January 23rd, 2021A shot in the arm
Here in California, you need to apply to a medical service provider in order to become a patient. When we arrived here in 2018 we signed up with a few likely organisations, and in mid-2020 we were thrilled to be accepted by one. Happily, my wife and I were both still alive and not in need of immediate medical attention. Nonetheless, we were thrilled to join the ranks of the medically blessed.
When I went to see my new physician for the first time – for no reason except to establish a working relationship – she was flummoxed to note on the 82-page form I’d been required to fill out, detailing every ache, pain and odd rash I’d experienced since 1960, that I was currently taking no medication. It seemed incomprehensible to her that I’d somehow managed to live my life thus far without the aid of dozens of life-supporting prescription medications.
I’m afraid that when she learned I’d been under the care of Australian doctors for the past 35 years, rather than seeing it as proof of the efficacy of that style of medical practice, she regarded it as an abject failure of that country’s system, as if Australia’s practitioners were in craven open revolt against the pharmaceutical industry.
I’ll admit here that when I left her consulting rooms at the end of our first meeting, my new doctor had done her job most admirably: I now had prescriptions for two medications and a referral to a specialist for a malady of whose existence I’d previously been wholly unaware.
Now, about a week ago I was summoned by my doctor to attend a six-month check-up, presumably because I am old and well-insured. I was informed of this appointment by robocall and text message; the latter requiring me to fill out a questionnaire concerning my likelihood of having come into contact with one of the 94 million COVID-19 cases in the world.
I went to my appointment, and the doctor was pleased to see that I now had medications to list on my paperwork, but when I asked about the COVID-19 vaccine, she gave me a solemn look, with her eyes peering from above her mask. She admitted that at her medical practice they’d received no notification from any source regarding COVID-19 vaccinations, and that they would not be notifying patients in that regard.
Now, this is not some little country practice run by a doctor with bushy eyebrows and untrimmed nose hair – not that you could tell about the nose hair, what with the mask and all. No, my doctor works for a medical corporation that has offices and hospitals the length and breadth of California.
With no ironic intention, I suggested to my doctor that perhaps I should check with the health department of our local government authority about the possibility of a COVID-19 vaccine roll-out, and she agreed that could be a possible source of information.
Here in California the march of progress has ensured that no telephone of a business bigger than a mom-and-pop corner shop, and no professional or government agency, will ever be answered by a human being. So I consulted the modern oracle, Google. Finding the appropriate website, I found that people of my age, career and medical history should be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccination some time in March. Or April. Or May. Supposedly, the only people being vaccinated were health-care workers and people 75 and older. I am neither.
Anyway, it’s now Saturday morning in mid-January. I’m in my weekend morning lounge-wear – trackie-daks, a T-shirt and Ugg boots. The phone rings. It’s my wife’s youngest sister, who isn’t yet 60 years old. She has just been to the dog park, where she takes her beloved hound for a play, most days.
The dog park is next door to a small local airport. Someone at the dog park tells Sister that they’ve heard that the local government was going to be giving COVID-19 vaccine shots to anyone who wanted them, at the airport, starting right now. Sister calls us. She is sixth in line for the shot. She’s been told her age doesn’t matter, whether or not she’s in essential services, has pre-existing conditions, or calls a parmigiana a parma or a parmi – all are welcome to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. We consult the oracle. The corresponding website insists Sister is wrong, as the vaccinating needle slides into her arm.
We choose to believe dog park gossip and Sister’s on-the-spot report over the official online information, and race over to where the COVID-19 vaccines are allegedly being administered.
We arrive to find a well-organised operation, with excellent traffic control and information dissemination. It takes about an hour in our car to work our way to the vaccination site. It’s the Moderna jab and we’re given the shot and a card to be presented in a month when we return for the follow-up injection.
As for side-effects, my left arm where I received the jab is a bit sore, but – and this might sound pathetic or stupid – I feel a great sense of relief, as if this pandemic disaster might be coming to an end. In a month I go for my follow-up injection, and supposedly two weeks after that I’ll be pretty much immune to COVID-19, at least for a little while.
Here in the United States, Insanity Central, that counts as a major victory.
Jeff Glorfeld is a former editor with The Age and journalist with The Local. A couple of years back Jeff, his wife Carol and their dog Scout moved from Wheatsheaf to California, USA to be with family. They have since adopted pooch Joey. Along with being happy to be vaccinated, Jeff hopes for a St Kilda premiership one day.