Why Vaccinate?

I was lucky enough to be able to share an hour or so socializing with my friends in one of our backyards. Not mine, because it’s still an ugly mess and I only have two chairs. Of course the main topic was C-19.

I am the first person to admit that — like most other people — I represent my version of normal humanity. I am at least as self-referential as anyone else, if not more. I live alone. I make all my own decisions. I almost never consult anyone. I don’t know how I got this way, but that doesn’t really matter because here I am. I’m never obliged to have a difference of opinion with anyone, and, if I do, I usually just step back and try to figure out what’s really going on. That can take days, months, or more. I’m grateful for friends to whom my friendship is valuable enough that they find me and talk things over. I’m not good at that; thank goodness other people are.

But I’ve also noticed that people — me included — seek validation of a certain kind from each other. We want to know that what we’re doing is OK with other people. I guess that’s what’s meant when people say humans are social animals. So, in the conversations this morning the question of vaccinations came up, first the flu shot, then the (hopefully) future vaccine for C-19.

I personally believe vaccinations are a good idea. Given the choice between getting sick from an illness and not getting sick I think any sane person is going to choose not getting sick. I’m wrong there, of course. Lots of people don’t get vaccinations and some have legitimate (in my opinion) reasons. Mainly my strategy with this whole debate is, “Do what you want. Really this isn’t any of my business. It’s your decision to make.” Do I actually believe that? No, I don’t. I just know that disputing this with anyone is a waste of time. It’s impossible to argue beliefs or personal taste. Those things are not rational and all the evidence in the world cannot alter them.

That doesn’t stop people from trying to persuade me and/or justify their decision hoping I will say something supportive or approving — or even agree. People feel consensus is important. I’ve learned over the years that for some people consensus is more important than facts. It was something I had to teach when I taught critical thinking, that is that consensus is comfortable, but might be delusion.

A conversation like this emerged this morning. For me, there’s no debate. First there’s the I’d rather not get sick argument. The ONE year I didn’t get a flu shot was the H1N1 year, and I was deathly ill for two weeks. Second, I have an autoimmune condition that affects my lungs so I’m afraid C-19 could do a number on me. Third, I don’t want to be a carrier around people who might not be able — because of their very compromised immune systems — to take any vaccine.

And my poor little brain got hung up on that third argument and I realized that is something legitimate to dispute. You get a flu vaccination so the person in front of you in line at Safeway who’s on chemotherapy is just a little bit safer. Same thing — for me — when the C-19 vaccine miraculously appears. No, I don’t want to get sick. But it isn’t just me. My immunities make the world a little safer for others.

22 thoughts on “Why Vaccinate?

  1. That is what makes vaccinations such a contentious issue for some. I tend to feel that people should make their own decisions but what if your decision means someone else could be harmed? Shouldn’t we think about that. The whole face mask issue is about tha and vaccinations are the same. At some point we have to give up some of our freedoms in order to protect the vulnerable. At least I hope we are not too selfish to do that.

    • Definitely. One of my friends said, “I never get sick so I’m not getting vaccinated.” I wanted to punch her, but… And “never” is a long time and the future is uncertain. I kept my peace and wrote this instead. 🙂

  2. People want that validation for whatever rationalization they come up with. And then they will proceed to do what they want – skipping the mask, skipping the vaccination. I saw a guy interviewed on the news tonight. He was visiting Charleston SC from Phoenix with his family – not wearing a mask (except when required in a store) – his reason? “There are so many things to be afraid of. Why should I be afraid of this? Not worried about it. We haven’t changed out life at all for this…” Shrugs his shoulders and smiles.
    This is what we are up against. Those of us at risk.

    • Self-centeredness on a scale that’s beyond belief. It’s weird to me because so much of life doesn’t have a clear answer. This does. This isn’t a philosophical question at all except in an ethical sense, but even that seems very straight-forward to me. I don’t want to get sick and I don’t want others to get sick. That’s not deep.

      • I know!! I try and try to understand this mindset – like this guy on the news. It does boil down to self-centeredness and also maybe some people have been so sheltered (lucky?) in life that they can’t imagine in their wildest dreams that anything bad can ever happen to them. And, oh, by the way, they ARE the center of the universe. Everyone else is on their own. Sigh.

  3. Martha this is so true – everyone wants to do their own thing and forgets the idea that their actions/inactions have repercussions for themselves as well as anyone they come into contact with! If poor judgement was limited to effecting the individual I’d be fine with it – but it spills into my life. Not cool… Give me the vaccination! I get the flu vaccine every year and I’d rather that than having the flu!!

  4. It is the people who deny that vaccination is a good thing that drives me nuts. I’ve had people tell me that measles and influenza and mumps are trivial things but the one-in-a- million bad reaction to a vaccination is so horrific as to not be worth the risk. And then I know the orifice they are speaking from is not their mouth.

    • I nearly died of measles when I was 6. There was no vaccine back then or for mumps, either. I missed three weeks of school. I don’t know what it is with people, but I’m still exhausted and alienated from yesterday’s conversation.

  5. I’ve learned over the years that for some people consensus is more important than facts- so much truth in that statement. It makes us, as a country, do stupid things (and elect stupid people). I really appreciated this post. I’m someone who never gets a flu vaccine (it’s more about not taking the time to go somewhere and get it, plus I’ve never had the flu), but your reasoning made sense, so maybe this year I will. And, yes, I’m absolutely jumping on that C19 vac when it is available!

  6. Well reasoned. Thank you for your perspective. I have come to a similar position for a much more selfish view. I prefer to do anything to stay well. Thank you for reminding me that my selfishness can have unintended altruistic consequences. I’m good with that.

    • My mom and her sisters used to argue about whether or not anything we do is purely altruistic. I think that was an argument their dad got them going with so they’d leave him alone. That and what would they do if they had a million dollars. 😀

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