All this week I’ve been hearing in the news about decreasing demand for Covid vaccines. All these stories also predict the US won’t reach herd immunity any time soon, if ever. So for a variety of reasons we won’t reach herd immunity anytime soon… We may never reach herd immunity in this country, which means the world may never achieve herd immunity. And that is ridiculous.
Clearly the technology exists to produce the vaccine. There are plenty of supplies from which to produce the vaccine. There are facilities capable of making the vaccine, companies to ship it where it needs to go, and distributors to get it into the hands of medical professionals to administer to populations. So why can't we have herd immunity in America? Because too many people don't want the vaccine.
I can't help but be frustrated by this, even if some of those people have reasonable sounding reasons such as not trusting government or not understanding the science of a new type of vaccine. I also don't trust the government and I also don't fully understand the science. I definitely understand that getting Covid – or giving it to anybody else – is something I want desperately to avoid. So far the vaccines all seem safe and effective. My threshold for buy-in has been met, so I participated. I got my Covid vaccine.
It is possible some of the reluctant folks will come around once they see enough of their peers get the jab. That certainly happens with many things when they first come out. Clothes, technology, food, even kitchen appliances. I bought a Keurig coffee maker only after every one in my extended family had one and told me how great they were.
Unfortunately, that word-of-mouth expansion of acceptance only happens when people share their experience with other people who trust them. It may never happen if folks keep their positive vaccine experience a secret from the rest of their community. Apparently that is exactly what's happening in Greeneville, TN. And if it's happening in one place in America, odds are that it's happening in other places too.
In a New York Times interview, one Greeneville resident shared her wish that people would just avoid the whole subject of the vaccine: "I think it's none of their business. And it's just dividing people." Which I'm sure it is. But avoiding a conversation about it won't bring people together. All that does is avoid a little discomfort and shelter folks from an encounter with a worldview they don't already know and understand.
A person I know went on a trip recently. They flew on a plane with their partner and a friend. While waiting to board, the friend shared their intention to lie about being vaccinated so they could participate in regular life activities without being hassled for avoiding the vaccine. The partner found this disturbing and got in a long argument with the friend. The person I know tried to quell the disagreement. Not because they wanted resolution of the issue at hand, but because they wanted a resolution to their discomfort.
There are some things worth getting uncomfortable. Stopping a person from lying about their health status and thereby putting others at risk is a very good example. Which is exactly why we shouldn’t avoid talking about important things just because they might be controversial genres. Quite the opposite in fact: those controversial topics are exactly what we should be talking about.
It might be uncomfortable, but that feeling is temporary. And discomfort won't cause you any actual harm, no matter how scary it seems. The more you practice, the less alarming it feels to sit with some discomfort. You can take my word for it because I've been practicing this very skill for years. Before I started this work, I spent most of my life maintaining the comfort of the people around me. It didn't make me safe, secure, or healthy. All it did was keep other people comfortable, often at the expense of my own mental or emotional health.
We don’t need to be comfortable in America right now. We need to get rid of Covid. So get your vaccine (unless you can't for medical reasons), and then talk about it. And talk about all the other important things that matter to you or someone you care about. We can have nice things, like food and housing and health care and education. And we can have them for everyone. We just can’t do it if we keep on doing things the same way we have been. And we can't change any of those systems or structures if we don't ever talk about them.
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Jaydra is a human in-process, working to make the world a better place. Sharing thoughts, feelings, and observations about the human experience.