On Friday, April 16, I became eligible, based on my age, to receive a vaccination to protect against COVID-19. Like many Gen-X Canadians, I had been cheering for several months as I watched the older generations of my friends and congregation members getting immunized. I “loved” every social media post about someone getting vaccinated, and I shared all the latest news about clinics and eligibility in my province. I was overjoyed when my sister (a front-line health worker) got the jab, and relieved when my parents and then finally my husband “Stuck it to COVID,” just a week before my turn came up.
On the day of my eligibility, I sat impatiently through several online church meetings, and then hopped in my car and went straight to the drive-through clinic not far from my home in Regina. It was a bit of a wait. I drove into a lane as directed, and then sat there for about an hour and a half. It felt just like the line-up of cars waiting to get onto a ferry. I rolled down the windows, enjoyed the sunshine and the breeze, and worked on a sermon until my lane began to move. Then followed about an hour of inching along towards the big garage doors of the clinic.
The nurse who vaccinated me was very friendly and professional. She asked me lots of questions, explained the possible side effects, and made sure I knew where I should wait my 15 minutes afterwards in my car and put on my hazard lights if I didn’t feel well and needed help. The jab itself felt just like my annual flu shot, but it meant so much more.
The next day I was exhausted, had a bit of a headache, and my arm was sore. I knew to expect a few minor side effects, but I was surprised by the flood of emotions that I experienced. A deep sense of relief, like I’d been holding my breath for a year and, finally, I could breathe freely. An amazing feeling of gratitude, having received a long-awaited and much-desired gift. And I wouldn’t say that the third emotion was guilt, but it was a real awareness of privilege.
I thought about younger people who were still waiting, people without vehicles who could not go to the drive-though clinic and would wait longer to access a vaccine, and essential workers whose turn still hadn’t come up. I also thought about people around the world—those in countries without the financial resources to buy vaccines, those in places where outbreaks are totally out of control and medical services are severely limited.
I felt like one of those ten people with leprosy who was healed by Jesus—the one who turned back, praising God with a loud voice, the one who lay down at Jesus’ feet and thanked him profusely. I’ve often wondered about that story, about what that thankful person did after Jesus sent him on his way. I can picture him telling the story of his healing again and again with excitement and joy. I can imagine him encountering other sick people and pointing them towards Jesus for help and hope.
But the more important question is what I will do in response to the free gift of my COVID-19 vaccination. Certainly, I will continue to give thanks to God for the amazing gift that I have received. I will continue to encourage others to get vaccinated as soon as their turn comes up—protecting their own health, protecting vulnerable people around them, and protecting our society as a whole from all the devastating effects of the ongoing pandemic.
In deep gratitude for the gift of being vaccinated, my husband and I have each given $250 to the Love My Neighbour project to help UNICEF provide COVID-19 vaccines to the world’s most vulnerable people.
Love My Neighbour is a national movement for global vaccine equity, inspired by Millennium Kids and Canadian faith communities, to raise funds to help increase equitable access and delivery of COVID-19 vaccines. Each gift of $25 provides funding to fully vaccinate a person who would not otherwise have access to this life-saving immunization. This includes vaccines, per-person cost for transport, cold chain protection, health worker training, and disposal of needles and waste.
If you also feel thankful and privileged to have access to vaccinations and the hope of a COVID-free community, I invite you also to turn back like the healed man did. Give thanks and praise to God, tell the story, encourage others, and consider gifting a vaccine to someone else who needs it too.
—The Rev. Amanda Currie, Moderator of the 2019 General Assembly