After a series of online exchanges, Leyva said, “I realized, Oh my God, she thinks I jumped the line.” At the time, Leyva’s daughter, who lives in Arizona, was very close to giving birth to her second son. Her friend seemed to imply that Leyva had manipulated her way into the vaccine line to expedite meeting her grandchild. In reality, Leyva had qualified for the inoculation because of her type 2 diabetes, which has been linked to a higher risk of developing severe COVID-19. Her friend, she told me, hadn’t been aware of her condition.
“It really took me aback,” Leyva said. She had expected only support—with perhaps a touch of good-natured jealousy—when she posted her photo. “I just thought of it as an exciting thing in my life, after a year of hard things,” she told me. Shaken by the tussle with her friend, Leyva kept the news of her second dose to herself.
There’s a special kind of survivor’s guilt that comes with lucking into a vaccine—getting a dose that would have been thrown away without a willing and available arm. One such arm belongs to a writer I spoke with in Wisconsin, who was offered an extra dose from a workplace health center after nearly all of her colleagues had gotten their shot. She jumped at the opportunity, knowing that the dose would otherwise go to waste. “I didn’t take a vaccine from someone else who needed it more,” she told me. “But I did accept a vaccine before others who needed it more had the chance.”