no lines. A congenial nurse administered the shot and I made a lame joke about getting a lollipop. I had received the Moderna vaccine and she warned that I might experience soreness in my arm and fatigue. I had neither. I refrained from telling my friends that the whole thing had taken twenty minutes.

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I could hear the distinct sound of growling coming from George and Steve. Somewhat peevishly, George stated that Pfizer was better than the Moderna because the Pfizer vaccine offered 95% protection after two doses while Moderna only had a 94.2% effectiveness. I countered that the first Moderna dose offered a higher percentage of immunity.

Alan, who had received the Pfizer shot at the stadium, claimed that the side effects of the second Pfizer shot were less severe than those of the Moderna. I said that I’d never read that and that as far as I knew, side effects of both were the same.

I asked Alan if he was trying to make me feel bad about Moderna because he thought his Pfizer shot was superior. He admitted that he had and apologized.

Facetiously, I declared that I was a Moderna Man. He forced a laugh and countered that he was a Pfizer Pfella. Not that preferences mattered —nobody could choose their vaccine anyway. You got whichever vaccine was available.

Nevertheless,the conversation drifted in another direction — the new vaccines. George opined that Novavax, was the best one because it was a single shot. Steve said that he didn’t want the Johnson & Johnson vaccine because it was only 72% effective. Alan then observed that Novavax was better atpreventing moderate and severe disease.

After an hour, Zoom fatigue set in and we all decided to end this session and do it again in a few weeks. I wished George, Steve and Alan good luck and assured them that Joe Biden was going to straighten up the vaccination mess that his clueless predecessor had left him and that they would soon get their shots. Maybe then we would all be able to see each other in person again. Maybe take a cruise down to Puerto Vallarta or something.

Later that afternoon, I sent each of them three of my spare N95 masks with a note that read, “Be safe, amigos.”

John Blumenthal has been an editorial staffer at Esquire and an editor/columnist at Playboy.

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