Hallelujah and praise the Health Department District #10 — I just got my first dose of the COVID vaccine.

It was a long time coming. I kept hearing about everyone else who had received or was scheduled to receive the precious shot. Many were young, and in A-1 health. I, on the other hand, am, as my brother aptly observed, the poster child for the vaccine. Over 70 and with virtually all the underlying conditions that put me at highest risk.

Sure, I take meds that help to keep things under control, but let’s face it, when it comes to COVID, I’ve got my bags packed. When my sister-in-law, who has been absolutely scrupulous about all the social distancing rules and doesn’t go to anyone’s house, included me in the ban because I could have the virus, but be asymptomatic, I replied, “Listen, if I had COVID, I wouldn’t be asymptomatic. I’d be dead!”

Or, as my doctor put it, “We don’t want YOU getting COVID.”

So, for the past couple months, I’d been trying like crazy to get my vaccination. I was on a waiting list at the health department, but due to that vaccine shortage, I kept getting e-mails informing me that it might be weeks, or even months, before they got to me. I was on a couple other waiting lists and becoming more nervous every day. What if by the time my name came up it was too late?

Then, last week, I received a call from a very nice woman from the health department, informing me that the person scheduled for a vaccine at that very moment canceled and would I be able to get over there ASAP?

H---yes! I’d sprout wings if I had to. Then—snafu #1. I remembered that I was snowed in. I have no garage and my car, parked in the driveway, had a mountain of snow behind it, courtesy of the morning’s plows. With my bad back and balance problems, I am unable to shovel more than an inch or two and was waiting for a friend to come over and clear the path.

I explained the situation. “That’s OK,” the woman reassured me. “I’m in the process of scheduling for Friday, and I’ll call you this evening or tomorrow with a time.”

I thanked her profusely. Then I called everyone I knew to share the good news. My sister-in-law and brother were elated. My cousin in Raleigh uttered a Jewish exclamation that translates to “Thanks be to God!” My friends were all breathing massive sighs of relief and congratulating me. Up until then, I don’t think I’d fully realized how worried about me they had all been.

I kept the phone close by. But snafu #2 was in the wings. I only had my land line because I’d had bad luck with smart phones and had just received a new one from Spectrum, which I hadn’t yet activated. I was on the phone with my sister-in-law, but I had call waiting. Suddenly I heard Deb say, “Hello? Are you there? Hello?”

“I’m here!” I hollered.

“Hello? Mary Beth? Looks like I lost you…”

Oh no. Oh, no, no, no! My phone had gone dead.

This had been an ongoing problem with Spectrum. Last year they sent a guy out who put in a new modem, and that seemed to do the trick. But the issue would recur, for no reason, now and then. And wouldn’t you know, it happened to be now.

All I could do was hang up and wait. Things usually resolved themselves within 10 or 15 minutes. But the clock ticked on. Half an hour went by and still, no phone. I went to the computer to see if I could contact Spectrum online but…oh, no. Oh, no, no, no! My internet was down too.

First the snow. Then the phone. Now the internet. I sat there in shock. Really? Did God not want me to get the vaccine?

Forty-eight minutes later, the phone came back to life. So did the internet. But they kept going in and out throughout the evening. The next morning, on Wednesday, at 8 a.m. sharp, I called the health department gal back and left a message on her voicemail, informing her of the previous night’s technological sabotage and assuring her that I was available any time on Friday, or any other day, for the vaccine.

On Thursday, she called me back. “I haven’t forgotten you,” she said cheerily. “I have a slot tomorrow at 12:20 p.m. Will that work for you?”

H- — yes! “That’ll be great,” I replied.

“Wonderful. We’ll see you then. And you’ll receive your second dose on March 13, at the same time. Please be sure to bring a photo ID and your Medicare and insurance cards.”

I tell you, I’ve never been so excited in my life to get a shot. And I know a couple hundred million other people are feeling the same way. I can report that everything went just swimmingly. I filled out some papers and sat in the lobby for around five minutes until they called my name. On the way to my exam room, I saw my friend Robin Walicki, District #10 Clinical Supervisor, who gives the best flu shots. I’ve been getting them from her for years, and I call her Magic Hands because she’s fast as lightning and you never feel a thing.

“Will you be giving me my shot?” I asked hopefully.

“No, you’re in the next room,” she smiled. “But don’t worry—everyone here is great.”

I forget the name of my nurse, but she was young, pretty and as sweet as could be. And Robin was right. She had magic hands too. I never even felt the needle.

After the shot, they usually ask you to sit in your car for 15 minutes just to make sure you don’t have any reaction, but because I was allergic to a couple medications, they had me sit in the waiting room. Then I went home and am happy to report that I had no reactions whatsoever. I didn’t even get a sore arm, the most commonly reported side effect. From what I understand, you may experience more discomfort after the second dose, like headaches or feeling under the weather for maybe 24 hours. But this is actually a good thing, because it means your immune system is kicking in, and that’s just what you want.

So if you’re nervous about getting the vaccine, don’t be. It’s safe—you cannot, I repeat, cannot get COVID from it because it doesn’t contain the virus in any form. It’s painless. If you’re needle phobic—and I am—just look the other way and pretend nothing’s happening and guess what? Nothing did! It’s that—dare I say—innocuous.

At the moment, I’m apparently 50 percent protected against COVID—at least the original variant. When I get the second dose, I should be 90 to 95 percent safe. But the most important thing is that by getting the vaccine, I’m doing my part to make the rest of you safer.

That’s all we can do. So don’t be a bot—get the shot!