This morning, as I write, brings the close to an exciting week and also a beginning of sorts. Last week was a week of hope. My colleagues and I in Little Rock, and across our country and world, experienced relief and strong emotions, as the vaccine for COVID-19 virus rolled out. The virus we have been contending with since March and prior, as of today, has caused over 300,000 deaths in the United States and over 1.6 million deaths worldwide; consider the effect of these losses on family members, friends, businesses and communities. How many more people have survived and been left with new morbidities such as decreased heart, kidney, or lung function?

My hope is that everyone could receive the vaccine NOW, and that everyone who could receive the vaccine would receive it.

I’ll share with you my experience and I look forward to you having a similar experience soon too. December 16, 2020 is a day I will never forget. After surgery, I made my way walking from the Eye Center to the hospital. It was cold! As I reached the hallways of the hospital, getting closer and closer to the conference room established for vaccination, I could not help but become more and more excited. I greeted and moved past a few people I knew. I could see people coming from the area of the hospital where I was headed and I wondered if they had received the vaccine. When I arrived at the station for vaccination, I was welcomed with the same enthusiasm I was feeling and emanating. I must admit, there was part of me that feared I would not be vaccinated; it was late in the day, and I had not received any specific information; only generalities. But that did not happen, and what unfolded over the next 5 minutes seemed unreal! I filled out the simplest of paperwork and was escorted to a small cubicle. The next steps were like any other vaccine: alcohol wipe and a stick I hardly felt. After receiving the injection, I held back the emotions and tears that surprised me suddenly. Why, emotions?! I think it’s due to not only the loss of lives the virus has inflicted upon us, but more of a collective of the entire year: the challenges we’ve faced as individuals and a society here in the US and worldwide, the personal stresses of keeping the clinic in operation and safe for our employees, patients and community (this included everything from being shut down, to replacing employees, creating guidelines, altering the flow of how we see patients, etc.; we were able to continue performing blepharoplasties, browlifts, and other meaningful surgeries but at a totally new level of stress), the economic impact to so many we know in the restaurant business, retail and other areas, and mostly perhaps the “humanity” of it all; having had enough people pull together and produce the most meaningful answer we’ve seen to defend ourselves against the scourge we have been witnessing; also I think the relief that came for my children, wife and me. There really was such a celebratory spirit among all of us in the vaccination area!

Over the next 48 hours, I experienced a few mild effects related to the virus. My arm became sore later that evening and the discomfort peaked the next day. I awoke the morning after with what rivaled the runniest nose I’ve ever had; this lasted for the entire day and to a less degree the next day. I was a little achy in general from about 10am to the early evening, the day after the injection; this was bad enough for me to go ahead and take two extra-strength Tylenol over the course of about 8 hours. That’s it. I must say that I embraced every symptom! The response gave me confidence that my immune system had turned on its machinery to defend against the virus. Now that I’ve received the vaccine, there is about an 84% chance that I am protected from COVID-19. In January, when I receive my second shot, there will be about a 95% chance that I am protected. This is very high as vaccines go!

When you are given the opportunity to vaccinate, I hope you will embrace the vaccination as a lifeline to yourself and those you will come in contact with. The vaccine is most effective when widely administered. Compare the multiple effects of COVID to the health of individuals and our society versus the risk of reasonable side effects one can encounter with any vaccine. The devastation from the virus wins out as the worse consequence of the two. I challenge you that if you have decided not to take the vaccine or are considering not taking the vaccine because you heard “this” or “that” could happen, or if you have heard negative characteristics of the virus (the many circulating that simply are not true!), please get information from a reliable source; ideally a scientific person or doctor you know personally and trust. I wish you the best, as we bring this year to a close and look forward to life again without the threat of COVID-19 and all the negative effects it brings with it. I hope you’ll soon experience the relief and excitement I and other hospital workers have. At the beginning of the week? No defense against the virus; at the end of the week? Defense against the virus! That’s a good week!

In what has been a tumultuous year, and as challenges specific to this virus continue, as you experience the holidays, I hope you will cherish each moment with yourself, or your family and friends. I wish you and your loved ones a Merry Christmas and the Happiest of New Years!