Yesterday was a big day: John got his second dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination from SURA, our Colombian healthcare provider. “So tell us, John, how does it feel to be fully vaccinated?” His one-word answer: RELIEVED. For one of us, at least, that pretty much sums it up. Relief that he won’t catch COVID from some moron who thinks mask-wearing is for snowflakes. Relief that he can enter a crowded public place without fear of infection. Relief that he might have less of a chance of inadvertently spreading it to someone else. And relief that he’s done his part to help Colombia advance its COVID-19 vaccination program, which has gotten off to a pitifully slow start.
I had hoped to have at least one dose by now, but since I’m a few years younger than John, my age group only became eligible last week. We’re supposed to wait until our provider calls us for a cita (appointment), but it hasn’t happened for me yet. One of the things we appreciate about SURA is that it’s extremely button-up. No cita, no jab. It means I couldn’t sweet-talk my way into a first shot yesterday, but it also shows that they’re being extremely conscientious and fair, ensuring that there’s enough second doses to go around. Can’t fault them at all.
Now it’s time to get on my soapbox. It’s ridiculous that there continues to be a critical shortage of COVID-19 vaccine available in Colombia and in other countries that aren’t “rich” by North American standards. Meanwhile, we keep hearing stories about how providers in the U.S. are offering all kinds of incentives to people to come get a shot – donuts, beers, even cash. And states are starting to turn away doses because there isn’t enough demand. It’s outrageous that people who have the chance to be fully protected from COVID – to get their FREEDOM, for heaven’s sake – are refusing the jab. It makes no sense.
I’m luckier than most. We’re headed for Austin, Texas on Friday and I’ll be able to snag a shot while we’re there (I’m hoping for the one-dose Johnson & Johnson). I feel profoundly grateful to have that option, and my heart goes out to all the folks here who can’t travel to another country and who remain at the mercy of the incredibly inequitable global system. The only consolation I have is that I won’t be taking any precious doses here that could go to someone else.
Let’s hope things improve soon.
On another note, let’s talk about the elephant in the room: the civil unrest that’s been taking place in Colombia for over a week now. For all of you who have reached out to us worriedly, we say THANK YOU and we appreciate your concern – but we’re fine. All is peaceful and calm here in our little burg of El Retiro.
The protest movement here is very complex and the issues are large and serious, but we feel the situation has been overblown by the global media. Yes, there has been violence, vandalism, and police brutality. But, just as with the Black Lives Matter movement in the U.S., the protests themselves have been overwhelmingly peaceful and the demonstrators are simply looking for a more equitable world for themselves and their families. Stories that don’t make the news: the majority of protestors who honor and respect the police, and the many examples of police officers who extend kindness and support to protesters. The government and the leaders of the labor movement are meeting this week to start working on solutions. In many ways, it’s been gratifying to watch, and it shows what a strong democracy Colombia has.