Plausible Immunity

Vaccines are fun to talk about. I’m still mustering the motivation to educate myself enough to have productive conversations about them. But a lack of knowledge shouldn’t keep me from talking loudly. That would be crazy.

“Follow the science” seems to be the mantra. Roger that, captain. Like, down to the protein level? I haven’t been in a lab since AP Chemistry.

The way I remember school, if it wasn’t your strong subject or you didn’t do the reading, the strategy was to stay quiet in class. No sudden movements or eye contact, lest you get called on and look like you rode the short bus.

It’s the opposite in social media-warped adulthood. Some folks you can just picture as B-minus students in their prime. They haven’t read anything longer than a tweet in 15 years, yet feel comfortable shouting into public discourse like valedictorian debate champs. I wish we could listen to only extremely smart people argue and then form our conclusions.

But I get it. It’s hard not to have an opinion in this environment, regardless of your qualifications. I, for one, am a sheep when it comes to the Cove. I trust the nebulous “They” — faceless experts at the government or official-sounding organizations. Fauci sounds like a vanilla sports commentator to me, emphasizing syllables authoritatively without really saying much. But I presume he represents a strong team.

They tell me I don’t need to wear a mask… good riddance. They change their mind a couple of months later… OK. Making adjustments based on new information or circumstances can be a sign of trustworthiness, putting effort over ego. They’re trying. This is a novel virus. We don’t know what we don’t know.

They told me to get the vaccine, and I put some Pfizer in me. I even waited my turn like a good sheep and didn’t end up with the second shot until May 17. Somehow all of my friends in equally white-collar jobs classified themselves as essential workers.

The truth is I know next to nothing about vaccines, let alone the implications of those pushed into market so miraculously fast. To blindly inject is actually quite contradictory to how I live. I trust my body, diet and exercise. I don’t even take Tylenol and find it bizarre how quick people are to use medication for every ailment or need (for a two-hour flight, really?).

Yet I have no qualms about these shots, even though on paper the concept is absolutely wild. Vaccination trains the immune system to recognize and destroy infected cells. In my supple imagination, that’s one wrong line of code away from a manufactured autoimmune disease that essentially forces your body into suicide.

So I try not to hate on vaccine haters. Probabilities are hard to comprehend; bodies are not public property; and everyone should be entitled to some fears and thoughts scattered along the logic spectrum.

As a matter of self-interest, it would be nice if folks got vaccinated because I have a 2-year-old who takes his sweet time learning all basic functions. We likely won’t figure out how to keep a mask on him until deep into his teens.

But I don’t know that it’s fair for me to tell someone to take a shot I wouldn’t give my son. Even if he were 12, I would have my hesitations based on vague instinct, bias and innuendo. It would just feel uncomfortable to me. It would feel uncomfortable pumping myself with a booster or variant shot every few months for the next five years. Even sheep have limits to tractability.

Our science sometimes borders on science fiction, but we are not god. Again, we don’t know what we don’t know. As much as the sensible majority wants to credit human efforts to end the pandemic, there is a lot of god-like mystery to the ebb and flow of infections.

In my little bubble, I only know of two vaccine skeptics. There have to be more, but I don’t get out much.

One is a dear friend who struggled to come to terms with getting it in late June before a wedding, for which guests were asked to have completed at least one shot. He had vaccine misgivings based on his research and the uncertainty around such a compressed timeline.

I can understand that. It’s kind of like zooming in too far on a stock chart. You’re looking at what appears to be a clear trend, but only a longer time horizon will truly tell how it’s going to go no matter how much testing and prognostication.

In any case, my buddy got his shot. And he did not get Covid despite traveling through the third-world airport that is Newark International and partying for two days at an Indian wedding, which offers the highest concentration of dancing and shared food outside of Utopia.

The other skeptic is also smart, kind and dear to me. I urged her to be careful before a happy hour on a Friday because of the Delta variant headlines. On the ensuing Monday, she left work feeling sick and tested positive for Delta. On the Monday after that, she said she felt like she was dying. She still had a brutal cough on the phone almost two weeks later.

I eventually will ask her, tactfully, if her view on vaccines has evolved. If not… while acknowledging her right to follow her own comfort and risk level — I will do some more talking without a lot of knowing.
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