Yesterday morning, I drove to a local CVS, handed the pharmacist my vaccine card, and received my second Moderna dose. I have thus entered the ranks of America's "fully vaxxed," though I'm technically not quite in the clear for another two weeks or so. In a tweet published within minutes of getting jab number two, I tweeted this photo along with a forward-looking caption about what excites me about my post-vaccine future:
My first point was one of gratitude. Gratitude toward everyone who helped make this a reality: The Trump administration's leadership on Operation Warp Speed. The pharmaceutical companies and teams of scientists who brought multiple safe and effective vaccines to market in record time. Everyone, including the new administration, who has helped ramp up production and distribution of the doses. The many Americans who showed up for work, day in and day out, prior to the vaccines' arrival to ensure that we could continue with our lives and purchase essential goods and services. The doctors and healthcare workers who've served with courage and compassion on the front lines throughout our nation's protracted battle with a deadly global pandemic. People who've made difficult sacrifices over the last year-plus in order to keep our most vulnerable citizens safer. The list goes on. The pandemic isn't over, but we very much appear to be on the downslope, and normalcy is on the not-distant horizon.
If you've read my work in recent months, I haven't exactly been subtle in my enthusiastic support for the COVID vaccines. It may surprise you, however, that my decision to personally move forward with the vaccination process was not automatic. I thought it through, weighing risks and trade-offs. I don't believe it's wise, polite, or helpful to shower scorn upon fellow Americans who are either hesitant to get vaccinated, or who are generally hostile to the prospect. Everyone can and should make his or her own choice on this matter, preferably in consultation with a trusted physician. For any fence-sitters or ambivalent folks who might care about – or even be the least bit influenced by – why I decided to make the choices I have, it boiled down to a handful factors:
(1) I truly see vaccination as our collective ticket out of this awful nightmare. I'm more than ready to be done with it. I don't view complete eradication or zero risk as the goal; I view downgrading Coronavirus from a disproportionately lethal pandemic to a more manageable affliction, more akin to a seasonal flu, as the goal. Influenza kills people every year, but does so in smaller numbers, and does not require significant societal disruption. Achieving or approaching herd immunity strikes me as the best way we can do this, as we've seen to great effect in places with high vaccination rates – from Israel to the UK, to various American states. I wanted to do my part, so I got my first vaccine shot as soon as I was eligible, then followed up approximately a month later.
(2) As noted in my tweet, I'm craving life's "normal" pleasures, from joining large cheering crowds at sporting events and concerts to traveling internationally to attending theater productions, to enjoying packed parties. And although I've broadly encouraged mask-wearing as both a good idea pre-vaccination and as a courtesy post-vaccination (within reason), I cannot wait to burn my mask. I already tear it off my face with relish when exiting a place where its use is mandated. Getting vaccinated was therefore a community-minded act, yes, but it was also an act of self-liberation. When I climbed back into the driver's seat after my second shot, a voice inside my head was practically shouting, let's go. Plans are already actively being made.
(3) Being on the younger and healthier end of the spectrum, I recognized that my risk of experiencing very poor health outcomes or death from this virus was quite low. Not non-existent, of course, but quite low. Did I want to massively reduce the already-slim likelihood of those highly undesirable possibilities? Absolutely. But I also wanted to overwhelmingly foreclose the chances of experiencing long-term symptoms and unpleasant or dangerous side effects from COVID. For instance, an estimated ten percent of Coronavirus survivors experience lingering symptoms over the course of months. One in three suffer some form of psychological or neurological impact. The likelihood of strokes among survivors is substantially elevated. As I see it, there are safe and effective vaccines that almost completely shut the door to contracting or transmitting this virus. I was therefore very eager to get one and move on with my life.
(4) Having interviewed multiple doctors (here's one recent example), I am not terribly worried about unknown or long-term side effects from the vaccines. And to the extent that I've been hesitant at all, my far greater concern was the unknown or long-term side effects of the disease itself.
(5) If I lived somewhere offering free beer as an incentive for getting vaccinated, I'd happily take it. Alas.
The point of this post is not to harangue, "virtue signal" or judge; it's to publicly share my reasons for getting vaccinated. I think it's a very good idea, for all the reasons mentioned above. I have encouraged, and will continue to encourage, my friends, family, and radio audience to do so. I hope you'll join me. I also recognize that plenty of good, smart Americans aren't as excited about it as I am, or have selected a different path. Perhaps some will reconsider. Some will not. Regardless, my hope is that we can all agree that there are now more than enough doses available to everyone who might want them, and we should therefore begin lifting COVID restrictions across the board. The whole initial push for collective sacrifice was centered around two primary and sensible arguments: Protecting the vulnerable, and preventing the healthcare system from being overwhelmed. Our most vulnerable citizens are heavily vaccinated at this point. Those who are not vaccinated have made that decision for themselves. Meanwhile, our national trajectories on cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are all pointed in the right direction, thanks in large measure to the vaccines. The vaccinated are protected. The unvaccinated are making their own choices. Open up.