An open letter to vaccine-hesitant folx
I probably don’t have anything new to say to you. I bet I don’t have anything to say that will change your mind. I suppose neither is the point of this. Truth told, I’ve got some shit to say, and I’m gonna say it.
I had a COVID scare this week. Actually, I’m having one as I type this. A person with whom I’m close had an exposure this week to someone who was unvaccinated and who now has COVID, and now every ache, every cool breeze, every hunger pang, tells me I have the ‘Rona. I’ve been vaccinated, so I’m not terribly worried about being hospitalized or dying, but I AM worried, and I’ll tell you why.
I’m lucky as hell. I have four living parents within a 10-minute drive from me, and I see them regularly. We’ve been so careful with the pandemic, because they are of the age where serious complications (even some resulting in death) can occur in the case of COVID. If something happened to any of them, I would be devastated.
I also work with seasoned professionals, many of whom have 20–40 years in the service industry. Most of whom are over 60. Many of whom are over 70. So now I worry about them, too.
And my job? I work with people experiencing poverty and homelessness. All of them have had difficulties you can’t even imagine in their lives. All have underlying trauma. Most have underlying health conditions. And a lot of them are vaccine-hesitant. Exposure for them to COVID might as well be a death sentence, but over half of the people I know and love through my work will not get vaccinated. Maybe they cite some of the reasons you yourself cite: They can’t afford to be sick from the shot (they really can’t. they sleep on the pavement.) They distrust the government (they actually have reason, not just suspicion. these are the same people for whom our “social safety net” is all failure all the time.) They don’t understand the science (most of them have not had cushy college experiences that include epidemiology or advanced biology courses.) They’re scared of needles (I actually don’t have a defense for this one. A shot is always, always superior to death.) But whatever their resistance, COVID is a ticking time bomb for these folks. If exposed, it would hit them the hardest, no doubt.
I mean, here’s the thing. Liberty and rugged individual freedom sounds really nice, but there is rarely an intersection with fierce care for our community’s most vulnerable members. You *might* be vaccine-hesitant AND in the trenches with people who are having the worst day of their lives, but chances are, you’re not. I am. I’m doing the work you wouldn’t deign to do yourself, and now I might be sick, and hundreds of really vulnerable people might be exposed. Thanks for that.
Look. I’m pro-choice. I can get down with the whole “my body, my choice” thing. And it is your choice. But you know what, it can also be a choice not to expose everyone around you and their extended circles to COVID because you won’t get vaccinated. I mean, choices have consequences. Excerise your liberty all day long if you want to, but maybe you could choose to stay home?
I am also wholly capable of an internet “deep dive,” just like you are. I’m human too, so I get to decide which pieces of information I’ll assimilate and how much weight I’ll give them. I have seen the Israel study on boosters. I’ve seen the mixed-bag studies on masks. But for me, the bottom line is that the debate all centers around the relative efficacy of such measures. No legitimate study anywhere says vaccines and masks don’t work at all — it’s just a question of degree. And I want to be able to say “I took every possible precaution. I minimized the threat of transmission to everyone around me.”
And everyone around me includes you. Why my choice would ever elicit a sneer from you in a public space is beyond my comprehension. However ineffectual you might imagine my personal discomfort to be under my mask, you might choose to pause and think “hey, she has nothing in common with me and doesn’t even know me and she cares about me.”
And speaking of public spaces, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point to the bind you’ve created for small businesses, just trying to get by. On one hand, they need to do business to stay alive, but on the other hand, they want to keep their customers safe. Every time you step through their doors unvaccinated, unmasked, and ready to rumble you are putting their business at risk, not to mention their hardworking employees. All the government assistance has ensured that Wall Street will be just fine. But Main Street? That’s in your hands, and fine, dedicated people are having to weigh things like mask mandates, closures, and compulsory vaccinations. It’s keeping them up nights, I promise you.
Maybe you think getting the vaccine somehow interferes with God’s will. I’m no theologian, but I’m pretty sure that your Creator also created the scientists who are working on mitigating this deadly scourge. I’m also pretty sure that your Creator loves you and wants you to be safe and take care of all creation. How many times does “love thy neighbor as thyself” appear in sacred texts? At least 40, by my count. And I don’t need a decoder pen to translate that to “get the vaccine already.”
Are there potential health risks? Yes, of course there are. But I promise you two things: first, the potential upsides (like saving lives) far outweigh the risks. Second, and this is true whether you use street drugs or got really drunk one night in college or enjoyed a Diet Coke or Twinkie with lunch today: the vaccine will not be the most deleterious, unnatural substance you’ve ever put in your body. I promise.
And finally, a note to the specific you who exposed my loved ones: I hope COVID-19 takes it easy on you. I don’t wish you harm. I want your children to have you as their parent for a long, long time. I don’t want you to be like so many others, on a respirator at the hospital begging for the vaccine and wishing they had believed the virus was real.
Because I care about you. Despite everything.
And that’s why I choose what I choose.