Feature: Americans see light at end of tunnel as COVID-19 vaccines roll out


  • World
  • Sunday, 20 Dec 2020

by Matthew Rusling

WASHINGTON, Dec. 19 (Xinhua) -- Frank Johnston, 40, who is employed in multi-media industry in the area around Washington D.C., said he'll get the coronavirus vaccine as soon as it's available.

"I'll get it because my mom is elderly and I need to make sure I don't get (the virus) and give it to her," he told Xinhua.

This week was the start of the mass distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine across the nation after a tough year for Americans amid the pandemic.

The vaccine will be doled out in phases - beginning with health care workers, then later to essential workers, high risk groups and the elderly. Healthcare workers in U.S. states including Maine, New Jersey, and New Hampshire got their first inoculations this week.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, second lady Karen Pence and Surgeon General Jerome Adams received the coronavirus vaccine live on television on Friday, in a bid to assure Americans that the just-approved shot is safe.

"I didn't feel a thing. Well done," Pence told the medical workers from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center as he received the Pfizer-BioNTech shot, the first authorized in the U.S.

The Food and Drug Administration has also authorized a second coronavirus vaccine, from Moderna, for emergency use, and there are additional vaccines on their way from other companies.

LONG, TOUGH SLOG

While the vaccine has come in record time - vaccines usually take years to develop - Americans have had a long, tough slog this year.

The coronavirus hit the United States earlier this year, with U.S. President Donald Trump declaring a national health emergency for the virus that has led to over 17 million infections with more than 300,000 deaths. Draconian lockdowns led to massive layoffs and school closures that wreaked economic havoc.

The jobless rate is now at highs not seen since the aftermath of the 2007-2008 economic meltdown, due to lockdowns that have hit the U.S. retail and restaurant industries particularly hard. Thousands of small businesses nationwide have shuttered, and U.S. food banks have ramped up food distribution to levels not seen in years.

COVID-19 also exploited political divisions to all-time highs, amid an election that caused Washington's bitter partisan rancor - simmering for over decades - to boil over.

UPBEAT ABOUT NEXT YEAR

However, ingrained in so many Americans has always been a sense of optimism, which has been part of Americans' culture and worldview since the nation's founding. And now that there's a vaccine, Americans are feeling upbeat about next year.

In some ways 2020 was not so great, amid lockdowns and concerns about encountering violent protesters, which prevented him at times from venturing into Washington D.C. from his suburban home, Johnston said.

But he's confident that those are in the past, and that the virus is on its way out.

"2020 sucked and was great at the same time," he said, noting that his stock portfolio swelled more than three-fold amid a pandemic-driven surge in technology investment.

Darren Wilson, a teacher in the Washington D.C. area, is also an avid investor, and speculates that he may be able to retire early - perhaps this summer - because of the major gains his investments have seen this year. He is looking to purchase an RV and go on the road with his two dogs next year, he told Xinhua.

Other Americans, working at home and no longer confined to a particular location, have temporarily re-located to areas such as the sunny U.S. state of Florida, staying in long-term rental units.

Still, others, however, are out of work and may have no job to go back to, as thousands of small businesses have permanently shuttered. It remains unclear how the economy will look a year from now, as it may take unemployed Americans some time to get back on their feet.

Recent months have seen controversy over whether Americans will take the vaccine or not, although a Gallup poll last week found an all-time high of 63 percent are now willing to take the shot.

Molly Lee, a logistics manager in the area around Washington D.C., also told Xinhua she will get the vaccine once it's available. "Why not? As a preventative," she said.

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