Indigenous Inoculations: Receiving the Covid Vaccine at the Oklahoma City Indian Clinic
9:46 AM EST on March 11, 2021
I will admit that, as I walked into the Oklahoma City Indian Clinic, I was somewhat nervous about finally receiving the Covid vaccine.
There had been just as many blistering negatives about getting the coveted shot as there had been beloved positives and, as I was standing in line, those bad things I’ve heard came right down on me like a ton of diseased bricks: What about the side-effects? What if this is all a trick? And, even worse, what if this is designed to kill even more Indigenous people?
Trying desperately to rid that fearful propaganda from my mind, I checked in for my one o’clock appointment at the clinic; I handed the masked nurse working the table my paperwork and was sent to the second chair to wait, the medical staff also waiting on a shipment of fresh vaccine headed to the repurposed waiting room.
I started to think about the past year. I started to think about the things I had given up, the people I had personally lost, the people that thought the whole thing was a political fraud…I almost started to think that way too. I almost thought that maybe I was special, I was immune to all this, my super-heroic dreams selfishly coming true…and then my mother, somehow, contracted it.
It was a wholly fearful time in my life, far scarier than that stupid stroke. I had lost my father twenty or so years ago and now, my mom, was so sick and could barely breathe; everyday I felt I was one step closer to losing her, to being permanently alone. Every time she talked—whispered—she let out a loud wheeze followed by a hacking cough that, I just knew, was followed by some blood.
I hate to tell you, but Covid is very real and, for me, it hit very close to home. But, somehow, I never got sick—and I really should have—and it made me, again, question just how I made it to this point when my mother was so sickly: Was it the masks? Was it the isolation? Why was I lucky and half a million dead Americans weren’t?
I joked around with the nurses and technicians as I’m usually expected to do, trying to find the lighter side of vaxxing, if there was even one. As the masked-up professional came around, she cleaned my right arm—the one with a tattoo that says “I Heart Kenny G”—and after a minute or so, effortlessly poked me with the needle so fast I didn’t even know what was going on.
Told to sit there and wait about fifteen minutes in case of any sudden side effects, I saw the Indian Clinic crew and other medical professionals doing their absolute best to take care of every one that showed up for the one o’clock session. I asked a caretaker if most of the side-effects happen in the first fifteen minutes, to which she laughed and told me it was just as precaution.
As I waited, I watched as Natives sat in their numbered chairs, quietly receiving the shot, hoping that, once and for all, this viral nightmare that is threatening to murder all of us—especially the originals that have survived everything this country has violently thrown at us—might finally be over.
Behind me, I saw a grandmother silently weep, obviously happy that today, tomorrow, and everyday after, this virus wasn’t going to take her life and take her from the ones she loved. From the ones that needed her. From the ones she needed. As she held her head up high, a small tear dropped from my tired eye as I felt her pride.
Once I was told that I was in the clear, I was given my date to come back for the follow-up inoculation in 28 days. That night, my arm started aching and kept on for a few days, but the moderate discomfort was a small price to pay to keep on living and beat this sickness, once and for all.