I can hardly believe that I am finally saying these words: I just got my first COVID vaccine! Can you tell I am so damn excited? I have been waiting for this since we first went into lockdown a year ago.
My husband is in the military and works on a COVID-related unit, so he was able to get his vaccines really early. I have been seriously envious for a couple months now. When he came home with his second dose, I told him I’ve never been so jealous of someone in my life, and I wasn’t lying. I have wanted this COVID vaccine BAD.
Every morning, I check to see if there’s any news about our state moving to the next phase. Earlier this week, I finally got good news. We live in Tennessee, and partially due to lack of demand for the COVID vaccine (ugh) it was recently announced that we will be moving on to group 1c next week.
1c is made up of people with “qualifying medical conditions.” Apparently, I have one of those.
I’m in good health, but my fat body is a qualifying condition on its own. Even though I have absolutely no health issues, just the very fact that I am fat is enough to get me the COVID vaccine.
For once in my life, being fat has sent me to the front of the line. Sure, it’s based on BMI which is bullshit, and of course a big part of the reason fat people appear less healthy is because of medical mistreatment, and YES, I find the entire way that our culture pathologizes fat bodies to be problematic and intensely harmful.
That earlier vaccine, though…GIMME.
Last night, my chance to sign up unexpectedly arrived. My husband got an email about a vaccination clinic for qualifying military dependents. They were extending the invitation to 1c. I jumped at the chance. With trembling hands and a grin on my face, I chose my time slot, then I fell asleep with the anticipation of knowing that in just 12 hours, I would be one step closer to some kind of normalcy.
This morning, one of the guys assigned to work at the clinic called to confirm my appointment. He gave me the rundown about privacy, then asked my age. When he realized I was only in my thirties, he inquired if I had any qualifying health conditions that would put me in group 1c.
I told him I qualify based on my BMI.
I have never heard someone get so uncomfortable so quickly. Hand to God, I could almost hear him turning red. It was probably awkward for him because some people are really weird about their fatness, but today, nobody could tell me a thing about this body.
Fat? YES! Get me my vaccine.
The guy started sputtering a bit, and then finally spit out, “Ma’am, since you’re young, I have to ask if you’re severely…Ummm… I mean this respectfully, of course, but are you…Uh…that is to say, is your weight certainly um, high enough to qualify you in group 1 Charlie?”
I had to stifle a laugh. He was asking if I was sure I was fat enough. I cheerfully answered, “Yup! Super fat! Nobody will wonder if I qualify when you see me, but I’m happy to jump on a scale for you if I need to!”
He quickly answered, “Oh no, um, that won’t be necessary if you’re severely ob…um, I mean, well if you say you qualify, then we can just um…we can trust your word.”
For the next half hour, I laughed every time I thought about his awkward, strangled voice trying so hard to stop himself from saying, “severely obese.” This poor guy tried so hard not to offend me. Little did he didn’t know that he literally could not have offended me if he tried. Not today, baby.
This COVID vaccine is my first step toward some level of peace and freedom. I would have done a naked cartwheel in the clinic if that’s what I had to do. (Okay, I can’t do a cartwheel, but I would have done a confident naked strut.)
When I walked through those doors to get my vaccine, I kept waiting for someone to tell me I was in the wrong place. It didn’t feel real. But it was real.
I checked in at 11:06. The needle was in my arm by 11:14. I was out the door at 11:29.
It took twenty-three minutes to ignite a real hope in me that maybe a few things can start to be a little more normal. I thought I’d be more emotional, but as I sat there for fifteen minutes waiting to make sure I didn’t have any allergic reaction, I just felt really excited and relieved. Even through my mask, you could tell that I couldn’t stop smiling. (I also couldn’t stop singing Dolly Parton’s vaccine in my head. Did you hear her sing it to the tune of Jolene? She is precious.)
Anyway, in four weeks, I go back for dose number two of the COVID vaccine, and by mid-April I should be enjoying the benefits of a high level of COVID immunity.
That should be the end of the story, but it’s never quite that simple for fat people, is it? Someone always has some shit to say about us, and this is no different.
I’ve seen a lot of cranky people online that are pissed that people in bodies like mine get our COVID vaccines before people in thin bodies. They assert that obesity is a choice (it isn’t) and that all thin people are thin because they take care of themselves. (They aren’t.)
It’s just some ignorant, fatphobic nonsense. The same people who treat fat people like we are ticking time bombs, declaring that they are very, very worried about our health also don’t want us to receive a vaccine that will allow us to avoid infection, or at least fare better should we contract COVID-19.
It’s almost like they don’t give a shit about our health at all, and they just don’t like fat people. Shocking.
Luckily for us, crabby people’s desire to punish us just for having bigger bodies doesn’t actually factor into the science. Fat people don’t always fare well with COVID, so we get our vaccines early. It’s happening whether people whine about it or not, so if you’re fat, sign yourself up the moment you’re eligible. Enjoy this rare perk of being in a fat body.
Then afterward, be safe. Keep on masking, follow the science, and don’t act like your vaccine means the pandemic is over.
But please do enjoy basking in the faint light that is shining our way from the end of the tunnel. A couple weeks after the second dose, a person’s chance of hospitalization and death plummets. Once you’ve got your vaccines in the bag, you can cautiously proceed through life with a lot less fear, and that is worth it.