After 10 months of witnessing the coronavirus’s destructive capacity, on December 16 I joined thousands of health-care workers across the country and received my initial dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. I felt hope for the first time since March, when COVID-19 patients started streaming into my emergency room. My colleagues and I would now have one more layer of protection in our fight against the virus.
My relief was short-lived. Walking back into the emergency room, I once again felt the despair brought on by the pandemic; the vaccines won’t help any of the COVID-19 patients I am currently treating, or those who will come in during my next shift.
On the same day television networks broadcast clips of frontline workers rolling up their sleeves to get vaccinated, the U.S. crossed another, more depressing, milestone: passing 300,000 deaths from COVID-19. Despite the miracle of multiple vaccines being researched, authorized, and injected in record time, many Americans will still die of the coronavirus before they can get vaccinated.
In the first week of the vaccine rollout, 614,000 Americans were vaccinated but nearly 1.5 million were diagnosed with COVID-19. Many will continue to flood our hospitals. The families of those dying will suffer, as will the medical teams caring for them, who have faced so much heartbreak this year.