I was sinking into the security of being unmasked in the supermarket, restaurants, and well-ventilated clothing stores. Fully vaccinated, I felt safe with this new level of freedom; another step forward into normalcy. Then came the halting words: Delta variant, breakthrough infection. Here we go again: one step forward, two steps back. We’ve passed the year-and-a-half mark with this accursed virus, but we’re still being jostled back and forth between hope and uncertainty; between renewed control over our lives and being pawns of fate.
“Follow the science.” It seems like such a reasonable mantra. Wear your mask in crowds, get vaccinated, you’ll no longer be a host for the virus to cling to. Reach herd immunity. Why is this so difficult to grasp?
When did the American mindset shift wherein sickness is no longer confined to medical professionals, but to the dictates of political agendas? Throughout my life, there have been vaccination mandates to protect public health. Recently, I came across my daughter’s immunization record from years ago. It listed five shots required for her to start the school year. The goal? Not only to protect herself, but to protect all her classmates. No parents lashed out at the school system for infringing on their constitutional rights, or their rights for privacy and free choice. We wanted to keep our kids safe and healthy—end of story.
Although I think of vaccination as a health issue only, I am aware that I have friends who have politicized the topic, and have remained unvaccinated. These friends are not vitriolic radicals, rather they are intelligent, kind, unselfish people. I would love to gain an understanding of why we hold such different views. But in the strange national climate in which we now live, speaking freely about differences rarely occurs among friends, for fear of destroying the relationship. Thankfully, the opportunity did arise, but it was from a stranger.
This past week, a technician came to my home to fix a mechanical problem. Idle chit-chat turned into a twenty-five-minute discourse on vaxing. To date, he has chosen not to be vaccinated. His main concern? Government control. Having emigrated from a Communist country, he views America through that lens, believing that as we start mandating vaccinations, we are morphing into a socialist society with the potential of rolling down the hill to Communism. All this over a vaccination. He went on to tell me that it’s his right to remain unvaccinated, and I, as a vaccinated person could still infect him. If staying at risk and contracting the virus leads to his death, he views that is his right of choice, and God’s will.
Indoors in the confined space of my home, we were both masked. His gaze was steady, unflinching. His voice was not loud or ranting, but calm and rational. He spoke from the heart. Listening to him, I realized that issues of right and wrong are more complex than they seem on the surface, Different life experiences can lead to different decisions.
As we talked, I thought back on the experiences in my own life that drew me to choose vaccination. My gratitude for being a six-year cancer survivor. My heightened at-risk status due to age. My children driving an hour each way, twice a month for a year, delivering supplies to keep me out of the stores and alive. He understood when I told him that for me the vaccine meant the difference between contracting a mild version of the illness, or death.
Throughout our discussion, we sought not to condemn, but to understand one another. I expressed my appreciation that we could even have such a conversation. As we parted, the look in our eyes said, “I may not agree with you, but I respect you.”
Paul – I am delighted that you took the time to post your extensive concerns involving the vaccine. I appreciate that it was done in a calm and respectful way – so important for open communication.
Amy, I agree that there are very few places where people feel comfortable discussing different views on the COVID vaccine. So, I appreciate your article, and your attempt to make this a place for that.
I want to add that while some may be not getting the vaccine for political reasons or because they don’t want the government mandating what they do with their bodies, there are many who are avoiding the vaccine for scientific reasons.
First, the long term side effects of some drugs do not become apparent for many years. This is why all previous vaccines were put through 10+ year clinical trials. COVID vaccines were tested for less than a year, so we have no idea what the long term effects will be.
Second, the CDC is reporting “Since April 2021, increased cases of myocarditis and pericarditis have been reported in the United States after mRNA COVID-19 vaccination (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna), particularly in adolescents and young adults.” https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/clinical-considerations/myocarditis.html
Third, there are reports of higher incidents of blood clots among those who have gotten the vaccine.
Forth, the vast majority (95%) of people who have already had COVID, have antibodies that protect them against future infections for 8 months or longer. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/lasting-immunity-found-after-recovery-covid-19
Even the CDC recognizes that re-infections within 90 days are extremely rare and does not require unvaccinated people to quarantine after an exposure if they have tested positive for antibodies within the last 3 months:
For many it’s a matter of weighing the risks from getting the vaccine (stated above) vs the risks of getting COVID.
For people who are older or have underlying health issues, the risks from COVID are higher, so it makes sense to get the vaccine.
However, for people who are younger and in good health, the combination of the known and unknow risks of the vaccine are greater than the risks of COVID, especially for those people who have already had COVID and had mild symptoms.
Tone can make all the difference. Great story and a model for the rest of us. Thank you for sharing. I wonder how the technician would manage public safety if he were in charge? That discussion proves there is still hope for this world. Two strangers chat casually and find they have more in common than either thought when they met. Once again you share your glimpse of a better universe. patricia
Yes, Noreen. Delta is a great cause for concern. And yes, we must continue talking to each other. Thank you for your comments.
Delta is COVID-19, a new, more contagious strain of the same virus. It is likely to continue mutating and produce other strains, just like the flu. All the more reason to get vaccinated and the booster when it’s available, especially if you are over 65 and/or have an underlying medical condition.
Great post as always, Amy! The more we talk to each other and understand our choices as fellow humans the better.
Thanks, Gisela. So important not to shut down lines of communication.
Yes, good point, Amy, to “even have the conversation”. My experience generally is that ‘anti-vaccers’ are hyper-sensistive to the subject, even when you can normally have good conversations with them – about different topics.
Thanks for expressing your thoughts about this theme which, even though Delta is worse than Covid 19, is not getting as much attention as Covid 19.
What will happen??