A few months ago I couldn't stop looking at a photograph. It was taken at Fort Riley in Kansas around 1918 and shows an enormous, cavernous room stacked full of patients lying on beds; soldiers stricken with the Spanish Flu. Hats, masks, no phones. Doctors and nurses make their rounds.
In the center of the photograph, a man younger than me is holding a letter and, at just the right moment, he looks at the camera.
I got the first shot of the Pfizer vaccine today. Celine dropped me off at the Oakland Convention Center — an enormous, cavernous room setup for vaccinations. And as soon as I walked in I thought of that photograph. Imagine the scale of this machine, all over the country there are rooms like this.
Except, well, as a Brit there's something odd, something evil in fact, about getting a vaccination from a company (in my case, Kaiser Permanente). I'm incredibly lucky to have health insurance but standing in that room made my blood boil. You see, getting a vaccine from Kaiser is like getting a vaccine from Coca Cola or McDonald's. Why the fuck is a company giving out the vaccine?
As I’m in line, standing there teary-eyed from the downright majesty of the moment but also standing there with a clenched fist from the absolute evil of commercialized medicine, someone behind me calls out to a nurse. “Excuse me," she said “is this vaccine free?”
“Of course,” she replied. Of course.
I’m outside waiting for Celine to pick me up now and I can’t stop thinking of that photograph over and over again. I was in one of those photographs just a moment ago. That was me.