Rainy Side View: A welcomed shot in the arm

I got my first COVID-19 shot and am awaiting the second. The only reason I’m in line after medical and other essential workers is because of seniority, so if you’re thinking there are no advantages to getting old, think again.

I figure if I’m going to survive the pandemic and quarantine, I’d better get the vaccine.

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During this long year of confinement, when tics have turned toxic, brains morphed into mush and waistlines grown wider, can we please return to some form of real life before we go completely bonkers?

Thankfully, COVID-19 vaccinations are underway, and now, every time I turn on the television, someone somewhere is getting a shot, which is a good thing. What’s not so good is seeing a flabby upper arm get pinched purple as the scary hypodermic, looking longer than one of my knitting needles, plunges in. I shut my eyes. I can’t look!

In my lifetime, I’ve had many shots — flu, pneumonia, shingles, etc. — so rest-assured that this new one is easy and painless, with a dainty needle nothing like the foot-long poker we see on TV.

Some say they’ll just wait to catch COVID in order to develop antibodies. That’s how it was done in the old days with childhood diseases such as the chickenpox. When one cousin caught it, we played together, got infected, developed immunity, then hoped to survive scar-free. But pockmarks were the least of our worries when polio started to menace the population, so we all jumped in line to get vaccinated.

Today, the risks from COVID far exceed those from chickenpox or polio, and you bet I’m getting my two doses. The main problem is scheduling an appointment, but only because health centers are scrambling to have enough vaccine and figure out how to distribute.

Paciencia! Instead of grumbling, maybe we can find some way to help, such as providing computer assistance and transportation. And for the super-human effort and dedication of the health care community, I say mahalo piha.

For those still wondering if they should follow CDC guidelines and get inoculated, consider the last pandemic — the Spanish Flu of 1918 that killed roughly 675,000 on the continent and over 2,400 in Hawaii.

First arriving in the islands via military bases on Oahu, it was called La Grippe, an old French term for the flu. Here’s advice from a 1918 Fort Shafter physician as reported in the Hawaiian Journal of History (vol. 33):

“There’s little enough one can do in the nature of preventive treatment. Keep away from ‘grippees’ as much as possible and rinse the mouth and nostrils with germ-destroying lotions as often as possible. Otherwise, it’s largely a question of luck.”

Even back then, we were advised to keep physical distance. And in the 100 years since, we’ve learned that frequent washing of hands offers more protection than rinsing mouth and nostrils. The only added precaution is to wear a mask, but if you’re among those who don’t believe it helps, it also doesn’t hurt, so it’s a no brainer.

As for dumb luck, I guess that’s all they had back in 1918, but in 2021, we have vaccines.

Today, the number of deaths from COVID in the islands is lower than from La Grippe, but on the continent, it’s worse. Let’s hope neither surpasses numbers of the 1918 pandemic, which would be lolo because 100 years later, we now have more knowledge, information and expertise.

The sooner we get vaccinated, the sooner we build herd immunity, and the sooner we return to sanity.

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I’m all for it.

Rochelle delaCruz was born in Hilo, graduated from Hilo High School, then left to go to college. After teaching for 30 years in Seattle, Wash., she retired and returned home to Hawaii. She welcomes your comments at rainysideview@gmail.com. Her column appears every other Monday.

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