The whole past year has been an exercise in risk assessment: At first, when I really had no idea how to stay safe, everything was fraught and terrifying. Did I really need my prescription medications? Did I really need basic toiletries? Did I really need groceries? Then I moved into a stage where I was able to move around in the world to get the bare necessities but still was unwilling see even my few friends one-on-one. And then, after months of isolation, I started seeing friends – but only outside and masked. By this point in the pandemic, I have three friends in my “pod,” and we all have a similar sense of what behaviors we’re comfortable with. We get tested regularly and share our results (we’ve all always been negative). But we do visit inside and unmasked on occasion. I feel vaguely guilty every time. In the meantime, though, I see pictures on social media of people packed together unmasked at indoor baby showers and birthday parties and holiday potlucks. I see spring break revelers who have seemingly never heard of COVID. I see bars so crowded that they would have stressed me out even pre-pandemic. After enough of these images, they start to seem almost acceptable, like it’s hard to figure out if I’m the one who is bad at risk assessment or if they are. If I am, though, I’m missing out only on fun times. If they are, they could be missing out on the rest of their lives. Or they could be setting themselves up for the guilt of knowing they gave COVID to a loved one who won’t survive. I will keep living my careful, masked existence, thank you very much. One risk, however, was very easy for me to assess: the risk of being vaccinated! Despite the anti-science talking points floating around on the internet, I had absolutely zero reservations about getting my COVID vaccine. I got my first one on Feb. 23 and my only side effects were a sore arm and fatigue so fleeting that I couldn’t be sure if it was from the vaccine or from being a working mom in the middle of a pandemic. The second one – last Wednesday – well … that was a different story. I got my jab around noon, and by the middle of the night, I had chills, crushing fatigue, muscle aches, joint pain, a headache, a 102 fever, the whole shebang. I felt like garbage, and it continued the whole next day. Even with Tylenol, I could barely get my fever under 101. I’m a notorious hypochondriac, and around 11 p.m. on Thursday, I whimpered to my husband that I thought maybe I was dying of something else and just attributing it to the vaccine. He very kindly told me to shut up, stop being insane, and go to sleep. So I did. And I woke up Friday morning feeling … amazing! I had 36 hours of feeling terrible in exchange for almost certainly not dying of COVID! That’s a trade I would make any day of the week! Now that all of Louisiana over the age of 16 is eligible to get vaccinated, this too could be your story! If you want to learn more about how to get your shot at the shot, please comment below.