The happiest place in medicine right now is a basketball arena in New Mexico. Or maybe it’s the parking lot of a baseball stadium in Los Angeles, or a Six Flags in Maryland, or a shopping mall in South Dakota.
The happiest place in medicine is anywhere there is vaccine, and the happiest people in medicine are the ones plunging it into the arms of strangers.
“It’s a joy to all of us,” says Akosua “Nana” Poku, a Kaiser Permanente nurse vaccinating people in Northern Virginia.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had an experience in my career that has felt so promising and so fulfilling,” says Christina O’Connell, a clinic director at the University of New Mexico.
“There’s so many tears” — of joy, not sadness — “that it’s almost normal at this point,” says Justin Ellis, CVS pharmacist in Laveen, Ariz.
For health-care workers, the opportunity to administer the vaccine has become its own reward: Giving hope to others has given them hope, too. In some clinics, so many nurses have volunteered for vaccine duty that they can’t accommodate them all.
Many of those same health-care workers spent last year sticking swabs up the noses of people who thought they might have the coronavirus. The work was risky. The patients were scared. There was never relief, just limbo. The arrival of The Shot has transformed the grim pop-up clinics of the pandemic into gratitude factories — reassembly lines where Americans could begin to put back together their busted psyches.
“I will never forget the face of the first person I vaccinated,” says Ebram Botros, a CVS pharmacy manager in Whitehall, Ohio. It was an 80-year-old man who said that he hadn’t seen his children or grandchildren since March.
Botros’s pharmacy is in a diverse community outside Columbus. As an African American who immigrated to the United States from Egypt, Botros feels a special responsibility to reassure Black patients who may be vaccine-averse from a historical legacy of medical abuse. One 89-year-old Black woman told Botros she had never gotten a shot before in her life.
“I explained to her: ‘This is very important. It’s painless, and it’s going to help you have your life back to normal,’ ” he says. Her grandson later reached out to Botros to thank him personally — and told him that the woman called all of her friends and urged them to get their shots, too.
The FDA is reviewing the data in advance to approving the Johnson & Johnson single-shot vaccine, and the rate of infection is going down. And then there’s Her Majesty:
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth has a message for people opposed to vaccines or hesitant about the shots: One is not amused.
Her Majesty spoke out for the first time about getting a “jab,” as she called it. In a video call with British health officials leading the vaccination rollout effort, the monarch said that getting the vaccine was “very quick” and “didn’t hurt at all.”
“Once you’ve had the vaccine you have a feeling of, you know, you’re protected, which is I think very important,” she said.
She also urged people to think about others. “It is obviously difficult for people if they’ve never had a vaccine … but they ought to think about other people rather than themselves.”
The video call was released to the media on Thursday evening and featured on many of the front pages of British newspapers Friday.
Relaxation Therapy: A pelican in the cove at the Deering Estate in Palmetto Bay.