The world smells differently when you don’t have a surgical mask pressed against your nose. I am so happy to be typing this as a fully-vaccinated gal! Not too long ago, the CDC updated its COVID-19 guidelines to permit fully-vaccinated adults to dispense with their masks in both outdoor and indoor locations (except for in the event of large gatherings). We have come so far! But, we also have a long way to go.
One year ago, the coronavirus situation took a turn for the worse. Although we had high hopes that this whole pandemic thing would blow away with the warm weather in summer 2020, this was clearly not the case. Vacation plans were cancelled, and many events were postponed indefinitely. Just remembering this time makes me grateful to be sitting here, writing to you in 2021. However, I also know that the rest of the world is not at the same place when it comes to vaccinations and freedom of movement.
I was lucky enough to receive my COVID vaccination as soon as I became eligible. Although I had some arm soreness and felt feverish, my symptoms were on the milder side and I’m super thankful for that. My own vaccination, however, is only one tiny part of the picture. More broadly, my family and most of my U.S.-based friends have also received their shots. However, when I checked in with some of my old friends from abroad, I got a huge reality check.
According to my friends, the UK is aiming to have all adults partially vaccinated (meaning just one dose) by July. For these friends, only the elderly and those with co-morbidities have yet received the vacine. According to another friend in Korea, no more than 10% of the population has received the vaccine (at the time of this writing). However, in Russia, apparently, the government is giving out the vaccine left and right! (see chat below) All the while, an Ohio friend informed us that the vaccination process has progressed so quickly there that the state mask mandates are already being lifted.
As we quickly climb out of the pandemic hole here in the U.S., it is important to remember that this has been a process of ups and downs. In the beginning, a disregard for social distancing contributed to spikes in new COVID-19 cases in countries like the U.S.. Meanwhile, countries like Iceland and New Zealand that were overly cautious were able to allow in-person meetings as early as spring 2020. Now, with the vaccine, the U.S. has pushed itself ahead of the virus ugliness and we are experiencing once more old freedoms that we once took for granted.
The effects of the vaccine, however, are still being studied and at this point, it is unclear how all of this is “going to end.” For example, while things are getting back to normal in the U.S., the UK and others are being confronted with a highly contagious COVID variant and India reported 92,596 new COVID-19 cases over past 24 hours. In the U.S. in late winter, when the vaccine was being distributed (primarily to the elderly and healthcare professionals), it was common for patients to wait just two weeks between dosages. By the time that I received the vaccine in spring, I was told to wait one full month. Some countries have been spacing out their vaccine appointments because supply is limited and one vaccine dosage is better than none. Although this practice was considered controversial at first, tests have shown that periods of 12 weeks between vaccines can improve the immune response by 30% – 300%. So, for countries like India and other parts of the world, where the vaccination process is lagging, the longer wait times just might pay off!
All in all, things are objectively better than they were one year ago, however, the world is still not in the clear. In the meantime, I hope you have a happy, safe summer!
P.S. … keep washing your hands, you beautiful, dirty animals… 😉