The Agony and Ecstasy of Vaccine FOMO


Susan speaks about scoring a stray vaccine appointment at a CVS for her daughter with the enthusiasm a rookie astronaut might use to speak about getting the last spot on a moon mission.

It’s understandable—the 44-year-old spent weeks searching for a vaccine appointment for her daughter, a teenager who has a qualifying health condition. Every day she scoured multiple websites, searching for an elusive Southern California vaccine appointment. 

At last, sweet success! Her daughter will receive the vaccine this week. And her husband, who works in the food industry, was vaccinated last month. The family lost relatives to the virus, and has been anxiously awaiting the protection of the vaccine—all four, Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and AstraZeneca, significantly reduce the likelihood of severe illness and death from coronavirus—so seeing her loved ones vaccinated is a huge relief.

But come on, isn’t she also just a little bit…jealous?

“Absolutely!” Susan says with a laugh. She’s not eligible yet (all adults over 16 will be eligible in California starting April 15), so for now she just has to wait. Hundreds of millions of Americans know exactly how she feels. It almost feels like the closer we get to mass vaccine eligibility, the slower time moves, warping, like we’re runners sprinting toward a destination that is getting closer and closer but is still not quite in reach.

We have every reason to be excited—in many states, vaccination dates are moving up. Sixteen percent of Americans have been fully vaccinated, and the Biden administration has pledged to make vaccinations available to all by May 1. We’re seeing grandparents safely hugging their grandchildren for the first time, service workers feeling more protected at their jobs, and people with conditions like asthma able to live without constant fear. Hope is palpable. But so is FOMO—the fear of missing out.

The pandemic isn’t over: Cases are still rising, and public health experts are clear that it is not yet time to stop social distancing. But the end is in sight. It feels like the whole country is just a few periods away from being let out for summer vacation. Every moment brings us closer to vaccines being made available to every American adult who wants one. It’s bliss. It’s joy. It’s torture.

“I was getting really down hearing how everyone I knew had had at least their first shot,” says Jacquie, a 45-year-old living in Michigan. She’s barely exaggerating—she’s a cancer survivor, so she thought she might get slightly early eligibility, but she’s watched as her parents, her husband’s parents, her sister, her brother-in-law, her sister-in-law, and her husband, all got their first shots. Finally, last weekend, she got it—a coveted Pfizer shot, straight to the upper arm. “Now I just anxiously await them to email my invite for my second,” she says. “Then it’s happy dancing in the streets!”



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