To the Editor:
A few weeks ago, my dear friend and new mom Juliana Germani told me she had signed up more than 30 undocumented workers for vaccine appointments. “I’m up feeding Sadie in the middle of the night. It gives me something to do,” she said.
Inspired, I reached out to a friend, whom I will call Paul for purposes of protecting him, who is also undocumented, to see if he wanted to get vaccinated. He said, “Yes.” So I said I’d get him an appointment and take him.
I did not know what I was signing up for.
At the appointed time, I picked Paul up from work. We both wore masks — neither of us had been vaccinated — and drove with open windows to the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. When we arrived and saw two police officers manning the parking lot, I heard his breath catch. I looked at him, and told him we’d be fine. His look back said, I’m not so sure. I rolled down the windows and greeted the officers, telling them that I was bringing a friend to get a vaccine. One of the officers looked into the car and welcomed Paul. The kindness of this officer’s simple greeting went miles. Paul relaxed a bit. We were told to wait for about 10 minutes, and then could go in.
While waiting in the car, Paul and I watched silly Instagram animal videos — a cat that likes bathing, a horse with a cat sleeping on its head, a dog that can play volleyball.
When it was our turn, we headed inside, cleaned our hands, swapped out old masks for new ones, and were greeted by a gentleman who registered my friend’s nerves and said, “It’s OK, she can stay with you and help you. No problem.” More relief on Paul’s face. And, honestly, on mine, as I didn’t know what the registration process would be like, and wanted to be sure he was all set.
At the sign-in desk we were rerouted to registration. I saw Paul’s nerves go back up. “Do I need to pay?” I shook my head, but didn’t know what registration would ask of him or how this would all go. Juliana had told me that it would be OK. Just answer the questions they have to ask, and that will be that. And that’s what happened.
“Do you have ID?”
At this point I felt the incredible privilege of being able to say yes to each of these questions. The woman at the desk was efficient, asking questions, knowing they could be uncomfortable. We went through maybe five or six more questions and that was it: “OK, you are all set. Thank you.”
No, thank you, Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. For making vaccines available to everyone. And for making my friend Paul feel welcome, safe, and listened to. At every turn — from printing out the vaccine information in Paul’s native Spanish to checking in on him during the requisite waiting time — my friend was treated with dignity and respect.
And for anyone or everyone out there who has an undocumented friend or employee who needs and wants a vaccine, give yourself the gift of signing them up and taking them. It’s the best thing I’ve done all year.