“This is all going to end soon,” I said to my wife holding out the garbage bag for my scrubs on the front porch. What started as a funny little scene, stripping on the front porch, was beginning to wear thin, especially as the weather was cooling off. I could just see myself shivering in sub-freezing temperatures on the front porch as the neighbors howled in laughter.
“You’re not quitting the ER, are you? I thought we settled that,” my wife said with a cocked head.
“Nope,” I said resolutely. “I just enrolled in the vaccine trial. Very soon I’m going to be immune to COVID. The first thing I’m going to do is peel off this damned mask, go to a packed bar and order a beer. And if anyone objects, I’m going to show them my vaccination card and tell them to just try to infect me.”
“You’re serious, aren’t you?” she said.
“Yep,” I said with my best ‘nana boo boo’ head bob. “Last night I saw a poster recruiting volunteers for the vaccine trial in the call room. So I called them and they took me.”
“Oh, boy. Not again,” she said shaking her head. “You do remember the last time you responded to a recruiting poster you ended up in the desert for a year with the Marines.”
“Yeah,” I said with a shrug. “It was fun.”
“Yeah,” she said mocking my shrug. “And you almost got killed. Are you sure the vaccine is safe? It sure seems like they are rushing this thing to market. And why you? You’re too old for this kind of stuff. Doesn’t that make you high risk? Did you lie about your age again?”
“Can I finish stripping and talk about this later?” I asked. “We’re going to be stopping traffic soon as I take off my scrub bottoms.”
“Go take your shower,” she said with a defeated shake of her head. “We’ll talk about this over breakfast.”
Soon I was coming to the table with pajamas and wet towel around my neck.
“There’s really no need to worry about the vaccine. The only reason this is all going faster is they have cut through all the bureaucratic BS that normally drags these thing out for years,” I said. “Plus, the pharma companies are betting big that the vaccines will work and they will make a fortune. So they are in production while the vaccines are still in the last phase of trials. As soon as the vaccines are proven to be safe and effective, they will be ready with millions of doses to give.”
“And if they are not proven to be safe or effective, what then?” she said.
“Then they will lose big. But the effectiveness question is going to takes years to determine completely. I’m sure they will all be effective in the short run. How long the immunity lasts is another question.”
“But what about safety? I’ve been reading on the internet that…”
“Please,” I interrupted. “Step back away from the keyboard. Do not go to the internet. Do not Google vaccines.”
“Plus, I thought you hated vaccines.”
“Of course, I hate vaccines. But I hate these infernal masks more. I’ll do almost anything to get rid of these stupid things.”
“You just found out how bad your breath smells,” she smirked. “I’ve tried to tell you for years.”
“Plus,” I said ignoring her jab, “I think it is incumbent on health professionals to be the first to try a new vaccine. You remember all the trials we took part in when we were in medical school, don’t you?”
“Yes, and it was miserable. And we usually did it because we were broke and needed the cash. I remember that cute girl who went around with a naso-gastric tube coming out of her nose for almost three months. It looked ghastly,” she said with a shudder.
“Yeah, she was able to buy a car with the money she made off that study,” I said enviously. “Remember when I volunteered for that essential amino acid study?”
“Was that the one where they wanted you collect every ounce of pee and poop that you produced?”
“Yeah, they wanted me to carry around a gym bag with all my stuff in it,” I said. “I don’t know what everyone in my class would have done if they had known. I would’ve done it, but couldn’t gag down the food they were going to feed me.”
“And I thought you could eat anything,” she said. “You could’ve saved us a ton on our grocery bill. Are they paying you to take the vaccine? It can’t be much.”
“Oh, they are paying a little. But that’s not why I signed up, really.” I was starting to get sleepy and I was beginning to get serious. “The truth is that despite the fact that this is a serious disease in a statistically limited number of individuals, the nation is gripped with fear. People are slugging it out at Walmart because some woman isn’t wearing her mask properly. She thinks it’s her American right to be free. And some other lady thinks that lady is going to kill her mother.”
“Yeah, I know,” my wife said pouring a cup of coffee. “Nicole said she took her little boy to soccer practice and when he got there he wouldn’t take off his mask and go on the field. He was afraid. He said the other boys were getting too close and he would get the virus and die.”
“People are dying of things related to the fear and isolation almost as much as the disease itself,” I said.
“Bob Morris came by to see Mom the other day,” she said with a twinkle in her eye. “They are both in the mid 90s and probably could go any day. He said his family won’t visit him for fear of making him sick. So he thought he’d come by and just talk to Mom. He knows she’s not afraid. It was fun to see them laugh and smile so big without a mask covering their faces. But seriously, I know what you’re saying, but do you think it’s safe to take the vaccine?”
“Listen,” I said. “I get a damn flu shot every year, whether it helps or not. I got six damn anthrax shots before I went overseas to Iraq. I’ve had yellow fever shots, hepatitis shots, shingles shots, pneumonia shots, measles, mumps and rubella shots. You name it. I’ve had it. One more shot is not likely to kill me. And if it will make everybody just step back and take a breath, it will be worth it. Heck, I don’t know if it will keep me from getting COVID. With all my exposures, I may have already gotten it and built antibodies for all I know. But one thing I can tell you is that I’m sick to death of all this worrying and fighting and arguing about masks and social distancing. If a shot will make that go away, then sign me up.”
“Come over here and give me a hug,” she said finally pulling her mask off.
“I don’t know,” I said with a wink. “I have heard that some vaccines cause your libido to soar.”
“You know,” she said with a resigned sigh. “You are the only man I’ve ever heard of who went straight to medical school from junior high.”