I have mixed feelings about getting the COVID-19 vaccine. It’s not what you might expect, though. I am not conflicted about whether I should get it. I am not afraid or suspicious of it. I don’t think the vaccine’s fast creation makes it unreliable or unpredictable — merely unprecedented.
COVID-19 vaccines are lifesaving interventions in the midst of a global disaster. We are extremely lucky that science is advanced enough that we had widespread access to preventive treatments for a novel disease in about a year.
There are valid reasons for some people to be unsure about getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Hesitant folks should talk to their doctors to decide what is best for them. However, I am not someone who has cause for concern, given that I have no allergy or vaccine injury history. I am also not one to believe in vaccine conspiracy theories.
From the start of the pandemic, I have been tracking data and getting all my news about COVID-19 and vaccine development from reliable scientific sources and The New York Times. I have used what scientific education I have to wade through misinformation. I have tried to put emotions aside and track the reality of this situation from a logical perspective. Because of that, I am confident in all of the available vaccine options.
I also really don’t want to get sick. I don’t want my loved ones to get sick. I don’t want a single other person to suffer or die from this awful disease. Without picking apart semantic nuances of the phrase that everyone has been saying all along, I will say it, too: I am so ready for this to be over! I am getting vaccinated. No question.
So, when I got an alert that my healthcare clinic was opening up vaccination slots to the general population this week, I was thrilled. I signed up immediately. I had not anticipated being eligible for many more months. I am young and healthy, and my work is far from that which is considered “essential.” I can mostly work from home, and when I do meet clients in person, I create the rules of engagement. I decide where and how we interact. My life is very safe in comparison to the lives of so many others.
While I am more than ready to join the ranks of the inoculated, I am struggling to feel the joy and relief that I want to feel. As I prepare for my first vaccine dose this week, besides my gratitude, I feel guilt and sadness.
My heart is heavy for everyone who must continue to wait for relief from the fear and isolation of this past year. The most vulnerable people — many of whom I have come to know and love through my work in the rare disease community — have been so careful for so exhaustingly long.
Knowing how privileged I am to get vaccinated now, in early March, feels disgusting. When millions of people who are more at risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19 are still stuck at home with no end in sight, why me? While they spend long days stalking county websites, making phone calls, and praying for an appointment slot to open, I will be vaccinated. It makes me sick.
I know that while they may envy me, none of my rare disease friends would tell me not to get vaccinated right now. One more vaccinated person is good for the herd, no matter who it is. And the reality is that the population where I live is being served efficiently. I live on an island with fewer than 1 million other people. Shipments of the three vaccines currently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are arriving at such a pace that adults with medical risks could be eligible by early April.
I am definitely a “Phase 2” person — expected to begin in the summer here — but the stars have aligned for me to get vaccinated early. I am on an island within the island. I am a military dependent and receive my medical care through the federal healthcare system. The clinic that manages my primary care serves fewer than 35,000 patients.
Basically, I am very lucky to be where I am at this moment in history.
I just have to keep reminding myself that me getting the vaccine this week does not mean I am taking it away from someone who needs it more. The populations that I worry about in my state are being cared for. There is nothing I can do to help people who live in more populous states other than what I am doing, which is getting vaccinated right now!
Note: Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Fibrosis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.
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