Sometimes I wonder if everyone gets their news and narratives from the same source. Over the last few weeks, I’ve seen numerous newsletters and articles using the exact same phrasing: the virus is now “killing off the unvaccinated.” The context and tone are that of superiority with an unspoken good riddance tacked on the end. I wish others weren’t so quick to judge.
I’m unvaccinated. My body releases a barrage of cytokines in response to pollen and trace amounts of almond, milk, and avocado. My daily reality is most people’s worst day of allergies. Each day, I need to debate whether my symptoms are bad enough to take an antihistamines, putting myself at future risk of dementia. My immune system’s response to the virus could kill me; my immune system’s response to the vaccine could also kill me. I want the vaccine, but my doctors have said no. I’m sure I’m not alone.
Last December, my boyfriend had a severe case of covid as a healthy 30-something. He holed up in the master bedroom for two weeks, was hospitalized twice for pulmonary embolisms, and he may have died if hadn’t been on every prophylactic available to him. For two weeks, I could not see him or help him. For the few hours he was awake each day, I saw the suffering in his eyes through video chat. It wasn’t until he was recovered that she shared the extend of the illness. The last eight months have been a huge struggle for him, as he has tried to overcome covid long-haul symptoms. In addition, we’ve lost two relatively young, healthy friends to covid. I am unvaccinated , but I am not a covid-denier. I’m sure I’m not alone.
For 18 months, I have barely left the house. I have been working from home. I haven’t been to a Costco, Whole Foods, or REI in well over a year. My boyfriend still have high covid antibodies, so he picks up groceries–masked, gloved, and goggled–and wipes everything down with Clorox when he gets home. When the virus caseload was at it lowest, I visited my parents, in-laws, grandparents, and saw two friends who are both vaccinated and in self-quarantine. Twice, in the last 18 months, I’ve been to the outdoor farmer’s market. I am a quiet introvert and am generally content keeping to myself, but it’s still been hard. I have interacted face-to-face with 14 people in the last year and a half. Of these 14 interactions, 9 were one-off and less than 15 minutes. I’m not vaccinated, but I am also not out-and-about exposing myself and others to a highly-contagious virus.
Maybe today, take a moment to recognize that we are all operating within out own set of circumstances and each making our own risk assessment, in regards to the pandemic and life in general. I am not that bothered by those villainizing me for my choice to wait on vaccination, but I am certain that others are. I was talking to a friend recently and she brought up how our past experiences influence our decisions today; on an instinctual level, we are all responding to fear–either fear of the virus, or fear of the vaccine. While there are some–perhaps many–who I would judge to be acting irresponsibly given the knowledge we have about the virus and the vaccine options, I can’t blame them for responding do their deep-seated fear in the way that seems most appropriate to them, under their set of circumstances.
Personally, I’m fearful of both the virus and the vaccine. I don’t trust the news and am skeptical of certainty in research studies. I’m working with a physician to help regulate my immune system, to decrease the adverse effects of either, but it’s not an instantaneous fix–it’s a process. I imagine others are also desperately working to prepare their bodies to better tolerate vaccination.
If you happen to be of the mindset that those who are unvaccinated deserve to die, I hope that you might consider that we are not all ignorant, self-richeous, deniers of science. Some of us are still in hiding, scared and with no other option but to keep patiently waiting. The pandemic that seemingly ended when most could be vaccinated and reenter the world, maskless and unafraid, has been unrelenting for myself and others. So, before shouting “good riddance!” the next time you hear about unvaccinated individuals dying from covid, please consider that they may have had good reason to avoid the vaccine, and it may very well be the same reason that the virus hit them so hard.
I haven’t seen enough empathy lately, and I would implore you to make an effort, the next time you feel inclined to judge someone, to put yourself in their shoes, for just a moment. While I have certainly become more pessimistic about human nature over time, I still believe that most people have good intentions. We’re all just trying to do what’s best for ourselves, our loved ones and–at our best–humanity at large.