Health

The ‘Joy and Envy’ of Vaccine FOMO

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At the beginning of the year, Shay Fan was relieved: Vaccinations were on the way. Her relief turned to joy when her parents and in-laws got their shots.

Three months later, Ms. Fan, a 36-year-old freelance marketer and writer in Los Angeles, is still waiting for hers, and that joy is gone.

“I want to be patient,” she said.

But scrolling through Instagram and seeing “people in Miami without masks spraying champagne in someone else’s mouth” while sitting in her apartment, not having a haircut in more than a year, or going to a restaurant has made it difficult to exercise patience. “It’s like when every friend gets engaged before you and you say, ‘Oh, I’m happy for them, but when is my turn?'” She said.

The same rules applied to much of the pandemic: stay home, wear a mask, wash your hands.

But now that the prevalence of vaccines is increasing in some areas but not in others, rules differ around the world and even within the same country.

In the UK, people emerge cautiously after more than three months of lockdown and 47 percent of the population has had at least one dose of vaccine. In New York, where at least 34 percent of the people in the state have received at least one dose of vaccine, it is said that life feels almost normal.

France, where only 14 percent of the population received a vaccine dose, has just launched its third lockdown. And India, which has dosed 5 percent of its population, reported 97,000 new cases on Monday, almost the level since the pandemic began. There are dozen of countries – including Japan, Afghanistan, Kenya, and the Philippines – that have given less than 2 percent of their population a single dose.

Juliette Kayyem, 51, a professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, said the wait was made even harder because she kept hearing from acquaintances who she didn’t believe were members of priority groups that were up ahead got her vaccinated.

“Is there a word for joy and envy at the same time?” Mrs. Kayyem said.

Ms. Kayyem received her first dose in late March. But instead of relieving herself, she felt another bout of pandemic stress as her husband and teenagers still weren’t vaccinated.

Updated

April 5, 2021, 4:37 p.m. ET

Tristan Desbos, a 27-year-old pastry chef who lives in London, recently received his first shot but said his family could not be vaccinated in France, despite many of them belonging to a risk category. “They don’t understand why they can’t get the vaccine in France,” he said.

In the European Union, the main problem is the supply of vaccines. Amid a new deadly wave of cases, Germany imposed a partial lockdown, Italy banned most of its population from going outside for essential reasons, and Poland closed non-essential businesses.

Agnès Bodiou, a 60-year-old nurse in France, said she had waited weeks for her first shot, despite the government’s promise to give priority to health workers. “The Americans managed to vaccinate, including the English,” she said. “We’re still waiting.”

The end of the pandemic is also a long way off in the Canadian province of Ontario, which fell into a four-week state of emergency on Saturday amid a record number of ICU patients. Massimo Cubello, a 28-year-old who lives in Toronto, said he is happy for his vaccinated friends in the US and UK, but his zoom fatigue is setting in and driveway visits with members of his family have not been easy because of the cold Weather.

“It’s good to see people getting vaccinated because that’s all part of the process of getting where we need to go, but it definitely makes you a bit jealous and concerned about when we as Canadians will be able to do that Experience it for yourself, ”said Mr Cubello, who works in marketing.

In the United States, this gap has developed primarily by generation or race. Older people, who make up the majority of those vaccinated, have eaten indoors, hugged grandchildren and held parties, while many younger people are still ineligible or repeatedly get “no appointments” messages when trying to book vaccinations.

Dr. Lynn Bufka, psychologist and senior director at the American Psychological Association, said the pandemic had placed a heavy burden on teenagers, and waiting long for vaccines to be distributed could add to the stress.

“Children, in many ways, are people whose lives have been disrupted like everyone else, but who have less life experience adapting to these types of disorders,” said Dr. Bufka.

For American adults at least, the fear of missing out shouldn’t last long. On Tuesday, President Biden was due to postpone the state’s deadline for making vaccines available to all adults to April 19, two weeks earlier than the previously announced deadline.

Ms. Fan, the Los Angeles freelance writer and marketer, can book a vaccine appointment in mid-April. She has no intention of doing anything wild – the basics are what she looks forward to most. “I just need a haircut,” she said.

Constant Méheut contributed to the coverage.

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Robert Dunfee