Today, I had my second shot of the Pfizer vaccine and suffered an unexpected and unreported side effect. That’s the problem with a new medical treatment; you never know what might happen.
Just a few seconds after the needle penetrated my arm, I felt a mild soreness, kind of like a flu shot. But as I sat for the required 15 minutes of observation time, a wave of something engulfed my body. It was such a strange, unfamiliar sensation that I didn’t realize what was happening. I looked around the room at the other medical personnel getting their shots, and no one seemed to pay me any attention. I wasn’t changing color, short of breath, or breaking out into a sweat. I did harbor reservations about the safety of this new vaccine that seemed rushed to market. Was I about to become a statistic in the next FDA safety bulletin?
It seemed like forever, but finally, I divined what was happening to me. I felt different inside. A fundamental change had occurred deep within my body. I sensed that others in the room experienced a similar feeling. I struggled to recall the name of the emotion. It had been so long.
It was happiness.
In fact, I was more than happy. I was joyful, almost euphoric. Today and every day would now be different. Anxiety would no longer shroud my being from morning until night. It was 2021, a new year, a beginning of a world without masks, face shields, gobs of sanitizer, and social distancing.
Immunity is a superpower
As I drove home, a giant smile erupted on my face and almost dislodged my mask. Unless I became an asymptomatic carrier, I would no longer pose a deadly threat to my family when I returned home from work each day. There was a 95 percent chance I had become invulnerable to this freak of nature. I now contributed to herd immunity. My vaccination would help protect everyone in the world who could not get vaccinated, even those who refused the potentially life-saving vaccine. For the first time, I could imagine a world without COVID-19.
Know thy enemy
Perhaps it’s fitting that the best advice to winning this interspecies war came from the ancient Chinese general Sun Tzu, “Know thy enemy.” Scientists quickly mapped the genome of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, all 29,903 nucleotides. We know its guts. This knowledge led to vaccine development in record time. Effective treatments will hopefully follow. We have a fighting chance.
I’m confident that 2021 is going to be the best year ever. Do you want to help change the world? Just fall in line and roll up your sleeve. I can’t promise you euphoria, but I’ll be surprised if you don’t smile just a little bit more.
Andrew N. Wilner is a neurologist.
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