I had reasons to do this, and it’s taught me a lot so far.
Ramona leaned over her tray, finding a bandaid. The vaccine hurt, more than the others. This time it was a J&J vaccine, which was specifically what I wanted. She told me that her mother, who lives in Nairobi, which is where Ramona is from, can’t get her second vaccine. Bi-Mart, the store where I got this done, is throwing them out because they simply can’t be kept forever. Vaccine rates have plummeted. Ramona is beside herself for good reason.
We chatted about Africa for a while. If all goes well, I head back to Kenya in September. That was one reason I wanted the vaccine. The J&J vaccine appears to be a better protector against variants:
I had done my research. Knew what travel meant, and specifically, what travel to Africa meant. Cases are rising exponentially, mostly Delta variant. My fitness trainer works full time at Bi-Mart and he told me that the store nearest me had a few left. They would be useless soon. Despite a very aggressive campaign, people had quit showing up.
That’s just appalling. It isn’t just that the richest nations hoarded these vaccines in the beginning to ensure they got their folks vaccinated first. It’s that now, too many folks in those very countries are scoffing at the need for them, acting as living Petri dishes for the variants. Like in the Deep South, and pockets of rural deniers right here in my state, as elsewhere.
One reason those variants are on the rise is because poor countries didn’t get enough vaccines in time. You can blame other factors, but you can’t get past the fact that places like South Africa and other nations weren’t treated fairly. Now they need tourists to return, just as Thailand does. The last time I checked, Thailand had a 3% vaccination rate. That means they are sitting ducks for a raging new strain. They are hugely dependent upon tourists, and there is no way folks are going to head there until the locals have been given protection.
As someone who travels regularly to such countries, I am well aware of what happens when no tourists show up. The local animal populations are decimated, the lands cleared, and the loss is terrible. Tourism protects these places, creates jobs, and increases local investment in conservation.
Even Australia, which had done such an excellent job of managing the quarantine, was far too self-congratulatory far too fast. Now their rates are rising rapidly, the result of over-confidence and political expediency. For all the excitement and enthusiasm about vaccines, what has actually happened is nothing short of insane. Hoarding, fake vaccines being given in India, politicians manipulating data to confuse people for personal gain.
It boggles the mind. The summer of 1975 I remember watching Jaws, and being utterly shocked that the local town fathers of Amity Island would put tourism above human lives when the monster shark began to lunch on local swimmers. That same evil is writ large all over the world right now. My horror seems childish back then. Money and power over people.
Now it’s standard operating procedure: X lives traded for X improvement in economic growth. We’re good. Long as I get my political rally. We’re good. Long as I make my money, doesn’t matter how many folks die from a saline vaccine. We’re good.
I had a lovely conversation with Ramona, and I appreciated hearing her very real story. That’s what it’s like for folks who have family in other countries where, this many months later, they are at terrible risk while at the same time, pharmacy techs must throw out these precious vaccines. A vaccine that might save her mother’s life.
I can’t even imagine.
At this point, we aren’t quite sure how long the vaccine protections last, but it’s clear that it’s likely that all of us are going to need something annually. To that please see:
I acted sooner, but it was for different reasons. As I get ready to reboot my travel work, I have to be an absolute realist about where I’m headed, and how the variants work. The Delta variant, as well as those which are likely developing right now, are simply the tip of the iceberg. The longer people avoid vaccination, the more time a variant has to morph. It’s what they do.
That is why pockets of un-vaccinated people are not only getting sick and sicker when a variant is introduced, but like the Alien variations on the original theme in the movie Alien: Covenant, the creatures are quite happy to adapt, feed on and expand into brand new horror shows. The variants find ways to beat the vaccines, infect faster and make us even sicker in some cases. All this because people, at least where vaccines are available, are just fucking stupid, selfish and brutally uncaring about anyone else.
But that of course is just my opinion. It’s also science.
So, how did it feel?
Shitty. Let’s talk.
By about five pm, my shoulders and the base of my skull had begun to ache badly. It took me a moment to realize it was the vaccine. The flush of it rose into my head and my face. Suddenly I had zero energy and was barely able to crawl into bed. My feet, hands, arms, everything hurt. Ached.
At 3 am I woke up with a blinding migraine. I have migraine shots, and no clue if the pain would respond. It did, but not all of it. The worst backed off and I was able to sleep. Sort of.
