|Today, I got the first dose of the Covid vaccine. I should have received it 4 weeks ago but passed the opportunity to do so. I blame the delay on a few people I met by chance, as well as my internal debate fueled by my insight as a physician.
For me, it was a roller coaster decision. While walking down the hospital corridor to get the vaccine 4 weeks ago, I encountered a hospital administrator. After we exchanged pleasantries, he asked, “What are you up to this morning?” “Going to get the Covid vaccine,” I told him. Leaning in close as if he did not want anybody else to hear, he said, “Do you believe them? I do not.” “Listen, doctor,” he continued, “you better buy AstraZeneca stock; it is going to get approval soon.” Then, he was on his way.
Right there and then, I changed my mind about getting the vaccine. Instead of walking toward the vaccination room, I turned around, walked into the doctor’s lounge, and grabbed some bananas and a couple of small red apples that were put out for breakfast.
Two doctors were in the lounge when I entered. I asked them if they had gotten the Covid shot. One of them lifted his left arm to show me his band-aid.
“I got mine a couple of minutes ago,” he said. “I fear getting the shot,” I admitted. “Come on, now,” he said to me, “you know us Africans! When we were small children, our mothers dragged us to the doctors to be vaccinated. And they did so without asking any questions, without knowing what was in the vaccines, and nothing happened to us. Go get it.” Since he was convincing and because I admired him as a friend and colleague, I promised that I would go and get the vaccine immediately.
With my banana and two small red apples in my pockets, I walked towards the vaccination room. Two women were waiting for patients when I came in. One was the vaccine inoculator, and the other was handing out paperwork. Briefly, I asked myself, “Am I lucky to be the only person here? Or are others skeptical as well?” Both women looked at me quizzically.
“I am here for the Covid vaccine,” I said to them. Across a small desk, three or four papers were handed to me to read and sign. Maybe I should have, but I did not consider signing consent forms before the shot. Nobody on television—not the commentators, not the infectious disease experts, not even Dr. Fauci—talked about signing consent papers. This piece of advice may look trivial, but it turned me away from getting the vaccine the first time it was offered to me. To the disappointment of the two women, and indeed to my disappointment, I left. I told them I was taking the papers home to carefully read before getting the shot. But really, I was looking for an excuse not to get vaccinated, and this scenario presented a perfect opportunity for me not to do so.
A week passed, and another week passed, and I still had not looked at the papers. One morning as I drove into a parking space at my pediatric office building, another physician, a 70-year internist, was arriving at the same time.
“Did you get the vaccine,” I asked him.
“Yes, I did,” he answered. “I work in a nursing home, and it is mandatory I get it. But I was sick afterward. It is a bad vaccine. I should not have gotten it.” “It could be because you had a Covid infection months ago,” I reminded him. “Perhaps, but let me tell you, it is not a good vaccine,” he repeated.
The internist’s personal experience got me thinking in another direction. I wanted to know if I had contracted a Covid infection in the past without even realizing it. I wanted to do a blood test to determine if had antibodies against the Covid virus. After all, what was the point of getting the vaccine if I had natural immunity, I wondered? At least, let me know what I have before I receive any shot.
It took me one week to obtain a Covid antibody test. “Oh my God…I do not have any antibodies,” I thought as soon as I saw the results. I was like a sitting duck waiting for the virus. With all the children I see in my practice, and with all their parents that come with them, it is just a matter of time before I get attacked by the virus. What a motivating factor for me to get vaccinated. Also, when I told my son about how I was trying so hard to slink off from getting the shot, he exclaimed in disbelief, “What Dad? You should at least get it to show an example.”
Pictures of famous people getting the shots in public were only transitory motivating for me. But my son’s words sunk in—I needed to be an example. Rushing against the virus, I called and scheduled to be vaccinated at one of the Connecticut hospitals where I hold privileges. There, today, as shown in this picture, I got my first Covid shot—the Moderna one. Like other patients who had the shot that day, I waited for 15 minutes. Nothing happened. Everybody else was okay. The shot itself was not painful, but my left arm was sore and heavy for 48 hours. People have different experiences with the shot. But from my experience, I think it is a good shot. So, I think people should get it when they can unless they have a medical reason not to. I am eager to get my second shot in 28 days.
If you like this personal account, please donate to a nonprofit organization that reaches seniors in my hometown. You can also purchase my childhood memoirs about the Nigerian civil war or my book on how I lost thirty pounds.