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Hey there unvaccinated friends! I’m really trying to write this from my most generous place of empathy and kindness. Let’s start off with the basic assumption that we share a mutual desire for the pandemic to end. We both want to be done with lockdowns, which have been economically and psychologically devastating for lots of people. We also want to be done with masks, which can be uncomfortable and inconvenient. Unfortunately, we don’t have enough people vaccinated yet for the pandemic to end — and when hospital capacities become full, lockdowns become necessary to slow the spread of the virus.

With the hyper-transmissible delta variant, which may be able to spread in as quickly as 1 second of indoor close contact, we are heading straight toward another lockdown unless we a) resume widespread mask wearing and b) get more people vaccinated.

I know several friends who have told me they haven’t yet been vaccinated due to their concerns around auto-immune reactions. I’m sure many others don’t want to be vaccinated because they don’t want to be told what to do, or because they don’t trust the pharmaceutical industry and/or the government.

If you’re concerned about getting vaccinated for health reasons, please have a consultation appointment with a physician to discuss your concerns. Please seek the opinion of an actual medical professional and don’t base your medical decisions based on things you’ve read on Facebook. I can empathize with your concerns — I have an autoimmune disorder as well as a potentially life-threatening shellfish allergy. My body identifies many things as an allergic threat.

Still, I got the COVID vaccine as soon as I could. I wasn’t worried about an allergic reaction, because they monitor you after the vaccine for an allergic reaction — and I knew that in the extremely unlikely event I had an anaphylactic reaction their staff would be prepared and I would be fine. I did not have an allergic reaction, or much of a reaction at all to either of my two vaccine doses.

I really wanted to get vaccinated because I knew that it would help protect my family as well as bring us one step closer to ending the pandemic. For my sake and for the sake of all the other kids and parents out there, I want with every fiber of my being for the schools to stay open. I cannot even begin to tell you how devastating the effects of another round of school closures would be to my family personally and to countless other families out there. Children under age 12 are still unable to be vaccinated — and although kids in general haven’t gotten as sick from previous variants of COVID, we’re not sure yet how the delta variant will affect kids. Schools may not be able to stay open if community transmission is too high. And children may get sick and die from COVID because we as a community have not done a good enough job of protecting them.

Please consider getting vaccinated as way to protect yourself and the children in your community. If not — I respect your right to your own medical decisions. But please respect my right to keep my children safe, and understand that we may not be getting together until after my children have had the opportunity be vaccinated. We’re all in this together, and I wish you the best.

Love,

Ursula

I wish this post could be about something else. I wish I could stop talking and thinking about the pandemic, like so many other people seem to be doing right now. And I get it — the pandemic has felt long and difficult, and lots of people are ready to throw away their masks and move on regardless of vaccination status.

But I can’t stop talking about it. Why? Because of my kids.

I can’t stop talking about the pandemic because my children aren’t old enough to be vaccinated yet. I can’t stop talking about the pandemic because another child in my son’s kindergarten class was hospitalized last winter with a severe case of COVID. I can’t stop talking about the pandemic because the lockdown was too traumatic for me as a parent to just suddenly act like nothing has changed, and there continue to be super-contagious new variants spreading that put us at risk of future lockdowns if we don’t act proactively.

I want the pandemic to be over just as badly as anyone. In fact, I would argue that the reason I continue to be cautious and wear a mask in indoor public places (in addition to being fully vaccinated) is that I so very badly want the pandemic to end. If my running a marathon, or giving up ice cream permanently, or shaving my head would end the pandemic, I would do it.

Why?

To save lives. Yes, I’ve heard over and over that 99.5% of the time, it is only the unvaccinated who are at risk of severe illness and death. So why should I care about the lives of the unvaccinated, some may wonder? Because, my children are not yet old enough to be vaccinated. Because all children under age 12 are unvaccinated in the U.S. Because the vast majority of people around the world have not yet had the opportunity to be vaccinated.

As of July 18, 48.6 percent of the U.S. population was fully vaccinated, leaving the other 51.4 percent vulnerable. 26.3 percent of the world’s population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, with only 1 percent of people in low-income countries having received one dose.

Of course, running a marathon and shaving my head won’t stop the spread of COVID. Vaccination and mask-wearing are the two best tools we have towards ending this awful pandemic. Make no mistake — the decisions we make in this precarious moment will have lasting impact.

I’m reminded of the words of Jesus, recorded in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” I’m also thinking about the parable of the Good Samaritan, which Jesus told to expand upon the commandment to “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

I have a sticker on my water bottle. It says:

“Love thy neighbor
Thy immigrant neighbor
Thy black neighbor
Thy atheist neighbor
Thy Muslim neighbor
Thy depressed neighbor
Thy Asian neighbor
Thy LGBTQIA neighbor
Thy disabled neighbor
Thy indigenous neighbor
Thy Jewish neighbor
Thy political neighbor
Thy elderly neighbor
Thy homeless neighbor
Thy Latino neighbor
Thy addicted neighbor
Thy millenial neighbor
Thy ______ neighbor”

And who is your neighbor?