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Each Monday, Tommy Tomlinson delivers thoughtful commentary on an important topic in the news. Through these perspectives, he seeks to find common ground that leads to deeper understanding of complex issues and that helps people relate to what others are feeling, even if they don’t agree.

On My Mind: Vaccinations Are Happening Fast, But It Still Feels So Slow

National Park Service
In 1999, the Principal Keeper's Quarters moves ahead of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse to the new site.

About 20 years ago, I went to the Outer Banks to watch them move the Cape Hatteras lighthouse. There was some worry that beach erosion was getting too close. It ain’t easy to move a lighthouse. They had to lift the whole thing up and slide it away from the shoreline five feet at a time. In all, they moved it a little more than half a mile. It took 23 days.


This is sort of what it’s like for those of us still waiting to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

That’s not a slam on all the medical workers busting their butts to get people vaccinated as fast as possible. The medical response has been incredible, from the scientists who came up with the vaccine in record time to all the doctors and nurses and techs who are getting out doses after an exhausting 12 months dealing with the virus.

That feeling of just crawling along is more a function of how long we’ve all waited to resume our normal lives, especially now that we can start to see the end of this thing dangling just out of reach.

The wheel turned another notch the other day, when North Carolina added K-12 teachers and staff to the list of people who could sign up for the vaccine. Those folks could start making appointments Friday morning, and there were so many that the Mecklenburg County Health Department’s website crashed.

Of course it did. There’s probably no group of people who want and need to get back to their normal lives more than schoolteachers. Even if remote learning was the right call medically, it has been rough on everybody educationally. It turns out a big part of learning is spending time in classrooms, making real connections with teachers and other students. That’s awfully hard to do on Zoom.

Nobody really knows how long it’ll take to vaccinate enough people so we can get back to something resembling our regular lives. Dr. Anthony Fauci estimated the other day that by April, everybody who wants a vaccine should be eligible to get one. But he also said it might take until late summer before everybody actually gets the shots.

In a few weeks, it’ll be a solid year since our country went on full alert from COVID-19. Some of us have burrowed in more than others. Sadly, some refused to believe the virus was serious. You can find some of those people in your local cemetery, along with many others who did take the virus seriously but could not escape it.

We’re approaching half a million deaths from the virus in the U.S., and 2.5 million worldwide. It has been a disaster that has reached into every corner of our lives. As fast as everybody is moving to stop it, until this thing is beaten down, it’s going to feel as slow as a lighthouse moving through the sand.

Tommy Tomlinson’s On My Mind column runs Mondays on WFAE and WFAE.org. It represents his opinion, not the opinion of WFAE. You can respond to this column in the comments section below. You can also email Tommy at ttomlinson@wfae.org.

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