Hope in a Bottle: Coronavirus Vaccine Arrives
The vaccine announcement feels as if we landed on the moon again. Hell, maybe even Mars. A big step.
For months we have all been Alice falling down the rabbit hole, but today at least we see the little doors as we approach the bottom. Earlier this week, Pfizer and its partner BioNTech announced that the Canadian government granted emergency approval for their vaccine. The evening before the announcement in Canada, I watched news reports of the first person in Britain to receive the vaccine. They call it a jab.
The United States was not far behind, and last night the FDA approved the emergency use of the Pfizer vaccine but only after the New York Times reported the head of the FDA had been told by the White House to approve the vaccine or submit his resignation. Great way to build confidence that the scientific process was not interfered with and there were no safety check shortcuts. But I digress.
My country Canada is preparing to administer the first shots at 14 sites in major cities starting next week. This is a small dry run of a rollout that will start in earnest at the beginning of the new year and is prepared with military precision. The transportation, distribution and administration challenges of a vaccine that has to be stored at sub-zero temperatures in special freezers are unprecedented.
Prime Minister Trudeau said this week that the country could receive up to 249,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine before the end of the year. We will also start receiving a vaccine by Moderna. It will be months before everyone who wants to be vaccinated in Canada is and there will be bumps or hurdles along the way, but we are underway to controlling the spread of this deadly virus.
I wasn’t planning on going back
Back in late March, we fell down that rabbit hole. Two weeks into the lockdown, which was supposed to last three weeks, it was nice to get away from the everyday hustle and bustle. I wrote stories about never going back to life as it was. I enjoyed hearing about Italians serenading each other from their balconies, people checking in on their elderly neighbours, friends having a beer together on Zoom, and teachers being creative and bending over backwards so their students could continue learning online.
People were banging pots in the evening to thank health care workers. We were strolling outside and greeting each other in the spring weather because gyms were closed. My clever baker started making home-cooked meals for takeout, which I picked up by tapping my credit card on the machine she held up on the other side of the door window and grabbing my package on the end of a stick she held out.
Back then, I felt like maybe we would be kinder and gentler with each other when this was all over. I was sure we would never forget the moments of human goodness, compassion, generosity of spirit. We would become better angels or something like that. The lockdown lasted much longer, but we emerged.
We are running on fumes
Nine months later, we are exhausted and running on fumes; nothing seems hopeful and pretty. It’s hard to feel like a better angel. We know extended social isolation has serious health implications. Our mental health has suffered; anxiety and depression have spiked, as have overdose deaths and suicides. Domestic violence has increased. Too many elderly people died alone without their loved ones at their side in their last days. We do not yet know what the full fallout will be of school and small business closures. Nor has the weight of the virus been evenly carried in our communities. For some, it is a mere inconvenience. For others who are less privileged, it is dire and will be long and complicated to tally up the toll and overcome the impact of Covid-19 on their lives.
I am sanguine that this is the beginning of the end. I am hopeful, knowing full well, it took decades and a global effort to eradicate the poliovirus and tackle the AIDS virus. But today is a man on the moon kind of day.
As a postscript, I am aware that as I celebrate the new vaccine, I have seen forecasts of 500,000 deaths from Covid-19 in the United States by the end of March. We are not home free in Canada either. This will be the worst winter of our lives. Wear a mask and keep your distance.
Alice Goldbloom is a recovering serial entrepreneur (aka she is retired). She finds that writing is therapeutic, and it smooths the edges of her day, just like a couple of glasses of chardonnay used to.