My friend Laura describes her recent struggle with COVID-19 like this:
My fever was accompanied by fatigue and drowsiness, then headaches, then my nose. Oh jeez, it felt like the Sahara desert had changed its location in my nasal passages. Every breath hurt my brain.
On the third day of the fever, I had a feeling like being drunk, a continuous need for sleep. All I could ask for is nothing.
Somewhere on the seventh day, my smell disappeared. I put clementines in my nose: nothing. Coffee, nothing. Perfume, nothing.
After several more days, I tested negative and hoped to return to normal life, but I couldn’t focus. My memory felt weird. My leg hurt so much that I couldn’t step on it. My energy and smell improved very slowly.
Laura is now recuperating — “my smell is recovering; food tastes amazing,” she wrote me on Wednesday— but she remains tired and has trouble focusing.
Long after most Americans are vaccinated, Laura’s neighbors will remain at risk. That’s not due to their age or health status, but because they live in Ialoveni, Moldova, where Champa and I served in the Peace Corps.
Laura was my collaborator there on a music video we produced to celebrate our small city, where she works at the music school. That’s her beautiful voice on the video, which attracted thousands of viewers and was featured in a national television story, shown below. (Laura Bodorin’s music is on Spotify, Apple Music and SoundCloud.)
Moldova trails Bangladesh and El Salvador on this chart, below, of “vaccine preorders as a percentage of population,” published this week in The New York Times and based on an analysis by the Duke Global Health Innovation Center.
By comparison, the top of the chart, below, shows Canada and the United States placing orders for more than half the vaccine doses that may come on the market next year.
“While many poor nations may be able to vaccinate at most 20 percent of their populations in 2021,” the Times reported, “some of the world’s richest countries have reserved enough doses to immunize their own multiple times over.” Many people in low-income countries might have to wait until 2023 or 2024 for vaccination. (Articles in The Washington Post and Nature provide additional insight.)
Some of Champa’s fellow teachers in Ialoveni have also gotten the virus, a tiny fraction of the billions of people around the world who have been affected.
Moldova is just one example. Near it on the bottom of the Times list is Nepal, where we also know people who have been infected, including someone close to us who is still recovering. Champa’s brother recently asked her on the phone why some Americans don’t want to receive the vaccine while so many people in Nepal wish they had the opportunity. People in her home town, Ilam, have died, see below, as they have elsewhere across the Himalayas.
I am grateful to Laura for giving me permission to share her story here. (It is translated from Romanian and lightly edited.) I wanted to “put a human face” on the global situation for American readers who, understandably, are focused on our own situation.
I’m an American, too, and I’m feeling hopeful as vaccinations begin, even as our death toll mounts and many people face increasingly desperate circumstances. I agree with our country being among the first to benefit from vaccines it played such a large role in producing. I want to be vaccinated myself and to see our country’s nightmare end.
Simultaneously, I know we cannot return to normal unless we act globally. We’ve seen how easily the virus spreads across borders. We need to control it everywhere, which means collaborating closely with international efforts such as the COVAX Initiative.
The world will welcome our assistance, and not only with vaccine supplies we must be generous in sharing as our own urgent needs are met. I serve on a communications advisory committee for the Sabin Vaccine Institute, which on Tuesday joined in launching an initiative to train frontline medical workers how to discuss vaccines persuasively with uncertain parents and others. Physicians from Armenia to Honduras participated in its online rollout with leading public health experts. It was a striking reminder how this crisis affects all of us, no matter where we live, and how we must work together to overcome it.
If you’re a fellow American awaiting the vaccine, I hope you will receive it soon. When your turn comes, please give a thought to Laura and everyone else around the world. They are real people who, like us, have endured a terrible year. They, too, want nothing more than to be safe and reclaim their lives in the year ahead.