Scott Brinton

The joy — and hope — of being vaccinated


As I made my way along Bay Parkway, headed to Jones Beach Field 3 on a recent Wednesday, I more than half-expected the worst. I anticipated a mile-long line and a five-hour wait, during which I would be spoken to brusquely by exhausted state government employees. At the end of it all, I would have a needle stuck in my arm.

So I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived at Field 3 at 7:50 a.m. for an 8:00 appointment, and there was no line. A National Guardsman, dressed in olive green fatigues with an olive green mask, met me at the gate, asked whether I had an appointment and waved me through to a check-in post, where I showed my ID.

That was it. I was in. No hours spent idling in line. I was about to receive the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, is 95 percent effective in preventing Covid-19.

As it turned out, the vaccination experience was nothing like what I’d half-expected. I marveled at the assembly-line efficiency with which doses were administered by friendly government employees. Lines of orange cones led me to a large white tent that fit four cars at a time. There were a half-dozen or so such tents. The entire operation looked like a cross between a giant car wash and a fast-food eatery, with lots of military personnel directing traffic.
I pulled up to my slot. I was asked a series of simple questions. I showed my ID again. I was told to pull down my sleeve, and I was injected. Then I was told to pull over to a waiting area and sit for 15 minutes to check for a reaction. Feeling nothing out of the ordinary, I drove home.

End of story.

I returned three weeks later for the second dose, feeling good. I was waved through the check-in. Just as I was about to pull my car into the big tent, a man hurried over to ask if I’d been checked in. “No,” I responded, a little timidly. He removed four cones and asked me to pull over, and I thought, OK, here we go. As I had half-expected at the outset, I’ll be waiting here for hours until someone lumbers over to let me through.

As it turned it, I waited two minutes before someone arrived with a tablet in hand. He asked me to show ID. That was it. I pulled back in line, and 20 minutes later I was, as they say, fully vaccinated.

Neither time did I even feel the pinch of the needle as it entered my arm. Clearly, after having injected so many hundreds of people at this point, the vaccinators are highly skilled at the fine art of delivering a pain-free shot. Neither time did I experience any significant side effects from the inoculation, either — only a little tiredness.

Feeling confident I was safe from the coronavirus, I recently headed to New York City for the first time since December 2019. My wife and I went with our daughter to check out the apartment she’ll be living in during her senior year at NYU. (They, too, are vaccinated.)

It was a momentous occasion. Like hundreds of thousands of college students across the country, Alexandra had spent the previous 15 months cooped up in her bedroom, staring at a computer screen, disconnected from all the wonderful vibrancy that a young person can feel studying and living away from home.

Suddenly, because of the marvels of modern science, there was hope that she wouldn’t continue to miss out on the full “college experience” before she graduates. Suddenly, there was hope for us all.

Riding the Long Island Rail Road was an existential experience. On the way home, I paid close attention to the whir of the train speeding across the landscape, the way the sunshine streamed through the car windows, the loud beep before its doors automatically closed, the frenetic chatter of excited passengers, many of them likely having visited the city for the first time in months.

Last spring, as the pandemic raged, I shot a photo essay on the emptiness of the LIRR. I counted a handful of riders that May day. People kept to themselves, seemingly afraid. If they hadn’t had to be there, they wouldn’t have been. It felt surreal, post-apocalyptic. Never had I seen the LIRR so empty during rush hour on a weekday.

Riding the LIRR this May was celebratory, joyful. The world had not ended. Human ingenuity had prevailed.

We mustn’t get ahead of ourselves, I know. We have a ways to go before our society can return entirely to our pre-pandemic ways. And the sooner each of us commits to being vaccinated, the sooner we’ll arrive at that happy place.
So, if you haven’t already done so, get the shot. It’s a lot easier than you might expect.

Scott Brinton is the Herald Community Newspapers’ executive editor and an adjunct professor at the Hofstra University Herbert School of Communication. Comments about this column?