Today, I celebrate the fact that I’m officially fully vaccinated against the novel coronavirus responsible for the pandemic and all of its miserable restrictions. It’s been 14 days since my second Moderna jab.
I encourage everyone eligible and not medically contraindicated to pursue the same happy state.
The uncomfortable side effects weren’t the greatest thing ever, but they are long gone. My confidence, on the other hand, only grows stronger that I won’t catch or spread COVID-19 to those I love or innocent strangers.
My commitment to protecting others is a product of both my patriotism‡and my Jewish faith’s teachings on the inherent dignity and value of human life.
My behavior won’t change too much, however, given that I’m only the second person in our household of six people to achieve this milestone. My father-in-law, at a venerable age ≥75, was part of our state’s Phase II, given access to scarce vaccine appointments back in February.
Two thirds of us* have had second shots, and my youngest got his first jab within days of his cohort becoming eligible. The others in our household will reach full immunity over the course of the next four and a half weeks.
Knowing that even just the first dose of Pfizer vaccine reduces my youngest’s odds of symptomatic coronavirus infection by more than† half, he will be able to rejoin his class for in person learning for at least the final couple of weeks of the school year.
What a blessing!
It is especially poignant given my son’s love for this special school, which has been his academic home for more than half of his life, added to the fact that he’s moving on to his next level of education at a different institution in the fall.
Schools here rightly are still required by law to enforce masks for pupils indoors; my child will continue to wear a face covering at all times on campus, exceeding state regulations. He will continue to take care to keep social distance inside as well.
Because a frail, ill, elderly member of our family—and household—has a history of severe anaphylaxis triggered by medications and vaccine components, protecting ourselves from suffering severe COVID-19 is great, but not sufficient. She remains at elevated personal risk if she catches the coronavirus, yet unprotected by anything except her family’s caution.
We will continue to guard against even mild infection, practicing indoor masking and social distancing in all public places, because no one knows yet exactly how contagious a vaccinated, asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic carrier really is.
Breakthrough infections after vaccination are rare and not usually severe, but they definitively exist and have caused some to suffer for prolonged periods of time.
I’m thrilled and grateful to live in a wealthy, powerful nation wherein my family enjoys the fruits of stupendous work on the part of scientists and clinicians fighting a novel disease. I understand and agree with the conclusion that a majority of fully vaccinated people can safely modify some behaviors at this point in the pandemic.
I also offer our situation as a cautionary tale to all those mocking and minimizing maintained vigilance even as rates of infection, hospitalization, and death improve. We aren’t just paranoid hypocrites who doubt or misunderstand science.
We are multi-generational households. We are people with allergies and other uncommon health conditions causing variable responses to vaccines. We are concerned parents, children, and grandchildren. We are traumatized family members of victims who lost lives to the pandemic.
By most measures, COVID-19 is retreating. I celebrate that fact, too! My gaiety is merely tempered by the facts of my personal situation.
People of goodwill must continue to support each other—and everyone else in our communities—as each family negotiates the tail end of their own version of the pandemic. That’s how we recover, as a society.
I know of no greater way to honor those who’ve suffered, and those we’ve lost, than to carry on leading a joyful life including generous quantities of service and gratitude.
That process will look different from house to house, and community to community.
That’s not just okay, it’s a magnificent reflection of the vibrant diversity of modern America. Getting back to normal isn’t the best we can do; let’s move forward together to an even better future.
Respecting that others may do so differently from you is a powerful step in that direction.
‡ Functional democracy—or effective government in a democratic republic such as the United States of America—depends upon civic virtue. Failing to protect others within my community would undermine everything I believe to be right, just, and good.
* i.e., us = my household
† Teenagers such as my kids already have lower rates of severe or even symptomatic infection with this virus. In a population aged 65+, the first dose of either mRNA vaccine was protective against COVID-19 serious enough to require hospitalization at a rate of 64%. Subsequent studies show 12-15 year old adolescents mounting greater antibody responses to these vaccines than even young adults 16-25—who responded more vigorously than elders—likely due to the more robust immune system of youth.