The Second Jab

Sleep proved elusive last night because I was so excited about getting my second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine. And I am ecstatic to report that this morning, I did indeed receive the second jab… in just three weeks I will have high immunity to COVID 19. The State government set up the vaccination center at the ex-train station, and they could not have done it better. I saw quite a few older (than me) folks who looked as nervous as mice trying to slip by a prowling alley cat. But the (mostly young) staff were well-trained, courteous and worked quickly. I didn’t see even one of the Nervous Nellies or Neds, leave the vaccination center without a smile and a “muchas gracias” for the medical team.

During the past 16 months (give or take a few days) I have worried almost non-stop about how the virus will continue to impact us. The concern for our college’s instructors, staff and students has been a daily preoccupation. And keeping dry through last summer’s almost-hurricane conditions presented us with still more challenges. I won’t even mention how I longed for more social stimulation, physical exercise, travel and the other pleasures I used to take for granted.

I feel chagrined because I did not do a better job of coping. Other people suffered real privation and they bore up better than I did. It was the first time in my life that I felt unable to see my way out. I felt terrified that I would get COVID 19.

I wanted to sustain a better attitude. Lots of my friends managed to get enthusiastic about ZOOM but I could not get past missing my “normal” interactions with friends and I stubbornly refused to learn more technology. Some solace came my way from writing and painting, but as the weeks wore on, it seemed I had less and less ability to focus and finish anything. I cleaned a lot, but maybe this was an attempt to spiff-up my tarnished self-image. Cooking and of course the subsequent eating became a big part of every day, and so now, I have even more weight to lose than before.

Is confession “good for the soul”? Is parading my peccadillos in public and reciting a litany of my under-achievement, actually an exercise in atonement? Why am I publishing all this dribble?

Truth be told, I hope that writing about my struggles during the epidemic and the relief I now feel, will help others to reconsider their position and get vaccinated. Rejection of the vaccine is full of the same folly as my refusal to adapt to the “new normal”. None of us like having control or personal choice taken away, but we are all in this together. Like it or not, my pain is yours, and yours is mine. For all our sakes, we must work together to reach herd immunity and halt the relentless spread of COVID 19.

At    I read the following information about the anti-vax theories that have been making the rounds. I don’t expect too many (if any) of those who have outright rejected vaccination will change their minds. However, some of those who are indecisive will maybe reconsider .

People who refuse to vaccinate possibly feel it isn’t my place to give an opinion about what they have elected to do.  Yet, by refusing the vaccine, they are acting (not just speaking) against my interests. And so, given their actions, I believe I have the right to write about how this makes me feel.

Unfortunately, there has been a lot of misinformation (as well as malicious rumors) surrounding the vaccines and their development. When deciding whether or not to get the vaccine, it’s important to separate myths from facts.

Myth: The COVID-19 vaccine is unsafe because it was developed so quickly.
Fact: The authorized vaccines are proven safe and effective. Although they were developed in record time, they have gone through the same rigorous Food and Drug Administration process as other vaccines, meeting all safety standards. No steps were skipped. Instead, we can thank the unprecedented worldwide collaboration and investment for the shorter timeframe on the development of the vaccines. The clinical trials and safety reviews actually took about the same amount of time as other vaccines. 

Myth: The COVID-19 vaccine will alter my DNA.
Fact: The first vaccines granted emergency use authorization contain messenger RNA (mRNA), which instructs cells to make the “spike protein” found on the new coronavirus. When the immune system recognizes this protein, it builds an immune response by creating antibodies — teaching the body how to protect against future infection. The mRNA never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA (genetic material) is kept. The body gets rid of the mRNA soon after it’s finished using the instructions. 

Myth: The COVID-19 vaccine includes a tracking device.
Fact: A video shared thousands of times on Facebook makes false claims about the products of syringe maker Apiject Systems of America, which has a contract with the government to provide medical-grade injection devices for vaccines. The company has an optional version of its product that contains a microchip within the syringe label that helps providers confirm a vaccine dose’s origin. The chip itself is not injected into the person getting the vaccine.

Myth: The COVID-19 vaccine has severe side effects such as allergic reactions.
Fact: Some participants in the vaccine clinical trials did report side effects similar to those experienced with other vaccines, including muscle pain, chills and headache. And although extremely rare, people can have severe allergic reactions to ingredients used in a vaccine. That’s why experts recommend people with a history of severe allergic reactions — such as anaphylaxis — to the ingredients of the vaccine should not get the vaccination.

Myth: The COVID-19 vaccine causes infertility in women.
Fact: Misinformation on social media suggests the vaccine trains the body to attack syncytin-1, a protein in the placenta, which could lead to infertility in women. The truth is, there’s an amino acid sequence shared between the spike protein and a placental protein; however, experts say it’s too short to trigger an immune response and therefore doesn’t affect fertility. Learn more.

