The place was tucked away behind a gym, marked only by a sign that said “vaccine clinic” with an arrow. We had to park far out in the parking lot because the only available close spots were marked as being for the gym customers with signs atop those road construction barrels. A simple, practical way for the gym and the clinic to temporarily share. Six month from now the gym will still be there and the vaccine clinic will be gone. Mass vaccinations complete. The day was exceptionally windy, and tugged at the papers in my hand. Forms confirming my appointment and that I’m not likely to have an adverse reaction to the vaccine.
I did not expect the man at the clinic door to be wearing the fatigues of a national guardsman. Though as soon as I saw him, I realized that it made perfect sense to use personnel trained in discipline and service. He asked if we were there for our first or second shot, then waved us into the building to a table where a different guardsman looked at our papers. Then we walked down a hallway into the large warehouse space, aisles and lines defined by traffic cones topped with caution tape and tape markings on the floor. We moved from station to station, no chance to go astray. At each step a guardsman directed us to the next station. Nurse to read through the papers again and write some things down on the admin section. Guardsman to scan our IDs and print labels for us to carry forward. Guardsman to show us which table to sit at. Nurse to put a sticker on the form we brought with us and to schedule our second appointment. Guardsman to tell us which table to sit at next. Nurse to afix the second sticker onto vaccine cards which she hands to us and tell us about possible side effects from the Pfizer vaccine. Guardsman to send us to the next room and assign us a table. Two nurses, one for each of us, with alcohol swabs, needles, and bandaids. Then some nurses to send us into a forest of individual chairs, six feet apart, where we are to wait for fifteen minutes.
It is all very efficient, despite all the stops. Except for that last fifteen minutes, we never have to wait for more than a minute for any station. We never bunched up with other people. All of it tuned to get people through and back to their lives. I wonder if all the vaccine sites have developed a similar efficiency. Probably. Efficiency just sort of happens when people have to do the same thing hundreds of times in a day. For the guardsmen and medical personnel, this is their job. They’ll do the same thing tomorrow and the day after. I want to take pictures of it all. Record the extraordinary mundainity of it. All of the mass pushes for childhood vaccination happened before I was born. The only vaccinations I’ve known happen as part of regular doctor’s visits. This is something else. This is community mobilizing, collective effort, expense, and organization to save lives. My only participation being to pass through and get my shot without causing a disruption.
Today’s shots were for me and one of my adult children. Later this week I will return with the other two adult kids. Since I won’t be getting a shot, I’ll wait in the car. The clinic people don’t want or need an extra body in there, and my people will navigate the process just fine without me. They too will pass through and participate in this historical moment.
Six weeks from now, we’ll all be fully vaccinated. We’re already beginning to have conversations about what that means and doesn’t mean for our household. I really thought I would have more emotions about my vaccine day. Maybe I had them already. Maybe they’re out there waiting for me after my brain shifts out of dispassionate-analyse-this-moment mode. For today, the thing is done, and now I move onward to the next thing.