The Post-Vaccine COVID Life

As I recover from COVID-19 in my room, I want to reflect on the last 3 months of how I got here. If you don’t want to read the whole thing, here are 3 takeaway:

  1. My family (including me) got both shots of Pfizer and got COVID-19 4 weeks after that. We all fell at least moderately sick.
  2. I would like to think I was pretty cautious but this still happened. Living in Delhi didn’t help. Moral: Let's try to not get to this stage, ever again.
  3. I am no expert, but if my entire family got symptomatic COVID-19 after 2 shots of high efficacy vaccine, maybe we are nowhere close to letting our guards down? (Buddies in the US/outside, especially for you).
  4. (Bonus) It is just terrific to see how everyone here in Delhi and all over India is doing everything it take to support others, compile and share resources. The solidarity and selfnesses keep me going.

February 2021: I am somewhere on the outskirts of San Francisco, waiting for the vaccine to come my way and do its magic. As much as it does not make sense to me, I am also awfully amazed by the wonderous disappearance of COVID-19 back home, in India. Experts around the world are crafting all kinds of hypotheses that can explain this bizarre miracle. Hitting “herd immunity” that early on for such a populous nation obviously seems hard to take in. But, you know, whatever works. Whatever makes us feel great and positive. As I continue my general cautiousness in California, I envy my friends in Delhi. My family and I are fully excited to visit Delhi in March but are conflicted between first getting vaccinated in California, or just going back to Delhi and waiting for our turn there. Family in India tells us the same story — “Just come — India has pretty much overcome all coronavirus.” It's a very mind-boggling story, but a convenient one for us considering California is no pandemic paradise. My family continues to be conflicted about the vaccine.

March 2021: Luckily, my family is eligible for the vaccine in California now because of my brother and my disabilities. We do the sensible thing of getting both shots of Pfizer before boarding our flight to Delhi. Well, now it looks like nothing could go wrong. We are vaccinated on the shots that have 95% efficacy. And by efficacy, I assumed getting coronavirus itself. And we are going from a nation that is still struggling with cases to a nation, which obviously seems to have it all under control. Really, nothing could go wrong. It's not like I am forestalling anything, but yes, I continue to be pretty precautious. I wear masks at my own home if I see a guest from far away in the living room. I shamelessly walk out of a gathering which I was told would be 2 families but is, in fact, 12. I refuse to pull down my mask for even a socially distanced photo. And yes, once again, this is 2 weeks after my Pfizer second shot, and at a time where India’s success story has started to show cracks but not completely crumble. I also continue to not meet most people even though many are convinced they already got COVID-19.

April 2021: I would like to say “in spite of taking full precautions…” but what on earth does that mean? What constitutes the checklist of “full precautions”? So yeah, my family could have done a much better job. Instead, I would like to say “in spite of getting vaccinated” my entire family got coronavirus. Not just coronavirus, fully symptomatic coronavirus. The kind that took our oxygen levels down to the border. We are all, right now, at unknown stages of recovery. Pfizer and Moderna were supposed to be 94-95% effective against getting the virus on the original strain, and from what I was hearing, even as much as 80–85% effective against a bunch of other global strains? Well, when 5 members of your family are vaccinated, 3 of whom have both shots, and we still all manage to turn out positive and get sick, that % does not seem very convincing anymore. I reiterate: I am in Delhi/NCR right now and anyone that’s here knows how terrible the situation is here. My grandmother struggled to get a hospital, then oxygen, and now she struggles to get Remdesivir. Seeing everyone here in Delhi and the rest of the country support their families, relatives, friends, and any and everyone else has been absolutely uplifting and encouraging. My friends here have been working tirelessly to collect resources — everything from hospital beds and oxygen cylinders to medicines and food. This solidarity and selflessness in times of crisis say a lot about how we genuinely can and do rise to the occasion.

Right now: The funny thing is, my family all came out negative on one day and positive the very next day. We didn’t cough. We didn’t lose our sense of smell. But we were sick. Our bodies hurt. Our head hurt even worse. Some of us got fever. It was just strange. We probably tapped into the COVID-19 variant that is somehow working its way around RT-PCRs as well which is why he has to get tested multiple times. I also keep wondering what would our situation be like had we not gotten vaccinated. If my mom managed to fall that sick after Pfizer, which she thought would prevent her from getting COVID in the first place, how much worse could she have gotten without it? Gratitude, folks, absolute gratitude.

The Future: Who am I to tell? LOL. Seriously, though. I can’t even count the number of people in India who got COVID-19 post-vaccination. Mostly AstraZeneca and Covaxin, and in my family’s case, Pfizer. Many of these people ended up needing oxygen (whether or not they got it is a different story altogether). This is not my pitch to not get the vaccine (dear god no!). This is my pitch to get it as soon as you are eligible and can go. But more importantly, it is a sort of forewarning that COVID seems to be finding its way around both vaccines and tests, regardless of their efficacy. Vaccines certainly reduce your chances by an XX% of getting hospitalized or falling terribly sick — but if the experience of people around me is to say anything — vaccines don’t guarantee you not getting COVID or falling even moderately sick. If the COVID variants that are wreaking havoc in India right now take off in the US and other places at the rate at which they did here, a lot of vaccinated people might end up getting some very unwelcome test results as well.

Data Science and Satire. One or the other, or both at once. But never without either.