Myth: I’ve already been diagnosed with COVID-19, so I don’t need to receive the vaccine.
Fact: If you have already had COVID-19, there’s evidence that you can still benefit from the vaccine. At this time, experts don’t know how long someone is protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19. The immunity someone gains from having an infection, called natural immunity, varies from person to person. Some early evidence suggests natural immunity may not last very long.

Myth: Once I receive the COVID-19 vaccine, I no longer need to wear a mask.
Fact: Masking, handwashing and physical distancing remain necessary in public until a sufficient number of people are immune. Fully vaccinated people can meet with other fully vaccinated people without wearing masks. 

Myth: You can get COVID-19 from the vaccine.
Fact: You cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccine because it doesn’t contain the live virus.

Myth: Once I receive the vaccine, I will test positive for COVID-19.
Fact: Viral tests used to diagnose COVID-19 check samples from the respiratory system for the presence of the virus that causes COVID-19. Since there is no live virus in the vaccines, the vaccines will not affect your test result. It is possible to get infected with the virus before the vaccine has had time to fully protect your body. 

Myth: I’m not at risk for severe complications of COVID-19 so I don’t need the vaccine.
Fact: Regardless of your risk, you can still contract the infection and spread it to others, so it’s important you get vaccinated. Once the vaccine is widely available, it’s recommended that as many eligible adults as possible get the vaccine. It’s not only to protect you but your family and community as well.

Myth: If I receive the COVID-19 vaccine, I am at a greater risk to become sick from another illness.
Fact: There is no evidence to suggest that getting the vaccine heightens your risk to become sick from another infection such as the flu.

Myth: Certain blood types have less severe COVID-19 infections, so getting a vaccine isn’t necessary.
Fact: Research has shown there is no reason to believe being a certain blood type will lead to increased severity of COVID-19. By choosing to get vaccinated, you are protecting not only yourself and your family but your community as well.

Leaving the bunker

Until just now, internet interruptions have kept me from posting my whole piece. Here is the text.

For all intents and purposes, during the past year, most of us have been living in bunkers. From my sporadic posts, most readers of CHANGES IN OUR LIVES are aware that this has not been an easy time for me. Like many women, I thrive on being around others. To be shut in and too anxious to even go for a walk around the neighborhood is not an experience I want to repeat.

Nonetheless, in some odd ways, I can see that the pandemic has been good for me. First off, it has forced me to re-evaluate what is most important in my life. And at the top of the list stands my husband. We’ve been together for 45 years, and over that time, we have both developed our own interests. I have my writing, painting and a group of close friends. Jorge likes getting together at the cafe with his long-time buddies and they spend hours remembering the exploits of their youth. He also enjoys his historical research and chronicling. For years, we’ve been so preoccupied with our kids, other people, our college, as well as many more pursuits, and I realise that we did not give each other as much attention as we should have.

When the pandemic began, we had no idea that we would be one another’s mainstay for more than a year. But once the media started talking about second and third waves, we understood that the seclusion would go on and on. Jorge and I looked at each other, and I think we both silently thought the same thing – It’s you and me Babe.

Most days we saw no one else. At first this seemed like a novelty. We sat for long periods of time on the living room sofa and reviewed “the days of our lives”. It was amazing how we remember 45 years of ups and downs from such different perspectives. Jorge could recall every detail of what happened on significant occasions – how we happened to be doing whatever, who was with us, and what we ate. I had crystal clear memories of how we all felt, what we wore, if it was hot, or not-too-bad, who was irritated, and who was happy.

We cooked up a storm, we made plans for the future. But by the third month of lockdown, our weight had gone up and our spirits had bogged down. Long silences filled our days. We started sleeping more. Sometimes two siestas. And of course, we watched lots of Netflix.

About 5 months into our forced exile from society, we became obsessed with classifying our 1,000s and 1,000s of photos. We took about a week removing them from 30 albums. Our working styles are totally different, and soon we both got frustrated, because just as our memories are from different perspectives, we also approach tasks from unlike viewpoints.

I wanted to sort by people. All the pictures of our immediate family got put into one pile. Another pile had those with only Jorge and me. Just Jorge, just me, just Carlos, just Maggie. You can imagine. Before long I had dozens of wobbly stacks of photographs spread out on two large tables. At first Jorge tried to change my system, but he soon left me alone. And guess what? Months later, I am still plugging away.  In fits and starts, of course.

Fits and starts is my motto and not just with the photos. I apply it to my painting, my writing, cleaning and sewing. What can I say?

Re-organising the kitchen, all the closets, purging the 20 year-old, three sizes too small clothes from our wardrobes, and replanting much of the garden are other make-work projects that had various degrees of success and failure.

