Personal Log: Earth Date, March 5th, 2021.
This column is going to be a little different from my usual sci-fi/fantasy/horror reviews, rantings and occasional convention coverage; this column is dedicated to a subject I am equally passionate about, and to which I’ve dedicated a portion of each new post — the current coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic, which has taken over half a million American lives and several million people worldwide. As usual, I also offer my personal perspective as an old sci-fi geek living in Southern California.
I’ve known at least 15 or more people in my immediate circle (friends and extended family) who’ve been infected by COVID-19, and a few relatives of those people who’ve died from it as well. This pandemic has changed all of our lives and routines. I myself have been masking up (double-masking now) and washing my hands a lot. I’m also increasingly leery of large crowds these days; even the formerly benign ritual of grocery shopping almost feels like playing Russian Roulette now (I try to shop early in the mornings when it’s less crowded). At least I’m fortunate that my state isn’t one of the reckless few who’ve prematurely rolled back their mask mandates as of this writing (ugh! Don’t even get me started…).
Sadly, my social life has taken a large hit as well. No sci-fi or comic book conventions in the past year. My wife and I have tried having masked, socially distant outdoor movie nights with small groups of our friends, but fears of not knowing others’ contact histories as well as holiday spikes in coronavirus infections have temporarily put the kibosh on those for awhile. We plan to resume them as soon as our core group is immunized.
My wife has learned how to tech art from home via conference calls with students and other faculty, and has even made YouTube videos with a colleague to aid in teaching her students. After several years of covering San Diego Comic Con, WonderCon and Star Trek Las Vegas for this site, I have attended my first virtual convention recently (“Planetfest ’21: To Mars and Back Again“), just when I wondering if my convention-going days were ended during this pandemic.
Like the Borg, we have adapted.
Aiding in this adaptation, several COVID vaccines have been rushed into production by three competing manufacturers in record time; there is a vaccine created by Pfizer, another by Moderna and yet another by Johnson & Johnson. My wife has just taken her second Pfizer shot a week ago, and she experienced a range of side effects including swelling at the injection site, soreness in her arm, body aches and chills. Most of these side-effects had occurred after her second shot, taken roughly three weeks after her first. She bounced back after a day or two.
I was beginning to give up hope that I would get my shot anytime soon, since I’m not quite a senior citizen (54) and I’m not a frontline worker, first responder or some other high-priority case. I didn’t want to push, because I realize there are many others in far greater need than myself. So I was perfectly willing to wait for my shot. But for my own peace of mind, I very much wanted to receive a vaccination as soon as possible.
Flashback–Two Days Ago: March 3rd.
Then on the evening of March 3rd, I got a call from a good friend of over 30 years who happens to work for my healthcare provider as well. She told me that her clinic had a surplus of the Moderna vaccine, which has a 94.1 percent efficacy rating (as opposed to Pfizer’s 95 percent), and which requires a 28 day interval between the first and second shots, as opposed to the 21 day interval for Pfizer. Sounded too good to be true!
To be honest, I would’ve been perfectly satisfied receiving the recently approved Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccination, which only has a 66 percent efficacy, but which seems to prevent serious illness and hospitalizations from COVID infection. That would’ve been fine by me, but the Moderna vaccine was certainly a step up, so I jumped at the chance. My friend told me to get in line early the next morning at the clinic, and to try and get my name onto a sign-on sheet. My hopes were low, and my friend told me that I might want to keep trying every morning if I weren’t successful.
The Moment of Truth.
The next morning, March 4th, I arrived at 8:15 a.m, and there was already a modest line. Being a sci-fi convention veteran, you could say I’m well used to waiting in long lines by how (hehe), so I patiently waited. Much to my surprise the line moved along quite quickly. When the attending clinic worker asked if I had an appointment (as most of the attendees had). I said I’d heard about the signup sheet for surplus doses. I presented my medical ID card and got signed up. I was then told that there might be a callback later on, but if not, report back to the same line at 4 pm.
Well, being the anal-retentive nerd that I am, I was there (wearing my customary dual-layer of facial masks) at about 3:35 pm; this is another habit from years of sci-fi conventioneering–always arrive much earlier than the scheduled time. Now there was only one person ahead of me, and when the clinic attendant asked if I had an appointment, I once again mentioned the signup sheet. They quickly found my name, and welcomed me inside.
I then filled out some perfunctory paperwork (which took all of two minutes) and received my ‘vaccination card’—basically a paper ‘boarding pass’ to get my shot. I was a little taken aback; expecting a huge ball of red tape, I was apparently being vaccinated that same day.
I was then taken to a large, socially-distanced room filled with technicians and a couple dozen or so people in my age demographic (mid-40s to senior citizens). I was asked if I was left or right-handed, and of course, being one of those weird people who seem to fall through the cracks on everything, I told them I was ambidextrous; so they administered the shot in my left arm. It was over before I knew it. Barely felt it at all.
Afterward, I was told to wait for 15 minutes in a safe-distanced area to ensure that I wasn’t prone to post-injection allergies or anaphylactic reactions (extremely rare, but possible). I then played with my iPhone for a few minutes, and was dismissed by the nurse. Coming home, I felt great. In fact, for the rest of the evening I’d assumed I’d somehow avoided side-effects altogether.
The Side Effects.
Well, this morning, March 5th, I got a taste of what my wife had gone through with her two vaccination shots; my left arm was a bit tender in the general injection site, and about an hour after waking up my throat felt a bit sore. This was good news, because it meant that my immune system was reacting to the vaccination exactly as predicted.
As of this evening, even the soreness in my arm is subsiding a bit (after reaching peak soreness this afternoon; no worse than my arthritis, really). About the only downside is that, per the CDC guidelines, I had to skip my usual anti-arthritis exercises for one day (20 min. on my Exercycle, or my long neighborhood walk), though I did shake my arms rhythmically and repeatedly for about 40 odd minutes—an exercise shortcut I’d learned to keep my heart rate strong and my blood circulating. It helped.
Now, it’s nearly 10 pm here in my sunny corner of California, and I’m feeling great. My sore throat is virtually gone, and the pain in my arm is subsiding. Within two weeks or so, I should be at roughly 60 percent immunity against coronavirus, and two weeks after my second shot, my immune system should be roughly 94 percent effective. After my immunity fully kicks in (mid-April, by my estimate), I plan to continue wearing masks, except when I’m in small circles of friends or family who’ve also been immunized. Even fully vaccinated, one may still be a carrier of coronavirus, so kindly wear masks as a courtesy to others. There may be some who, for allergies or other reasons, are not able to receive vaccinations.
Note: I am getting my 2nd and final vaccination shot on April Fool’s Day… now that should be interesting.
Now back to our regularly scheduled Geek Stuff.
To my regular readers, I stress that I’m doing this non sci-fi piece to assure you that there is nothing to fear with coronavirus vaccination, and if, at all possible, I urge you to get scheduled for a vaccination as soon as possible. Vaccinations in the United States should be FREE, but if you have health insurance (in the United States), check with your insurance provider about where to receive your vaccinations, or go to this website for details:
My next column will resume the usual sci-fi/fantasy/related content with a retrospective on Peter Hyams’ 1981 sci-fi flick “Outland.” Look for it here on this site sometime next week. In the meantime, please be safe, wear masks, avoid large crowds and/or social gatherings whenever possible, and don’t be afraid to get vaccinated!
Live Long and Prosper!