Written by Jett Choquette, University of Vermont Larner College of Medicine Class of 2023
My partner and I both work in healthcare and had the opportunity to get our COVID-19 vaccines months ago. Never in the past would I have expected to await a vaccine with such anticipation and feel such gratitude upon receiving it. Among the many other social and scientific features COVID has brought to the forefront of our attention, one, at least for me, is a renewed appreciation for all the vaccines we have previously developed. To think that we can stop smallpox and polio is a relief. But COVID is also a reminder of all the diseases that have escaped vaccines to prevent them. HIV comes to mind.
My friends and family in the U.S. are in various stages of COVID vaccine completion. The variance is largely because of their age, profession, and state of residence. What is reassuring to me is that for my U.S. community, the debate is not whether to get the vaccine but when.
The conversation about the vaccine is very different for my Paraguayan friends. I have not experienced vaccine fear among the Paraguayans I’ve known—which is to say their access to the COVID vaccine is not limited by personal belief, but by distribution.
I connected with all my friends in Paraguay on Easter, an important holiday in a predominantly Catholic country. I was excited to hear about their celebrations. The week leading up to Easter, Semana Santa (Saints Week), is especially important. It is a time of sharing chipa (a traditional food that’s like a hard cheese biscuit) and enjoying the company of family and friends. Visiting has been limited this year because of continued concern for COVID, but my friends still report making chipa and enjoying the company of family.
As each nation mobilizes its communities to combat COVID-19, a virus that knows no borders, the global community unites in solidarity. Our new series, titled “In the World With COVID-19,” features reflective perspectives on the ways in which the pandemic is impacting our global health family in our international partner sites in nine countries around the world. We hope that by reading these stories, we can learn from each other and feel connected as one global community.
To help our global health family stay informed and up-to-date, we have launched a concise, practical, and trustworthy COVID-19 resources center.