I am an ICU nurse who just received the first dose of the Pzifer Covid vaccine. I had some mild side effects, nothing awful. Despite being an ICU nurse, I understand vaccine hesitancy. My first child was born at home, and I had him vaccinated on a modified schedule. Without any supporting evidence, it mitigated my anxiety about poking my baby with… stuff. I got the Covid vaccine even though I am not completely convinced of its overall greatness. I was convinced of its adequacy for this moment. I was convinced of its relative safety. I was convinced that I have a moral obligation to accept it.
My social circle is not the same as my patients’ demographics. I live comfortably in one of the most left-leaning counties in the US. My friends, virtual and actual, are mostly white, educated, financially ok (or mostly ok) and progressive — or some combination of those things. My Covid patients are mostly brown, black, impoverished, or chronically ill — or some combination of those things. They have not been able to stay home or isolate. They are working to keep what is left of our economy functioning. Sometimes family members come to the ICU in pairs or more and die there.
Recently on Facebook I suggested that we could pay people to receive the vaccine as an incentive. I am not here to discuss the merits of that. I am here because of this comment from a young, white, healthy, politically progressive friend. She wrote, “I would not get that vaccine nor give it to my child no matter how much money I was offered!” She did not respond when I asked on what she based this decision. Without a reply I can safely assume ignorance or moral cowardice.
If you are afraid to get this vaccine, I will find data on its safety for you. If you are a conspiracy theorist who thinks Soros is implanting 5G chips in everyone, you are beyond the pale. But if you call yourself a progressive and think that you somehow fall outside of a risk pool & think you are exempt from taking this vaccine based on a general, web-informed aversion to vaccines, I call bullshit.
I invite you to examine the seriousness of your anti-racism and allyship when you refuse to help curb a disease that is devastating black and brown communities. Tell me you’re not ableist when you say “people with risk factors should stay home.” Vaccines are a public health measure designed not to save *you*, but to promote health equity. You can not tell me about your anti-poverty work while believing you are exempt from a vaccine for a disease that is driving people into and compounding poverty. You can not tell me you are compassionate while declining to help lift the burden of Covid-19 off the most vulnerable people in our society.
I am watching people I chatted with die within days. I watched a partner hold their cellphone up to a dead patient so their young children could see that their parent would not be coming home. I am helping kind, gentle, hardworking people make phone calls to straighten out the most mundane things, before being paralyzed and having a tube shoved into their trachea. I do an afternoon assessment only to find that a patient I thought was stable, has air building up under their skin from a leak in their lungs.
I think refusing this vaccine on any grounds other than medical or a religious objection that is completely congruent with all other religious practice is bullshit. If your religion exempts you from inconveniencing yourself to take care of those around you, I call bullshit on your religion. Racist, ableist, classist, bullshit.