Not even the vaccine can undo the damage of the pandemic

By Nathan Kiernan

Oschner Medical Center, a COVID-19 vaccine distributor. 

At Ochsner Medical Center, a line of New Orleans residents waiting for their COVID-19 vaccine appointment extends through the pharmacy’s front door. Uptown resident Miles Jennetta waits patiently inline considering how the pandemic upended his life. “I remember one time I had a close contract. There was a kid at my house, and he tested positive. I was like, shit. I could have given my mom the coronavirus. My mom is immunocompromised, and she has a few other risk factors. If she would have gotten it, she had convinced herself she would die. Yeah, I was scared for her.” Miles Jennetta, 27, lost his job as a server at an Uptown restaurant at the start of the pandemic. He stayed out the labor market in part to keep his Mom safe, but that could only last so long. After 6 months without work, Miles got hired as a COVID-19 testing associate making him eligible for the vaccine.

“I was excited. Apprehensive. I mean, it’s like, wow, this a big thing. It’s like, Oh, crap! I get a COVID vaccine. That’s pretty sweet. Heck yeah, I’m doing this. I got to take advantage of this opportunity. If I don’t get it now, I’m not going to get it for months and months,” said Mr. Jennetta. In Louisiana, healthcare workers, nursing home residents and workers, and people 65 and older are eligible for the vaccine as of February 8th. For Miles, the decision to accept the vaccine was guided by his morals. “I felt an obligation to my mother, my grandmother, like a more familial obligation.” He continued, “I get that people are afraid of putting stuff in their body. I actually talked to a lot of people who were not opting to get it. And I was like, why wouldn’t you get your shot right now so that you can protect your family and yourself? But, you know, people are afraid. And maybe those fears are not based in reality, but I get it.”

Moving to the front of the vaccine line did not come without its hesitation for Miles, “I feel weird because I have one underlying condition, which is asthma, and it’s probably not that bad compared to some people who are smokers and are obese and have a heart disease. And like, I got the vaccine before so many of those people. I feel a little guilty.” The Louisiana Health Department reports as of February 9th that 448,122 Louisianans have received a vaccine. Miles is one of the first 189,239 to receive both doses of the vaccine.

After receiving the first dose Miles still remained cautious. “I was with my team working there, they were like, let’s go to a restaurant to grab a quick cup of coffee. And I was like, “Oh, we’re going to do take out?” And they were like, “No, let’s sit down. We’re all vaccinated”. And I don’t feel comfortable with that still.”

The vaccine cannot replace the peace of mind Miles had before the start of pandemic. “For me, the only thing that will change my behavior is when my mother is vaccinated. So, I really can’t change my behavior now, as much as I would like to.”

Even still, Miles keeps himself coming by picturing a future with more freedom. “One day, I’m going to take a road trip. I’m going to plan it out. I am trying to drive around the country. I’ve mapped part of it out. I got friends living all around the edge of the country.”

To Miles, that day still seems far away. “I think the thing for me is I feel very stagnant. And it is an ever-present feeling that crashes over you. I am so stagnant. And I am so much more capable of doing more than what I am doing now.” He continued, “I’m more looking forward to finding a secure employment opportunity. That will make me feel more free than a world without COVID.”

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