Monday, March 22, 2021

My First Covid-19 Shot (March 21, 2021)

I got my first Covid-19 shot yesterday, Sunday March 21, 2021. In this blog post, I give the background leading up to the shot, and details about how I arranged it. I seriously doubt anybody will find this interesting, but in 10-20 years perhaps my future self and grandchildren might want to read it.

To start off, I fully believe that getting a Covid-19 vaccination is the right thing to do, and that everybody should get vaccinated. I am completely mystified by the polls that say that 41% of the Republican party doesn't plan to get vaccinated. I believe this is dangerous behavior. It puts the lives of other people at risk:

I was actually planning on waiting a bit longer to get my shot, perhaps until late-April. I am fairly comfortable right now with my day-to-day program, and I do not feel in danger of getting sick. But my youngest daughter started putting pressure on me, so I acquiesced. She also sent me some links on how to get started. My wife, who is a nurse, received her second dose at the end of April. Since she works with severely disabled children, I think it took a weight off of her shoulders to be vaccinated.

As with everybody else, Covid-19 has altered my style of living. For example, I like to work from my office, but to do that, I need to take a screener everyday (and present it at the door of the office building), and also get tested every 15 days. To be safe, I get tested every single week. I am a world class expert at the Binx saliva test now. I am pretty much the only person in the department who works in the building on a daily basis. So I am normally there in complete isolation. Typically, the only other person I see in the building during the entire day is the guard. Occasionally I hear some shuffling in the hallways.

Although my classes this semester (Spring 2021) are listed as blended, almost all of the students have moved home with their parents, and so it is more convenient to have the classes completely online. I detest online teaching. I prefer to interact with the students in-person. Ultimately, I feel in-person learning is more beneficial to the students than on-line learning. But that is the subject for another blog post.

As for real life, I get outside quite a bit for walking and biking. Fridays, I will go to Barnes and Noble in Union Square because it is spacious, and I can manage to browse without standing next to anybody. For food, I shop at the Morton Williams supermarket next door. But I will not go into any crowded store (e.g., the Strand, which always seems overcrowded). Nor would I dare go into a restaurant or movie theater or anything like that. We used to love to go out to eat in Chinatown, but all that is off limits now. I am committed to social distancing and avoiding crowded places and double mask wearing.

 I am afraid to go to the dentist or any kind of doctor. I did have some health problems during the winter, and I needed to go to the ER and the doctor's office several times. Even though the trips were necessary, I was very uncomfortable with it. In fact, I managed to have two of the doctor's appointments by phone, something that seemed inconceivable before the pandemic.

Unless absolutely necessary, I totally avoid public transportation. I have been on the subway only three times since I returned from Botswana at the end of August 2020, two of those times were to go to the doctor.

Some faculty members in our department were offered vaccinations by NYU Langone at the beginning of the Spring 2021 semester. They were sent notifications on the NYU Langone App on their smart phones. Not all faculty members in the department were contacted, and nobody seems to know what algorithm Langone followed to make their choice of faculty, or even how to get in contact with them.

I contacted NYU HR, who told me the following (on February 24, 2021):

“The University wants to vaccinate as many members of our NYU community as possible, as quickly as possible. NYU Langone has vaccinated NYUers in some eligible categories on the state’s phased distribution plan, but Langone’s ability to vaccinate members of the NYU community depends on vaccine supply and the hospital’s other needs.

 Though the University, separate from NYU Langone, is approved to serve as a COVID-19 vaccination site, we are awaiting our first shipment of vaccine doses and making arrangements to vaccinate NYUers on Washington Square and in Brooklyn. We will provide additional information as it becomes available.

 In the meantime, the University strongly encourages all those who are eligible to be vaccinated; if you have not received any information from NYU Langone about registering for a vaccination appointment there, please register for an appointment at any vaccination site in New York State.”

So basically, as far as helping me to get vaccinations, NYU has been useless.

I chose to get vaccinated at Walgreens (instead of a NYC government hub). I did this because Richie told me he had a good experience with Walgreens. Also, the Walgreens is only about two blocks from my apartment. To get vaccinated at Walgreens, you need to register online as a Walgreen’s customer. Then you sign up for an appointment. One advantage of Walgreens is that they sign you up for your second dose right away. So my second dose is already scheduled for April 18, 2021.

In retrospect, Walgreens was not a great choice. I went to the Walgreens at 4 West Fourth Street in Manhattan. There were two pharmacists there, but only one was in charge of vaccinations, and she was completely overwhelmed. So even though my shot was scheduled at 3:30, and I was told to arrive at 3:15, I did not leave the pharmacy until around 5:05. I think if Walgreens is to be serious with this effort, they should dedicate one full time pharmacist to vaccinations at each store.

You can check to see if you are eligible to be vaccinated in NYS at this link: 

As of today, you need to be 60 years or older, or have an underlying condition, defined by this list:

You can find NYS vaccination hubs here:

Since I am only 57, I qualified for the shot on the basis of an underlying condition, which in my case is obesity. I felt justified in doing this because there are clear correlations between obesity and severity of illness: I was not asked to provide any medical documentation for the underlying condition.

Many university faculty members that I know have justified their vaccinations on the basis of teaching in-person classes. I was ready to try this as well, since my NYU classes are listed as blended this semester (even though as it turns out, I am teaching completely online). Additionally, one of my courses last semester (Fall 2020) was in person. But it never came to that, since I qualified for the shot on the basis of underlying conditions.

The vaccine I received was Pfizer (two doses). I would have been equally happy with Moderna or Johnson and Johnson. In other words, I did not choose Walgreens because of the type of vaccine offered there. In my opinion, the differences between these vaccines in terms of efficiency are negligible, and definitely not worth trying to locate specific types at specific locations.

I got the shot in my left arm, which is sore today. Last night, I did not really sleep well, and I suspect that is in some way related to the vaccine. Other than that, I have had no side effects. Nor did I have any allergic reaction right after I got the shot at the pharmacy.

Psychologically, I feel relieved that I have started this process. However, I will not feel really safe until I get the second dose.

Addendum: On April 18 2021, I received my second Pfizer dose. Once again the process took a long time. I arrived at around 3:15pm and left at 4:30pm. I was disappointed that the only record they gave me was a handwritten card. Somehow I was expecting something a little more flashy (maybe even digitally printed and laminated, why not?). I tried to apply for the NYS Excelsior Pass, but I will only be eligible 14 days after the shot.

As for side effects, my arm became sore, and I had trouble sleeping that night. But there were no other side effects.

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