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Getting ‘the shot’ is a joyous occasion

I’ve never been particularly fond of needles. I think my fear of them began in earnest when I was about 5 and old Dr. Hugh Warren bent a dull hypodermic needle in my butt while administering penicillin.

Dr. Warren’s Victorian house was located on land now occupied by the Smithfield Foods fitness center. He practiced medicine in the ground floor of the house. Dr. Warren was an enthusiastic raccoon hunter and kept a pet raccoon in a cage just outside his house. He would frequently bring it inside and show it to patients to the delight of children. But I digress.

That was in the early 1950s. Back then, doctors — or their nurses — would run examining equipment and hypodermic needles and syringes through an autoclave to cleanse them. Needles were then sharpened for reuse.  Sharpened, yes, but not necessarily what you’d call sharp, as I learned that morning.

Those days are blessedly behind us, of course, and today’s needles are a lot sharper, gentler and safer than those old, dull stickers, in addition to which they are disposable and are discarded after a single use, thank goodness.

But I believe I would have been willing to be stuck by one of Dr. Warren’s dull needles two weeks ago when my turn came to receive the first coronavirus vaccine shot.

Nor was I alone. Reporting to the Sentara Family Medicine clinic next to Obici Hospital for “the shot,” I joined about 18 others who had appointments that afternoon. You don’t normally see really happy people in a doctor’s office, but every one of those folks seemed delighted to be there, as I’m sure they were, because of all the frustrations associated with this pandemic, waiting for a vaccination is probably the greatest.

Those of us who have been fortunate enough to get an appointment for that first dose should not forget that millions of people are still waiting. My biggest concern is for the most vulnerable people in society — people who don’t have computers or the skills needed to get them into and through signup programs. People who simply may not learn about what’s available and when. It’s going to require a significant amount of outreach by health officials to reach them and that should be a top priority.

Near-universal vaccination is critical to the effort to shut down the virus. True, it’s not over just because we are vaccinated. We can still catch the virus, we’re told, but the odds of getting seriously ill or dying from it drop quite dramatically. And when enough of us have received vaccinations, then we can begin to crawl out of our long hibernation and begin to perhaps even socialize again. Wouldn’t that be something?

Concerts this year?

One important aspect of social life in Smithfield for the past 3½ decades has been the free summer concerts on Main Street, which Anne and I have had the pleasure of hosting. When we sold the paper just over a year ago, we fully intended to continue scheduling the Friday evening events, at least for a year or two, under the sponsorship of the Isle of Wight Arts League, and with the full support of new Smithfield Times owner and publisher Steve Stewart. COVID-19 nixed those plans completely last year and, quite frankly, we’re not sure about this summer.

So far, we haven’t attempted to schedule any concerts for the upcoming season because we simply don’t know when people will again be allowed to — or feel comfortable — gathering in a large group. Neither the Arts League’s Board of Directors, as the sponsoring organization, nor the town of Smithfield, which now owns the stage, will consider having concerts until it’s considered safe, and we just don’t know when that will be.

Our hope, though, is that by mid-summer we might be able to begin scheduling them. We’re likely to be still wearing masks, but that’s a reality that we may have to face for some time to come.

 

Corrections: Two columns, two corrections. Ouch. In last week’s column, It was Carter, not Carl, Woodson, who first recognized the importance of black history. And the previous week, I subtracted three years from James Chapman’s distinguished life. He’s 95, not 92 — and he’s doing great.

 

John Edwards is publisher emeritus of The Smithfield Times. His email address is j.branchedwards@gmail.com.