First Person: Getting my second COVID-19 jab gave me a glowing feeling

Kate Pope, 91, was also cheered by the vaccine helpers who are volunteering their time.

Katherine Pope, 91, COVID 19 vaccine recipient. March 20, 2021 Photo: Pete Rosos
Katherine Pope, 91, felt relieved after getting her second COVID-19 vaccination and is encouraging those who are hesitant to get vaccinated. Photo: Pete Rosos.

Sometimes something unexpected happens in the day that gives you a glowing feeling. It can be really small, but you chuckle when you remember it and you feel better about the human race. That happened to me when I got my second COVID-19 jab.

I arrived at the Berkeley/Albany mass vaccination site at 9:30 a.m in late February in my 12-year-old Toyota RAV. A bitterly cold wind swept across the huge asphalt parking lot, and the sun shone. A trim, energetic lad bundled in a cold-weather jacket waved me into a line three vehicles abreast. Ahead were a zillion cones laid out to create eight lanes leading to blue open-sided tents where I would get my jab. I inched forward to another trim attendant who called, “Follow that motorcycle. Lane 8.”

At the blue tent, the medics took over. I had worn a loose-fitting green top, and after the paperwork was done, I opened my car door, pulled down my left sleeve from the top, and felt a slight prick of pain as the needle delivered dose #2. Information was entered on a tablet. I was told, “You will get a certification in the mail.”

I felt a gentle wave of exhilaration — this 91-year-old had safely scored her second COVID shot! — but there wasn’t time to bask in the feeling. The medic was writing the hour and minute of the shot on my windshield, and my third traffic controller, so far, was briskly waving me forward.


Where did all these workers come from? They looked young, were fairly bouncing with energy, and were certainly taking cheerful good care of us, smiling and waving as they directed us old folk in our vehicles. This one scooted me to lane 7 and a 180 degree turn to the 15-minute wait.

Here my fourth attendant halted me for the mandatory 15-minute waiting period in case of side effects from the jab. This worker was an attractive young woman, slender in her padded jacket that came almost to her knees. I rolled down my window so we could talk.

She smiled and said, “Welcome to the 15-minute wait.”

I replied, “Well, at least the sun is shining,”

We continued with idle chitchat for a couple of minutes until space opened up for me to inch forward to the last attendant. I was about to roll up my window when I blurted the question that had been nagging me.

“How did you get this job?”

She laughed. “I’m a volunteer.

“Whoa, that’s great. And the others?”

“Volunteers, too.”

I declared, “Everyone should know!”

She added, “Actually Monday to Friday I work long hours at the Department of Public Health.”

“You do? And on Saturday you put on your warmies and come down to this cold place to be sure everyone gets their shot?”

She glanced down at her padded jacket and smiled.

But it was time to roll forward. The next attendant was male. I rolled down my window. He seemed anxious that I wanted to drive away, cautioning me, “You still have a few minutes.”

“Right,” I said, “Do you also work for the Department of Public Health?”

That startled him, and so I gestured back toward the young woman and explained, “That’s where she works.”

Now he smiled, “I’m her husband.”

Husband! Lucky man, I thought. So I said, “She’s so bright and pretty.”

He gave me a quick look and asked, “Do you know who she is?”

I must have looked blank, because I was, and he answered his own question, “Governor Gavin Newsom has chosen her to be in charge of contact tracing for the state!”

“Contact tracing? The whole state?” I asked. Could this be?

“Yes.”

“Wow! You must be very proud of her.”

But my 15 minutes were up. I drove east under the freeway headed home with a happy smile for all of it:  the cheerful efficient volunteers, for getting my second shot, for the young healthcare woman in the padded jacket and for the pride her husband took in her.  

Note: Since this piece was written, Curative, the private partner who is supplying much of the logistics and paid staff at the Golden Gate Fields vaccination site, has announced it is not scheduling any new volunteer shifts. For info on vaccines in Berkeley, see Berkeleyside’s vaccine FAQs, and the City of Berkeley vaccination webpage.

Kate Pope, a retired, 91-year-old, moved here with her parents in 1932. She graduated from UC Berkeley and lived in Germany, Orinda and Los Angeles until moving back to Berkeley in 2000.