MaineHealth, the organization that owns and operates Maine Medical Center and other hospitals around the state, is mandating that their thousands of employees get a flu shot every year. Well, they mandated it last year too. And the year before that.

In fact, MaineHealth has been requiring yearly influenza vaccines as a condition of employment for many years now. Proof of other immunizations is also required as a condition of employment, depending on your position in the hospital: measles/mumps/rubella, the various hepatitises (hepatiti?) When I got the email saying I had to receive a flu vaccine, I thought it was weird that nobody was out in the streets protesting it, or organizing marches, or calling it tyranny, or threatening to quit over it. I thought that was a little odd, given the freakout that everyone had about the coronavirus vaccine. What could possibly be different about the flu vaccine, right?

For the record, I would have gotten a flu shot regardless of my employment status; I get one every year because I really hate being sick, and vaccination is the best way to prevent getting sick, other than living in an isolated bubble your whole life (which, to be fair, I have tried). I didn’t even have to go into Hannaford’s for it – I just asked one of my coworkers to do it. One of the many bonuses about working in the health care field is that most of my colleagues are trained to give shots. (Pro tip: If you get the opportunity to choose who gives you a shot, pick the person with the best eye makeup. That indicates they have a soft touch and excellent fine motor skills.)

I had to check “no” on a form asking if I was allergic to eggs (they have non-egg vaccines available, so there’s no eggs-cuse for not getting one). I also had to check off whether or not I’d ever had Guillian-Barre syndrome, which necessitated a quick Google search (good news: I’ve never had it). Even with the quick Google search, the entire process of getting my flu shot took less time than it takes to make a cup of coffee.

Two weeks later, I also got my COVID booster – Pfizer, to be exact. That one took a little longer, but only because everyone at the clinic had to sit for observation for fifteen minutes. In the interest of full disclosure of potential conflicts of interest, I did receive three “I got my COVID vaccine!” stickers from a volunteer.

If you’ve been reading my columns for awhile now, you may recall that I didn’t have any side effects from my first vaccine dose, and the second dose gave me body aches for a day that were manageable with ibuprofen and coffee. This time, the lymph nodes in my left arm got sore and swollen for a few days, and it did feel like someone had karate-chopped me in the armpit; however, it was also kind of nice, because it meant my immune system was definitely doing something.

I did deal with my first verbally abusive anti-masker recently. I’ve been lucky so far in that during this past year (my first year working in health care), I was stationed in the chemotherapy clinic and in the lung clinic, where the patients and their family members have tended to take the pandemic very seriously, since they are at much higher risk from complications of COVID-19. But occasionally a maskless person will manage to make it into the waiting room. I have a pretty solid routine down for when this happens: I smile with my eyes, tilt my head a little to seem extra nonthreatening (a trick I learned from my dog) and say, “Oh! excuse me, would you mind putting on a mask?” while holding out the box of surgical masks I always keep within reach.

The “oh!” is important. It makes me sound surprised, when in fact I’ve been calculating how many aerosolized droplets they are exhaling with every passing second they are maskless in my waiting room. Usually, the vast majority of people clap their hands to their face and go “oh my gosh, I’m so sorry, I totally forgot!” and then put one on without complaint.

This time, however, the gentleman deviated from the usual script. I said, “Excuse me, sir, would you mind putting on a mask?” And he said, “Actually, I would. You can take your mask and shove it.” Then he stood up, loudly farted, and left. I wish I was kidding.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:
[email protected]
Twitter: @mainemillennial

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