I Got the Covid Vaccine — and I’m So Embarrassed
I just came across an article from CNN on Brazil’s health crisis that just stirred a lot of emotions in me. The very first paragraph of an important session named “The Growing Perfect Storm” reads:
The Covid-19 crisis in Brazil has never been worse. Nearly every Brazilian state has an ICU occupancy of 80% or higher, according to a CNN analysis of state data. As of Friday, 16 of 26 states were at or above 90%, meaning those health systems have collapsed or are at imminent risk of doing so.
That’s the country where I grew up — where I lived twenty-six years of my life before moving to America. The country that was once a reason to gloat about, to smile, to proudly wear our yellow shirts for. The country that is now falling apart in front of my desperate eyes.
I have been aware of the current health crisis and the collapse of hospitals in Brazil, and I’ll be sharing some emotional stories here about where I come from. But CNN’s article summarized the health crisis very well in a few sentences. Their information is one hundred percent accurate. In my hometown, roughly 95% of the ICU beds are indeed full.
Some of these beds are now occupied by people I love. Friends, family, acquaintances. No age discrimination is being made with this new variant. These beds hold people in their 30s as well as people in their 60s or 70s. They hold everyone now.
Yes, we have a lot of people to blame, and a lot of accountability needs to be put in place. Of course, it must start with the right extremist leader of the country, a man who always denied science, followed by his army of brainwashed fools. A man who purposely sabotaged the purchase of vaccines in 2020 and who has said awful things about the health crisis — like when he said we shouldn’t be “sissies” about the coronavirus, and that we would all die one day anyway.
Brazilians are also responsible for electing this man, who has always shown a weak character. A man who was heavily supported by evangelical churches but who helped a toddler on his arms to make the gun sign. Christian? Oh, the irony. That scene alone should have stopped people from electing him — but it didn’t. Nothing has stopped their fanatic senseless following, and now the rest of the country, the conscious people, are paying the price.
Fortunately, many of his voters are conscious now of the danger he represents to the country and have stopped following him. They say they have now “broken up” with the “Messiah.” Let’s just hope it’s not too late now.
I got my first vaccine dose this past weekend in Maryland — on a beautiful and sunny spring day. I couldn’t hide the excitement behind my masked face. If you had seen me, you would have been able to notice how happy I was. It was a sensation of pure, blissful relief.
My first reaction, after taking a few pictures, was to post them in my stories on Instagram. I did post one — but I deleted it a few minutes later.
I felt awfully embarrassed of seeing myself smiling through my eyes in the picture, pointing to the spot on my arm where I’d gotten the shot. Yes, I had been looking forward to that cliche picture. But the excitement of my privilege was gone too soon.
I was embarrassed by my friends whose parents are struggling with Covid-19 in Brazil. For my friends who are fighting for their lives on an ICU bed. What was I celebrating anyway?
My safety doesn’t feel like safety until it involves everyone. And that’s how I live my life lately. It’s hard to be fully happy and grateful when your circle, the people you grew up with, went to college with, are struggling. How can I celebrate it when I had just called Dad for the third time this week to scare him into not going to the store? How can I celebrate it when I’m anxiously waiting to hear from a childhood friend’s family when I know he’s got a tube down his throat? Or when one of my best friend’s uncle is also fighting a lung infection?
I don’t have a reason to celebrate it just yet. I want to celebrate it when everyone in Brazil (and the world) has easy access to vaccination. I know it may take some time, and it’s been moving smoothly in the US, Europe, and other countries. But to think that this massive health disaster could have been avoided in Brazil — that hurts me. To the core.
A big part of my day is now spent calling friends and family, messaging them, and checking on them. “How is your mom doing?” “When are you going shopping?” “Are you double-masking?” “Did you hear anything else from the doctor?” I also check on my friends in health care, as many of them also feel fear, depression, and a devastating feeling of incapacity in face of this latest surge.
It is tiring. It is overwhelming. And mostly — it is so embarrassing for me to watch the country literally burn into flames as an outsider when most people I love are in that fire.
It is also disappointing, heartbreaking to see a few people I love still support an anti-science political figure like Bolsonaro. But what can we do?
As a meditation teacher, a Reiki Master, I know the importance of letting our feelings arise — and not fight them! It’s okay to not be okay. To feel helpless, angry, sad, as long as we are not causing any harm to others with those emotions.
Many may say to me, “It’s not your fault — your friends would want you to get the vaccine.” I know that. But it’s not fair I got to be vaccinated before my parents who are almost 70. It’s not fair that my friends, who went to school with me, will only get their shots by the end of the year (most likely).
I heard it on the news that the Brazil variant can be 70% more contagious, showing the rest of the world how vulnerable we can all be during a pandemic. It’s not over yet! Late news just showed this variant has made its first appearance in New York according to the New York Times.
So yes, I may be safe. But my Brazilian friends and families are not. My family and friends in the US who haven’t vaccinated yet might also be in danger. So what can we do?
First: We side with science. And that counts for electing government leaders who believe it, defend it, and fight for it!
Second: we kindly address the naysayers, the anti-vaxxers, the anti-science “wokes” on the danger of their personal choices. It’s not about you or me anymore. Mass vaccination has been proved to be the only solution — the only way to protect everyone we love. I know there is a lot of misinformation out there, and I have talked to people who are very nice and dear to me but who had fallen into the holes of anti-vax propaganda. So I did what I had to do: I showed them, respectfully, that they were wrong. And they thanked me for it.
Third: if you are in a country whose administration sides with science, (I can’t believe I can say the US does again!), you simply help one another. You can offer rides to vaccination spots. You can offer to help friends schedule their shots. You can still offer the elderly and the immunocompromised with their shopping, affairs, doctor visits.
If you are in a country that is falling apart in a health crisis, although you may think that there isn’t much you can do, you can still show up! You can still message people every day like I’ve been doing. You can offer solutions by connecting them with others who are willing to help or offer any type of assistance.
Connection is key. Your showing up may be the reason someone will fight for their lives. Never take that for granted.
I will not feel guilty forever about getting vaccinated before millions who should have come before me — I’ll grow past this. I feel better even after writing this. But I just hope that my musings on this whole vaccination thing can help everyone reflect. May we learn to be grateful for what we have — but also make sure to show up to our neighbors when they need, whenever we can.
As the world changes, we all hope to evolve as a species and to grow out of our past mistakes. So let’s all just promise to do better. To help one another, to vote better, to make decisions based on others, not just ourselves. It doesn’t take much to simply show up. After all, we are on this journey together.