My reaction to the pandemic was intensely personal. I saw no reason to believe that I couldn’t get the virus and no reason to believe that if I did get it I would survive.
Not only was I frightened, I was furious at the incompetent and maliciously dangerous handling of this crisis. People like the criminal who occupied our White House for four years were actively trying to kill me and a lot of others.
Some of them even said so, like Dan Patrick, the “lite gov” (lite in all senses of the word) of Texas, who said people over 70 should die for the good of the economy, by which he meant Wall Street.
Getting the vaccine made my personal fear go away. I no longer worry that I’m going to end up dying alone in an ICU every time someone gets too close. I could feel the difference in my gut from the first shot.
But it did nothing about my fury. So many people dead for no reason. People still dying even as the vaccine is becoming widely available because those in authority insist on opening things that should stay closed or performing hygiene theater instead of dealing with issues like indoor ventilation.
I was never just angry on my own behalf. I was frightened on my own behalf, but I was angry on everybody’s. We could have done so much better.
Bad leadership was an obvious problem, but there’s a deeper one. We seem to have lost any concept of taking care of ourselves as a public.
This was obvious all along with the masks, when so many made a political statement of not wearing them (and spread the virus around in a number of super-spreader events).
But it’s also obvious with the vaccines. People who are debating whether to get them are just thinking about themselves. I hear any number of people saying, “Well, I’ve always been healthy” or “I don’t like needles.”
The point of getting the vaccine is not just to protect yourself, grateful as I am for having the personal protection. It’s to protect everybody. If everyone who can safely get the vaccine – there are people who can’t – gets it, then this virus will have no place to go.
Infectious disease has been a problem throughout human history. It is a not a problem that can by solved by private decisions. We all have to act in the interest of the community as a whole to protect us against very contagious diseases.
That means getting vaccinated, following public health protocols, and so forth. It also means having a good public health system as well as funding for ongoing research and stockpiling the kind of equipment that is always necessary. Further, we have to make sure that the vaccine is available worldwide. Our community these days is a lot larger than our families and a few neighbors.
This pandemic won’t be over until it’s over everywhere.
Over three million people have died worldwide. There is a terrible surge in India right now. We’re closing in on 570,000 deaths in the United States and that number is on the low side. Covid-19 was the third leading cause of death in the U.S. in 2020 after heart disease and cancer.
So many of those deaths could have been prevented. I don’t think I’ll ever stop being angry about that. So many more are going to happen even as we’ve reached the point where we can protect people and where we really understand how to prevent it. That makes me even angrier.
But right now in the United States you can do something to make this pandemic go away: Get vaccinated.
Let’s save lives even while we’re mourning so many lost.
2 thoughts on “Get Your Vaccine!”
I’m floored by the hostility that seems to be shown to public health issues these days. When I was a kid I became enamored of the work of Berton Roueche, a New Yorker writer who did a long-running column called The Annals of Medicine, which was about the adventures of public health department investigators across the country. Maybe that’s why this is something I’m passionate about; these people working in what we would now consider fairly primitive circumstances (the early 1950s, when computerized public health data systems were science fictional) to figure out the source of (for example) a typhoid outbreak, or anthrax, or trichinosis, or rabies, were exactly what Roueche called them: Medical Detectives. The core of public health is to keep the public safe, and that requires cooperation. Typhoid Mary Malone, who would not believe she was a carrier, persistently violated public safety rules (she was a cook, and even after her responsibility for typhoid outbreaks was known, kept getting hired asa cook) finally had to be isolated, because her personal freedom was more important to her than the welfare of the people around her. She was an outlier. Now she’d fit right in with a certain non-trivia segment of the public.
I’m not worried about myself right now, but I’ll keep following directives and masking up as long as it takes, because otherwise it’s going to take forever.
The NY Times reported today that the US death rate in 2020 was the highest above normal ever recorded in the U.S., exceeding even the 1918 flu years. It is obscene that at a time when we can actually turn out vaccines in under a year that we were unable to prevent deaths as well as people could in times when they knew so much less.
I want a robust public health system. This is not going to be the last pandemic — maybe not even the last one of my lifetime. I guess this is another one of those situations where I can see the proper solution, but not how the hell we get there from the mess we’re stuck in now. Kind of like the situation with mass murders and out-of-control police, coupled with voter suppression and overall racism.