Vaccine Envy

COVID-19 vaccines have arrived, so when will it be your turn to get vaccinated? As the vaccine rolls out across the state and nation, we watch others receive their doses. But it can be hard to remain patient and not feel the “vaccine envy” creep in. 

The good news is that everyone in California will have an opportunity to get the COVID-19 vaccine at no cost. The downside is that vaccination supply is limited right now. California is vaccinating groups who are at the highest risk, like people with a high chance of exposure and older adults, 65 and older. While it may not be your turn just yet, you can step up and help to get members of your family who qualify to be vaccinated or even volunteer with vaccine distribution. If you find yourself getting envious of those who have been vaccinated, check out our tips on handling these emotions and understand the underlying reasons why you might feel this way. 

Why are people experiencing vaccine envy?

  • Vaccine envy is only one example of envy. Others include envy of people who work from home, the envy of people who have no kids, etc. The larger problem under all of these feelings is ego depletion. 
  • Willpower is a finite resource. We’ve been asked to make many sacrifices and exercise willpower for an extended period of time. We’ve been asked to wear a mask everywhere, not visit family and loved ones, not give or receive hugs, delay travel plans, etc. We can be motivated to do this in the short-term. But after a year, it’s become harder. Think of how motivated we were in  March 2020,  “I’ll learn to play an instrument/make sourdough bread/learn a language” and compare that with how we feel now: That’s ego depletion.
  • When we see others seemingly not having to make the same sacrifices, or we see them getting vaccinated, we may feel envy. 
  • Envy is different from jealousy in that it is not about losing something you have, it’s about having what someone else has. This feeling carries more social stigma and shame (hello “Seven Deadly Sins”) and can be more damaging to your mental health and well-being.

What should you do if you or someone you know is experiencing Vaccine Envy?

  • First, recognize that making sacrifices and exerting willpower takes energy. You’ve got to add things to your routines like rest and nutrition to keep your willpower going.
  • Prioritize things that make you happy. This is part of self-care. Watch a movie you’ve secretly been wanting to watch. Listen to upbeat music. Buy yourself a small treat. Happier people can make healthier choices.
  • Envy makes you lose perspective. Reframing is a way of offsetting the cognitive distortions that ego depletion and envy bring. For example: Remember that every vaccine going into an arm reduces the likelihood of disease spread and benefits the community, including you!
  • Practice gratitude. It can help restore your willpower and give you a more realistic framework. If you start envying the person that is getting the vaccine before you, remember why they are ahead of you in line: Are they a health care worker taking risks in their job every day? Are they an elderly person? Someone with a medical condition? Do you envy those parts of their lives as well? Reflecting on, and being grateful for your circumstances in life through journaling or talking with a trusted friend can help you sustain your willpower and improve your mood.
  • Reclaim your power. Envy at its root creates feelings of helplessness. Counteract those feelings by focusing on what you can do. Maybe you can’t get the vaccine right now, but can you be added to the state or your county’s alert list? Can you make an appointment really far out to have a date to look forward to? Focus on what you can do without a vaccine in order to give you as much safety and freedom as possible, like masking and social distancing.  
  • Get in touch with what you’re really upset about. Are you really angry that your friend on Facebook got the vaccine and you didn’t? Or are you upset by the dysfunctional rollout, lack of leadership, or inequality in distribution? Find a way to participate in remedying those larger issues by getting informed about your county’s plan/rollout phases, bookmark websites that update you on phase status or vaccine availability, organize, or volunteer in your community.

Vaccine Volunteers

One way to receive the vaccine faster is to become a vaccine volunteer. For more information check out our blog How To Become A Vaccine Volunteer.


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