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UK history professor shares why the COVID vaccine was "the sweetest sting" he's ever felt

January 22, 2021 / in Patient stories, Wellness, News & events / by UK HealthCare

Eladio B. Bobadilla, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the Department of History at the University of Kentucky. He is a historian of the United States, specializing in social movements, immigration and ethnicity, and labor and working-class history. He recently received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, so we chatted with Professor Bobadilla about getting the vaccine, discussing the pandemic with his history students and why he felt “overjoyed” to receive the vaccine.

You received your first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at Kroger Field. What was the process like? 

The entire process was incredibly easy. When I made my appointment online, I received an email with my allotted time and directions to the vaccination site at Kroger Field. I had no trouble finding the location or a place to park. The line seemed long at first, so I feared I’d be waiting for a long time, but that was not the case. From the time I joined the line to the registration point, I waited maybe fifteen minutes at most. The registration took just a couple of minutes, I got my vaccination card, and I was ushered to a healthcare professional who administered the shot. I was asked to sit nearby, in an indoor and socially distanced setting, for fifteen minutes to ensure there were no adverse reactions. Then I was on my way home! It was that simple. 

The entire process was painless, save for the tiny sting of the needle – the sweetest sting I’ve ever felt – and was run incredibly well. The workers and volunteers ensured that the process was seamless, organized and efficient. They are doing such an amazing job!

You work in an academic setting and see students almost every day. Do you talk to your students about the pandemic or about the vaccines? 

I talk about the pandemic and its historical and social context often. As much as we all would have preferred to forgo living through historic times, this is a historic moment, one that has highlighted important questions and themes about public health, about the history of medicine, about the importance of effective governance, about the need for education and reliable information, about the critical place of essential workers in our society, and about the role that we each play in determining our own collective fate. 

As a historian, how do you contextualize the pandemic, or the vaccine? 

I ask students to think about both continuity and change. In other words, I probe them to identify what is new and what isn’t, and to consider the many lessons of the past. The obvious parallel is the 1918 Spanish Flu. In both cases, we have seen the best and the worst of humanity: health workers sacrificing greatly to help others alongside other people refusing to take simple and effective steps to mitigate the crisis, like wearing masks! This was true in 1918, and unfortunately, it is true today. 

On the other hand, some things have changed. For one, we have marvelous new technologies and knowledge that have produced an effective vaccine in record time.

Did you have any fears or hesitations on getting vaccinated?

I felt no hesitation about getting the vaccine. I trust science and scientists, and the research and work behind the vaccine have been extensive and rigorous. I fear that we’ve become numb to the toll this terrible virus has taken, but over 400,000 of our neighbors, friends, and family members have died because of it. 

The vaccine can and will, in time, bring this crisis to an end. We owe it not only to ourselves but to those around us to get vaccinated and to begin moving in a positive direction so we can all return to a semblance of normalcy again. 

I have a new baby at home, and I have not been able to introduce him to my parents, who are elderly and who are getting the vaccine soon, too. I can’t wait for the day they can meet him, hold him, and hug him. I’ve also been teaching online, and I can’t wait to be in the classroom with students again. I miss them terribly. 

How did you feel after getting the vaccine? 

I was overjoyed to get the vaccine. I have had some health issues in the past year, and my immune system has been somewhat compromised, so obviously I’ve been worried about the virus. It was a tremendous relief to get the first dose and to know that in a few weeks, I’ll have maximum protection against COVID. Physically, I have felt fine. In the twenty-four hours following the vaccine, I got a headache and a bit of achiness, both rather mild. And of course, my arm was sore – but it was a constant reminder that I am on my way to being protected against the virus.

Would you encourage others to get the vaccine? 

I encourage everyone to get the vaccine as soon as they are able. Getting the vaccine means not only that we are protecting ourselves, but that we are building the necessary herd immunity that will defeat the virus and return us to better days. 


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