The Mother Lode: Getting metaphysical about the post-vaccine rules of engagement

Photo of Claire Tisne Haft
Employees check in patients during the Greenwich Hospital COVID-19 vaccine clinic at the Brunswick Lower School Campus in Greenwich, Conn. Monday, Jan. 25, 2021.

Employees check in patients during the Greenwich Hospital COVID-19 vaccine clinic at the Brunswick Lower School Campus in Greenwich, Conn. Monday, Jan. 25, 2021.

File / Tyler Sizemore / Hearst Connecticut Media

“I can’t have anyone to dinner, because I got so excited about inviting everyone to dinner that I went out and bought all this alcohol —and then DRANK IT MYSELF before everyone came to dinner, because I’m not even sure who can come to dinner,” my friend Jane confided to me, all in one breath, last Thursday night.

Thus commenceth our post-vaccine vortex.

I got my first vaccine in a gym at Brunswick School on Saturday morning, surrounded by National Guard members wearing Army fatigues and holding machine guns. Nothing says, “Everything is going to be fine” like stationing the National Guard at a vaccine center. The fact that I had to be “observed” for 15 minutes after getting my shot on a chair exactly 6 feet from the National Guard did not improve the situation.

“What if someone freaks out?” I asked the guy next to me.

Dean Skevas, of Wethersfield, gets a vaccination shot from Stefanie Charpentier of the Connecticut National Guard at mass vaccination center on the former Pratt & Whitney Runway at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Conn. March 1, 2021.

Dean Skevas, of Wethersfield, gets a vaccination shot from Stefanie Charpentier of the Connecticut National Guard at mass vaccination center on the former Pratt & Whitney Runway at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Conn. March 1, 2021.

File / Patrick Sikes / For Hearst Connecticut Media /

“They get shot,” he said, smiling at his pun.

By the time I got home, my thoughts had begun spiraling out of control.

“I think the vaccine has had an adverse effect on me, and something is very wrong,” I told my husband, Ian.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“I think my arm is going to fall off,” I told him. “What did they put in me, why was the U.S. Army watching, and why Brunswick, anyway?”

Ian told me that a sore arm is common, and that it probably had nothing to do with the Army — or Brunswick. He reminded me of my “shot issues” in the past, which have not always been favorable. Ian is convinced that I am the reason our daughter, Selma, demands general anesthesia whenever her pediatrician gives her a shot.

To make matters worse, I suddenly felt exhausted and completely drained. Ian said maybe it was because I had stuffed 132 Easter eggs the night before — but he doesn’t get to say that because he didn’t help.

A further complication: No one seemed to know the post-vaccine rules of engagement. Like, how was I supposed to exist in the world?

“I don’t think you need to make it metaphysical, Claire,” Ian told me.

But it is. Because if you go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, “metaphysical” takes on a whole new meaning; turns out there are lots of complicated caveats for your post-vaccine existence.

For example, if two weeks have passed since your final vaccine shot, and you want to be with other fully vaccinated family members or friends, you can be indoors without a mask and outdoors hanging out, biking, running — even primal screaming.

I mention primal screaming because the toll-free hotline set up by a NYC elementary teacher that lets you call and “just scream” into the phone was recently shut down. Over 130,000 people had screamed into that hotline since October, and now the hotline has transitioned into a repository for “words of hope”— which just doesn’t have the same ring.

Let me tell you why.

Turns out, even if you’re fully vaccinated you can’t engage in primal screaming outdoors around other unvaccinated people, people with one shot only, or people with their second shot taken less than two weeks ago. In fact, you can’t primal scream inside around anyone — which means you really just can’t primal scream at all — which makes the hotline’s shutdown spectacularly ill-timed.

Oh, you also can’t be indoors without a mask, or less than 6 feet apart from other unvaccinated people, no matter what other primal things you feel called to do.

Furthermore, the CDC suggests that if you want to visit family you haven’t seen in over a year and who are not vaccinated, you can do so AND be indoors as long as it’s one household at a time (NOT TWO), thus creating family dynamics that further encourage primal screaming (with no hotline).

If possible, the CDC goes on, you should drive alone — but if you must use public transport, insist on high ventilation and masks. Returning to the office should be fine, although high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) fan/filtration systems are highly recommended — along with masks and 6 feet of separation.

Meanwhile, the bioethics of COVID-related disclosure requirements between employer and employed are getting super-metaphysical — but let’s not even go there.

Which vaccine, you ask? If you live here in the United States, you will most likely be offered the Moderna or the Pfizer two-dosage vaccines, even though you kind of want that Johnson & Johnson vaccine because it means you only have to get one shot (even though its efficacy rates aren’t as good).

So, what is in these vaccines? Moderna and Pfizer require two shots and use single-stranded mRNA, while J&J uses double-stranded DNA (which won’t alter YOUR DNA, BTW — even with an NDA).

Are these vaccines effective against all the new variants, one of which just caused over 4,000 Brazilians to die in one day? Unclear.

So here we are vaccinated and yet still in the weeds. We are inching toward some kind of finish line, I think. But it’s a murky out there, and just when you think everything is good to go, you realize that it’s not.

Too bad about that hotline.

Claire Tisne Haft is a former publishing and film executive, raising her family in Greenwich while working on a freelance basis on books and films. She can be reached through her website at clairetisnehaft.com.