The Universal Notebook: Welcome to Vaccinationland

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As I write this I am one of 211,451 Maine residents who have received their first COVID-19 vaccination. Five days before my 72nd birthday I received a shot of the Pfizer vaccine in my left shoulder.

I’m feeling better already.

The Intermed office had been assuring me that I was on the list to be vaccinated as soon as the vaccine became available. Several emails reassured me that they had not forgotten, asking me to be patient and please not contact the office since they were being overwhelmed with questions and requests.

As my annual physical approached, I typed up a list of my concerns and sent it via the Intermed patient portal to give my doctor ample time to consider and coordinate my several infirmities. Shortly after I sent the memo in, a nurse called to ask whether I would like her to schedule a COVID-19 vaccination for me. Well, yeah!

On the appointed day I drove down to the former Wex office near the Maine Mall in South Portland. 

It was a pretty smooth operation, though I wish I hadn’t arrived quite so early. I have a bad habit of being early for everything, so I got there a half hour early and was directed by a sandwich board sign to wait in my car until five minutes before my appointment. It was then that I notice there people sitting in half the cars in the parking lot, books open, motors running.

I got there early because I have been increasingly anxious and cautious about COVID-19 as time has passed. I was pretty chill with the whole pandemic thing until around Thanksgiving. I had been following public health guidelines of course, but around the holidays, with all the warnings and the surge in sickness and death, we started being far more careful. No Christmas for the Beems this year. Only outdoor visits with family, etc. The vaccine couldn’t come soon enough.

Driving down from Brunswick I was sure I was going to get stuck in traffic, have a flat tire, or somehow get lost and miss my shot at immunity. That’s what happened to a poor lady who came in right behind me. She said she had gotten lost and hoped she wasn’t too late.

“Is your appointment with Intermed?” the clerk asked, unable to find her name on the computer.

“Internet?” the lady asked, confused. “But I was told this was where they were giving shots.”

“Are you looking for the Northern Lights vaccine clinic?”

Stricken, the lady nodded in affirmation. She was directed across the parking lot to the Northern Lights Mercy facility on Foden Road.

“I’m going to miss my appointment, aren’t I?” she lamented.

At 71, I felt like a kid at the vaccine clinic. Most of the folks appeared to be in their 80s or 90s. One gentleman wearing a World War II veteran’s cap replied “96” when someone asked his age. My father would have been 96 in February had he not passed away seven years ago.

After a 15-minute wait with no adverse reaction, I was on my way. Second shot scheduled for March.

So far about 17 percent of Mainers have received the vaccine. Let’s pray that by fall enough of the remaining 83 percent will have been vaccinated so we can all resume some degree of the social life we have had to forgo. 

My guess is the pandemic will become endemic. We’ll just have to get COVID-19 shots every year along with our flu shots.

I can live with that.

Edgar Allen Beem has been writing The Universal Notebook weekly since 2003, first for The Forecaster and now for the Phoenix. He also writes the Art Seen feature.