My Vaccination Card Makes Me Feel Like a VIP
No, it's not quite a Golden Ticket. But a month of being fully vaccinated has turned me into a first-class citizen in ways I've never experienced before.
As vaccinations have continued to increase, so has the number of people testing positive for COVID-19. Right now, daily cases are rising by at least five percent in 30 states and D.C. These numbers have so concerned the head of the CDC that she cautioned about “the recurring feeling I have of impending doom.”
“We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are and so much reason for hope,” Rochelle Walensky said during a White House briefing on Monday. “But right now, I’m scared.”
Even though CDC guidelines are a little more lax for those who are fully vaccinated — they allow those who have gotten their full doses to socialize without masks in private indoor spaces with each other and with low-risk people who haven’t yet received the vaccine — they still mandate that everyone continue to socially distance and wear masks in public. And even with new CDC research suggesting that vaccination makes it very unlikely you’ll spread COVID, having your shots isn’t a license to play fast and loose.
That said, I’ve been fully vaccinated for an entire month (it’s now been 30 days plus two weeks since I got my second Moderna shot), and it’s given me a VIP status that even I wasn’t anticipating.
Since becoming one of the first people in my social circle to get vaxxed, I’ve been overwhelmed by a sense of relief. When I made the decision to carry my vaccination card with me when hitting the town, I felt like Charlie Bucket from Charlie & the Chocolate Factory: Oh, I’ve got a golden ticket. I first realized it when I was at the Apple Store downtown. A staffer was conducting a routine temperature check at the front, but her device kept malfunctioning when scanning my forehead. After several failed attempts, I pulled out my ID and vaccination card — and she let me slide.
Part of me thought this wouldn’t (and shouldn’t) work. But instead, she was rather relieved and simply allowed me to enter. My AppleCare assistant who saw the encounter was impressed and told me, “Damn, I need to hurry up and get vaxxed if it’s going to be like that.”
I’ve had more encounters since then that have revealed just how much this card has changed my entire experience. A couple of restaurants that my fiancé and I ate at indoors stopped treating us like contagious vectors after I shared that we were vaccinated. They became much less aggressive about mask enforcement (especially with few customers in the dining room), because, as one server put it, “You’re all good now.” Getting a haircut no longer felt like entering a war zone; even though it’s against the recommendations, my barber, who’s also vaccinated, gave me a fade and shape-up and didn’t require me to wear a mask. Then there was the sound of relief in the voice of the day-of coordinator for my upcoming fall nuptials when I told her that 90 percent of my wedding party had already been vaccinated. This is the closest to normal I’ve felt since last March, and my entire mood has blossomed like the promising spring ahead.
Now, acquaintances I bump into on the street (most of them sharing that they, too, have been vaccinated) don’t hesitate to give me a hug. Farewell to the the awkward socially distant high-fives; as a Black man, I find it feels good to start giving “the dap” again. And while my life has been personally “upgraded” now that I’m fully vaccinated, I haven’t ignored the glaring fact that COVID-19 cases are rising in the city even as vaccinations progress. Consequently, I’m still avoiding highly populated public gatherings, maintaining six feet from strangers, and washing my hands like a saint. Nor am I ready to hop on a plane just yet.
But I’m beginning to wonder if people who aren’t fully vaccinated are now enjoying some of these same “perks” — whether the rise in fully vaccinated people like me, and the sense that the pandemic is nearly over, might be leading to a more general laxity. “Vaccine envy” is real, based on salty responses I’ve received on social media — as well as the fact that there is, too predictably, a black market for vaccination cards. This shouldn’t be how any of this works. Hold your horses, folks; we’re not out of the woods just yet. Even as progress in this pandemic is speeding up, we all still need to remain vigilant — especially the new “cool kids” with vax cards, like me, who need to continue to project best behavior.
Nonetheless, this experience has been more rewarding than burdensome. As a Black man who felt like I had to socially distance myself from racism during the pandemic, I found going back into public and not momentarily feeling like a pariah priceless. My vaccination card has given me not just access to normalcy, but a larger sense of humanity that I may have taken for granted before the shutdown. For me, that’s more important than just going back to restaurants and frolicking indoors — it’s a sign of hope.