“I barely even feel the needle.
It is over so quickly that I begin to take it all in only afterward, as I claim a seat in the waiting area. There are a handful of us there, each of us newly vaccinated and waiting the designated 15 minutes before we can leave. I watch an environmental services worker flex his upper arm and shyly take a photo. A few internal medicine residents gaze out the window, bleary after a night shift. I feel a sudden urge to offer a congratulatory hug or handshake, but of course that is not possible. Our seats are too far apart for us even to talk.
I glance at my phone and open a message, an automated request to complete a mortality report for a patient who died of Covid-19 the week before. In our final conversation before he was intubated, I tried to comfort him, but he could barely hear me over the hiss of his high-flow oxygen. When he coughed, I flinched and hoped he did not notice. The survey asks if anything about this death was preventable, and I say no, because there is nothing we could have done differently — though clearly the real answer is yes. So many of these deaths could have been prevented.”