A year after the start of the pandemic, Americans are focusing on travel precautions, vaccine passports and securing vaccination appointments. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released new travel guidelines indicating that it is safe for fully vaccinated people to travel within the country, the paradox is that some not vaccinated Americans are traveling during the pandemic to get vaccinated – giving new meaning to the long-haul covid label.
According to a recent study by the West Health Policy Center, which focuses on healthcare for the elderly, and the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy, the distribution and availability of vaccines across the country vary widely. In some counties, 100% of the population lives more than 10 miles from an immunization center, and others with less than one facility per 10,000 population.
“Some 9 million Americans live more than 10 miles from the nearest vaccine delivery site. Requiring even one person to travel outside their community to access the vaccine is a burden, but asking millions of Americans for this is its own public health emergency, ”said Sean Dickson, director of health policy at the West Health Policy Center, in an email. .
No one seems to be officially tracking the distance Americans travel to take photos. Doug Ward, a Colorado Springs resident and founder of VaccineHunter.org, said via email that anecdotally he estimates that around 40-50% of people find vaccine appointments within 30 minutes. from their home. Others are not fortunate enough to score an option nearby and take day trips or longer trips for their vaccinations. “Out of 10 members of my family, five took two- or four-hour round trips for vaccines,” said Rachael Dzaiba, a high school student who co-founded the Illinois Vaccine Hunters Facebook group.
Many states report that non-residents are vaccinated; in Pennsylvania, at the time of publication, more than 139,000 of the more than 2 million fully vaccinated people in all counties were incapacitated.
So, I’m clearly not the only one choosing to travel for a vaccine rather than wait longer locally.
“There is an immediate sense of relief knowing you’ve taken this step,” said Inger Burnett-Zeigler, 40, clinical psychologist and associate professor in the department of psychiatry at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “I think the option of going for the vaccine gives people hope and optimism that they will be able to return to some normalcy.”
But, she added, traveling is not an option available to everyone. “For people living in resource-poor regions, the idea of going elsewhere is out of reach.”
Lou Grossman was willing and able to hit the road. The 69-year-old Sarasota, Florida resident and his wife, Amy, 63, both partners of Grossman Public Relations Counselors, spent a total of seven hours driving to and from West Palm Beach, in Florida, for their vaccinations.
After making the trip in one day for the first shot, they decided to take it easier for the second dose. They spent the night in a hotel and enjoyed dining out, strolling on a local beach, window shopping and visiting friends in Palm Beach. “We spent two relaxing days,” he said. “I feel relieved.”
Although she only drove an hour each way for her own vaccination, Jenny Thompson, 53, CEO and founder of SafetyPIN Technologies, spent over 11 hours round trip (with a few stops) driving her 79-year-old mother Meira Cagan. , to and from her second vaccine appointment.
“She was listed on five to six sites and could never get a date anywhere in Baltimore. I was starting to get nervous, ”said Thompson, who is temporarily based in West Orange, NJ. So she went to Baltimore, and then to Upper Marlboro, MD, to get her mother’s shot.
Deborah Dreyfuss-Tuchman, a Chicago resident living part-time in Palm Springs, Calif., Signed up her family to volunteer for eight hours at a site four hours from Glendale, Ariz., To get vaccinated.
Dreyfuss-Tuchman, who is director of business development for a media advertising company in his early sixties, worked for the listing. Her husband Jeremy Tuchman, a long-term care insurance broker also in his early sixties, picked up trash in a golf cart. And daughters Haley Tuchman, 27, a lawyer, and Danielle Tuchman, 22, a graduate student, worked in the reception hall. “After the second shot I felt more comfortable and it was spectacular to be able to have dinner with friends in Arizona,” said Dreyfuss-Tuchman.
Jake Seaton, 25, founder of a tech start-up, said he and two friends took a six-hour, 400-mile overnight trip from DC to Florence, SC, for their first Pfizer shots in the hope to be able to return to a more normal life (and get a second shot closer to home). “We looked at the states where we were eligible so early, and South Carolina was the closest,” he said. “It was fun to go on a road adventure with friends.”
As for me, after spending at least 30 hours online trying to get vaccinated locally, I wentogle for a map of Illinois and started typing in cities where a date might be. available. Peoria, no. Rockford, no. Aurore, no. Springfield, no. Beijing, boom. That’s why, on that rainy Thursday, I left with my appointment confirmation and prescribed asthma, hypertension, and high cholesterol medication – all to prove my eligibility – for the small town up close. of 33,000 inhabitants near Peoria.
Central Illinois seemed vast and slick to me, but the storm robbed me of the chance to enjoy the view of winter-hungry open lands and huge trees ready to turn green. When I stopped in Dwight, Ill. To use a gas station / mini-market washroom, I bought a Diet Coke to be polite to the cheerful woman at the cash register. It was rude to use the toilet and leave.
After leaving Dwight, it took a few tricky turns to reach Beijing and the glossy white CVS pharmacy where I received my photo. A nurse named Roz walked me through the quick and tidy process. No one asked to see my prescription bottles. As the gunshot entered my arm, heartfelt relief spread throughout my body like a prayer.
After waiting the required time after the vaccination, Roz smiled and said, “See you in three weeks.” She was nice, but I hoped not; I had planned to bring my second dose of Pfizer closer to home. (And I did, in Flossmoor, Illinois, about 30 miles away.)
A few miles away, I walked into what looked like a local restaurant in a small town called Cobbler Corner, which promised food that I probably shouldn’t eat on a regular basis, but knew I would appreciate, for my sake. only taste of Beijing. I settled on the combo of onion rings, mozzarella sticks, and breaded mushrooms to start. For the main course, I ordered a melted chicken patty with fries, then added two cobblers – naturally – to bring my sons home.
The combo arrived with a small dish of spaghetti sauce for dipping. An older woman at another table asked how it was. “It’s awesome,” I told him. She thanked me and smiled and waved to me throughout the meal. I waved my hand. I made two friends in Beijing, which is way more than what I earn in a day of working in my home office for 11 straight hours.
It was still raining when I got back into the car. There was no neon sign to remind me to BE CAREFUL but I managed to deflect not one, but two fallen bumpers on my way home, knowing I was already halfway there of a more secure life.
Prospective travelers should consider local and national public health guidelines regarding the pandemic before planning any travel. Information on travel health advisories can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s interactive map showing travel recommendations by destination and on the CDC’s travel health advisories webpage.
The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted travel at home and around the world. You can find the latest developments on The Post’s live blog at www.washingtonpost.com/coronavirus