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Culture
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Coronavirus

Got Vaccine Envy? How I Cured Mine

There’s a new variant of Fear of Missing Out. It’s worrying about who’s getting what shots.

Steve Burgess 15 Apr 2021 | TheTyee.ca

Steve Burgess writes about politics and culture for The Tyee. Find his previous articles here.

FOMO hits differently in the vaccination era. Typically the “Fear Of Missing Out” acronym relates to the paranoid conviction that everyone else is having more fun than you; recently it has also been the basis for a government ad campaign warning people not to fall for scams.

But FOMO has a new dimension as people become anxious about their place in the vaccination queue. And the proliferation of formulas is creating yet another form of anxiety for the still-unprotected segment of the public — the issue of choice.

I didn't really experience FOMO until this spring, when my Facebook feed started filling up with happy posts from acquaintances reporting they had been vaccinated. Suddenly I started to worry that life, and safety, were indeed passing me by.

Facebook and other social media are perfectly designed to foment FOMO. Streams of vacation pictures from idyllic locales, fancy meals, newly-renovated kitchen snapshots — Facebook gradually replaced that former mailbox staple, the annual Christmas letter from the over-achieving friend with the three genius children. Some have always used Facebook as a form of oneupmanship.

To be fair that's not what was going on in my feed. People were naturally excited about getting a shot of Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine from a local pharmacy. But it is the nature of social media to create a distorted picture of events, and it began to seem to me that everyone else was getting their shot.

We have all spent a nervous year. But I had not considered that the arrival of vaccines might produce more anxiety than relief. Previously I hadn't really been worried. Why be nervous? We were all in the same boat. You just follow the rules and hope for the best. I generally kept to myself (no real change needed there), wore a mask while indoors, kept my distance as best I could. Give or take a few crowds of sign-waving wing nuts, we were all united in waiting for scientific breakthroughs.

The miraculous breakthroughs have indeed taken place. But now social media was informing me that the wait was ending for some faster than others. It wasn't just age cohorts either. Thanks to the pharmacy rollout of AstraZeneca vaccines it became a matter of snagging a precious booking for one of the available vaccines. My age group was eligible, but could I get a booking? It was like calling Ticketmaster hoping to score Metallica tickets after sleeping till noon. Forget it, pal.

Thus it was that the prospect of safety had at last made me nervous. A little hope is a dangerous thing.

Facebook, my tormenter, finally became Facebook, my salvation. A Facebook friend came through with a tip. Voila, I had a Sunday booking at the First and Renfrew location of Pharmasave.

And then promptly came the next spring 2021 dilemma. That Friday my age group was declared eligible for Pfizer or Moderna shots. I quickly registered online. What to do now? Keep my AstraZeneca appointment? Or wait for one of the other vaccines which, fairly or not, boast more impressive efficacy statistics? There was a veritable crossfire of worrisome media reports (Denmark would shortly afterward suspend AstraZeneca vaccines over concerns about rare blood clots.) Just as Facebook amplifies FOMO, media habitually distorts medical and scientific stories, emphasizing the sensational at the expense of the fuller picture. BLOOD CLOTS FROM ASTRAZENECA VACCINES are extremely rare. The jury is instructed to disregard the capitalization.

In 2021 we are all being forced into a crash course in scientific literacy. What do the lower reported efficacy rates of AstraZeneca actually mean? Do they really reflect a lower success rate or are they a factor of when the tests were done? What are the important figures to consider? What are the real risks and benefits?

My vaccination search having been largely a social media phenomenon, it seemed only right to play it out that way. So I put the question to Twitter and Facebook: Should I keep my appointment for AZ vaccine or wait for one of the others?

A variety of opinions were expressed (happily none involving Bill Gates or nanoparticles) but the overall response was clear: the best vaccine is the earliest one you can get. I kept my appointment. Side effects were as reported — fatigue, aches, headache that arrived about 24 hours later, pretty much gone by the next day. I am now an antibody farm, part of a BC grow-op industry that is currently booming.

As a member of the privileged provincial million I am extremely grateful to all those who participated in the research, distribution, and delivery of the vaccine from which I am now benefiting free of charge. And my Facebook scrolling is a more serene experience. May we all soon go back to posting competitive vacation snaps.  [Tyee]

Read more: Coronavirus

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