I got my second COVID-19 shot recently and I had an unexpected reaction: Elation!
Even the pharmacist who gave me the jab joined in. It was an unanticipated moment of letting go the stress and guarded feelings of the past year. Freedom.
I cannot fathom not getting the vaccine. Deep gratitude and profound hope well up that this wonder drug could soon be in the arms of most Americans and people around the globe. We are so blessed.
As I drove home, my thoughts traveled to conversations with friends and acquaintances. Vaccination had become the topic of the day. It seemed the subject popped into every conversation I had, touching every conceivable emotion and concern. I heard anticipation and trust as well as fear and hesitation.
There were questions about safety and efficacy: “Will I have serious side effects to the drug?” “How will it affect a personal medical condition?” “Can it affect my pregnancy?”
There were objections, too: “I had a bad experience with injections.” “I am absolutely terrified of needles.” “I just don’t see the need.”
And I get it. Such questions must be asked and answered (preferably by a physician). What I don’t get is an outright refusal to take the jab.
Stopping at an intersection, I noticed a man smoking a cigarette. As a young child, I remember practically every adult smoking. Remember the “Marlboro Man” on TV and the Virginia Slims slogan, “You’ve come a long way, baby”? Public opinion once supported smoking as an acceptable social practice. Yet, as time passed, public awareness evolved and the protection of public health and safety took legal precedent.
And while American adults still have a right to smoke, the practice now is limited by law and opinion. What remains is the impact on smokers’ health and, most egregiously, the impact of secondhand smoke on others, on the elderly and especially our children.
Arriving home from my vaccination appointment, I unhooked my seat belt. It brought to mind another (r)evolution of public opinion and the law. I remember sitting, as a child, on the front-seat center arm rest of my aunt’s convertible as we tooled down the highway. She was a very protective and responsible adult; she loved me with all her heart. Yet that’s how folks thought back then: There were no seat belts or child car seats. Putting even small children in cars unfettered was what folks did until the scales of justice nodded toward public health and safety. With seat belts buckled and children securely in car seats, an untold number of lives have been saved. Yes, folks may choose not to buckle up, but seat belt laws exist and the consequences for ignoring them can be severe.
Past issues remembered, they shed some light. Still, our individual decisions whether to smoke or fasten a seat belt never appeared to have such far-reaching implications as the refusal to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and help to eradicate a virus that continues to mutate, infect and kill.
As the afternoon of my second vaccine dose faded into the evening, I felt fine physically. Yet one nagging thought remained; it still does. In addition to the legal and social complexities of the vaccination issue, there remain the ethical and moral considerations. As an American citizen, I have a duty to seek the common good — we all do. As a person of faith, that responsibility goes deeper to protect and care for others, especially those most vulnerable: children, seniors, workers on the front lines.
The stakes are high. And as a practicing, imperfect Christian, I truly cannot reconcile the outright refusal by a professed person of faith to be vaccinated.
My vaccination protects me. My vaccination protects others. Refusing to be vaccinated falls short of the call to protect and care for all others and to respect the dignity of every person — family, friend, neighbor and oneself.
When I step out on my backyard deck, the air is crisp and so refreshing. Spring is here. The days are longer; the grass is greener. Daffodils and forsythia adorn the landscape; the trees and bushes bud. We are moving past the dark days. It has been a long winter; it soon will be over.
Easter comes — not only for a day but for a new season. I am so ready to put this darkness behind us. Yes, Easter comes! I remember before God those we love but no longer see — so many needlessly lost. Alleluia! Easter comes! It is our time of new beginnings. I imagine life not as before but perchance life more intentionally lived with an eye to renewed possibilities, understandings, relationships and hope