Beverly Hills Courier columnist and Dr. Eva Ritvo is a psychiatrist with more than 25 years’ experience, an accomplished author and global initiative leader. She received her undergraduate and medical degrees from UCLA, and psychiatry residency training at Weill Cornell Medicine.
Vaccine FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)! Vaccine envy! Who ever thought that these would be emotions sweeping the world? COVID-19 has filled our lives with so many challenges, and now we are faced with a new one. Getting a vaccine appointment feels a lot like winning the lottery. At first it may have been easy to be joyful for others’ good fortune, but after weeks and now months of seeing others get vaccinated, patience can wear thin. It also creates an imbalance when one member of a “bubble” is vaccinated, and others aren’t. It can be painful to be the one who continues to miss out on activities as those around resume pleasures like seeing friends, dining out, shopping and travel. So many of us are feeling worn down from the chronic stress and are not in the best shape to deal with another issue. Yet vaccine envy will be with us for a few more months as we continue to progress out of the pandemic.
Here are some tips if you are feeling vaccine envy:
1. Acknowledge your feelings. Sure, you want to be happy for those getting vaccinated, but it does hurt to be left behind. These feelings are real and deserve space. Share them with a trusted friend or therapist. It is indeed quite upsetting to have to wait. In the U.S., we are used to having speedy access to medical care. It is unfortunate that so many have to wait for such an important intervention. You have a right be upset.
2. Express your concern to the family member or friend who is vaccinated. Discuss how it could impact your relationship and activities.
3. Focus on what you can control. Double down on efforts to not catch or spread COVID-19. Vaccines are only one very modern way out of the pandemic. Stick to the basics so you feel a sense of control over your health destiny.
4. Take advantage of the remaining days or weeks of quarantine. What did you want to accomplish during your time of limited activity? Did you always want to play the piano? These last slower days or weeks might be a great time to try (over Zoom of course). Have you put off cleaning your closet and organizing your drawers? There is nothing like a deadline to kick us into gear.
5. Take your best guess for when you will be vaccinated and start to plan. What do you most look forward to when you are vaccinated? Start to make those plans for late summer and fall.
6. Keep things in perspective. We are ALL so fortunate that a vaccine was developed so quickly. Even if the wait is a few more weeks, an end is in sight. One year ago, we had no idea what lay ahead and the uncertainty caused so much anxiety. Now we can feel hopeful that more “normal days” will be returning soon in a predictable time frame.
7. Focus on the herd. By now we know, “we are all in this together.” Although we aren’t leaving at the exact same time, mere months will separate us. The more our friends and family get vaccinated, the safer we all are.
8. Consider volunteering at a vaccination site. You will be helping one of the most important efforts of our time, and you will become eligible for your own vaccine sooner. Now that’s what I call a win win!
9. Remind yourself that “this too shall pass.” Summer will come and access will become easier and easier with each passing week. Everyone will have access to the vaccines and gradually life will resume for all of us. The 1918 pandemic passed in two years without a vaccine and ushered in the roaring 20’s. Better times are ahead! Do your best to stay positive and safe.