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Opinion: Why to get vaccinated--even if you don't trust the vaccine

By Jonathan Meilaender

Saint Vincent is hosting a free Pfizer vaccination clinic on April 21st. It's open to all students. Capacity is sufficient to vaccinate hundreds. And you should be one of them. You should get a shot even if you don't trust the vaccine and do not want to get vaccinated.

Unlike some people, I don't believe it is crazy to hesitate. I know many good people with reservations. This vaccine is a new vaccine. This disease is a new disease. And it is perfectly normal to be wary of new treatments. For many people, this is a time of uncertainty, and many people do not trust common public health approaches to containing Covid. Many people are weary and disappointed. They are tired of trying new things.

So let's assume that you are a student who does not trust the vaccine, and probably someone who does not trust masks and lockdowns, either. You should still get immunized as soon as possible. And you should not wait for other people to go first. Why?

The Fred Rogers Center during a Pfizer clinic.

Because the cost-benefit analysis makes sense. The risk of long-term side effects from the vaccine is extremely low--much lower than "long Covid." Do we have years of data for the vaccines? No. But tens of millions of people have already received Pfizer's shot, and the safety profile is excellent. So something could turn up down the line--but it probably won't, unless this vaccine behaves in a very unusual way. And, if you want to wait until more people take it, bear in mind that lots of people already have taken it. In Israel, for example, 60% of the population has been vaccinated. Covid cases are vanishing; consequently, so are restrictions. In January, the small nation had nearly 10,000 cases a day. Today? 34.

That's the benefit: an end to the restrictions you probably dislike and possibly never supported. This benefit is not guaranteed. Variants could overwhelm the vaccine. Maybe immunity wanes. But the chances of success are pretty good--much better than the chance of side effects. So there's a tiny chance of harm, but a high chance of benefit.

But why get it now? Why not wait a little, just to be safe? Because your task is not "to be safe." Where is the honor in being safe? Who is ever praised for staying safe and letting other people take the risks? Look: you are probably not at risk of death from Covid. But other people are. Your decision to get vaccinated protects them. You are taking the risk so that the old, the weak, the sick, don't have to do so. This illness may not threaten you, but it does threaten the elderly. It kills them at alarming rates. And it is a brave thing to take a risk in order to protect them, just as it would be brave to go to war to defend your country. In fact, if you do not trust the vaccine and take it anyway, you are much more courageous than someone who does trust it. Do not let other people get in line ahead of you.

So you have a perfect right to refuse the vaccine. And, who knows, perhaps you have a medical condition that makes it advisable to do so. For most of us, though, it's better to get vaccinated--and not because anyone told us to do so, but because it is the right thing to do. The right thing to do is not always fun. It is not always what we want to do. But it is right. That's what matters.

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