Debbie Duncan: Every Shot Is a Story

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More than three million Americans are getting vaccinated each day as supply increases and restrictions tumble. And Debbie Duncan says every shot is a story.

Hear that? It’s the sound of floodgates opening for Californians ages 16 and up to sign up for COVID-19 vaccines. Just as I’ve been grateful the past year to live where masks are the social norm, I’m delighted we Bay Area residents are second only to metropolitan Seattle/Tacoma in our eagerness to be vaccinated. Yes, that makes it harder to secure a coveted appointment, but it also means we will achieve herd immunity that much faster and be able to climb out of this pandemic.

I’ve been a sucker for vaccine selfies since December, when I cried at a pic of my RN daughter smiling after getting her first vaccine at the Florida hospital where she cares for COVID patients. I also love vaccination stories, especially those that show perseverance.

Storytelling in the face of obstacles is at least as old as the ancient Stoics, who believed that storytelling can help avoid negative emotions to a setback — a setback such as spending hours refreshing a computer screen or returning to a pharmacy night after night for a potential leftover vaccine dose. To do this like a Stoic, think about the story you will want to tell years from now.

Storytelling is useful for kids, too. My vaccination story involves getting the oral polio vaccine after church at a community clinic at my elementary school. I was 8. I’d already had a polio shot, but the Sabin vaccine was on a sugar cube! The only instruction was not to eat for an hour. Lunch wasn’t for a while, but we did stop at the market on our way home. Mom and Dad gave my brothers and me 10 cents for a treat at the drug store. I bought Pez candies. Then I ate one from the Donald Duck dispenser. It tasted just like the sugar — OH NO I WASN’T SUPPOSED TO EAT I’M GOING TO GET POLIO AND DIE. I was horrified.

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I never told my parents, who I realize now probably shouldn’t have tempted us with candy money. I never got polio either, only immunity from it. But I did end up with a good story.

With a Perspective, I’m Debbie Duncan.

Debbie Duncan writes children’s books from her home on the Peninsula.