Besides, she had faith in the work. Faith, too, in the intentions, and the labour which would bring the jab to her arm. Researchers, armies of them, across the globe, had worked for months to bring this gift to her. Doctors, other health workers, administrators, had toiled day and night in order to keep her unharmed...
When the call came, it had an unreal quality. A day, a call, she had been waiting for, for a whole year, and here it was, finally. The call, and an SMS, telling her the date and time and place where she would be getting her Vaccine. In these times, The Vaccine meant only one thing...a shot against the COVID-19 virus.
But for her it was much more than that. It was so many things. It was a dream, something she had fantasised about ever since she had been locked down, seemingly endlessly, for almost a year. A goal, something towards which she, along with countless others on the planet, had looked at, yearningly. It was freedom, it was liberation. And above all, of course, it was safety.
Would she go, would she actually take the shot? In her mind, there was no doubt. Of course she would. So many people, in so many different professions, had worked tirelessly in order to bring this gift to her. She knew several people who were hesitant about taking the vaccine, others who downright refused. Anti-vaxxers were forming a movement in other parts of the world, a movement that was both harmful and misguided, according to her. The internet was flooded with “news” about reactions to the vaccine, about the way it debilitated people. These, she believed, were often rumours, fake news. Her friends in other parts of the globe had taken one, even two doses, and had reported no adverse effects.
Besides, she had faith in the work. Faith, too, in the intentions, and the labour which would bring the jab to her arm. Researchers, armies of them, across the globe, had worked for months to bring this gift to her. Doctors, other health workers, administrators, had toiled day and night in order to keep her unharmed, so that she could finally see this day. She believed the authorities when they told her that the vaccine was safe, that it would work, to a large degree. She was confident that the researchers who had brought this to her, and those who had monitored the controlled tests across the globe, would not be hasty. And those who had actually manufactured the vaccine, in factories that churned out the vials day and night, week after week, sending the vaccines out into a world stricken and lamed by a pandemic, even the transporters who had brought it to her town, to a medical facility near her home, would she not be giving those people a kick in the face if she simply refused to be jabbed?
And at the end of the day, in this pandemic, how could she abandon hope?
The medical facility she was invited to was a Government one, the largest in the region. She had some trepidations about going there, but she put them aside. She had heard only good things in recent times about the way COVID patients had been treated there, that too, completely free of cost. Besides, she reasoned, if so many others of her fellow citizens could go there, why could she herself not do so?
It was a pleasant surprise when she entered the place. Clean, airy, with enough seating space for everyone, and more. It was even decorated with flowers. Indeed, she felt like a Cannes diva as she walked down the red carpet laid out for potential vaccine takers.
The process, she realised, was streamlined. The registration was quickly done, with people who helped at every turn. The officials, facilitators and doctors who were around were reassuring and helpful. The vaccine would be given free, she realised, amazed.
She was asked to sit till her turn came. Which it did, a few minutes down the line.
Inside the vaccination booth, everything was smooth. Efficiency was combined with kindness and care. As for the actual jab, it was really painless. The nurse administering it must have had many hours of practice in order to have done it so easily.
Once outside, post – vax, sitting on one of the comfortable sofas for the time she was asked to, she couldn’t help reflecting on how straightforward it had been. She remembered the vaccines of her childhood, the TABC jab that was so painful and fever-inducing that she had had to miss school every time for a couple of days after it was administered. The smallpox vaccination which was itchy and sometimes painful, too. This one, in comparison was nothing. And from what she had heard, it would be uneventful, too The vaccine would do its work within her body, without disturbing the rhythm of her life at all.
As she looked around at the busy, hardworking health workers, Government officials and facilitators, she felt her eyes misting over. This was truly humanity at its finest. Humankind, waging war, not against each other, but against a pandemic that had ravaged the world, taking countless lives, displacing people, shattering economies, creating panic. People across continents and countries working together, in so many different ways, to make each human life safe from this scourge. Governments swinging into action to protect its citizens. Health workers, administrators working tirelessly to bring succour to each person. Even a comparatively poor country like ours, the second most populous in the world, doing its best by its citizens.
Indeed, All Things Considered, she reflected, it was truly a grand moment for the human spirit. For science. For compassion. The world, forgetting its hatreds and enmities, had pooled its resources and risen up as one to tame an illness that had brought the planet to its knees for a full year.
Mitra Phukan is a novelist, short-story writer, translator and trained Shastriya Sangeet vocalist.