The ‘Joy and Envy’ of Vaccine FOMO

The Four Percent


At the start of the year, Shay Fan felt relief: Vaccinations were on their way. Her relief turned to joy when her parents and in-laws got their shots.

Three months later, Ms. Fan, a 36-year-old freelance marketer and writer in Los Angeles, is still waiting for hers, and that joy is gone.

“I want to be patient,” she said.

But scrolling through Instagram and seeing “people in Miami with no masks spraying Champagne into another person’s mouth,” while she sits in her apartment, having not had a haircut or been to a restaurant in more than a year, has made patience hard to practice. “It’s like when every friend is getting engaged before you, and you’re like, ‘Oh, I’m happy for them, but when is it my turn?’” she said.

For much of the pandemic, the same rules applied: Stay at home, wear a mask, wash your hands.

But now, with vaccine distribution ramping up in some areas but not others, the rules are diverging around the world, and even within the same country.

Juliette Kayyem, 51, a professor at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, said the wait was even more difficult because she kept hearing about acquaintances, who she did not think were members of priority groups, getting vaccinated before she did.

“Is there a word for joy and envy simultaneously?” Ms. Kayyem said.

Ms. Kayyem received her first dose at the end of March. But, instead of relief, she felt a renewed bout of pandemic stress, since her husband and teenagers were still not vaccinated.

Tristan Desbos, a 27-year-old pastry chef living in London, received his first shot recently, but said his family in France has not been able to get vaccinated, even though many of them are in a high-risk category. “They don’t understand why they cannot get the vaccine in France,” he said.

In the European Union, the main problem is vaccine supply. Amid a new deadly wave of cases, Germany imposed a partial lockdown, Italy barred most of its population from going outside except for essential reasons, and Poland closed nonessential shops.

Agnès Bodiou, a 60-year-old nurse in France, said she waited weeks for her first shot, despite the government’s promise to prioritize health workers. “The Americans succeeded in vaccinating, the English as well,” she said. “We’re still waiting.”

The end of the pandemic also feels far away in the Canadian province of Ontario, which on Saturday entered a four-week state of emergency amid a record number of patients in intensive care. Massimo Cubello, a 28-year-old who lives in Toronto, said he is happy for his vaccinated friends in the United States and Britain, but his Zoom fatigue is setting in, and driveway visits with members of his family have not been that easy because of the cold weather.

“It’s good to see people getting vaccinated because that’s all part of the process of getting to where we need to get to, but it definitely does make you a little bit envious and anxious about when we, as Canadians, are going to be able to experience that ourselves,” said Mr. Cubello, who works in marketing.



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