By Larry Gordon
Now I am fully vaccinated. Even though originally I was supposed to receive shot number two four weeks after the first injection, I let a few more weeks transpire before getting it done.
As I mentioned in a previous story on this experience, the inoculation took place without ceremony at The Premier Nursing Home and Rehab facility in Woodmere. I have to credit the administrator there, Joe Benden, with facilitating the process and finally making the second Moderna shot available to me.
As I stated in the past, even though I can probably get into Israel without a vaccination (having contracted the virus a year ago), I didn’t want to leave anything to chance. When I get there, G-d willing, in the next few weeks, I feel it will be helpful to be able to say that, yes, I had the virus and that, yes, here is my card affirming that I am vaccinated.
So let me take a moment and discuss that I can empathize with and understand the anti-vaxxers. In fact now that I am thinking about the matter, it just might be that my procrastination that resulted in an eight-week lag time between doses was partly a manifestation of what is called vaccine hesitancy.
Like everything else these days, the safety of the vaccine is subject to debate and criticism. And that is not helped by the silliness of President Biden and Vice President Harris and others encouraging everyone to wear masks even outdoors and even though they were vaccinated months ago. By the way, they were vaccinated when Donald Trump was still president, when, according to them, there were no vaccines available. The only thing that changed on that matter was that Biden’s people decided he is foolish enough that they can direct him to announce that Trump left him without any vaccine. Either way he is laughed at.
But I digress. Now that the masks are off, I have to say, upon reflection, that the requirement to wear a mask over the last year didn’t apply so often for me and was therefore not as bothersome to me as it may have been to others.
Firstly, I stayed away from shuls that had a mask requirement. Now, in retrospect, it is becoming clear that the attachment to masks with a religious fervor was overplayed. Reports have also emerged lately saying that masks were not as protective as we were led to believe. Some so-called experts will disagree with that, but their positions are no more credible than those who maintain the opposite position.
This idea of half a shul requiring masks and making it optional for the other half demonstrates just one inane aspect of this policy that we were forced to buy into. Earlier this year my mother-in-law was in Maimonides Hospital for surgery on her shoulder. The procedure required a few-day hospital stay but then she came down with COVID in the hospital and those few days turned into a few weeks.
When we learned about the COVID diagnosis, my wife inquired of a doctor there, saying that we were told that she would be on a non-COVID floor, so how did she contract COVID? The doctor listened to what my wife had to say and then responded: “Ma’am, the whole hospital is COVID.”
So, no, your shul cannot be half COVID and half non-COVID. That’s only a policy in a dream and has no connection to reality.
But there was also a possible positive side to the maddening mask wearing mandate, and that was that cases of the flu were way down—about 98% less than in the previous year. Pediatricians will tell you that strep throat cases were down this year too. Of course, many of the flu cases were diagnosed as COVID because insurance companies paid more for COVID cases, but that is a story for another time.
So about that second shot. I received the first shot on a Friday morning and I was fine for about 12 hours after that. But then late Friday night and definitely on Shabbos morning I felt just plain sick. I had flu-like symptoms, body aches, a headache, and felt feverish, with a touch of the chills. It’s like everything that people say might happen after the shot actually did happen.
Part of my calculus this time was to get the shot midweek so that if the same thing happened I would not be sick over Shabbos. Some of the people I spoke with who had both Moderna shots said that after the second shot the symptoms are not as bad as after the first. That was reassuring except for the fact that some who had both shots said the reaction to the second injection was much worse. Oh, that’s just wonderful, I thought—more vaccine hesitancy.
Anyway, Joe wrote to me on Tuesday of last week asking if I want the shot the next day. I was thinking to say no but it came out as “yes.” Just like the first time around, I really thought that I didn’t need this shot. After all, I still have antibodies and this entire formula consists of shooting antibodies into your bloodstream to ward off a potential virus.
To create an even greater conflict, the night before my shot I heard Kentucky Senator Rand Paul say that he’s not getting inoculated because he has antibodies and does not want to use valuable medicines that are ingredients of the injected formula that can be used in India where it is desperately needed.
Am I having medication injected into my arm that someone might need in India? As you’ve read in last week’s 5TJT, the situation in India is indeed dire. As of this writing, the rate of infection is down but still at about 300,000 positive tests per day. The population of India is approximately 1.4 billion people.
The need for oxygen concentrators there is desperate. Theirs is a health system that is not just being overburdened but actually crushed by the pandemic. That is why the OU has undertaken a campaign to raise funds for more breathing apparatuses to be bought and sent to India. Who in good conscience can watch this kind of scenario unfold and stand idly by?
So while I had no idea how my body would react to the second shot, at least I was familiar with what might happen, which led me to comfortably think that I was at least prepared for that previous physical reaction.
Now a week later, oddly enough, I can report that my reaction to shot number two was just about identical to the first time around. That is, even though the nurse administering the injection asks you to sit around for 15 minutes to gauge your immediate reaction, in my case there was none, and just about nothing at all for the next 18 or so hours.
The next day, on Thursday, I was sitting in shul in the morning feeling fine. I don’t know what was going on internally but about halfway through davening I sat down and felt like I was breaking out in a cold sweat. It was like whatever it was that was injected through the syringe into me the previous afternoon had either crossed some kind of border or had settled in to do whatever it is supposed to do.
Then my face and even my arms felt sweaty. I thought to myself, OK, here we go. Achiness began to make its way through my arms and legs. I quickly finished davening, removed my tallis and tefillin, and set out to walk a short two blocks back home. It was a laborious walk. I felt like I was working hard just waiting for cars to pass so that I could cross the street.
I made it back home, went to lie down, and did not move for about two hours. The good news was that this was exactly the way my vaccine reaction unfolded the first time, eight weeks prior. I took my temperature a few times over the next few hours and took some Tylenol and ibuprofen. I watched the fever go up to 100, then to 100.5 before it slowly started heading in the other direction. When it hit 99.4, I thought it was a good indication, and I actually began to feel like it was passing through my very intricate system.
By 6 p.m. I was feeling well enough to go out to Cedarhurst Park to the Five Towns pro-Israel rally.
The media and many doctors who have our attention have been doing a terrible job navigating us through this experience over the last 15 months. Just look at the self-proclaimed expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, flip-flopping his way through congressional hearings and news interviews just about every day. Someone told President Biden to say that, unlike President Trump, he is going to follow the science. But science by its very nature is constantly changing as a result of new research and new findings. A key aspect of science is experimentation.
So if you say you are committed to following the science, all you are really saying is that you are committed to following the changes. That’s a pretty good matter to claim expertise on—constant changes.
In the aftermath of all this, it is clear that there have been too many overbearing declarations and definitive instructions about something that was always shrouded in uncertainty.
Having had the virus (in March 2020) and now the two vaccine shots, my conclusion is that if you are medically cleared to get the vaccine you should do it. Don’t listen to people who need attention more than anything else. The numbers are good and getting better. Society is opening and we are getting back to where we were, and that is where we want to be.
Read more of Larry Gordon’s articles at 5TJT.com. Follow 5 Towns Jewish Times on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for updates and live videos. Comments, questions, and suggestions are welcome at 5TJT.com and on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.