When the data journalist becomes a data point

Last night, I received my first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. I don’t usually publish more personal writing in the CDD, but it felt appropriate to share a short reflection I wrote during my 15-minute waiting period.

I write this sitting in a back corner of the Science Skills High School gym, a couple of minutes after receiving my first dose of the Moderna vaccine.

“I can’t take credit for it,” said the health professional who gave me the shot, with a voice that reminded me of my high school biology teacher.

I believe she was referring to how easy the shot went in—in and out, the smoothest jab, I might not have felt it if I hadn’t been paying close attention, the goosebumps on my arms rising. I believe she was being specific. But I like to imagine she meant the whole thing—the gym, the people in scrubs and yellow vests, the red dots marking six-foot intervals on the floor, the vials. The vials, manufactured somewhere in New Hampshire or maybe Colorado, packed and stored below freezing and brought here. All the centuries of science and people that brought me here, to the gym, brought the shot to my arm. It went in smooth, but I felt the weight behind it.

I thought about telling her, I’m a science reporter.  I’ve been on the COVID beat for a year. We are almost one year since my first COVID Tracking Project shift, my first time squinting at the numbers on dashboards and wondering if that ever might be me. But I didn’t say anything, let her deliver her form speech, her warnings about the side effects. “Your arm will be sore, maybe a light fever, take Tylenol,” she said. “Better than getting COVID, though!” I replied.

Better to let me be just another data point, today. Another body moving through the pipeline. Another voice saying, thank you.

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