When the COVID vaccine was first released, people were literally lining up for it. Well, only some people were; the ones who were given priority and allowed to get the vaccine. Here in California, it started with essential health care workers and the elderly. At this time, I told myself that I would get it after awhile, once they worked out the kinks, probably in the fall. I just don't want to be first in line, I said.
Early on, around January or February, I went to the CDC website and read the FAQ. At this time, I was on the fence, and not really for or against the vaccine. I stopped about half-way down the CDC's page, closed my computer and said "That's it, I'm not getting it...this is misleading." The question that caused me to shut down and not be open to getting the vaccine was something along these lines:
Q: Is the COVID vaccine safe for me to get while I'm pregnant?
A: Yes. There are no known negative side effects to mother or baby from taking the COVID vaccine at anytime during the pregnancy.
While that answer was indeed true, it felt dishonest and manipulative to me because how could there be any negative effects to any pregnancy when it was day four or five of the vaccine even being offered and far too early for any data to even be collected? In trying to find that same post just now, I have learned that the CDC is being a bit more honest and saying that they do not know, and asking for data through a registry. The CDC is asking women who are pregnant and have taken the vaccine to be studied, here.
Fast forward a few months and everyone who wanted the vaccine had it, there was a surplus, and the incentives started. There was a lottery system, free tickets or gift-cards and even freeway signs urging me on my drive home to GET VACCINATED. The harder they pushed, the less inclined to get it I became, telling myself that if they had a good product, it would sell itself. As opposed to the vaccine as I was for myself, I did coax/insist/urge my father to get it, because of his age and history of smoking.
Although I insisted my Dad get it, I didn't need it or want it. I knew someone who was 80, with cancer, who had COVID and recovered quickly, with no need to be hospitalized, so I would be fine. And I started to look for things that reaffirmed and confirmed my line of thought, known of course as confirmation bias. In the news articles I read (thanks in part to the evil algorithms) there was a whole lotta this going on: Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms or supports one's prior beliefs or values. People display this bias when they select information that supports their views, ignoring contrary information, or when they interpret ambiguous evidence as supporting their existing attitudes.
Then came the mandates. Companies began requiring the vaccine of their employees under threat of termination and suddenly, the same people who were all about their individual freedoms and liberties surrounding their ability to use drugs or have abortions, were cheering. The same people who demand personal freedoms for abortions and drug use were quick to support the removal or rights for other in regard to the vaccine.
"I'll get the vaccine, unless my work requires it" was my reaction to the mandates. And this was when I realized that my reluctance to get vaccinated was more about my disdain for the encroaching, overreach of government control and our loss of freedoms than it was about actually being against the vaccine.
Throughout this time, there was one friend who works in the health care field that I would randomly text my objections to, and she would nicely, yet firmly, counter all of them. She would also sometimes send me articles highlighting why I should get the vaccine, or minimizing the negative effects of the vaccine. I didn't read most of these but I trust and respect her, and she had conviction. She was unwavering in her urging of me to get it, no matter what I sent her. And her reasoning made sense, sometimes helping me reframe things, though I wouldn't let on.
Finally, what tipped the scales was a friend's friend's husband, younger and healthier than me, who was recently in the ICU for two weeks and almost intubated because of COVID. I tried to remind myself that even pre-vaccine, the risk of hospitalization was under 4% and the death rate even lower than that. While of course true, if I found myself in one of those few percentage points, wouldn't I want something that mitigated against the damage? Yes, I would.
So for me, I chose to get the vaccine today because while I do feel there are risks with either route (and the vaccine risks are likely underreported), I feel that the risks for the unvaccinated are higher than the risks for those who are vaccinated. And being a mother, my health is not something that I want to play the odds on.
I'll update this blog in a month when I have the second Moderna vaccine but so far, I'm 8-9 hours in and have no side-effects. I had the flu shot as well, and that shot hurt much more, and that arm is more sore.
Updated to add what a different friend sent me: This is the statistics from my hospital a few days ago. The data really is showing that the vaccine works to prevent severe symptoms. I’m really happy to see you get it and I hope that more people see the benefits vs risk.