Written by Jett Choquette, University of Vermont Larner College of Medicine Class of 2023
When the topic of COVID came up, one of my friends said, “Estamos acá en la lucha, en Paraguay no hay vacuna, a nosotros es imposible recibir la vacuna… primero tiene que ser por las personas saludes, por los militares… y después recién por nosotros, dicen que van a inmunizarnos, pero no sé…por nosotros acá nuestra lucha es esperar la vacuna y quedar en casa. (We are struggling here, in Paraguay there is no vaccine, it is impossible for us to get the vaccine… first it must be for healthcare workers, for military personnel… and then, after, for us. They say they’re going to vaccinate us, but I don’t know. Here our struggle is to wait for the vaccine and stay home).
This friend has been studying online since the pandemic began. She hopes to someday work in healthcare, but she is not able to go to the hospital to continue her clinical training for fear of catching COVID. One of her uncles was hospitalized for 15 days for COVID, though luckily he is doing well and made it home for Easter. Many of her family members caught COVID this March, but only one uncle ended up in the hospital.
One of the things that continues to strike me about my Paraguayan friends is an unwavering optimistic outlook even though COVID-19 vaccination is just beginning in their country. My friend’s comment, “Here our struggle is to wait for the vaccine and stay home” struck me. She said it in a matter-of-fact tone that did not hint at frustration, but exuded unwavering patience. In thinking about my friends in Paraguay, I began to wonder if the closeness of families, both emotionally and geographically, is a protective factor against feelings of isolation I’ve heard from many of my U.S. friends. My friends in Paraguay either live with their parents and extended family or on the same block as them, compared to my friends in the U.S. whose families are spread out across distant states. This comparison reminded me that even though this pandemic has touched lives across the globe, our shared experience is also a highly personal experience shaped not only by our uniqueness as individuals but also by the culture of the society in which each of us lives.
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