Giving it my best shot whether it's in the arm or in the dark.
I know that not everyone supports immunizations generally, or the COVID-19 one in particular. I have heard the arguments and understand. In fact, I had my own reasons for almost a year that I would NOT get a COVID vaccination despite health care professionals being towards the top of the list. But I did anyway. This post isn't an attempt to change your belief system; I am simply chronicling my choice to give my best shot by getting a shot in the arm.
For almost a year I have steadfastly said I would not get immunized against COVID-19. Why would I say this when I am otherwise someone who supports vaccinations, making use of our bodies' own magnificent disease resistance? Well, it started off with me thinking that I have relatively low risk factors. I don't have a suppressed immune system or chronic respiratory issues, for instance. And any vaccine available should go to those folks, in my mind. I also knew that, along with my own immune system, a community that washes hands frequently, social distances, and wears masks would keep me safe. My faith in the FDA is weak even in non-emergent times and the political push for vaccinations made me HIGHLY skeptical of any vaccine approved simply to be a campaign booster. (tee hee, did you catch that pun?!)
Over time I observed that not everyone is interested in doing their part to prevent the spread of COVID-19. People are taking risks privately, and not so privately, and making whether you protect your community a matter of political, personal "rights" rather than an act of caring. Next thing you know, people will be defecating in public spaces because they have a right to poop and can't be bothered to find a toilet. There went my sense of confidence in the willingness of my fellow humans to do something uncomfortable to keep themselves and others healthy.
Then I became aware that doses weren't necessarily going to those in high risk categories. Nor were they necessarily being distributed according to the policies of health departments. So, I couldn't be sure that by me skipping a dose, someone who was more likely to be impacted by COVID than me, say due to the combined factors of their race and society's disparate healthcare system, would get one. In fact, as medical ethicists have pointed out, it could go to someone with fewer risk factors than me.
Next, I learned about the more highly contagious variants that have developed due to the extended time the virus has been in circulation and the way that organisms naturally evolve. Some of these spread “more easily and quickly” than that we've dealt with thus far. While the vaccine isn't an exact match for these variations, they are not a different species and I know that immunity to one will give some level of immunity to another. Maybe I'll still get a variety of COVID as these new forms spread, but by being immunized I won't take a hospital bed from someone who is recovering from a near-death, head-on auto collision.
Finally, if I am chiding others for not doing their part by wearing masks, I'd be a hypocrite if I didn't step up and do mine when it comes to vaccination. If I can get a shot in the arm and that means I am less able to contract and therefore spread the disease, don't I owe that to my family, patients, and community? If it means I might still get sick but won't be taking up precious ventilators and oxygen, don't I owe that to others? I thought I did. It's my own, tiny, personal shot in the dark to help my fellow humans stay healthy. Often you don't do what you think is right because you know it'll turn out to be for your benefit or to have game-changing implications. You do it because you think it is right. And I think, for me, getting a vaccination is the right thing to do given the society in which I live. Maybe in a better world, a Latinx grandparent would get a dose rather than me. Or in a more perfect world, a Latinx grandparent wouldn't be at any more risk than I am. Until then, I am giving this my best shot.
If you are contemplating immunization, I am not gonna lie. It's an administrative "challenge." My first dose was smooth; getting the second dose has been another story. To help those of you in my community interested in giving your own best shot at taking down COVID-19, here is a little help navigating the situation from The Olympian.