“14 months of this”, Flo had said on the day he got vaccinated. “14 months from hearing about the pandemic until the point when I got the virus shot into my blood stream.” He sounded frustrated at first, but I quickly realized he was happy, hell, positively astonished to have gotten the shot.
I have a clear memory of a day in elementary school when we kids were all lined up and, one by one, led into a room to be administered a sugar cube with some magenta-colored liquid on it: The Polio vaccine. At the time, even that seemed extraordinary, more so today that I understand what an effort it must have been to even vaccinate school children. The campaign to vaccinate everyone seemed gargantuan in comparison.
A strange side-effect of the pandemic has been that it refocused much of our collective attention to our own countries. After years and years of learning to think beyond borders—especially here in the European Union—the invisible walls between countries went back up as flights were grounded and we all stayed at home. Then came the statistics, invariably taken on a country-level, and before I knew it, I became obsessed with not just the pandemic, but with the pandemic right here in this country, in my city, in my district.
The vaccination campaign, then, became a test to see how the country was doing: How quickly could Germany get a vaccine into the arms of this country? The answer: Not very fast.
For weeks, the glacial pace of vaccinations frustrated me. I knew there were good reasons why it was going so slowly, the unavailability of vaccines, the legions of older people who needed to get vaccinated first, but it felt like there there was no progress for months, no perspective for my parents to get vaccinated, not to mention my friends, all way under 60. Then there was the inefficiency of it all, appointments being given out by phone, by email, through long waiting list… just as Americans were boasting about their vaccines and even the UK, adding insult to the Brexit injury, somehow vaccinated quicker than anyone on the continent.
And then: At the height of my frustration, I got a link to book an appointment at some random doctor’s office, available just a few days later. Today, I went there, almost giddy with excitement and nervousness, handed them my vaccine pass, and was done in under three minutes.
On this day, Germany vaccinated 866,077 people, and I was lucky to have had become one of them. And as I stood there, leaning against a tree to wait the mandatory 15 minutes for an allergic reaction, blinking in the sunlight, virus circulating in bloodstream, I too felt positively astonished.