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We’re getting a shot of optimism along with the COVID-19 vaccine

Selfies on social media show elation about how we’re working toward something like normal.
In a smiley-face mask, medical assistant Keona Shepard prepares to administer the COVID-19 vaccine in New Orleans.
In a smiley-face mask, medical assistant Keona Shepard prepares to administer the COVID-19 vaccine in New Orleans. [ PHOTO BY CHRIS GRANGER ]
Published Mar. 27
Updated Mar. 27

The of-the-moment post on social media has to be the freshly-bandaged bicep.

The “I Got The SHOT!” sticker affixed to a shirtfront.

And most popular of all, the selfie, photo or video of a masked recipient bravely accepting an injection of the coronavirus vaccine, be it your neighbor, Dolly Parton or the Dalai Lama. (”Don’t be such a chicken squat,” Parton counseled vaccine hesitaters.)

Across the world and here in Tampa Bay, after a year of fear and isolation, people who have been able to get vaccinated are expressing optimism.

Shot recipients are showing off their vaccination cards (though experts warn they should be careful to cover personal information), thanking health care workers and talking of hugging grandparents.

Photographer Lance Rothstein of Clearwater takes a Polaroid selfie and displays his bandage after getting his COVID-19 vaccine this week.
Photographer Lance Rothstein of Clearwater takes a Polaroid selfie and displays his bandage after getting his COVID-19 vaccine this week. [ Photo courtesy of Lance Rothstein ]

“Oh, just elated,” is how Susan B. Barnes, a currently-grounded freelance travel writer based in Tampa, described the feeling after her recent first dose. “Instantaneously, I just felt this relief that there’s a way to move forward.”

“The feeling after the second one was like, ‘God, I’m free,’” said Jimmy Dominguez, a senior judge in Hillsborough County who got his shots with his wife at the Plant City Strawberry Festival grounds.

“I think overall it was just a lift in the spirit,” said Dominguez, who continues to wear his mask and follow recommended precautions. “I think a lift in the spirit of the country, personally.”

Dr. Ryan Wagoner, psychiatrist and associate professor at the University of South Florida, called it part nostalgia, part anticipation. “They’re excited the moment is finally here,” he said.

“The fact that people are looking forward to the future, that there may be this light at the end of the tunnel, that has a majorly positive impact on people’s health and well-being,” he said.

His first shot? “Amazing,” he said. “Because it was taking a proactive step to control something that you haven’t been able to control for over a year.”

Rochelle Reback, a retired Tampa lawyer, said staying hunkered down at home, getting groceries delivered, has been “extremely isolating.”

“There have been many, many days this year when the only person I talked to was my dog,” she said. “And Digby is not a good conversationalist.”

With her recent vaccination — chronicled with a selfie in her car post-injection — came a cautious foray into the world: A recent trip to the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg to see the Van Gogh Alive exhibit and lunch outdoors with friends.

The museum elevator (only two riders per trip) was “the first elevator I’ve been in in over a year,” she said.

Vaccine joy expressed via social media — such as a YouTube video of a man in Peru dancing in a health care facility — has not been without pushback. Some point to the coronavirus’ brutal death toll and the fact that many people are still unable to get vaccinated.

But the strong counterargument says these public displays of elation serve an important social purpose: They show those who are hesitant to get vaccinated that it’s safe and easy, and that a lot of people are very glad they did.

Isaac Hoffman holds his son Leo, 10 months, while receiving his Pfizer vaccine Thursday in Spanish Fork, Utah.
Isaac Hoffman holds his son Leo, 10 months, while receiving his Pfizer vaccine Thursday in Spanish Fork, Utah. [ RICK BOWMER ]

Until more is known about how the vaccine will affect the spread of the virus, even those who have been fully vaccinated are advised to keep taking precautions — avoiding crowds, wearing masks and staying 6 feet apart in public, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

Barnes and her husband are due soon for their final shot.

“I was thinking for our second one, we should probably get a bottle of champagne to celebrate,” she said. “Or maybe just some good ice cream.”

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