Dear Dr. Andrea,
I am a young (27), healthy woman with no preexisting conditions who has worked from home for a year now. I have had it fairly easy during the coronavirus compared to a lot of people. I have built a lockdown life that is as good as I can expect — outdoor picnics, bike rides, online exercise classes with friends.
I always felt I would be very content to wait my turn to get the vaccine, and my turn realistically should be at the very end of the line. I imagined that optimistically maybe by midsummer I would have some semblance of my old life back and I was resigned to that. Now, all of a sudden, something snapped. I feel like I have to have my vaccine now. It’s like everyone else I know somehow has it (how they have managed this and whether they were dishonest I don’t know), and I can’t wait another minute.
I am angry and resentful. And what realistically should only be a matter of a few weeks at most, since my state is not far from opening up vaccines to everyone, feels like too much. I am spending hours online trying to score an appointment and am tempted to be shady about it. I don’t want to cut the line, but it’s like I can’t stand waiting one more second.
What happened to me? Why do these next couple of weeks feel impossible, whereas I was relatively fine for a year? This feels embarrassing.
— Vaccine FOMO
First, no need for embarrassment. Being tempted to cut the line is not the same thing as actually doing it — a very important distinction. And no matter how decently you fared this past year, you went without a lot of things: fundamental, profoundly important human things. That toll has accumulated, no matter how much you made the best of it.
So now that the end is in reach, it’s natural to feel desperate to sprint past the finish line, rather than stick to the pace you had to maintain when there was no end in sight. You’re feeling antsy, frustrated and impatient because you see the light at the end of the tunnel, not despite it. And although we can talk about gratitude and being content with where you are, the truth is that now that everyone you’ve ever known seems to be posting their band-aided arm on social media, it gets even more distressing not to sprint ahead. That’s because we are feeling that most awful of human sensations — the fear of getting left behind (and all alone).
But let’s start here: you are not alone, not at all. Confirmation bias dictates that you are hyper-noticing all the people who are vaccinated — after all, the non-vaccinated people aren’t posting selfies of their nonexistent vaccination cards. Those people are just like you: waiting, getting tempted and wondering the exact definition of cutting the line.
But even better is that you and the rest of the silent majority are actually very, very close to being fully vaccinated, even if it doesn’t feel like it. It may help to draw a picture — a pie chart or a timeline that shows the relatively minuscule amount of time you now have to wait in comparison to how long you’ve already done so. Or you could take your best guess of when you’ll get your first dose and start ticking off the days on a fun calendar that reminds you that you are still making progress toward that. Maybe remind yourself that every hour you choose to do something fun instead of refreshing the vaccination appointment sites like some sort of sleepless Vegas gambler, then that’s an hour that you get back of real life. Or that every single person ahead of you who truly qualified earlier is more likely to have their lives saved — or save even more lives — since they have higher risk and higher exposure. Not that you shouldn’t ethically be trying to get an appointment, of course. But I think we both know that if you wait just a few more weeks, the process will likely cost far, far less of your time and mental energy. (And are a couple of extra restaurant outings really worth it?)
Finally, go heavy on making now worthwhile. Do something fun you haven’t done since the beginning of the pandemic. View this next month as a time to practice a high amount of self-care and make the days as fun as possible. Connect with your other friends who still aren’t vaccinated, even if — or perhaps especially if — they are struggling like you are.