I got my second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against COVID-19 this week.
I know that different people are making different decisions about the vaccine. And I know that it’s neither friendly nor effective to argue about these differences. Consequently, I’m trying to be very careful about “You should…” or “You better not…” statements. Still, I wanted to share about my own process in case it might help others.
I’ve got friends who feel they have credible evidence of conspiracy theories. I’ve also got friends who feel convinced that the COVID vaccines are miracles of modern science. Most of my friends land somewhere in between those two positions. But I’ve done a lot of reading on this subject — carefully considering arguments both for and against the vaccines (along with counter-arguments). I accept the idea that it may be decades before we fully understand all the implications of the decisions that we’re making today. Still, I believe the most trustworthy evidence points to the fact that the rewards outweigh the risks.
I felt most persuaded by the realization of potential beneficiaries. That is: who stands to gain or lose the most in the process of vaccination.
Honestly, all of my reasons for why I would not get the vaccine were self-centered. I’m not saying that’s true for everyone who lands on that decision. But when I tried that decision on for size, I thought primarily about short-term discomfort… concern about the potential for long-term health implications… and my ability to go about my life with minimal disruptions regardless of my choice.
On the other hand, most (but not all) of my reasons for why I would get the vaccine were others-oriented. I thought about reducing the danger for at-risk populations… playing my part in the big-picture societal solutions to ending this pandemic… and getting to hang out with my parents again. I admit that I also like some of the personal benefits. Especially feeling more free to travel and meet up with friends and family!
But even these personal / social dynamics that are most appealing to me have a strategic component.
People who don’t want to get the vaccine don’t generally care if I make my own choice for vaccination (as long as I don’t try to force my views on them). On the flip side, people who are in favor of the vaccine care very much if I get vaccinated. So vaccination allows me access to more people. My life and my job are heavily geared towards people, so these strategic implications are significant. And consistent with Christian ideals about becoming “all things to all people.” I understand that not everyone is able to make the same choices that I’m making. But I’m glad that I can.
We’re in a very privileged position, here in the United States. Many others around the world are not even able to make their own choice right now. Some friends in Northern Africa recently told me that they don’t expect to get an opportunity to receive the COVID-19 vaccine until the end of 2021. If they’re lucky. Other friends in Western Europe (i.e. other wealthy, highly-developed democracies) are still experiencing significant societal shut-downs. They expect weeks or possibly even months of waiting before they’ll get their shot at a shot. I was surprised that all of them seem to appreciate (more than resent) the fact that Americans are leading the way in the development and distribution of this COVID-19 vaccine. But they do seem to suggest: “Get your vaccine, so we can get ours.”
So I got the vaccine. It took me about an hour and a half to find an appointment, when my turn came (though the scheduling process has already gotten easier, with increased supply). The process for receiving and recording the vaccination at a local supermarket went surprisingly smoothly. And I’ve had minimal side effects from the shots. I feel elements of both guilt and gratitude because of our privileged position in this fight against this coronavirus. But mostly, I’m at peace with the decision I’ve made. By April 29th (allowing two weeks for full immunization to run its course after the second dose), I’ll be ready to celebrate.