Dr. Kuppalli and others have expressed unease about being first to line for the vaccine while so many others in the U.S. and beyond line up for their own shot to safety. “I don’t think guilt is the right word,” she said. The tiered system recommended by government officials for prioritizing the most vulnerable people made scientific sense. But there was still an immense privilege, she said, hidden in the tiny droplets of liquid that were stabbed in her right arm this month.
After almost a year on the front line in the fight against the coronavirus, health workers are finally receiving a long-awaited coat of arms. It feels strange to wear, they said amid the many millions who are still left without their own chain mail.
Manevone Philavong, 46, who has been with the environmental services at the University of Pittsburgh’s Passavant Medical Center for 21 years, was one of the first in the nation to be vaccinated on the morning of December 14th.
He long ago got used to the risks involved in his job of cleaning almost “every aspect of the hospital,” he said. Coming home from work, he goes into the garage and undresses in the basement before going into the house where he lives with his mom and dad, who are in their eighties, and his pregnant 30-year-old niece.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Mr. Philavong has tried to keep physical distance from his parents. They speak to each other from opposite sides of the living room. His father had to work alone while he tinkered with the family cars – a 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee and a 2009 Ford F-150 – and tended the herbs and vegetables in the garden. That year, the family skipped their regular trip to Moraine State Park to fish for trout and perch.
When Mr. Philavong told his parents about his injection, they were delighted. “They said,” Now you can spend more time with us, “he said.” I said, “Not quite yet.”
The vaccine offers “a layer of hope,” said Mr Philavong. “But I’ll still take all the precautions I can.”
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