The day I had been waiting for the last nine months finally arrived, like Christmas come early. After months on the defense with this horrible COVID-19 virus, I was invited to make an appointment online to receive the first dose of a vaccination to protect myself and others against the novel coronavirus. 

As an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat surgeon), I have been responding to patients’ concerns about the vaccine for some time and my response has been the same: While it is approved through an emergency authorization process, the trial studies have shown the vaccine to be safe, well tolerated, and very effective. 

Based on my high risk for exposure as a health care professional, I was included in the first tier of people eligible for vaccination. My opportunity for the shot came on a dark and rainy Saturday morning made more bright from knowing that we are finally making headway to end this viral regime that has taken so much from us. 

I am deeply grateful to Christus Santa Rosa Health System for including me and others in my practice in the first round of immunizations and for organizing the vaccination clinic. 

The check-in process was efficient and socially distanced even with dozens of others there waiting their turn, some just coming off a night shift in the hospital and others making the trek to the South Texas Medical Center from other parts of the city. 

After a short wait, a Christus nurse I have often worked with in the operating room gave me the vaccine. It was truly a painless process. I didn’t feel a thing. Afterward, I sat for a 20-minute observation to ensure I would have no adverse reactions. I felt fine. 

But the actual vaccination was an emotional moment for me – feeling both deep gratitude for the protection, but also some feelings of guilt that I’m receiving the vaccine while others at risk of exposure must still wait. 

Dr. Charlie Biediger receives the coronavirus vaccine. Credit: Courtesy / Dr. Charlie Biediger

I hope and pray that access to the vaccine will come soon for everyone so that we can all get back to our normal lives – worship, work, and seeing our family and friends again. At least now that I have been vaccinated, I am relieved somewhat of the concern over unknowingly spreading the virus in my household or to those in my office. 

I’m now a card-carrying vaccine recipient. Over the next year, a confidential and private application will prompt me for health check-ins to note any reactions or concerns as medical scientists continue to monitor the efficacy of the vaccine. 

I appreciate that I have received some level of protection, but our community is not out of the woods yet. I have watched friends and colleagues fall very ill from the virus, missed out on important life milestones, events, and travel, and I have watched loved ones wait in lonely isolation just to protect themselves and others. We need to remain vigilant and trust in the medical community if we want this to end.

I will continue to wear a face mask and practice social distancing and I will return to the hospital in three weeks for a second dose of the vaccine as required for full protection against the coronavirus. An online registration system will remind me. But I don’t plan to miss it. 

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Dr. Charlie Biediger

Dr. Charlie Biediger is a San Antonio native and otolaryngologist in the Stone Oak office of Alamo ENT. He is the husband of San Antonio Report Development Reporter Shari Biediger.