Updated at 3:15 p.m. on March 29, 2021.
Up until a few months ago, I’d felt sorry for my American friends and family, stuck in a Trumpian nightmare of science denial and a warped fealty to personal liberty so extreme that, even as pandemic casualties soared, some people took to screaming, even spitting, at anyone who told them to put on a face mask. The situation in France, where I live, was more under control. Today, however, as the greater Paris region suffers through a third lockdown in response to the new viral wave sweeping the country, the tables have turned. Pandemic competence now is all about access to vaccines in a global race to beat a fast-mutating virus with mass inoculations—and the U.S. is clearly leading Europe.
My parents and three siblings in the United States are now vaccinated. Even my 30-something French stepdaughter and her husband, expats in Texas, have had their first shots. Me? As a healthy 63-year-old, I will not be eligible to get vaccinated in France, according to the official government calendar, until mid-May, because as the doses trickle in, people who are more frail, older, and more essential workers than I am have priority. That’s nearly another two months to wait. And when I can finally get my first jab, I will likely not have a choice of vaccines and may well be offered AstraZeneca, which, safety and drug-trial concerns aside, means a 12-week wait for the second dose. Assuming I can get an appointment on day one of my eligibility—which I probably can’t—I won’t be fully vaccinated until mid-August. So much for the summer of 2021.