To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate?
I’m going to start this week’s TRUTH: In 1000 Words or Less with a candid acknowledgement that my title for this week’s column represents a false dichotomy. I’m really not sure the whole vaccine debate can be summarily wrapped up into those two starkly different choices. In fact, by the time we get to the end of this week’s thousand word diatribe, we might just find that there actually is room for a middle ground here, a middle ground that seems increasingly scarce in a world full of polarizing opinions. But before we get there, it all started with a simple choice between friends, a choice about whether or not to go to a concert.
After months of staring at the walls of our homes, so much so that even our pets are beginning to seriously question our mental stability at this point, we are all jonesing to see live music harder than an adolescent unceremoniously stripped of all social media for two weeks after getting caught downloading porn onto their phone. Yes, we want this in the worst way- just want the world to open back up so we can all go back to doing whatever it is that we love to do, be that concerts, sporting events, or midget tossing. So as word has spread of the potential of a coming Covid vaccine, many have rejoiced and prepared to line up at their nearest Walgreens like a junkie waiting for a fix outside their dealer’s doorstep. This, for them, signals what we all have long been waiting for: the return to normal life. A return to shows and games and, well, midget tossing. But hold your horses there, Tonto. Some folks aren’t quite so psyched about this vaccine after all.
While many of us in the United States have come to just presume a pro-vaccination stance since around the time they were used to wipe out small pox and polio, there has been a growing movement afoot questioning the efficacy and safety of vaccines, even before Covid hit the scene. The number of children not receiving the recommended vaccinations has quadrupled since 2001. Of children born in 2015, 1.3% eschewed vaccinations, and 31 million people follow anti-vaccine groups on Facebook. These anti-vaxxers have cited studies suggesting a link to autism and other conditions in developing children in order to justify their refusal to vaccinate their children. Now, I’m not here to adjudicate the science on this and conclusively determine whether vaccinating kids from certain illnesses outweighs the potential risks associated with their use. There are some really good studies being conducted on both sides of this debate, and I strongly encourage you to do your own research by reading people who understand the science of this far better than me. I was a freakin’ English major for crying out loud, not a scientist. I’m not here to provide data and research. But what I will do is tell you a story and then use that story to make a point about how our individual rights and liberties interact with those of others in a well-functioning societal arrangement.
Shortly after news started being reported about a potential Covid vaccine, concert promoters, in anticipation of some much-needed summer business in 2021, started sending out email communications containing potential health protocols for their events. Amongst these proscriptions was the possibility of requiring either proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test within 2-4 days of the impending event. And that’s when all hell broke out amongst my friends. Eager to peruse what shows we wanted to see this summer, folks started forwarding the promoter communication in group forums. But some of my anti-vaxxer friends were hardly pleased with the potential restrictions. They saw this as a total infringement upon their personal freedoms and an attack on their choices to not get a Covid vaccine.
Now, I totally respect the rights of any of these folks that decide not to get a Covid vaccine. Putting anything into your body should always be the choice of the individual, and I for one don’t ever want to see the government telling people what they do or do not have to do with their personal health choices. That just sounds far too Manchurian Candidate for my tastes. There are sound reasons to be leery of a vaccine developed in these circumstances, and without legitimate longitudinal studies, I can see why some people would be a little freaked to go injecting themselves with whatever drug cocktail Pfizer concocts. I mean, I probably trust whatever my drug dealer cuts his product with more than that, but hey, you gotta do what you gotta do, right? I’m just saying these anti-vaxxers might not be so crazy after all, and regardless, no one should be out there telling them what they have to do with their bodies.
But just as the anti-vaxxers have every right to decide what gets to happen to their bodies, so too do those who choose to get the vaccine have a right to say what happens to theirs. If we, as a larger collective society, decide that the inherent risks of the vaccine are eclipsed by the dangers of contracting a debilitating and potentially deadly airborne virus, then we deserve to have an expectation of those around us that they will do the same, not just for their well-beings, but ours. Recent studies suggest that approximately two-thirds of Americans intend on getting the vaccine once it becomes available. Is it unreasonable then in going to a concert, an otherwise clear mass-spreader event, to ask that the folks there have been vaccinated? Or at least gotten a test?
And that’s where that earlier-promised middle road comes in. Ok, I get it if you don’t want to get the vaccine, but then c’mon, go get a damn test so that we can all go see a concert, for Jiminey Christmas. Concerts and other social events are part of the larger social contract. They only happen because we venture out of our own protected little bubbles and come together collectively in the public sphere. That’s where the joy of togetherness originates. But with that joy comes the responsibility of care and diligence for our fellow human beings. No, we cannot fully protect anyone, and heaven knows, life is messy and sometimes dangerous, but we owe it to each other to do our best to care for one another, to at least try not to infect them with a deadly virus. Spread love, not germs, my friends.
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Steven Craig is the author of the best-selling novel WAITING FOR TODAY, as well as numerous published poems, short stories, and dramatic works. Read his blog TRUTH: In 1000 Words or Less every THURSDAY at www.waitingfortoday.com