As someone who typically rises at 3 am, that was out of the question. I crawled like an ancient out of bed at 7:30, padded like a super elder into my kitchen, drank some lemonade and crawled back into bed. I hurt all over. My suboccipital muscles, those tiny ones at the base of my skull, are speaking to me in Icelandic. They’re pissed. I feel like I have an iron strap tightening around my forehead.
By late afternoon, which is where we are right now, I have a bit of energy back. However, I hurt in places I didn’t know were places, in ways that I wasn’t aware I could hurt. The immune system was working. The unfortunate part of this is that a good number of folks avoided the second vaccine for this very reason. However, it’s brief, but a powerful indication that your body is responding precisely as designed. Is it inconvenient? Damned right.
However I struggle to understand how much more inconvenient it is that someone’s refusal to go through mild symptoms for a few days justifies killing off broad swaths of people because you’re a carrier, and how inconvenient it was that a shitton of folks got sick and died because of you. Maybe you died, too.
Okay, you wouldn’t be reading this, but that’s beside the point.
In a very weird way I really appreciate the pain. It isn’t just that it means that my body is responding as it should to the medication. The pain, lethargy, deep discomfort, wicked-ass headaches all have given me a first-hand look into what some of the Covid and long-Covid sufferers have been experiencing. That has been a really important insight.
I read this story recently and it hit me hard:
My personal experience is hardly what she went through. However, if you take what I am feeling these two days and multiply it by 100, then realize that not only is there no end in sight but also that it will get worse because doctors really have no clue, I can understand her despair. I’m not sure I’d have chosen differently.
So you will forgive me if I take this Covid shit very seriously, especially as I plan to be in places where the variants are rampant. If plans go forward, that is. Even if not, I would posit that the Delta and her evil sisters will be all over America in no time. At least I am prepared. I hope you will be too. This is no- shit serious business, particularly as we are now beginning to realize the broad emotional, mental and physical disabilities that long-Covid sufferers now have. That says that surviving this is just the beginning for millions of folks. If you MUST discuss the economic impact, then consider what that is going to do to our health care system, our workforce and your precious fucking productivity.
I still wear my mask most times. I am comfortable with that.
There is also some solid trending that indicates that mixing vaccines may well be more helpful. To that:
While I did this a little differently, and I am well aware that I’m experimenting with my own body, the truth is that the evolving science indicates that the mixing of the different vaccines may be even more helpful. I’m giving it a try; I might be wrong.
In no way, shape or form am I advising you to do the same. My situation is unique in terms of where I travel, and the fact that I’m 68. I don’t have a lot of time left, and what time I do have, I would like to continue to adventure and ply my journalism such as I can. If it isn’t possible, I’ll cope. I fully intend to report on what I find, which has its own value. Other journalists are taking chances. I will bet many of them have done the same thing.
You can come after me for getting another vaccine. Or you can understand that I did my research, understood what was available, and am trying my level best to be responsible as I prepare to return to my adventure travel career. If I am thoroughly vaccinated, then I am far less likely to bring this back to America.
Above all, I knew that the vaccine I got yesterday was about to be tossed out. I don’t know anyone here who hasn’t been jabbed, so barking at me that I might have dragged someone kicking and screaming into Bi-Mart for a shot doesn’t fly. People are well aware of their options. That these folks are in a rich country which hoarded vaccines for THEM for THEIR protection and cannot be bothered is an insult to those who most desperately want and need them.
Like Ramona’s mother in Nairobi.
At least I put that one to use, met Ramona, and while at Bi-Mart waiting to make sure I didn’t have an allergic reaction, spent a lovely fifteen minutes learning about her life.
Was it the right thing to do? Hope so. I suspect that my body will be pretty unhappy for a few days. Given the alternatives, that’s acceptable.
However, I am done until the Powers That Be are able to tell us what the long-term requirements are. Meanwhile, Covid has moved in. As long as there are pockets of human Petri dishes anywhere, as long as there are evil doctors and politicians quite willing to sacrifice lives for political and financial gain, Covid will continue to happily morph. It’s science.
Science doesn’t care what you think about it. You can deny you have Covid to your dying breath, and many have. You still die, honey:
I intend to live. I will take a few more chances than most might, including taking a third vaccine.
Meanwhile, I need a Tylenol. My head hurts.