After a summer of non-stop torrential rain, we had the roof re-surfaced, the house got painted inside and out, the dining room chairs finally received new covers.

By Christmas, we were fit to be tied. We felt sick about not seeing our daughter who had moved to Los Angeles just before the pandemic began. Our son and girlfriend could not visit often because they worried about infecting us. At Christmas time, we could not host the IWC tea. There would be no big turkey dinner with family and friends.

The New Year rolled around and many of our friends who spend the winter in Yucatan had to stay put in cold Canada or the Trump-crazed USA.  We did not have a tour to some lovely place that we could look forward to. But news of the vaccine looked promising. Maybe by the spring we would get “jabbed”?

And now it is May, Jorge and I have received our first vaccination, and we feel much better. We are still using our masks, avoiding crowds, washing hands, using sanitizer and keeping our distance from others, but we don’t sense so much fear. We both look forward to the second dose later this month

But not everyone we know, along with millions of anonymous others are jumping into line for their shots. The Anti-vax vice squad is all too active recruiting – What a thorny issue – I know my opinion doesn’t sit well with the “respect my rights” crowd. But mine should be respected too. We need to find a way to pull together on this. What do you think?

What’s on your mind Joanna?

I wish facebook would come up with a new prompt for members who are on the verge of posting.  Maybe something like this:

Joanna (or whatever your name is) have you thought carefully about what you are going to write here?

You don’t need to share anyone’s opinion but what you offer for the entire planet to read should be carefully thought out. You don’t need to try and win a popularity contest, but you should try not to be rude. Don’t you think?

However, as it stands now, “What’s on your mind?” is what we all get. Truly FB doesn’t care what’s on our minds. They want our first sentences to contain some key words the gobots can identify. Then they can file our choices into one of their categories, enter everything, and then move on to the next “post-er”, or should I say, “post-ee”?

With varying daily success, I attempt to keep positive and optimistic. But as a business owner in Mexico I know that getting our population vaccinated is the first step on the road to economic recovery.  Vaccination is a Herculean task, but it is more and more urgent every day.

The recovery of our economy is dependent on so many variables and our entire society is going to need more creativity, more flexibility, more determination and more patience than ever before. I am bracing myself because even though this has been a year like no other, politics and jockeying for the most advantageous position has not stopped. As a nation we have not understood the need for cohesiveness.

Tell me, what would have happened during WWII if some of the people decided, “Oh my rights are being trampled. I want my lights to be left on during a blackout, because then I won’t trip or stumble around when I am looking for something. And hey! That shrieking is not a Messerschmitt overheard. All that is fake news.”

That is a bit exaggerated, but let’s look at just three examples concurrent with our 2021 reality:

Mask wearing: Really, what’s the big deal? The masks are somewhat hot and uncomfortable but not that bad. However, many people act as though their basic civil rights have been violated. “This should be MY choice,” they scream.

Social distancing: There’s a bit more acceptance of this but only because it is not too difficult to do. Nonetheless, I was snaking through the COSTCO lineup one day and the security guards were only allowing the card carriers to go inside. Absolutely no companions. As well, not one more person was allowed inside the hallowed halls of consumerism unless someone came out. Again, “MY rights are being denied,” was a common lament.

The Vaccine: It is amazing to me how many people now pretend to be as informed as virologists, epidemiologists, sociologists and psychologists. They have an opinion on every scientific and social nuance associated with “accepting a foreign substance into MY body.”  Yet many of these same people drink alcohol, use “recreational” drugs and smoke. The real scientists say our planet needs to achieve “herd immunity” but again, “Why should I believe this,” the anti-vaxers ask.

Politics is running rampant. Whatever happened to “working together for the “greater good”? The PRI and PAN followers hate AMLO and MORENA. But did they do do such a great job during their most recent 4 decades in power? According to OSCD international development reports, Mexican citizens’ quality of life went from bad to worse:

Mexico ranks above average in civic engagement, but below average in the dimensions of jobs and earnings, subjective well-being, health status, environmental quality, housing, income and wealth, social connections, work-life balance, personal security, and education and skills.

In other words, lots of complaining and gnashing of teeth, but no consensus that will help to usher in needed changes.

One more point: in Merida, we have been spared much of the organised crime activity that is so destructive and dangerous in other places in Mexico. But without the cooperation of the three levels of government AND the public, I fear we are poised for much worse scenarios.

So, what’s to be done? Starting today how can we all help rather than hinder a turn for the better?

I believe that it is imperative to stop our constant complaining and find some group, a family, or a person in need. We can help and we should. How much you can help and how you can best do so, is between you and your higher self.

But I can emphatically promise you (yes promise you…) that if you become a quiet part of the solution, rather than a loud vocal objector, you will be happier and healthier…  

And so will Mexico.

Bonus: Read more about the vaccines at Yucatan Magazine: