As I sit down to write, word came that the FDA had authorized the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. This followed authorization of the vaccine in the U.K. this past week. There is a great deal of controversy about the vaccines, some from those who oppose all vaccines, and others with concerns about the vaccines for COVID.
I do not want to argue about this. I don’t have the time, and your argument really isn’t with me but the scientific experts and public health people who know more about this stuff than either of us. I simply am going to share my own thinking and decision. In short, when my turn comes, which likely won’t be for several months yet, I will accept vaccination.
Here’s how I think about it. While there is a very small risk of side effects with any vaccine, the risk of death at my age with COVID is significantly greater. I have not been infected and so am susceptible. I am not afraid of death as a Christian who believes that when death comes I will rest in peace with the Lord and rise in glory at the resurrection. But I treasure the gift of embodied life and here, as in other matters of self-care, I choose to care for the body with which I have been entrusted.
I have been vaccinated throughout my life without ill effect. I was born about the time the first polio vaccine was approved. I have friends a few years older suffering the lifelong effects of polio. I’ve not had concerns about tetanus (a gruesome way to die) or diptheria or pertussis because of vaccines. I had measles, mumps, rubella as a child. I’m glad my son didn’t. I harbor the chicken pox virus in my body because that vaccine wasn’t around when I was a child. I’ve had the shingles vaccine to prevent the adult version of this childhood disease. I’ve had yearly flu vaccines and pneumonia vaccines. I think I’ve had the flu only twice in my adult life. I do realize some people have allergies that may rule out vaccines and they should discuss this with their health care provider.
Beyond my own health is the wider health of our society. That society begins with my wife who has the same risk factors and is a cancer survivor. Vaccines work by interrupting the chain of infection. COVID must find an organic host or die. I think we have had enough COVID. Enough (and more than enough) have gotten very sick or died including dear friends. I don’t want to be the cause of sickness and death in another. I want COVID to run out of hosts and die, or at least be severely suppressed. That can only happen if most of us get the vaccine. I suspect we always will need to be watchful, but vaccines, when used widely, have eradicated some diseases. I’m glad to do my part. We don’t need more years like 2020 with its losses of lives and livelihoods and all the other impacts on our society.
I’ve read all the claims about dangers or conspiracies (so don’t post them or send them to me). I’m not convinced. What does convince me is the process. I have friends who have been in trials, and all spoke about the informed consent, the monitoring, and deliberate care. Some of these friends are scientists who recognize when corners are being cut. None were. No, the vaccine doesn’t change my genetic code. No Bill Gates is not inserting microchips in all of us. The animus against Bill Gates puzzles me when he and Melinda Gates have done so much with their money to save lives, with nothing to personally gain except the satisfaction of doing it. Yes, he was pretty cut-throat in building Microsoft. But maybe his life suggests the hope of redemption. Personally, I don’t have any time for the Gates-bashing crowd–I’m just challenged by his example of generosity which makes me ask myself how generously and generatively I live. But I digress.
I hope vaccination will not be a political football in the U.S. The current occupant of the White House lent his endorsement to the effort to develop the vaccine in record time. The presumptive president-elect has signaled a target of 100 million vaccinated in 100 days. Former presidents of both parties have said they will be vaccinated on screen. I don’t see being vaccinated as a litmus test of political loyalty any more than any other vaccine I’ve ever received.
I’m most glad that our front line health care people have first access to the vaccine. I want those who have not already gotten sick to be spared. I also hope we cooperate when it is our turn, so they will not have to keep seeing the horrors of these past months of watching people say good bye to loved ones on a I-pad, of being the only one with someone as they take their last breaths. Yes, this is part of medicine, but not in the heart-breaking numbers they are seeing right now.
I decided to write about this because I sense many who read me have at least some regard for some of the things I say. If you differ, it does not change my regard for you. If you think I’m out to lunch or deceived, pray that I might see the light–but don’t argue or send me articles. I’ve likely seen them or ones like them. I just wanted you to know how I’ve been thinking about this decision and what I’ve decided. I look forward to the day when this is in the rear view mirror, when we can make up for all the celebrations we’ve missed. I hope we can be there together or enjoy each other’s pictures on Facebook. Stay safe my friend.
[I am serious about not wanting to argue about this. I consider it a waste of time and energy. And I will take down posts that try to do this.]