COMMENTARY

Tips to Share With Patients Feeling Vaccine FOMO

Eva Ritvo, MD

March 26, 2021

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

COVID-19 has filled our lives with so many challenges, and now we are faced with a new one. For some of our patients, getting a vaccine appointment feels a lot like winning the lottery.

At first, it might have been easy to be joyful for others' good fortune, but after weeks and now months of seeing others get vaccinated, patience can wear thin. It also creates an imbalance when one member of a "bubble" is vaccinated and others aren't. It can be painful to be the one who continues to miss out on activities as those around resume pleasures such as seeing friends, dining out, shopping, and traveling.

So many of our patients are feeling worn down from the chronic stress and are not in the best shape to deal with another issue: the fear of missing out. Yet, vaccine envy will be with us for a few more months as we continue to progress out of the pandemic.

Here are some tips to share with patients who are feeling vaccine envy.

  • Acknowledge your feelings. Sure, you want to be happy for those getting vaccinated but it does hurt to be left behind. These feelings are real and deserve space. Share them with a trusted friend or therapist. It is indeed quite upsetting to have to wait. In the United States, we are used to having speedy access to medical care. It is unfortunate that so many have to wait for such an important intervention. You have a right to be upset.

  • Express your concern to the family member or friend who is vaccinated. Discuss how it could affect your relationship and activities.

  • Focus on what you can control. Double down on efforts to not catch or spread COVID. Vaccines are only one very modern way out of the pandemic. Stick to the basics so you feel a sense of control over your health destiny.

  • Take advantage of the remaining days or weeks of quarantine. What did you want to accomplish during your time of limited activity? Did you always want to play the piano? These last slower days or weeks might be a great time to try (over Zoom of course). Have you put off cleaning your closet and organizing your drawers? There is nothing like a deadline to kick us into gear.

  • Take your best guess for when you will be vaccinated and start to plan. What do you most look forward to when you are vaccinated? Start to make those plans for late summer and fall.

  • Keep things in perspective. We are ALL so fortunate that several vaccines were developed so quickly. Even if the wait is a few more weeks, an end is in sight. One year ago, we had no idea what lay ahead and the uncertainty caused so much anxiety. Now we can feel hopeful that more "normal days" will be returning soon in a predictable time frame.

  • Focus on the herd. By now we know that "we are all in this together." Although we aren't leaving at the exact same time, mere months will separate us. The more our friends and family get vaccinated, the safer we all are.

Eva Ritvo, MD, a psychiatrist with more than 25 years' experience, practices in Miami Beach. She is the author of "Bekindr – The Transformative Power of Kindness" (Hellertown, Pa.: Momosa Publishing, 2018).

This article originally appeared on MDedge.com, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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