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The COVID Vaccine: The Promise, the Perils, the Hope, the Forgotten

A year ago. We had yet to ponder the implications of a deadly virus attacking the world. We had no clue what lay ahead for us. A year ago.

Yet we will all remember this year and more—although the end is not in focus yet—just as vividly as we remember where we were during 9/11, the Kennedy assassination, an American walking on the moon, and the Space Shuttle disaster.

Because of overwhelming bureaucratic, administrative, and logistical issues, only a fraction of the population has received the long-awaited white knight in shining armor in the form of a vaccine. With a new president, we have hope for a coordinated effort in production and vaccination.

There is anger and there is frustration about keeping us at risk while these issues become resolved. But this wait raises the important question: What can we do in the meantime? We know (masks, social distancing, handwashing).

Rather than whine and complain about vaccination phone numbers that do not work and websites to sign up for the vaccine that crash, we have the knowledge and the tools right now to contain this nightmare. But the clock is ticking, the meter is running, mutant strains are surfacing, and we are clearly running out of time to put this viral genie back in the bottle.

We will soon reach another unfathomable marker: 500,000 deaths anticipated by mid-March, 25 million cases and counting, one death about every 30 seconds. But there is another dimension of this nightmare that is subtle and erosive: isolation and aloneness for us and especially for those providing care to others.

  • The devoted spouse who is locked at home with a husband with dementia.

  • A dutiful daughter providing care to aging parents who haven’t left their homes, ridden in a car, or gone out for a meal in a year.

  • The faithful son who brings dinner to his mother’s doorstep.

  • The homebound caregivers who don’t get any respite now that no one can stop by and give them a few hours for a manicure or even an uninterrupted nap.

The only people at the door might be the grocery delivery or Amazon or FedEx drivers dropping off products purchased online. The pharmacy delivery. No friendly faces. No understanding cups of coffee with neighbors and friends. No grandchildren stopping by.

Today, I worry about these caregivers, about this collateral damage, the unintended consequences of sequestration for caregiving duties. The silent, quiet, domestic gladiators marshaling every ounce of energy and focus to get through one more day. The forgotten.

I encourage you to check in with someone you know who is duty bound and badly in need of human contact. Suggest specifically what you can do: bring over a few homemade meals, mow the lawn, just call to say hello and recommend a new Netflix series, a plate of cookies, offer to handle any legal or financial issues if you’re qualified, prepare taxes, get the car gassed up or oil changed, bring over a few library books, research medical issues, shovel the driveway—what can you do to help ease the caregiving burden for those who are locked down with more burdens than the rest of us?

Photo courtesy of Tom Liggett, author of Mozart in the Garden, whose roses brighten every day. Stop and smell them.


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