Updated: May 19, 2021
Personal Decisions Have Global Impact
As a person of a certain age with fish, environmental and drug allergies, I had good reason to wait a while, pay close attention to the science and pray before getting the Covid-19 vaccination. I am happy to report, I recently received my second vaccine.
While there are some lingering side effects such as fatigue, they are mild and gradually subsiding. No regrets, here. Some of the lingering trepidation around the new vaccines is perfectly understandable, especially among people at a high risk of potential allergic reaction. Confession: I also have a phobia of needles from traumatic childhood experiences.
Americans in general have always been slow to board the vaccine train, particularly African Americans, again for valid reasons. The tragic Tuskegee experiments and long history of other medical atrocities against Black citizens combined with protracted racial and ethnic disparities in the American healthcare system cast doubt and fear in many minds. Disturbingly, Black Americans are getting vaccinated at lower rates than whites.
Still, following the science, I believe the benefits of vaccinations far outweigh the risks and consequences of an unvaccinated public, even more so in an age of rapidly increasing globalization. And as the pandemic has dramatically shown, the interconnectedness and interdependence of people from different countries not only have an impact on economies, cultures and social interactions but also on world health and mortality. Many experts around the globe believe this pandemic could have been prevented.
As global citizens, we all are being called upon to take greater responsibility for our health, including our behavior, and the affect they have on others in the world.
Past Successes Inform the Present
Like many of the Baby Boom generation, I still bear the round scar from the smallpox vaccine on my upper left arm. It was a major medical breakthrough at the time. Like the coronavirus, the reason smallpox was so dangerous and deadly was because it was an airborne disease, which spread rapidly and are highly contagious. Of all the injections, that one hurt the most. It burned and blistered, forever memorializing the blur -of- a -day that my parents prepared us to travel overseas for the first time. [1957 Passport Picture]
I was three. My older brother was nine, and my two sisters, who may as well have been twins, were babies on my mother’s lap. We took pictures for our passport and received vaccinations, which would become a standard part of our childhood immunization schedules as “Army Brats.” We received vaccines against polio, a disease that crippled and killed children in parent’s generation, and other contagious diseases, including diphtheria and whooping cough. Confession: I was among the children who developed a lifelong phobia of needles. They were thicker and cruder in the fifties. And the doctors and nurses I encountered approached my tender brown skin like it was a hide of leather. The longstanding racist belief that Black people feel less pain than whites is a disparity found in our healthcare system to this day.
Prevention and the Future
But we were an American-military family. We were required to follow orders and behave as global citizens. Vaccinations were part of the deal. I not only survived the shots and my needle nightmares, I completely skipped many of the infectious diseases that killed or impaired many children of my parent's generation.
Now, that I’ve joined the ranks of the vaccinated against Covid-19, I look forward to enjoying my new layer of protection. I will continue to follow the science. I will also follow the public health protocols, proving to help stem the spread of the virus and protect people not just in our own backyards but around the world.