Jerry Nelson: Getting the shot

Jerry Nelson
Special to the Farm Forum

It turns out that I, my wife and Dolly Parton have a couple of things in common.

They aren’t what you’re thinking. Not only do we all know the lyrics of the song “Jolene,” but we all recently received our first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

We had been looking forward to getting this shot for a long time. It’s only been a year, but a year during a pandemic seems like a decade.

My wife and I received our vaccinations as soon as our state deemed us eligible. In this case, “eligible” could be described as “under 65 and with any one of a number of preexisting conditions that afflict pretty much everyone under 65.”

Becoming eligible is one thing. Finding doses of vaccine was another.

I went on an internet safari, hunting for stray vaccine doses that could use new homes in our arms. I was able to locate a good supply of doses at a pharmacy located about 30 miles from our house.

The actual immunization process was anti-climactic. We filled out boilerplate forms, then went into a small room where a perky young lady quickly and expertly explained what was about to take place. My thoughts were “get on with it already!”

There was a tiny pinprick followed by 15 minutes of loafing in the waiting area. We were then turned loose on the world.

My wife and I decided to celebrate by going on what passes for a date during these pandemic times. Specifically, we got some food at the Dairy Queen drive-through and sat in the parking lot and noshed on the goodies.

I placed my iPhone on the dashboard and told it to play random tunes from my playlist. The song “Here Comes the Sun” by Sheryl Crow soon filled the car. The lyrics could not have been more apt:

“Little darling, it’s been a long, cold lonely winter / little darling, it seems like years since it’s been here.”

On a lawn next to our car, a snowdrift was melting in the warm March sunshine. It felt as though we were finally emerging from a long, cold tunnel into a shining new day. It felt like an unbearable load had been lifted from our weary shoulders.

Tears of gratitude unexpectedly sprang to my eyes. I thought about all the scientists and medical wizards who had made this moment possible. I wished I could personally thank every one of them.

I also thought about the untold suffering this pandemic has wrought. I thought about the hundreds of thousands who have lost their lives over the past year, people for whom the vaccine arrived too late.

We know some folks who have been infected with COVID-19. A few are still waiting for their sense of smell to return. One young lady has been dealing with persistent blood clots. A dairy farmer has suffered from the effects of COVID-19 for several months and was hospitalized five times. Until very recently, he needed supplemental oxygen. The dairyman’s pulmonologist told him that he’d thought the dairyman wouldn’t make it.

There are those who question the idea of vaccinations in general and the COVID-19 vaccine in particular. It’s been argued that these inoculations were rushed into production. After all, it used to take a decade or more to develop a new vaccine.

That’s true. But we never used to have supercomputers. Scientists never used to have the ability to sequence the genome of an organism as easily as ordering a latte at Starbucks.

When I was a youngster in the 1960s, I was given vaccines that were developed during the 1940s and the 1950s. I think it’s safe to say that the field of medicine has advanced over the past 70 years.

Thanks to vaccines, I don’t have to worry about getting polio or diphtheria or lockjaw. And now, the risk that my wife and I will succumb to COVID-19 has been reduced to approximately zero.

I felt absolutely fine after the jab. My arm ached for a day or so, but it was no worse than when I was in seventh grade and it became a fad for my male classmates to greet one another by socking each other in the shoulder. “Remember your PUNCH-uation!” we’d say as we delivered the blow. Such are the hazards of attempting to teach adolescent boys the rules of grammar.

When I take our dog, Sandy, for a walk, the world seems brighter and more hopeful. And there’s a particular refrain that keeps echoing in my head:

“Here comes the sun, do, do, do, do/ Here comes the sun / And I say it’s all right.”

Jerry Nelson