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First came the vaccine, then the resentment

With rampant unhappiness about the slow and bumpy rollout, a monomania is setting in

Adobe/Globe StaffOmar Vega

Talk about warp speed! No, not how fast scientists developed the COVID-19 vaccine. The time it took for jubilance to deteriorate into resentment.

Tension is simmering in Western Mass. in a household where only one partner has qualified for a shot. “My wife got herself thrown a lifeline,” said the uninoculated spouse, an early childhood educator, “and our child and I didn’t. I’m glad she got it, but it feels separating.”

In Framingham, a massage therapist is “baffled” that acupuncturists are ahead of her in the priority line. “If you have a 45-minute session, they are in the room for five minutes [while inserting needles],” said Leslie Fraser. “We are hovering our heads over somebody’s face potentially for an hour.”

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On the North Shore, a grandmother in her 60s is disgusted with friends who’ve lied to get appointments.

“I can’t decide if I am mad I didn’t think of it myself,” she said, “or if I am being judgmental.”

A sign of how contentious the vaccine-priority lists have become: The grandma, like many, asked to remain anonymous for the sake of keeping the peace with family and friends.

With rampant unhappiness with the bumpy vaccine rollout — and waiting harder now that the end is in sight — a monomania is setting in, even among mental health professionals.

“I was consumed by vaccine envy,” confessed a Boston-area psychiatrist. That was in mid-January, when as a non-COVID-facing health provider she watched colleagues, some of whom were seeing COVID patients — but others who were working remotely — getting their shots.

The doctor, who asked to remain anonymous to keep her life private from her patients, analyzed herself: “I think I was more stirred up with the randomness and inequity of the distribution, rather than my actual fear of contracting COVID,” she said.

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In her medical circles, tips on scoring a shot were flying. There was a “guy” at an urgent care center on the South Shore eager to help doctors, she learned.

People signed up quickly, she said, and the guy would “erratically e-mail people on the list in no apparent order, offering next day or same day vaccine shots if you could drop everything and get there,” she said.

In late January, with many of the inoculated unable to keep their good fortune to themselves, the Better Business Bureau warned people against posting pictures of their COVID-19 vaccination cards on social media.

“The self-identifying information on it makes you vulnerable to identity theft,” the tip reads.

But thieves may not be the only problem. Look out for your friends, not all of whom will delight in your inoculation status update.

“How did you manage it?” one Facebook friend asked another after the first posted a picture of herself getting the jab. “It’s that psychologist thing!” the vaccinated person replied.

“Really?” shot back the other person. “Thot since you do lots of zoom that would not be a thing.”

Not only has the vaccine rollout been bumpy, but some groups have faced extra hurdles. Black or Latino people living in Suffolk County have likely had to travel farther than white residents to get a shot, a Globe analysis has found.

Some people are working every angle to get a vaccine. Local professional associations are lobbying for earlier access, wealthy people are paying big bucks for vaccine tourism trips, and hospital board members, donors, and trustees are playing the contacts game.

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At the same time, however, medical racism has led to distrust. In January, nearly half of Black participants in a survey released by the University of Massachusetts Boston told researchers they would not get a shot, compared with more than 90 percent of respondents who were white, Asian, or Pacific Islander who said they would probably or definitely get the shot.

This being the United States, of course a poster villain has emerged. She’s a celebrity SoulCycle instructor from New York, who, in rapid succession: snagged a shot claiming to be an educator; boasted about it on Instagram; faced an intense backlash; briefly tried to defend herself; and then, inevitably, issued a meaningless apology.

“I made a terrible error in judgement,” she wrote on Instagram, “and for that I am truly sorry.” (The shot will not be returned.)

Meanwhile, some people are trying to get shots early, not by cheating, but through luck. They’re vaccine chasers, and they’re hoping to be on site when a vaccine clinic has an extra dose or two at the end of the day.

And so it was on Feb. 1, amid a Nor’easter, that the hopeful pilgrimaged to Fenway Park’s Gate A. They waited, without umbrellas, in heavy, wet snow as the clinic’s closing time neared, no one seeming to notice they were getting soaked, so comparatively insignificant was any momentary discomfort.

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Around 4:45 p.m. a rumor swept through the group. “There are 150 no-shows!”

Phones were whipped out to text friends — COME! — but an instant later an employee, apparently taking pity on the 25 or so gathered souls, said there were, in fact, no extra doses.

The crowd eyed each other competitively and stayed put, afraid to leave in case there was indeed a dose or two. Time passed. Then some more. Eventually convinced today was not their day, their masks soaked, they dispersed into the darkness.


Beth Teitell can be reached at beth.teitell@globe.com. Follow her @bethteitell.