WHO: One of Texas’s most beloved members of group 1B.
WHAT: A crucial first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
WHY IT’S SO GREAT: Back in April, the New York Times published an interactive tool that estimated how long it might take to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. The forecast wasn’t particularly hopeful. If you adjusted every possible setting for the fastest possible vaccine approval—which, the column noted, was not the most likely scenario—you could maybe get the first shots in people’s arms in February of 2021. Even on the optimistic side, the most likely scenario the Times posited was that it would take somewhere between eighteen months and four years to get everyone immunized.
But science is incredible, and researchers—aided by the entire weight of the medical community, as well as a real good llama—had an approved vaccine in November. The rollout of the vaccine process has been bumpy, in Texas as elsewhere, but still: Every day, thousands of Texans in the state’s group of current candidates (“1A,” for health-care workers and residents of long-term care facilities, and “1B,” for those with certain medical conditions and Texans ages 65 and over) are getting their first doses of COVID-19 vaccine in their arms, bringing them closer to being protected from the virus. And on Thursday, one widely beloved member of group 1B got the first of the two injections it’ll take to reduce his risk of contracting COVID-19 by 95 percent: Willie Nelson has been vaccinated, y’all.
Willie—who, at 87, is the exact sort of vulnerable citizen the Centers for Disease Control and Texas Department of State Health Services have prioritized giving the first doses to—appears to have received his shot by drive-through, rolling down the window of his Tesla and getting the poke in the arm that sets him on his path to immunity.
We’re happy for Willie, who is one of the good and pure things in Texas and also the entire world, but we’re even happier about what the fact that Willie got vaccinated against COVID-19 means. He’s one of just over a million Texans who’ve received their first dose, along with doctors and nurses, other seniors, and people whose health conditions mean that they’re at risk of a more severe case of the disease should they become infected. It’s staggering to think that in just a few months, we’ve gone from a timeline of—in a worst-case scenario—years before there was a vaccine, to Willie Nelson being among the 3.2 percent of Texans who’ve gotten their first shot, with the second to come a few weeks later.
There are real problems with the vaccine rollout, including very serious concerns about racial and economic equity, and those can’t be ignored. But each shot given to anyone who is at risk of a serious case of COVID-19 brings us closer to protecting everyone, and as we wait for the disease to finally be brought under control, we’ll take any good news we can get. Today, that’s 87-year-old Willie Nelson getting his first shot. Soon, hopefully, it’ll be the rest of us.