Lessons From a Vaccine Vigil

Published: 13/4, 2021


That’s how I felt when that long-awaited email arrived informing me that a covid-19 vaccine appointment was available. Hopefully, you’ve received a similar notification, or will in the near future.

The more than two months I spent on my state’s vaccine waiting list was an exercise in patience, and a lesson making assumptions based on incomplete information. I was content to wait my turn, of course, and understood the myriad administrative and supply challenges states had to tackle to get these shots into waiting arms. Some communicated those issues better than others, but they weren’t the only things that made my 10-plus weeks of watching for the proverbial pot to start boiling a sometimes frustrating experience.

“Thanks” (I say facetiously) to hypertension inherited from both parents, I was eligible for a vaccine after the highest risk groups (the elderly, etc.). And with a friend who’d signed up shortly before me receiving his shot within a few weeks, it made sense that my own jab would arrive on a similar schedule. It didn’t, and with friends and colleagues gleefully announcing their shots on social media, the sense of “jab envy” grew.

Had I taken the time to fully research how the vaccines were being distributed, I’d have learned sooner there were other many underlying conditions that made people far more vulnerable to the coronavirus’s insidious effects. And, of course, certain jobs and responsibilities take priority over construction journalists, just as “normal” workplaces present far more risks of transmitting the virus than my home office. 

The more I learned about the process, the more my protracted wait made sense. Sure, I had gotten a place in a line, but it was a multi-dimensional queue, sort of like how ferry operators alternate boarding among vehicle types to balance the load. And thanks to a ramped-up communication effort by my state, uncertainty gave way to confidence that shot time was near.

What to take from this experience? Along with admiration and gratitude to the researchers, scientists, health care workers, and volunteers that have made both the vaccines and the ability to administer them on a mass scale possible, it’s a reminder that things aren’t always as they appear. Some things in life are immutable—death, taxes, and Murphy’s Law—but sometimes there are more reasons for why things do or don’t happen than we realize. Everything and everyone has a story.

For the construction industry, from contractors to equipment manufacturers, the latest chapter in its pandemic saga appears ready to be written in a few months with the rescheduled World of Concrete show. Yes, it’ll be different with a summertime setting, safety protocols even for the vaccinated, and perhaps a diminished turnout given continuing restrictions on overseas travel and an understandable wariness among some that maybe the time just isn’t right for them to venture far afield.

But even then, World of Concrete will offer what most of us have missed for more than a year—a taste of “normal.” And that, most certainly, will be a relief.


Jim Parsons, Senior Editor


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