More and more people are receiving the COVID-19 vaccine these days, with 18.4% of the U.S. population covered since distribution began on December 14. Still, rollouts look different in various parts of the country, with comorbidities like asthma or a BMI in the obese range qualifying residents of states like New York and Texas for vaccines while others continue to wait—and in many cases, this has led to a predicament in which one half of a couple is vaccinated while the other is not.
Being vaccinated when your partner isn’t presents a unique set of challenges; for example, it often means that the vaccinated person doesn’t get to enjoy the full range of activities the CDC has extended to them, as we still don’t know precisely how likely a vaccinated person is to spread COVID-19 to unvaccinated people. “I imagined the vaccine would be a lot more life-changing” says Emily, 27, a writer in eastern Massachusetts who recently got her first dose, adding, “I would of course be elated if they discovered vaccinated people cannot be carriers, but until then, I don’t want to endanger my partner.”
For Spencer, 29, an attorney in Washington, D.C., the primary feeling surfacing now that his fiancée has received the vaccine is confusion: “I catch myself thinking about all the stuff we can do now, and reading those CDC guidelines about what’s O.K., and then remembering that that’s potentially a ways off for me, and I then go back to being unsure of what we as a couple can do now,” he says.
For the moment, many people are learning to balance happiness about their partner’s vaccine eligibility with personal disappointment. “I teared up when my husband received his first dose, as we had waited almost three months for the call from his primary care physician to schedule the appointment [that never came],” says Donna, 56, a food bank employee in south-central Pennsylvania. “We were fortunate to schedule his vaccine appointment at a pharmacy in Scranton, a two-hour drive from our house, but truthfully, I would have driven anywhere to get him protected.” Donna still doesn’t qualify for her own vaccine despite her history of health issues, and while her joy at seeing her husband receive the vaccine is still there, she’s tired of waiting. “I suppose ‘frustrated’ would be the best word,” she says.