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.